Oscar Watch: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Opening in limited fashion this weekend is one of the year’s more hotly anticipated documentaries – Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Focused on the life of Mister Rogers, whose public access children’s program spanned decades and inspired generations of youngsters, it premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival to wide acclaim. Its Rotten Tomatoes score sits at 97% currently.

The Oscar pedigree for it is evident as its director Morgan Neville won Best Documentary Feature in 2014 for 20 Feet From Stardom. Neighbor, like the recent RBG, is the rare doc that has legitimate box office breakout potential due its familiar subject matter. That said, the documentary branch of the Academy is an unpredictable lot. Last year’s Jane, for instance, covered a much appreciated figure, was looked at as a front-runner in some circles, and ended up without a nomination.

Yet don’t surprised to find this on the short list of inclusions come next year. Interestingly, the story of Rogers could find itself in the Oscar mix for two years in a row. 2019 brings You Are My Friend, a biopic starring Tom Hanks as the sweater clad host.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

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Box Office Predictions: June 8-10

A trio of new titles open wide at the box office this weekend as the unremarkable two-week reign of Solo: A Star Wars Story looks to close. They are the reboot of heist caper franchise Ocean’s 8 with Sandra Bullock and other notable actresses, critically acclaimed horror pic Hereditary, and crime thriller Hotel Artemis. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/30/oceans-8-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/30/hereditary-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/30/hotel-artemis-box-office-prediction/

My low 40s opening for Ocean’s 8 easily puts it in the #1 spot. That estimate gives it the largest debut for the franchise that’s been dormant for over a decade when George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, and others had their trilogy.

The biggest question mark of the weekend to me is undoubtedly Hereditary. Reviews have been terrific, but critical praise doesn’t always equate to major dollars for this genre. Two similarly heralded entries from the same studio – The Witch and It Comes at Night – made less than $10 million out of the gate. Hereditary could potentially suffer the same fate, but I’ve got it pegged to manage low double digits. If the pic over performs, it could nab the #2 spot. If it hits in the range I’m projecting, it would be fourth behind Solo and Deadpool 2. 

Adrift premiered right in line with my expectations and it may find itself in a close race with Avengers: Infinity War for the fifth slot. I’m giving the superheroes an edge.

As for Hotel Artemis, I’m not expecting much and my forecast has gone from $7.7 million to now $5 million over the course of the last week. That number puts it outside the top five.

And with that, my top 6 projections for the weekend ahead:

1. Ocean’s 8

Predicted Gross: $42.6 million

2. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Predicted Gross: $14.3 million

3. Deadpool 2

Predicted Gross: $13.2 million

4. Hereditary

Predicted Gross: $10.2 million

5. Avengers: Infinity War

Predicted Gross: $6.7 million

6. Adrift

Predicted Gross: $6.1 million

Box Office Results (June 1-3) 

All eyes were on how Solo: A Star Wars Story would perform in its second weekend after a majorly lackluster premiere. The verdict? Not good. The Star Wars stand-alone fell a precipitous 65% to $29.3 million, well behind my $37.3 million estimate. The two-week tally stands at $148 million.

Deadpool 2 was second with $23.1 million in weekend #3, topping my $20.9 million projection for $254 million total.

Newcomer Adrift was right in line with my take – placing third at $11.6 million (I said $11.7 million).

Avengers: Infinity War was fourth with $10.5 million, ahead of my $8.6 million projection for $643 million in its considerable coffers.

Book Club rounded out the top five and I didn’t have it in there. It earned $7 million and sits at $47 million overall.

Blumhouse’s Upgrade exceeded my prediction with $4.6 million. I was lower at $2.8 million. The well reviewed sci-fi horror flick’s number is pretty decent considering its meager budget and low 1400 plus theater count.

Last and indeed least, Johnny Knoxville’s Action Point was a complete dud coming in at 9th place with a measly $2.3 million (well below my $6.6 million guesstimate). I wrote about its failure yesterday here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/06/02/the-fade-of-a-jackass/

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

The Fade of a Jackass

While most box office forecasters such as myself will rightfully pontificate on the continued failure of Solo: A Star Wars Story (it’s fading badly in its sophomore frame after a disappointing debut), there’s another story this weekend. This one involves the highly dwindling fortunes at multiplexes of Mr. Johnny Knoxville.

