It’s usually not a confident signal when the distributor releases a trailer for a film one week before its release. Yet that is the case with 20th Century Studios and The Empty Man, a horror pic out this Friday. Based on a 2014 graphic novel, David Prior directs with a cast including James Badge Dale, Marin Ireland, Stephen Root, Ron Canada, and Joel Courtney.
Originally slated for August before its COVID related delay, there was even some jesting whether this feature actually existed before real footage emerged a couple of days back. Whether audiences know of its existence is a good question. As new titles have trickled out in October, we’ve seen The War with Grandpa and Honest Thief start off in the $3-4 million range.
Empty could benefit from the lack of product out there, especially in its genre. However, the low key approach in its marketing (to be kind) makes me think it won’t hit those marks.
The Empty Man opening weekend prediction: $2.1 million
Liam Neeson is a notorious bank robber trying to go good in the aptly titled Honest Thief, one of the few major theatrical releases hitting screens this month (and 2020 for that matter). The action pic is directed by Mark Williams with a supporting cast including Kate Walsh, Robert Patrick, Anthony Ramos, Jeffrey Donovan, and Jai Courtney.
The Open Road production should see a decent number of screens (probably 2000+) as there’s just not much fresh product in the marketplace. Neeson, of course, began a run of similar genre fare over a decade ago with the release of the surprise hit Taken. The grosses have dwindled in recent years. 2019’s Cold Pursuit managed just $11 million for its start.
We are in different times with smaller expectations in this COVID world. For example, this weekend’s The War with Grandpa starring Robert De Niro appears headed for an opening weekend take in the $3-4 million range. I’m not sure Thief makes off with quite that amount, but it might be close.
Honest Thief opening weekend prediction: $3.2 million
My box office predictions have been in a dormancy stage as chains struggle to obtain new product in these COVID times. It picks up again next weekend with the release of The War with Grandpa as uncertainty continues with the financial viability for theatrical releases.
This comedy starring Robert De Niro has had a checkered history even before the virus. Shot in 2017, it was originally scheduled for a 2018 debut. However, its original distributor was The Weinstein Company and the release was shelved due to the high profile legal troubles of its founder. 101 Studios eventually picked it up and here we are.
Tim Hill directs and he’s mostly known for kid friendly and animated fare such as Alvin and the Chipmunks and this year’s The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run. Costars include Uma Thurman, Christopher Walken, Rob Riggle, Oakes Fegley, Cheech Marin, and Jane Seymour.
When Tenet underperformed stateside in July, it set off a wave of delays. That includes just this week as No Time to Die experienced another push (this time to Easter 2021). Simply put, audiences have yet to develop a comfort level with a return to multiplexes.
Don’t look for Grandpa to change that. The film’s trailer was greeted with some eye rolling as this looks like a return to De Niro comedic mediocrity (just months after a more acclaimed turn in The Irishman). The Coronavirus questions persist: how many venues will this actually play in? This is even more of an issue now that Regal Cinemas has announced the closure of over 500 theaters. Amidst all of this, I believe Grandpa will struggle to hit $2 million for a quiet start.
The War with Grandpa opening weekend prediction: $1.9 million
There is one new entry populating the multiplexes this weekend and it’s the rom com The Broken Hearts Gallery, which will attempt to bring in a teen audience. You can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:
I have already downgraded my estimate for it from an initial $4.3 million to just $2.3 million. That should be good enough for a second place showing behind Christopher Nolan’s Tenet.
And now… about Tenet. All eyes were on the time shifting mega budget epic over the long Labor Day weekend. There’s good news and bad news. By Labor Day, Warner Bros reported that the pic had taken in $20.2 million domestically. That is well below the $36.9 million that I had it pegged at by that date. And it’s absolutely on the lowest end of its expected range.
On the flip side, Tenet stands at a sturdy $152 million gross worldwide thus far. The expectation is that its weekend to weekend drop-offs in the United States should be fairly minor as moviegoers are just getting accustomed to heading back out to their local theater.
