Opening next weekend in the shadow of the gargantuan debut of Godzilla vs. Kong is the outer space adventure Voyagers. It comes from Divergent director Neil Burger with a cast featuring Ready Player One‘s Tye Sheridan, Lily Rose-Depp, Fionn Whitehad, and Colin Farrell.
The Lionsgate release, as we’ve become accustomed to, was originally slated to premiere last November before its COVID-19 related delay. While the iconic monsters listed above have certainly proven that moviegoers are ready to return to multiplexes, this voyage seems to be falling way under the radar.
This pic could show whether or not audiences will pretty much go see anything available at their local theater, but I’m forecasting this is a mission that few will take.
Sony Pictures is praying that horror fans turn out next weekend for The Unholy, a supernatural fright fest that will test the genre’s waters in these COVID-19 times. The film marks the directorial debut of screenwriter Evan Spiliotopoulos and it comes under the banner of Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures. Jeffrey Dean Morgan leads a cast that includes Kate Aselton, William Sadler, and Cary Elwes.
In addition to competition from limited capacity seating in many venues, the attention of many moviegoers is likely to be focused on Godzilla vs. Kong (which is looking to achieve the largest post pandemic opening yet). Sony has been fairly lax in promoting this with a trailer out just earlier this month.
That said, horror fans often cause these exercises to outpace expectations and that’s certainly possible here. However, my hunch is that a $3-4 million start is where this lands.
The Unholy opening weekend prediction: $3.4 million
The fourth film in the MonsterVerse franchise stomps into theaters and HBO Max on Wednesday (March 31) with Godzilla vs. Kong. Adam Wingard takes the directorial reigns with a cast including Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Eiza Gonzalez, Kyle Chandler, and Demian Bichir. Of course, the real stars are the giant green monster (from 2014’s Godzilla and 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters) and massive gorilla (of 2017’s Kong: Skull Island) who will duke it out in the production with a budget reportedly in the $200 million range.
This awaited matchup was originally set for viewing last spring before going through the now familiar myriad of delays due to COVID-19. It’s the latest example of Warner Bros. unveiling their pics simultaneously in multiplexes and HBO’s streaming service. With theaters in New York and Los Angeles now operating (albeit in diminished capacity) and with vaccinations rising, Godzilla vs. Kong is being seen as a major test for the industry. The previous COVID era highest opening weekend belongs to Wonder Woman 1984 (another WB/HBO Max venture) at $16.7 million over this past Christmas. That number exceeded expectations and the thought is that Kong will outpace it.
I tend to agree. It is worth noting that the last MonsterVerse title, King of the Monsters, was a box office disappointment. Due partly to poor reviews, it premiered in late May 2019 to a subpar $47 million with an eventual domestic gross just north of $100 million. By comparison, 2014’s Godzilla took in $200 million while Kong: Skull Island made $168 million. A $47 million debut here would be beyond even the wildest expectations in these Coronavirus times.
Godzilla vs. Kong has the benefit of bringing these two iconic creatures together and that’s a significant selling point. It’s also the kind of epic production that many may wish to see on a giant screen as opposed to on their couch via HBO Max (though I’m sure plenty of moviegoers will go that route).
With a five-day rollout, I believe a Friday to Sunday haul in the $20 million range is possible with mid to high 20s overall for the entire frame.
Godzilla vs. Kong opening weekend prediction: $21.1 million (Friday to Sunday), $27.3 million (Wednesday to Sunday)
After experiencing the typical COVID-19 related delays that have greeted nearly all movies in the past year, Universal Pictures releases the revenge thriller Nobody next weekend. It comes from Hardcore Henry director Ilya Naishuller with a screenplay by Derek Kolstad (behind the scripts of the John Wick franchise). Bob Odenkirk of Better Call Saul fame stars as a mild mannered family man who decides to let his Death Wish freak flag fly. The supporting cast includes Connie Nielsen, RZA, and Christopher Lloyd.
Originally scheduled for a late summer 2020 premiere, Nobody has experienced four date changes since before settling on its late March bow. Planned for a rollout on 2400 screens, the pic could appeal to fans of Odenkirk’s popular series and action fans in general. There are still obvious challenges with theaters being at various capacity levels, but this could manage a haul between $6-9 million in my view. I’ll go in the middle of that range.
An age old cat and mouse contest is widening the eyeballs of box office prognosticators and theater owners courtesy of Tom & Jerry. The mix of live-action and animation reboot of a cartoon dating back to 1940 premiered simultaneously in multiplexes and HBO Max yesterday. This is how Warner Bros. is handling all their product in 2021 as we have already witnessed with The Little Things and Judas and the Black Messiah (and soon Godzilla vs. Kong). Reviews for the pic are certainly not rosy with a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 23%. And with the uncertainty of the box office for nearly a year, expectations weren’t much either.
Let’s be clear: in non COVID times, Tom & Jerry heading toward a $13-$14 million opening would be considered pretty disappointing. How times have changed. When considering that millions of subscribers could simply cue it up from the comfort of home and with around half of theaters still shuttered, an estimated $12 million start is impressive. Should this number hold, it would mark the second biggest opening gross of the Coronavirus era (behind only Wonder Woman 1984).
That’s more than The Croods: A New Age managed over Thanksgiving and it legged out to over $50 million domestically. There’s no reason to think the iconic cat and mouse won’t do the same. This is also music to the ears of Disney as they prepare to release their animated Raya and the Last Dragon next weekend (along with a Disney Plus rollout).
