Hitting theaters two weeks after F9 sprinted to the best opening weekend for films released post COVID, Black Widow looks to make that record short-lived. Originally slated for May 2020 before its pandemic delays, the 24th saga in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a stand-alone showcase for Scarlett Johansson’s Avengers character. Cate Shortland directs with a supporting cast including Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenie, William Hurt, Ray Winstone, and Rachel Weisz.
Widow, sporting a budget of at least $200 million, marks the longest delay between MCU pics that we have seen in over a decade. This is the creme de la creme of franchises where 11 of the past 18 titles have made over $100 million (or much more) in their debuts.
As has been the case with all pictures in this uncertain era, there are challenges Widow faces that could prevent that. For starters, its studio made the choice to simultaneously make this available for Disney Plus streaming. $30 will allow you to view it from the comfort of your couch (a cheaper proposition if buying for the whole family). Widow also doesn’t have the benefit of falling between two gargantuan Avengers features. That certainly helped 2019’s Captain Marvel which soared to $153 million for its start.
While the MCU is generally review proof, the positive reaction from critics won’t hurt. The Rotten Tomatoes rating is at 85%. And Johansson’s character (while not in the stratosphere of Iron Man or Captain America) is a familiar presence from The Avengers, its sequels, and more.
I can’t help but wonder if the Mouse Factory regrets making the Disney Plus decision. This will be a test to see how many fans will choose the home option. That said, I do believe Widow will top the $70 million that F9 reached. While $100 million may be out of range, a gross of $75-$85 million seems doable and that’s where I’m landing. My projection puts this just under what Doctor Strange (2016) and Thor: The Dark World (2013) achieved.
Black Widow opening weekend prediction: $83.3 million
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, unless the film is named Black Panther, your best hope is to contend in Visual Effects at the Oscars and probably lose. This brings us to Black Widow, the 24th entry in the MCU that opens July 9th in theaters and on Disney Plus streaming. The stand-alone pic focused on Scarlett Johansson’s title character had its review embargo lifted today and results are mostly positive thus far. The Rotten Tomatoes score currently stands at 86%.
Johansson’s costars (Florence Pugh particularly) are getting the bulk of critical kudos. That said, no actor in an MCU flick has made the cut in those categories and it won’t start here. 10 of the previous 23 franchise blockbusters (Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame) have landed slots in Visual Effects. As far as victories go – they are 0 for 10. In fact, only Panther (which nabbed a Best Picture nod) has won anything. It went 3 for 7 on Oscar night 2019 by taking Original Score, Costume Design, and Production Design.
Just over half of Marvel’s creations have received zero recognition from the Academy. Black Widow should face an uphill battle in Visual Effects. Late year arrivals like Dune and Top Gun: Maverick are just two possibilities outside of this cinematic universe. Then there’s the matter of 3 more hopeful MCU titles: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and (perhaps especially) Eternals. Bottom line: there’s a better chance of Black Widow not showing up anywhere at next year’s ceremony. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
The sequel heavy summer movie season thus far will become even more so over this holiday weekend with the release of The Boss Baby: Family Business and The Forever Purge. Will either manage to topple the record setting F9 from its #1 perch? You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on both follow-ups right here:
The short answer is probably not. F9 (as discussed below) expectedly generated the biggest opening weekend since 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Previous Fast franchise entries have dropped in the 60% range in their sophomore outings. I would anticipate the same here (especially since F9‘s B+ Cinemascore grade indicates audiences didn’t like quite it as much as previous pics). The four-day holiday could soften its drop a little, but I doubt by much.
I look for Boss Baby to debut in the low 20s over the long frame and that should easily mean the runner-up spot. The Forever Purge is a little tricky. This franchise has shown a commendable durability and the fifth flick could surprise. Yet my mid teens projection gives it a third place showing.
Holdovers A Quiet Place Part II and Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway should fill out the remainder of the top five for an all sequel chart over this Independence Day. And with that, my estimates for Friday-Monday:
Predicted Gross: $30.1 million
2. The Boss Baby: Family Business
Predicted Gross: $21.7 million
3. The Forever Purge
Predicted Gross: $16.1 million
4. A Quiet Place Part II
Predicted Gross: $5.5 million
5. Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway
Predicted Gross: $4.6 million
Box Office Results (June 25-27)
F9 garnered the sixth highest debut of the nine Fast flicks with $70 million, racing slightly beyond my $64.8 million estimate. That might have been a bit of a disappointment under normal circumstances, but it is music to the ears of theater owners. As mentioned, the action fest rose to starting heights that haven’t been seen since the Christmas season of 2019.