The MTV show “Jackass” premiered in 2000 and quickly became a sensation with younger viewers glued to Knoxville’s dangerous and often hilarious stunts. Paramount didn’t wait long before taking the half hour program and expanding it to the silver screen. In 2002, Jackass: The Movie debuted to $22 million and grossed $64 million overall domestically. Four years later, Jackass: Number Two improved upon its predecessor’s performance with $29 million for its start and $72 million total. In 2010, the gravy train kept on rolling as Jackass 3D made an astonishing $50 million out of the gate and earned $117 million by the end of its franchise best run.

In 2013, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa was a bit of a question mark. It wasn’t an official entry in the series and was a test of Knoxville’s potency as his signature series had reached its conclusion. However, Bad Grandpa answered any questions with a strong $32 million debut and $102 million overall gross.

Since that time half a decade ago, Knoxville has been largely absent from the big screen. This weekend’s Action Point was a hoped for return to box office dominance. After all, it combines the stunt work and R rated comedy that he’s known for.

Last week, my initial projection for Point put it in the low double digits – far from the $20 million plus dollars of his previous works. By Thursday, that prediction had dropped to a measly $6.6 million. And now early numbers from the weekend suggest that Action Point will only make $2 million, putting it in 10th place and below the fifth weekend of Overboard.

What on earth happened? In my original projection, I asked if Knoxville’s audience had outgrown him. The answer seems to be a resounding yes. It also didn’t help that Paramount didn’t even have faith enough in it to screen for critics (its current Rotten Tomatoes score is just 16%). Perhaps its concept wasn’t interesting to even his fans. After all, a demented Grandpa is easier to grasp.

The huge failure here calls to question Knoxville’s future at the box office. Maybe it’s time to get the whole Jackass crew together for a reunion and see what happens… because there’s no doubt the amusement park in Action Point is permanently closed.

Hotel Artemis Box Office Prediction

Global Road Entertainment is hoping audiences check into the Hotel Artemis when it debuts next weekend. The futuristic action flick comes from Drew Pearce in his directorial debut (he’s best known for co-writing Iron Man 3). Focusing on an underground hospital for the criminal element, Artemis stars Jodie Foster (in her first film appearance in five years) alongside Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, Brian Tyree Henry, Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto, Charlie Day, and Dave Bautista.

The biggest hurdle for Artemis looks to be if general audiences are even aware of its existence. It seems the marketing campaign has been a bit low-key. Competition is a factor as Hereditary (while a horror pic) could be competing for a similar crowd. Reviews if they’re positive (none yet) could help a bit, but I’ll project there’s a significant amount of vacancy for its showings.

Hotel Artemis opening weekend prediction: $5 million

For my Ocean’s 8 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/30/oceans-8-box-office-prediction/

For my Hereditary prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/30/hereditary-box-office-prediction/

Hereditary Box Office Prediction

The horror thriller Hereditary generated a lot of buzz when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival way back in January and A24 unleashes it to audiences next weekend. Marking the directorial debut of Ari Aster, early reviews suggest a highly effective and scary experience. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is currently 100% (never a bad selling point for TV spots). Toni Collette stars alongside Alex Wolff, Gabriel Byrne, Milly Shapiro, and Ann Dowd.

This particular genre is often the hardest to predict as horror movies can vastly over or under perform. It’s also perhaps the genre where reviews truly don’t mean a lot. For instance, 2016’s The Witch and last year’s It Comes at Night both had critics on their side in a major way. Their respective debuts were only $8.8 million and $5.9 million (with It Comes at Night being released on the same June weekend as this is). On the other hand, something like A Quiet Place took in $50 million for its start just a few weeks ago.

So what’s a prognosticator like me to do? I’ll admit that this is a tough one and I foresee a wide range for the opening of Hereditary. It won’t come anywhere near the earnings of A Quiet Place, but debuting around $20 million wouldn’t shock me. The problem is that if it fell to high single digits or low double digits, that wouldn’t really shock me either.

Fair warning: this is an estimate that may fluctuate during the next nine days. For the time being, I’ll say Hereditary posts an opening in the low double digits to possibly low teens as it will hope to leg out decently based on buzz in subsequent frames.

