Blogger’s Note (09/02): On the eve of its premiere, I am upping my four and five day estimates for Tenet up to $30.3M and $36.9M, respectively.
It is quite safe to assume that Labor Day weekend has never been the most interesting box office frame before in a calendar year. Traditionally it’s a slow one when studios don’t bother to put out potential hits as the blockbusters of summer wind down and companies ready their fall product.
2020 has upended all of that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is by far the highest profile release this holiday weekend has ever witnessed. After a delay from July, the twisty thriller with John David Washington and Robert Pattinson is finally set to invade IMAX and regular screens on Thursday (with previews slated throughout this week). You can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:
Tenet rolled out in numerous international markets (as well as our neighbor to the north) this past weekend and it blew away expectations with $53 million. That bodes quite well for its U.S. bow this week. A four-day weekend in the mid to high 20s is my best guesstimate with upwards of $30 million when factoring in the Thursday tally. And if this projection changes, I have a feeling it will go up.
This juggernaut will easily rule the weekend. In fact, based on minimal competition in September, it will probably be #1 for the entire month. As for current holdovers, The New Mutants should dip to 2nd with Unhinged in third position. I expect the sophomore dip for Mutants to be more pronounced than that of Unhinged.
And with that, I am moving from a top 2 predictions last weekend to a whole top 3 as the box office comeback kicks into high gear for September! All estimates are for the four-day long frame unless otherwise indicated.
Predicted Gross: $30.3 million (Friday to Monday prediction); $36.9 million (Thursday to Monday)
2. The New Mutants
Predicted Gross: $3.8 million
Predicted Gross: $1.8 million
Box Office Results (August 28-30)
Fox’s long-delayed and critically drubbed The New Mutants was a trouble production well before anyone knew what the coronavirus was. Originally set for 2018, this title in the X-Men Universe finally limped into theaters. That said, considering the circumstances, its performance was right at about the significantly lowered expectations at $7 million. I said $6.9 million.
Unhinged dropped to second with $2.6 million and that’s on pace with my $2.8 million estimate. The Russell Crowe road rage pic has taken in $8.8 million in two weeks.
In addition to her successful music career, Janelle Monae has transitioned nicely into the cinematic universe over the past few years. In fact, her three highest profile supporting performances – Moonlight, Hidden Figures, Harriet – have all garnered Oscar attention and nominations for her costars.
So it stood to at least wonder if her first major starring role could accomplish the same. The horror pic Antebellum was slated to hit theaters in April. Like so many other features in these COVID times, that plan was scuttled and it’s now set to debut on streaming services on September 18th. From directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz, it casts Monae as both a modern day author and a slave in the era of the Underground Railroad. The supporting players include Eric Lange, Jena Malone, Jack Huston, and Gabourey Sidibe.
There’s been a recent trend of actresses being lauded for their work in this genre. Both Lupita Nyong’o (Us) and Toni Collette (Hereditary) likely just missed inclusion in the final five for Best Actress in 2017 and 2018, respectively. The review embargo for Antebellum expired today and it certainly doesn’t appear as if Monae will join that club. The Rotten Tomatoes score is a meager 36% and several critics are calling this is a misfire.
Bottom line: while Monae’s involvement in projects has captured the attention of awards voters, she’ll need to wait for her turn as the focus. This one isn’t it. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
For over two decades, Charlie Kaufman has been one of the most celebrated screenwriters in the business. His original written works have resulted in a nomination for 1999’s Being John Malkovich and a win for 2004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Kaufman picked up an Adapted Screenplay nod for 2002’s Adaptation. Additionally, his direction of the stop-motion tale Anomalisa in 2015 brought in a Best Animated Feature nomination.
Kaufman’s name on a project immediately brings awards buzz and his latest effort is I’m Thinking of Ending Things, which debuts on Netflix September 4th. Described as anti-romance and a horror flick, it marks the auteur’s third film behind the camera. Based on the 2016 novel by Iain Reid, Things stars Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette, and David Thewlis.
The review embargo lapsed today and it currently stands at 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s a fine number, but some of the critical reaction mirrors 2008’s Synedoche, New York (Kaufman’s directorial debut). Hailed as a masterpiece by some with others calling it a bleak misfire, Things appears headed for a polarized mix and that will likely translate to Oscar voters.