A Quiet Place Part II stayed put in second with $6.1 million (I said $6.2 million) as its impressive tally reached $136 million. It easily stands as the biggest grosser thus far during the pandemic, though F9 and the forthcoming Black Widow could certainly challenge that.
Hitman’s Bodyguard’s Wife dropped to third in its sophomore frame with $4.8 million, a bit below my $5.6 million projection for a ten-dally total of $25 million.
Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway was fourth with $4.7 million compared to my $4.1 million prediction. The kiddie sequel has taken in $28 million over three weeks.
Cruella rounded out the top five with $3.8 million (I went with $3.3 million) as the Disney live-action tale is up to $71 million.
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson has had a sterling career with his rap group The Roots and as Jimmy’s Fallon’s Tonight Show bandleader over the years. He can now add acclaimed documentary filmmaker to his resume with Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised). The film focuses on the Harlem Cultural Festival, a series of concerts featuring the likes of Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight & The Pips, and Sly and the Family Stone that took place in the summer of 1989. That also happened to be the season of another festival named Woodstock.
Soul premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to massive acclaim and ended up taking that festival’s Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize. The doc hits theaters and Hulu streaming this Friday. More reviews have come in and it stands at 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Will the Sundance love translate to Oscar voters? Every time I write about documentaries in these posts, I must point out the Academy’s branch in that category is notoriously unpredictable. Oftentimes, the most hailed and popular docs don’t make the cut. I suspect distributor Fox Searchlight will give this a major push and that could put it over the edge. That said, projecting the pics of this genre which make it in is always a tricky proposition. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Liam Neeson’s The Ice Road finds its inspiration from two classic pictures in 1953’s The Wages of Fear and 1977’s Sorcerer. The plots are similar by placing truck drivers in dangerous situations with nearly impossible odds to succeed. In Wages and its remake, it regarded the transportation of finnicky nitroglycerin over rough terrain. Though explosives are involved here, Road mostly pertains to what lies beneath. This is where ears of fans for the History Channel’s Ice Road Truckers may perk up.
A mining disaster in Manitoba traps 26 workers. The only way in reaching the remote locale to rescue them is hauling hefty rigs over the frozen tundra. Signing up for the job is Neeson’s toothpick chomping Mike McCann and brother Gurty (Marcus Thomas), an ex-Vet suffering from PTSD and aphasia, a condition which limits his ability to communicate. Others along for the ride due to their particular sets of skills are Laurence Fishburne as a seasoned driver and Tantoo (Amber Midthunder), a rebel with a cause whose brother is among those closed in and about to run out of oxygen. There’s also Tom (Benjamin Walker), a company man supposedly there to assess insurance risk.
The Ice Road volleys back and forth between the motorists on their slick mission, the captive workers making life or death decisions as their breathing slows, and the corporate overlords more concerned with not ruining their profits. Neeson has, of course, made his own profitable second career with these mostly generic action thrillers. With Jonathan Hensleigh (writer of Die Hard with a Vengeance and Armageddon) behind the directorial wheel, we have another middling entry for the Taken lead.
As the credits rolled, it struck me how little real action or visual thrills there are here. Some of this could be budget related. When the ground cracks and mayhem occurs, we never see below the surface and that might have been cool (pun intended). Neeson doesn’t sleepwalk through the role nor does Midthunder. As for brother Gurty, he does have a pet mouse that comes in handy at one point. Ultimately this tale of ice and anonymous ski goggled henchmen is primarily stuck in mediocrity.
It is officially summertime 2021 and that brings my annual seasonal three-part series where I take a look back at the top ten pics, flops, and other notable selections from 30, 20, and 10 years ago. That means I’ll begin with 1991 at a time where Arnold Schwarzenegger said hasta la vista to all competitors.
Let’s count down from #10 to numero Ah-nuld along with other entries worthy of discussion (both good and bad).