Hereditary opening weekend prediction: $10.2 million

For my Ocean’s 8 prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/30/oceans-8-box-office-prediction/

For my Hotel Artemis prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/30/hotel-artemis-box-office-prediction/

Ocean’s 8 Box Office Prediction

A franchise is reborn with a twist when Ocean’s 8 lands in theaters next weekend. It’s been over a decade since the Ocean’s 11-13 heist sagas with George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, and a bunch of other famous faces being directed by Steven Soderbergh. Each entry made a little less at the box office as they went along, but they all opened between $35-$40 million. Soderbergh just produces here with Gary Ross taking over the directorial duties. He’s had hits such as Seabiscuit and The Hunger Games, but his most recent was the Matthew McConaughey flop Free State of Jones. 

The aforementioned twist is that it’s the ladies getting in on the thievery this time around. Sandra Bullock plays the sister of Clooney’s character from the first trilogy and she’s the mastermind of a crew that includes Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, and Awkwafina. Anne Hathaway is the target of the score with James Corden, Dakota Fanning, and host of celebrity cameos included among the cast.

Ocean’s 8 looks to bring in a sizable female audience and their male counterparts may not mind coming along for the ride. The high-profile cast, especially Bullock, certainly doesn’t hurt and this stands a real shot at having the highest Ocean’s debut of all. That’s not guaranteed as I could see the low bar being in the low 30s. That would fall under the previous low of $36 million by Ocean’s Thirteen in 2007.

However, I’m leaning more towards a high 30s to possibly mid 40s roll out for Sandra and company. I’ll estimate it somewhere in between.

Ocean’s 8 opening weekend prediction: $42.6 million

For my Hereditary prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/30/hereditary-box-office-prediction/

For my Hotel Artemis prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/30/hotel-artemis-box-office-prediction/

Box Office Predictions: June 1-3

The post Memorial Day weekend gives us a trio of vowel led titles as romantic disaster drama Adrift with Shailene Woodley, Johnny Knoxville comedy Action Point, and Blumhouse horror pic Upgrade all debut. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/24/adrift-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/23/action-point-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/24/upgrade-box-office-prediction/

I don’t expect any of the newbies to exactly set the box office ablaze, but have Adrift getting over Action Point (if for nothing else than the higher theater count). My meager $2.8 estimate for Upgrade leaves it far outside the top 5.

The top two (and perhaps 3) should remain unchanged, but the real story of the weekend may be how far Solo: A Star Wars Story drops. It shouldn’t have trouble remaining #1, but as discussed in my post from last night, it came in considerably below expectations:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/28/solo-a-star-wars-letdown/

Press chatter since the undeniably disappointing premiere of Solo has solely focused on just that and it could cause the film to take a hefty dip in its sophomore frame. In addition, tent pole features opening over the Memorial weekend typically experience large declines anyway. Last year’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales fell 64%. I believe a better comp might be Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull from 10 years ago. It made $100 million over the three-day portion of the holiday weekend and dipped 55% in weekend #2. That seems more feasible for Solo, however if it fell over 60% it wouldn’t exactly be shocking.

Deadpool 2 should remain in second place while Avengers: Infinity War could find itself locked in battle for third with Adrift or possibly Action Point. I’m giving Adrift an edge.

And with that, my top 5 projections for the beginning of June:

1. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Predicted Gross: $37.3 million

2. Deadpool 2

Predicted Gross: $20.9 million

3. Adrift

Predicted Gross: $11.7 million

4. Avengers: Infinity War

Predicted Gross: $8.6 million

5. Action Point

Predicted Gross: $6.6 million

Box Office Results (May 25-28)

As discussed already, Solo: A Star Wars Story came in far below expectations with $103 million over the four-day weekend. That’s, ahem, a bit under my forecast of $151.3 million. Just days ago, the stand-alone Star Wars entry was a strong candidate to break the previous $139 million Memorial Day record held by Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. It ended up as only the 7th highest holiday haul.

Deadpool 2 dropped to second with $53.8 million, in line with my $55.2 million prediction for a two-week total of $218 million.

Avengers: Infinity War was third at $22.4 million (I was right there at $22.5 million) for $627 million overall.