As for the performers, it does appear Plemons would contend in lead actor (this was more uncertain previously). Several critics have compared his performance to that of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s in Synedoche. I have trouble envisioning him being a major contender here (though his supporting work in the upcoming Judas and the Black Messiah gives him another potential shot at a first time nod). Buckley got some chatter for her breakout role in last year’s Wild Rose. I feel her chances are a bit stronger than her costar, but the Best Actress race looks like it could be crowded in 2020. Despite many heralded performances, Collette has only received one Oscar nomination and it was over 20 years ago with The Sixth Sense. There could be a groundswell of support for her to be recognized, especially after many felt she were snubbed for 2018’s Hereditary. She may have the best chance for inclusion, but it too feels like a reach at the moment.
I’m thinking that Ending Things will contend in Adapted Screenplay and it certainly could be recognized there. We will have to see how this fall’s other heavy hitters land to see how full that race is. Even with some negative reaction, voters have shown their appreciation for Kaufman before and they may again. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
As is tradition on the blog, my weekly Oscar prediction posts (coming to you each Thursday) kick off in the final weekend of August!
So while I’m following up with my normal Academy Awards speculating schedule, I am doing so in a year that is anything but traditional. The COVID-19 pandemic has tremendously altered release schedules for many pictures. This has left many release dates still uncertain.
Additionally, I have chosen this late August date because it’s usually right before some high-profile film festivals like Toronto, Venice, and Telluride are set to kick off. Some of these fests are continuing to operate in a much different fashion. We will see some of the titles identified below (including Nomadland, Ammonite and One Night in Miami) screen at these virtual competitions in the coming days.
This week, one significant contender had its unveiling for critics and that’s Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. That reaction leads me to believe that it will certainly contend in a half dozen or so technical races, but that a Picture or Directing nod is a bit of a long shot.
Even in a year without the pandemic related challenges, Oscar speculation this early always comes with numerous caveats. They include the following:
Release dates will change and some movies listed here will get pushed back. This sure applies to 2020 and that’s even with the Academy extending eligibility to any features released in January and February of 2021.
There will be pics and performances that come out of nowhere and make their way to the release calendar that aren’t identified here.
Some performances listed in lead will shift to supporting and vice versa. For titles like David Fincher’s Mank, Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7, and Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch – category placement for their large casts is still a question mark. As an example, there’s lot of potential contenders in The French Dispatch, but it’s impossible to determine who gets the critical shine. For the time being, I’m not listing any of the actors in that particular film.
There will be Original Screenplay hopefuls that turn out to be Adapted and vice versa.
Even with all those caveats, I was able to identify the winners in each of the top 8 categories in both 2018 and 2019. Their numeric placement varied widely. In 2018, I had Best Picture victor Green Book all the way down at 21 of my first initial 25 possibilities. Roma director Alfonso Cuaron, on the other hand, was placed at #2. Bohemian Rhapsody‘s Rami Malek was at #12 in Best Actor with Olivia Colman in The Favourite at 9th in Actress. Mahershala Ali (Green Book) was 9th and Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk) was 2nd in the supporting fields. Adapted Screenplay winner BlacKkKlansman was in fifth with Original Screenplay recipient Green Book at #11.
As for 2019, Best Picture winner Parasite was originally placed in slot #7 while its director Bong Joon-Ho was fifth. In the lead acting companions, Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) was 6th and Renee Zellweger (Judy) was fifth. In Supporting Actor, Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) was perched at #1 and that never changed. Supporting Actress Laura Dern (Marriage Story) was #2. Adapted Screenplay Jojo Rabbit was fourth and Original Screenplay Parasite was 5th.
So based on history, you’re likely seeing the eventual 2020 Oscar winners somewhere here on these listings. In 2020, though, who really knows?
Let’s get to it!