10. Doc Hollywood
Domestic Gross: $54 million
Michael J. Fox had a midsize hit with this fish out of water comedy about an uppity surgeon stuck in the rural south. It marks the star’s last solid performer that he headlined.
9. Boyz n the Hood
Domestic Gross: $57 million
John Singleton had one of cinema’s most memorable directorial debuts with this coming-of-age drama set in South Central. He would become the youngest filmmaker ever to be nominated at the Oscars and the critically hailed pic kickstarted the careers of Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ice Cube.
8. One Hundred and One Dalmatians
Domestic Gross: $60 million
Disney re-released their 1961 classic three decades after its release and picked up a cool $60 million for it. Later in 1991, the studio would begin another renaissance with Beauty and the Beast becoming the first animated film to nab a Best Picture nomination. Five years later, Glenn Close would headline the live-action version and another reboot, Cruella with Emma Stone, is currently in the top five.
7. What About Bob?
Domestic Gross: $63 million
Bill Murray had one of his signature roles as the multi-phobic patient tormenting shrink Richard Dreyfuss on his vacation. Apparently this comedy was a bit dramatic behind the scenes with the two leads having an actual antagonistic relationship.
6. Hot Shots!
Domestic Gross: $69 million
Spoofs were a hot commodity in the early 90s following the success of 1988’s The Naked Gun. Jim Abrahams, one of that film’s writers, created this sendup of Top Gun and many others that starred Charlie Sheen. A sequel would follow two years later.
Domestic Gross: $77 million
Ron Howard directed this firefighting drama that heated up the box office with Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Robert De Niro, and a creepy Donald Sutherland as a pyromaniac. There was even a sequel released in 2019 with Baldwin and Sutherland that went direct to streaming and that I frankly forgot existed.
4. The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear
Domestic Gross: $86 million
The spoofing love continued as Leslie Nielsen reprised his role as doofus detective Frank Drebin in this sequel to the 1988 classic. It couldn’t hold up the original, but it was better than part 3 which followed in 1994. And, needless to say, this was a simpler time for costar O.J. Simpson.
3. City Slickers
Domestic Gross: $124 million
As New Yorkers learning life lessons on a cattle drive, Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, and Bruno Kirby starred in the comedy smash of the summer and costar Jack Palance even ended up with a Best Supporting Actor victory. A less regarded follow-up would come in 1994.
2. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
Domestic Gross: $165 million
While his accent was spotty at best, Kevin Costner parlayed his Oscar success from the previous year’s Dances with Wolves into this blockbuster about the robbing from the rich and giving to the poor hero. The highlight was Alan Rickman’s sublime work as the Sheriff of Nottingham while critics mostly turned up their noses.
1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Domestic Gross: $204 million
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s android went from being the bad guy in the 1984 original to the good robot in James Cameron’s sequel that gave us eye popping and revolutionary special effects and a dynamite Linda Hamilton returning as a buffed up Sarah Connor. There’s been four more entries in the franchise and none have matched the potency of this one.
Now let’s turn the focus to some other notable releases:
Thelma & Louise
Domestic Gross: $45 million
Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis both scored lead actress Academy nods for Ridley Scott’s now iconic tale of feminism and revenge with an unforgettable ending. This also marked audiences falling in love with a then unknown actor by the name of Brad Pitt.
Domestic Gross: $43 million
Patrick Swayze starred in the previous summer’s high earner with Ghost. This surfing action pic from director Kathryn Bigelow paired the actor with Keanu Reeves and has amassed a deserved cult following. An unnecessary remake wiped out in 2015.
Domestic Gross: $38 million
Kenneth Branagh’s sophomore effort after the acclaim of his Shakespearian Henry V was this Hitchcock homage costarring his then wife Emma Thompson, Andy Garcia, and Robin Williams. As tributes to the Master of Suspense go, this is one of the best.
Domestic Gross: $38 million
Sally Field, Kevin Kline, Robert Downey, Jr., and Whoopi Goldberg are part of the ensemble in this comedy set in the world of the afternoon melodramas that populate the airwaves. Not a big hit at the time, its reception has since grown.
Domestic Gross: $32 million
Spike Lee’s tale of an interracial couple played by Wesley Snipes and Annabella Sciorra received critical kudos. The two most memorable performances come from Samuel L. Jackson as a crack addict and Halle Berry (in her feature debut) as his girlfriend.