However, this news really must be encouraging to theaters chains and owners. This is a sign that family audiences in particular will turn up for new product even if it’s available on the couch. As for material outside of that genre, the jury is still out and lots of attention should turn to the aforementioned battle of two other famous creatures (Godzilla vs. Kong) in one month. One thing seems clearer today: the outlook for theaters, while still in flux, got a little rosier.
The sci-fi adventure Chaos Walking, on its surface, seems to have a lot going for it. It’s based on a well regarded series of YA novels by Patrick Ness (who cowrote the screenplay). Doug Liman, maker of successful pics like The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Edge of Tomorrow, directs. The two stars are instantly recognizable faces from recent franchises blockbusters: Daisy Ridley (Rey from Star Wars) and Tom Holland (the current Spider-Man). And Lionsgate ponied up a reported $125 million to make it.
Yet closer inspection reveals a different story as it opens next Friday in multiplexes. Chaos was originally slated for release all the way back in pre-COVID March 2019. Poor test screenings allegedly forced reshoots which were overseen by Don’t Breathe director Fede Alvarez. The pandemic has shifted the drop date once again from January of this year to early March.
Now it appears the high budget Walking is limping its way into theaters in already uncertain times. In addition to its stars, the supporting cast includes Mads Mikkelsen, Demian Bichir, Cynthia Erivo, Nick Jonas, and David Oyelowo. I’m not even confident that the awareness level of its existence is enough to bring in the intended audience. This has been looked at as a potential major flop for some time and I don’t foresee this exceeding any expectations upon release.
Chaos Walking opening weekend prediction: $3.9 million
For my Raya and the Last Dragon prediction, click here:
A totally different kind of COVID test arrives in theaters March 5 with the release of Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon. It’s the latest traditionally animated feature from the Mouse Factory and it hits multiplexes and Disney+ on the same day. The fantasy adventure is co-directed by Don Hall (who made Big Hero 6 for the studio) and Carlos Lopez Estrada (maker of the decidedly non Disney pic Blindspotting). The predominately Asian-American voice cast includes Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Sandra Oh, Benedict Wong, and Alan Tudyk.
Raya marks the highest profile release of 2021 thus far on the big screen. The question is whether family audiences will mostly opt to shell out thirty bucks to watch it on the tube. All things considered – that’s probably less money than a night out for a clan of four to view it. And the Disney+ model is already familiar to subscribers with recent products such as Mulan and Soul.
In these uncertain pandemic days, it is difficult to find any real comps for opening weekend estimates. The Croods: A New Age debuted over Thanksgiving weekend and took in a better than anticipated $14 million over the five-day frame with nearly $10 million of it from the traditional Friday to Sunday portion. Yet that’s not exactly a reliable comp as Croods was a sequel to a well known property out during a holiday period. Still… this is Disney…
As I’ve said repeatedly with any box office guesstimates for nearly a year, we are in unpredictable territory. However, I’ll say Raya makes between $11-$14million and I’ll go a bit on the higher end of that range.
Raya and the Last Dragon opening weekend prediction: $13.2 million
Liam Neeson headlines the first new wide release of 2021 with The Marksman next weekend. The action pic casts Neeson as a former Marine (with a particular set of skills I assume) protecting a young boy from harm by a Mexican cartel. Robert Lorenz, a frequent collaborator of Clint Eastwood, directs. Costars include Katheryn Winnick, Juan Pablo Raba, and Teresa Ruiz.
It goes without saying, but the COVID-19 pandemic is still causing many theater closures and limited audiences for fresh product. This looks to continue into the foreseeable future. That has made the forecasting of pictures quite a dubious proposition and I took a break for the last couple of months.
I shall try again. This is not Neeson’s first foray into available multiplexes during COVID. In October, Honest Thief debuted to $3.6 million stateside. Considering the circumstances, that was pretty decent. I suspect The Marksman won’t quite hit that target, but it should come pretty darn close.
The Marksman opening weekend prediction: $3.2 million
A slasher version of Freaky Friday comes from the Blumhouse shop with the release of Freaky next weekend. The low budget horror flick features a high school senior (Kathryn Newton) who switches bodies with a serial killer (Vince Vaughn). Christopher Landon (who made Happy Death Day and its sequel) directs and costars include Katie Finneran and Alan Ruck.
Shot for a reported $5 million, its studio has often excelled at turning a tidy profit for its ventures. Early reviews are encouraging with an 87% Rotten Tomatoes rating with particular praise for its two leads. The theatrical window here is unique as it opens on Friday on the 13th and will be available for streaming just three weeks later in early December.
The solid critical reaction and Blumhouse’s marketing talents could push Freaky to make its budget back in the initial weekend. I’ll project that it will.
Focus Features is hopeful that an adult audience will turn out this weekend with their dramatic thriller Let Him Go. From director Thomas Bezucha, Diane Lane and Kevin Costner headline as a couple mourning the loss of their son and trying to save their grandchild from a dangerous situation. Costars include Lesley Manville, Will Brittain, and Jeffrey Donovan.
Originally slated for August before the inevitable COVID-19 delay, Go has screened for critics and the results are pretty positive. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 74% based on nearly 20 reviews. Costner has been particularly visible as of late with strong ratings for his Paramount Network TV show Yellowstone. In a different reality, the pic could serve as shrewd counter programming for older viewers who might turn out.
The obvious question: will they do so during these times? The decent critical reaction might help, but I question whether this gets beyond $2 million out of the gate. I’ll put it right at that number and anything above would likely be considered a pleasant surprise.