3. Da 5 Bloods
4. The Trial of the Chicago 7
7. News of the World
8. West Side Story
9. The French Dispatch
10. Hillbilly Elegy
11. On the Rocks
12. Judas and the Black Messiah
16. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
17. The Father
19. C’Mon C’Mon
20. I’m Thinking of Ending Things
22. The United States vs. Billie Holiday
23. The Eyes of Tammy Faye
24. Next Goal Wins
25. French Exit
1. David Fincher, Mank
2. Chloe Zhao, Nomadland
3. Spike Lee, Da 5 Bloods
4. Denis Villeneuve, Dune
5. Francis Lee, Ammonite
6. Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7
7. Paul Greengrass, News of the World
8. Steven Spielberg, West Side Story
9. Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch
10. Sofia Coppola, On the Rocks
11. Ron Howard, Hillbilly Elegy
12. Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah
13. Christopher Nolan, Tenet
14. Leos Carax. Annette
15. Charlie Kaufman, I’m Thinking of Ending Things
1. Frances McDormand, Nomadland
2. Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
3. Kate Winslet, Ammonite
4. Michelle Pfeiffer, French Exit
5. Jennifer Hudson, Respect
6. Amy Adams, Hillbilly Elegy
7. Rachel Zegler, West Side Story
8. Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye
9. Julianne Moore, The Glorias
10. Marion Cotillard, Annette
11. Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday
12. Rashida Jones, On the Rocks
13. Jessie Buckley, I’m Thinking of Ending Things
14. Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman
15. Elisabeth Moss, Shirley
1. Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods
2. Gary Oldman, Mank
3. Anthony Hopkins, The Father
4. Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
5. Bill Murray, On the Rocks
6. Tom Hanks, News of the World
7. Joaquin Phoenix, C’Mon C’Mon
8. Adam Driver, Annette
9. Ansel Elgort, West Side Story
10. Andrew Garfield, The Eyes of Tammy Faye
11. Timothee Chalamet, Dune
12. Michael Fassbender, Next Goal Wins
13. Matt Damon, Stillwater
14. Trevante Rhodes, The United States vs. Billie Holiday
15. Ben Affleck, The Way Back
Best Supporting Actress
1. Saoirse Ronan, Ammonite
2. Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy
3. Olivia Colman, The Father
4. Ariana DeBose, West Side Story
5. Helena Zengel, News of the World
6. Toni Collette, I’m Thinking of Ending Things
7. Amanda Seyfried, Mank
8. Debra Winger, Kajillionaire
9. Abigail Breslin, Stillwater
10. Gaby Hoffman, C’Mon C’Mon
11. Mary J. Blige, Respect
12. Rebecca Ferguson, Dune
13. Meryl Streep, The Prom
14. Nicole Kidman, The Prom
15. Elisabeth Moss, Next Goal Wins
Best Supporting Actor
1. David Strathairn, Nomadland
2. Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
3. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, The Trial of the Chicago 7
4. LaKeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah
5. Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7
6. Tom Burke, Mank
7. Tom Pelphrey, Mank
8. David Alvarez, West Side Story
9. Lucas Hedges, French Exit
10. Jonathan Majors, Da 5 Bloods
11. Jesse Plemons, Judas and the Black Messiah
12. Mark Rylance, The Trial of the Chicago 7
13. Clarke Peters, Da 5 Bloods
14. Oscar Isaac, Dune
15. Forest Whitaker, Respect
Best Original Screenplay
2. The Trial of the Chicago 7
3. Da 5 Bloods
5. The French Dispatch
7. On the Rocks
8. Judas and the Black Messiah
9. C’Mon C’Mon
12. French Exit
15. Promising Young Woman
Best Adapted Screenplay
3. News of the World
4. West Side Story
5. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
6. The Father
7. Hillbilly Elegy
8. I’m Thinking of Ending Things
9. Next Goal Wins
10. The United States vs. Billie Holiday
11. The Eyes of Tammy Faye
12. The White Tiger
13. One Night in Miami
15. The Midnight Sky
I’ll be back at it next Thursday, folks! Until then…
Blogger’s Note (09/02): On the eve of its premiere, I am upping my estimate from $31.9 million to $36.9 million. Those adjustments are reflected in the numbers below.
Let’s start here – Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is maybe the most challenging box office prediction I’ve ever had to write. This is, of course, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet this isn’t the only reason.
After a series of coronavirus related delays that altered its planned July premiere, the epic spy thriller is set for an extended Labor Day weekend premiere. It marks the latest mega budget (north of $200 million) feature from one of the few directors whose name is the main attraction. The recognizable actors in front of the camera include John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Caine, and Kenneth Branagh.
Tenet is out tomorrow (August 26) in numerous territories including Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy. The international rollout could provide clues as to how it will perform stateside. That occurs on Thursday, September 3rd and runs through the holiday weekend. Speaking of Labor Day, this is traditionally considered a slow weekend at the box office as the summer season draws to a close. Like everything else this year, 2020 is far different.