On the other hand, the pic received a so-so B Cinemascore grade from audiences. That indicates some crowds weren’t wowed by the experience. Having said that, Tenet is the only major release playing for the entire month of September before Wonder Woman 1984 arrives early next month (we hope).
I will say Tenet should only dip to the mid teens for this upcoming frame with the caveat that we are truly in unknown territory. As for the scant holdovers, The New Mutants dropped 57% in its sophomore frame. That steep fall meant a gross of $3 million over the holiday compared to my more generous $3.8 million take. Its total is $11.7 million. Russell Crowe’s Unhinged was third with $1.8 million. My guess? $1.8 million! The overall tally is $11.4 million.
Here are my top 3 estimates for the weekend ahead:
Blogger’s Note (09/08): I am downgrading my original estimate from $4.3 million down to just $2.3 million. Simply put, this probably would have been better off going the streaming route.
Sony Pictures is hoping that a young audience will turn out for next weekend’s The Broken Hearts Gallery. The romantic comedy comes from first time director Natalie Krinsky and was originally scheduled for a July release before the COVID-19 pandemic altered the plans. Executive produced by Selena Gomez, it stars Geraldine Viswanathan (best known for Blockers and HBO’s Bad Education) and Dacre Montgomery (Billy from Netflix’s Stranger Things). Costars include Utkarsh Ambudkar, Molly Gordon, and Bernadette Peters.
I’m a bit skeptical that this has any breakout potential. Many similar pics in this genre are based on novels with a hoped for built-in audience. Gallery doesn’t have that advantage or much star power to lure its intended demographic into the multiplex. The best hope for Sony is that this crowd is simply starved for anything to go see.
I don’t believe that’ll be enough to get this over $3 million.
The Broken Hearts Gallery opening weekend prediction: $2.3 million
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.
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:
***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
And now on this little blog of mine… a return to something that could be normalcy. OK, not really but it’s the closest we’ve come in a long time, my loyal readers!
For the first time in nearly half a year, I have something called a “box office prediction” to write. I’ll fully admit that (just like 2020 itself), I’m entering uncharted territory. It begins with an Oscar winner in a road rage B movie and its release will be studied more closely than its makers ever could have imagined.
Unhinged is the first project from upstart Solstice Studios and it stars Russell Crowe as an unstable motorist who terrorizes a family. Derrick Borte directs with a supporting cast including Caren Pistorius, Gabriel Bateman, and Jimmi Simpson. In what has become a common occurrence since the COVID-19 pandemic drastically altered every sector of the U.S. economy, its August 21st release date is its fourth after various delays.
The thriller will be out this Friday (08/14) in on our neighbor to the north on approximately 300 screens before a planned expansion to the States. The strategy (as of today) is for Crowe and company to be on approximately 2000 screens on the 21st between this nation and Canada.
There are obviously numerous questions that abound when it comes to the first major theatrical release since the middle of March. The state of New York still hasn’t given a green light for openings and it goes without saying that the NYC market is significant. There’s the issue of capacity limitations in any cinema. There’s, of course, the overarching multi-million dollar question as to whether moviegoers are ready to return to the multiplex at all.
The Canadian numbers this weekend for Unhinged could provide some clues. However, even that is not an apples to apples comparison as that country’s cases are not as pronounced as they are here.
Reviews for a movie like this probably don’t matter much. I will note that its received mixed critical reaction to the tune of a 53% Rotten Tomatoes score. The pic already saw a July release in various European and Asian countries and Australia. Its current total stands just over $5 million in those territories.
Let me state the obvious: this is mostly pure guesswork as to the opening weekend for Unhinged. We’ve simply never seen a movie open under these circumstances. Ever. And Solstice Studios seems to be moving forward with their plan to be first out of the wide release gate. It is certainly possible that I will make updates to my estimate as the 21st draws closer.
If the 2000 count holds, Unhinged making close to $5 million appears feasible. I’ll put it just under that for now and let’s see if my projection for this historic opening fluctuates in the coming days.