Madonna: Truth or Dare
Domestic Gross: $15 million
As she often is, Madonna was ahead of the cultural curve with this documentary set during her 1990 Blond Ambition Tour. This was reality programming before it exploded.
Domestic Gross: $6 million
The Coen Brothers pitch black comedy was the darling of the Cannes Film Festival, winning Picture, Director, and Actor for John Turturro. It would land three Academy nominations including Michael Lerner in Supporting Actor.
Now it’s time for the pictures that either didn’t land with audiences or critics (or both):
Domestic Gross: $46 million
Disney was hoping for a new franchise with this comic book based property. Yet the period adventure underwhelmed at the box office. This was a different era for the genre before the MCU changed everything. Director Joe Johnston, coincidentally, would go on to make Captain America: The First Avenger 20 years later.
Domestic Gross: $33 million
This seems hard to believe now, but Premiere magazine predicted this romance would be the largest grossing feature of the summer. Not so much. However, Julia Roberts was just coming off her smash breakthrough Pretty Woman. This didn’t land with audiences in the same way.
Only the Lonely
Domestic Gross: $25 million
Chris Columbus was basking in the box office bonanza that was Home Alone. This rom com with John Candy and Ally Sheedy that followed six months later didn’t cause many filmgoers to leave their homes.
Domestic Gross: $20 million
1990 was gave us lots of mobster fare such as GoodFellas, The Godfather Part III, and Miller’s Crossing. Crowds and critics didn’t take to the Christian Slater and Patrick Dempsey versions of Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky, respectively.
Domestic Gross: $17 million
Bruce Willis’s vanity project is considered one of the gargantuan flops in history. Grossing only about a fourth of its $65 million budget, it was awarded the Golden Raspberry for Worst Picture of the year.
Domestic Gross: $11 million
Based on a series of successful novels, audiences didn’t take to Kathleen Turner in the title role for this detective action comedy. It made less than half its budget.
Domestic Gross: $5 million
Also set in the world of soap operas, this marked another dud for John Candy in the same season.
Domestic Gross: $2 million
Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder are a classic combo with well-regarded comedies like Silver Streak and Stir Crazy. Even See No Evil, Hear No Evil in 1989, despite critical scorn, performed well. That’s not the case with their last collaboration (which reviewers also drubbed).
And that concludes my look back at summer 1991. Next up is the sweltering season of 2001!
Opening on July 2nd, The Forever Purge is billed as the final picture in the horror franchise that began in 2013 and has now spawned four sequels. It is a direct sequel to 2016’s The Purge: Election Year and follows the 2018 prequel The First Purge. Everardo Gout directs and James DeMonaco (who made the first three entries) serves as co-producer and screenwriter. The cast includes Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Josh Lucas, Cassidy Freeman, Leven Rambin, Alejandro Edda, and Will Patton.
Forever sports the highest production budget of the quintet at approximately $25 million (the rest were all in single or lower double digits). The series has been a hugely profitable and consistent venture for Universal with all four pics grossing between $64-$79 million domestically. The high mark came with Election Year while the lowest was actually the original.
We are still at a point pandemic wise where releases are not generating what they normally might under traditional summertime circumstances. The lowest three-day start for a Purge is from 2018 with The First Purge. The Friday to Sunday total was $17.3 million. However, the five-day holiday tally was just over $31 million.
While expectations should be tempered, this franchise has shown an ability to attract an audience. A start in the high teens range is feasible. There would be champagne bottles popping if it somehow manages to top $20 million. Yet I’ll project that this final (?) Purge ends up with the lowest premiere of the bloody bunch.
The Forever Purge opening weekend prediction: $16.1 million (Friday to Monday estimate)
For my The Boss Baby: Family Business prediction, click here:
The Boss Baby: Family Business looks to pacify little ones and their parents over the Independence Day weekend. The DreamWorks animated sequel follows up on the March 2017 pic which greatly over performed with its target audience. Alec Baldwin is back voicing the title character alongside James Marsden, Amy Sedaris, Ariana Greenblatt, Eva Longoria, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, and Jeff Goldblum. Tom McGrath resumes directorial duties.
In the spring of 2017, The Boss Baby was projected to earn around $30 million for its start. However, it blew past those estimates with $50.2 million in its opening frame and eventually took in $175 million domestically. Several factors are likely to complicate that kind of debut for part II.