While Unhinged and this weekend’s The New Mutants are the first two wide releases post COVID, Tenet is by far the most eagerly awaited and high profile. There was never any doubt that this would open theatrically and on some IMAX venues. The VOD route was never explored. While a screen count is not yet available, I’m currently assuming it’ll be around 2500. If that changes, my prediction might too.
Reviews are mostly solid with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 82%. That said, some critical reaction is a bit on the mixed side. Unlike 2017’s Dunkirk, this follow-up is not generating immediate awards buzz. As mentioned, Nolan is a bankable commodity with or without Oscar chatter. You have to go back to 2006’s The Prestige to find the last entry in his filmography to gross under $100 million domestically. Both Dunkirk and its predecessor Interstellar grossed close to $200 million overall in the States. His Batman trilogy and Inception all took in north of $200 million or far more.
So where does that leaves us? Looking at Interstellar and Dunkirk, both titles achieved per theater averages of just over $13,000 for respective starts of $47 million and $50 million. The difference is that Interstellar began on 3500+ plus screens and Dunkirk at 3700+.
Due to the lower availability of venues (especially in major markets like NYC and LA) and the ongoing uncertainty of major audience turnout, giving Tenet a $10,000 per screen average would equate to around $25 million for the traditional Friday to Sunday portion of its five-day start. I’m choosing to ratchet that up to $25.7 million. Adding Thursday and Labor Day in, I’ll kick in another $11.2 million.
Let’s end here – I am still in severe guesstimating mode and Tenet is undoubtedly the first giant test case in this new cinematic reality. Over the next few days, it’s certainly feasible that I will update this estimate. We shall see, but here’s where I stand as of now.
Tenet opening weekend prediction (Thursday, September 3-Monday, September 7): $36.9 million
***Blogger’s Note (08/27/20): My prediction for Mutants is up from $4.9M to $6.9M
For the first Monday in nearly six months, I have meaningful box office predictions and results to report! As the movie watching world is aware, upstart Solstice Studios was first out of the gate with a wide theatrical release over the weekend. Russell Crowe’s Unhinged was the test case. The results are pretty encouraging as the thriller took in $4 million on just north of 1800 screens.
This is a tad below my $4.6 million projection, but it’s a sign that audiences are at least amenable to returning to multiplexes. We don’t have to wait long until the next experiment. It comes this weekend with The New Mutants, which was originally slated to hit screens in 2018. The latest title in the X-Men franchise has a troubled past and Fox (now owned by Disney) doesn’t seem to have much confidence with it. My detailed prediction post on Mutants can be found here:
As you can see, I question whether it can make over $5 million. I think lots of casual filmgoers aren’t even aware it exists in the same universe as Wolverine, Mystique, Professor X, and Magneto.
For the second weekend of Unhinged, I anticipate a smallish drop-off percentage wise. We have witnessed this in other territories as patrons are taking their time to sample the new product in a COVID-19 world. I’ll say a 31% dip sounds about right.
It will take an undetermined amount of time before my weekend predictions look like they did pre-COVID. Yet they’re back and here’s how I foresee the top two this weekend:
Julia Garner has already turned into an Emmy darling based on her supporting work as Ruth Langmore in Netflix’s Ozark. Last fall at the Telluride Film Festival, The Assistant was screened which features the actress in a tale of workplace harassment.
Directed by Kitty Green, the buzz for the film and Garner’s performance has grown steadily in the past few months. Now available for streaming, the Rotten Tomatoes score stands at an impressive 91%.
Will Oscar potentially notice Garner? The odds seem long at this point. While many release dates are uncertain, there’s plenty of actresses with awards bait roles lined up over the next several months. Yet I wouldn’t be surprised to see critics pushing for a surprise nod for The Assistant lead. It likely won’t materialize, but it’s at least possible. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
My second Oscar Watch post over the weekend for a film that has five letters and begins with the letter T is definitely not as high profile as Tenet, but Tesla is worth discussing as it has hit streaming services.
The film casts Ethan Hawke as pioneering inventor Nikola Tesla with a supporting cast featuring Kyle MacLachlan, Eve Hewson, and Jim Gaffigan. It reunites its lead with his Hamlet director Michael Almereyda from that 2000 adaptation. Critics first screened the biographical drama at the Sundance Film Festival way back in January and it is available for viewing at home as of this weekend.