Book Club was fourth with $13.1 million in its second weekend, topping my $11.7 million projection for $35 million total. The comedy is scoring with a female and older audience and turning into a nice midsize summer performer.

Life of the Party rounded out the top five with $6.8 million, topping my $5.3 million prediction. It’s made $40 million total.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

Solo: A Star Wars Letdown

There aren’t a whole lot of films that could open to over $100 million at the box office and legitimately be considered a major disappointment. Those pictures generally belong in the Marvel Cinematic Universe or other massive franchises. For instance, if next month’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom only makes that figure, that would be bad news for Universal Pictures and the series long-term viability.

Of course, there is no franchise bigger than that of Star Wars. Spanning over four decades and now on its 10th feature, there had yet to be a true example of an entry coming in well below expectations. Until now. Solo: A Star Wars Story, just a week ago or so, was projected to set the Memorial Day weekend record by outpacing the $139 million earned in 2007 by another Disney property, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.

It didn’t. Like… at all. The current four-day estimate (final numbers tomorrow) puts Solo at $103 million. I had pegged it at $151 million. Oops. That actually puts it at just #7 as far as the holiday goes. That’s not only behind Pirates, but after Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, XMen: The Last Stand, Fast & Furious 6, XMen: Days of Future Past, and even The Hangover Part II. Ouch.

So the natural question… why? Predicting where the money earned by moviegoers at the box office is a tricky proposition… I try to estimate it every week. Sometimes I’m great at it and sometimes not (this would obviously be a case of the latter). Solo is the second stand-alone effort in the franchise behind 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. While they’re not expected to make the coin that the official episodes take in, Rogue debuted to $155 million in three days just a year and a half ago.

This latest entry focuses on an iconic character that has more name recognition than all the people (with a notable exception or two) in Rogue One put together. Sure there’s backlash about an actor other than Harrison Ford playing him, but that wasn’t expected to spark a hugely worrisome backlash as far as box office numbers.

Could it be the reviews? That might be a bit of it. Solo stands at 70% on Rotten Tomatoes and that’s low for this franchise. Yet that rating isn’t terrible or anything. My own review used the word ambivalent for my overall reaction to it:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/05/27/solo-a-star-wars-story-movie-review/

And therein could lie the true key. Looking over the lengthy history of the series, Star Wars films have truly been Event Pictures. Ones that are breathlessly awaited and spawn endless speculation prior to their releases. The original trilogy saw three-year gaps between releases. It was then 16 years before the second and considerably less regarded trilogy arrived and they also saw three-year waits between servings. Those like me that remember the buildup to 1999’s The Phantom Menace (no matter how much it disappointed upon release) would argue it rivaled and probably exceeded that of The Force Awakens in 2015.

Since Disney took over the release reigns, we have been guaranteed a Star Wars pic a year. That tremendously dilutes the Event Picture status. Rogue One had the benefit of arriving a year after Force Awakens set every box office record. The Last Jedi didn’t match the grosses of Awakens… to the tune of $316 million less. That said, its $620 million haul is nothing to be too worried about.

Solo arriving only five months later and with so-so buzz left it as the least anticipated Star Wars experience to date. The barely nine figure gross out of the gate showed that audiences were a bit ambivalent about it.

Will that cause the Mouse Factory to rethink the release date pattern? It’s probably a good thing that Episode IX won’t be out until December 2019. The official episodes, by the way, will always have an anticipation factor that the stand-alone variety will not. And Disney might want to consider making those side projects feel a little more special or that ambivalence might continue to grow.

Solo: A Star Wars Story Movie Review

I have an ambivalent feeling about this. And there I am with Solo: A Star Wars Story, which is competently directed and acted, has the impressive battle scenes you expect in this franchise, and manages to be underwhelming at the same time. It is the first occurrence of Disney’s resurgence of the forty-year plus series seeming inconsequential, a feeling that didn’t permeate Rogue One (2016’s first stand-alone entry in the galaxy far far away).

Here is a franchise, more than any other, that elicits strong emotions from its legions of fans both positively and negatively. After all, the original episodes IV-VI trilogy has inspired generations of filmmakers and other blockbusters. Episode I-III sparked a backlash where its multitude of detractors still foam at the mouth speaking of it. Even last year’s The Last Jedi had vigorous supporters and naysayers extolling its virtues or pitfalls.