For one, some of the little viewers who flocked to see it are four years older now. COVID-19 is still somewhat limiting potential. This was originally slated for March before its pandemic related delay. Family Business is also hitting streamer Peacock on the same day and some may simply choose to hold their Baby viewing from the comfort of home. That said, Peacock is not anywhere in the spectator realm of the big boys like Netflix, Amazon, or HBO Max as of yet.
Estimates have this reaching approximately $20 million over the holiday. I’ll give it a slight Baby bump considering its predecessor easily managed to top forecasts.
The Boss Baby: Family Business opening weekend prediction: $21.7 million (Friday to Monday estimate)
The domestic box office should experience its largest debut in the COVID era with F9 as the only newcomer joining the fray this weekend. The ninth pic in the Fast and Furious franchise is poised to score the largest premiere since Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker all the way back in December 2019. You can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:
The question is: how big will it be? My mid 60s estimate puts it slightly above what spinoff Hobbs & Shaw accomplished two years ago and not in the high 90s stratosphere of immediate predecessor The Fate of the Furious from 2017.
As for the holdovers that will populate the remainder of the top five, it could be a close race for #2. If current champ Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard loses around half of its opening audience and A Quiet Place Part II only falls about a third, the latter could remain in the runner-up slot. Look for family features Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway and Cruella to populate the remainder of the quintet.
And with that, my take on the weekend ahead:
Predicted Gross: $64.8 million
2. A Quiet Place Part II
Predicted Gross: $6.2 million
3. Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard
Predicted Gross: $5.6 million
4. Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway
Predicted Gross: $4.1 million
Predicted Gross: $3.3 million
Box Office Results (June 18-20)
As anticipated, the trio of Ryan Reynolds/Samuel L. Jackson/Salma Hayek in Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard managed to top the charts and pretty much open in line with expectations. The poorly reviewed action sequel took in $11.3 million during the Friday to Sunday frame compared to my $12.6 million estimate. Its $16.7 million five-day take (it started out on Wednesday) is just under my $17.7 million projection.
A Quiet Place Part II dropped to second with $9 million, outpacing my $7.9 million prediction as the horror sequel now stands at $124 million.
Third place belonged to Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway with $6 million (I said $6.6 million). The ten-day tally is $20 million.
The sequels keep on coming with The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It in fourth at $5 million, falling under my guesstimate of $6.1 million. Total is $53 million.
Cruella rounded out the top five with $4.8 million and I incorrectly had it on the outside looking in. The Disney live-action remake is up to $64 million.
Finally, In the Heights suffered a hefty decline in its sophomore outing. Despite critical acclaim, the musical plummeted 63% for sixth place and $4.2 million. I was far more generous at $7.7 million. The lackluster tally is just $19 million.
Ten days ago, Jon M. Chu’s In the Heights went into its premiere weekend as the first bonafide Best Picture contender of 2021. Sporting a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 96%, the musical (adapted from a play co-created by Lin-Manuel Miranda) was projected to gross around $20 million in its opening frame. And then reality happened.
The pic was a major box office disappointment and earned just $11.5 million out of the gate (landing at #2 behind the third weekend of A Quiet Place Part II). Even then not all hope was lost. With solid word-of-mouth and awards buzz, perhaps Heights would hold well in subsequent weekends.
And then reality happened again. Heights appears to have dropped to sixth place in its sophomore outing with a drop of over 60%. What a difference a week and a half can make. There’s really no positive spin for its box office performance. It’s simply very underwhelming. Furthermore, the bulk of publicity received for Heights in recent days was either for its disappointing numbers or controversy emerging from its casting choices (something for which Miranda issued an apology for).
At this juncture, it’s a legitimate question whether Heights is still a viable contender at the Oscars. Much of that could depend on if Warner Bros makes a robust effort to campaign for it. I would say its inclusion in the big categories is now iffy at best. This applies to Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Anthony Ramos in Actor (which was probably always a long shot), and Olga Merediz in Supporting Actress. Down the line categories such as Sound and Original Song are more questionable as well.
The studio could shift its focus to fall contenders including Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of Newark, and King Richard with Will Smith. Bottom line: Heights isn’t finished in the Oscar derby, but it is hard to say that it’s not wounded.