Reviews are decidedly mixed and the Rotten Tomatoes score stands at just 58%. That’s right in range with Hawke and Almereyda’s Shakesperean collaboration at 59%. Reviewers do seem to be appreciating Hawke’s performance. He’s a double nominee in the Supporting Actor field for Training Day in 2001 and Boyhood in 2014. For his contributions to the screenplays of Before Sunset and Before Midnight, he received a pair of Adapted Screenplay nominations. Despite some lauded lead roles in 2007’s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead and 2018’s First Reformed, Hawke has never managed a Best Actor nod.
I would say that Tesla simply won’t get enough visibility for the actor to make a play in 2020 and the so-so reaction thus far doesn’t help. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
If there’s something that could be called a breathlessly awaited review embargo, it lapsed today with Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. The filmmaker’s latest time bending thriller is out in various foreign territories over the next few days with a launch (in somewhat limited fashion) planned for the United States during Labor Day weekend.
Tenet was already one of the year’s most anticipated titles as Nolan is one of the few directors that can guarantee an audience and potential awards attention. It was originally planned for a mid July global launch before the COVID-19 pandemic altered the strategy. The pic is being rightfully looked at as the first major test for theaters post COVID.
So what’s the verdict? Tenet, with just over 30 reviews in, stands at a solid 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, that number doesn’t tell the whole story. While some critics are hailing it as another visionary work from Nolan, there are others more measured and middle of the road in their write-ups. There is some negativity peppered in.
When Dunkirk was released three years ago, the WWII epic was an immediate Oscar contender and it ended up with 8 nominations. Same goes for Nolan’s 2010 summer smash Inception as it also scored 8 nods. With Tenet, my gut feeling based on early reaction is that it’s far from a shoo-in for the biggest categories.
In that sense, this could more closely follow the trajectory of 2014’s Interstellar. That Matthew McConaughey space tearjerker wound up with 4 nominations: Hans Zimmer’s Original Score, the two Sound races, and Production Design. Tenet could certainly be a player in those categories (Zimmer is scoring here too). Additionally, Visual Effects and Cinematography are definite possibilities.
However, Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay appear far more questionable. As for the cast, it’s worth noting that only one performance in any Nolan feature has been nominated. That would, of course, be Heath Ledger’s Supporting Actor win for the The Dark Knight in 2008. Critical reaction doesn’t indicate that the cast of John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Caine, and Kenneth Branagh are likely to be in the mix.
Bottom line: Tenet did not establish itself as an immediate player in the top of the line races today, though technical nods seem assured. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
***Blogger’s Update (08/27): On the eve of its premiere, I am increasing my prediction for The New Mutants from $4.9 million to $6.9 million.
The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the release dates for scores of high profile feature films over the past several months. Yet in the case of The New Mutants, its series of delays has become a punchline in Hollywood that far preceded current world events. The film is the latest in the X-Men franchise and it seems 20th Century Fox has absolutely no confidence with it. It’s finally hitting screens after an original planned unveiling in (get this!) April 2018.
Mutants introduces new characters to the X-Men fold in what was originally planned as a potential trilogy. Josh Boone, best known for making The Fault in Our Stars, directs. The cast includes Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Alice Braga, Blu Hunt, and Henry Zaga. Marketed more as a horror flick than comic book adaptation, reports out over the past two years indicate that its studio were not pleased with the final product.
After getting bumped from the spring of 2018, this was pushed to February 2019 and then August 2019 and then April 2020 (this was all during Disney’s acquisition of Fox). After the COVID situation hit, Disney/Fox finally settled on the late August output. Mutants will be closely watched as it is the second American theatrical wide release after Unhinged.
Prior to COVID, the prospects for Mutants seemed doomed and that hasn’t changed. The X-Men franchise hit a low point in 2019 with Dark Phoenix. Its $32 million debut was easily the lowest of the series (no other X pic had premiered below $50 million). Mutants will blow that record out of the water. For starters, there’s the challenges facing any wide release at the moment (limited theater capacity, major markets still closed, etc…). I also suspect many casual moviegoers simply have no idea that Mutants even exists in the X-Men Universe.
I do not have a screen count for Mutants at press time, but I’m assuming it’s similar to the 2000 theaters that will greet Unhinged this weekend. If that holds, I’m not even confident that Mutants gets above $5 million in its first weekend. Disney and 20th Century Fox seem to be dumping this and I believe audiences will respond in kind.
The New Mutants opening weekend prediction: $6.9 million