Solo shouldn’t be picked part in that manner. Oh, it probably will. Yet my reaction is it doesn’t really deserve that much scrutiny. This is basically a breezy heist flick transplanted into a familiar cinematic universe. The backlash of casting a younger actor to fill the shoes of a role Harrison Ford made iconic? It’s not a disaster by any means, but Alden Ehrenreich isn’t memorable either. No surprise but when you hear the words Han Solo after viewing this, you’ll think of the older one with fondness.

The picture shows us a youthful Han wishing to become a pilot and willing to team up with unsavory characters to do so. He has an insubordinate streak that naturally rejects the evil ways of the Empire, but he hardly considers himself a hero. We know better. The love of his current life is Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), who he’s separated from and makes a vow to rescue from Imperial servitude from villainous Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). Han needs a ship to make that happen and that costs money. His mission leads him to partner with thief Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and his crew. Oh and there’s a notable Wookie involved and a swagger filled Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). And that ship he finds… like you don’t know…

Han’s journeys take him to multiple galaxies with a second half that feels like one continuous action sequence. There are, of course, nods to the franchise lore. Solo, though, feels the most removed from everything we’ve seen before. If it often has the vibe of a cash grab to fill time between traditional episodes, that’s because it kind of is. Ron Howard took over the behind the camera duties after the well-publicized removal of Christopher Miller and Phil Lord months into production. I didn’t have a strange sense of competing visions while viewing it. If anything, Howard certainly seems like the filmmaker here with its workmanlike sensibilities and lack of genuine style.

The cast is filled with familiar faces putting in serviceable performances. Glover gets a couple of moments to shine, but my favorite supporting work came from the more unfamiliar Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the voice of sassy droid L3. Bettany is a decent villain in a series with previous monumental ones. As mentioned, the conventions of the heist genre are all present with double crosses aplenty.

The Star Wars series is one in which the fans rarely forget a detail. Solo: A Star Wars Story is ultimately rather forgettable. Sure it’s an easy watch, but focusing deeply on it seems like giving it too much credit.

**1/2 (out of four)

My Top 25 Maroon 5 Songs

Every once in a while I move away from the movie portion of my blog and go to my love of music and my love of making lists. And seeing Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine carpool karaoke with James Corden got me thinking – I could totally make a top 25 list of my favorite tracks by the pop/rock group that’s been around since 2002 with hit after hit.

Interestingly, throughout their six albums, their first two make up about half of the songs listed here. Yet their album before the last one produces only one, but it happens to be the track that tops the list. So crank up my playlist of my personal favorite Maroon 5 tracks if you like! Here they are:

25. “Goodnight Goodnight” from It Won’t Be Soon Before Long (2007)

24. “Secret” from Songs About Jane (2002)

23. “Nothing Lasts Forever” from It Won’t Be Soon Before Long (2007)

22. “Who I Am” from Red Pill Blues (2017)

21. “Love Somebody” from Overexposed (2012)

20. “Won’t Go Home Without You” from It Won’t Be Soon Before Long (2007)

19. “If I Never See Your Face Again” from It Won’t Be Soon Before Long (2007)

18. “The Sun” from Songs About Jane (2002)

17. “What Lovers Do” from Red Pill Blues (2017)

16. “Harder to Breathe” from Songs About Jane (2002)

15. “She Will Be Loved” from Songs About Jane (2002)

14. “Wait” from Red Pill Blues (2017)

13. “Wake Up Call” from It Won’t Be Soon Before Long (2007)

12. “Moves Like Jagger” from Hands All Over (2010)

11. “Misery” from Hands All Over (2010)

10. “One More Night” from Overexposed” (2012)

9. “Just a Feeling” from Hands All Over (2010)

8. “Closure” from Red Pill Blues (2017)

7. “Beautiful Goodbye” from Overexposed (2012)

6. “Makes Me Wonder” from Hands All Over (2010)

5. “Back at Your Door” from It Won’t Be Soon Before Long (2007)

4. “This Love” from Songs About Jane (2002)

3. “Sweetest Goodbye” from Songs About Jane (2002)

2. “Sunday Morning” from Songs About Jane (2002)

1. “Sugar” from V (2014)