After achieving the highest limited per theater average of 2019, LateNight expands nationwide this weekend and hopes to attract eyeballs outside of major markets. The dramedy first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to sturdy reviews and it stands at 80% on Rotten Tomatoes. Directed by Nisha Ganatra, the film casts Emma Thompson as a talk show host who hires Mindy Kaling as her first female writer. Kaling wrote the screenplay. The supporting cast includes Max Casella, Hugh Dancy, John Lithgow, Denis O’Hare, Reid Scott, and Amy Ryan.
Over this past weekend, LateNight debuted in four theaters and raked in nearly $250,000. As mentioned, that’s strong enough to set the year’s best rollout for a platform release. Even with that designation, the pic could have issues reaching a mainstream audience. Original comedies have struggled recently and that includes those with positive critical reaction (LongShot being a recent example).
Mid single digits is likely where this ends up as this plays in around 1500 theaters.
LateNight opening weekend prediction: $4.5 million
For my MeninBlack: International prediction, click here:
The third generation of the Shaft family debuts in theaters next weekend with Jessie Usher playing an FBI agent in the action pic. Arriving nearly 50 years after Richard Roundtree played John Shaft and almost two decades after Samuel L. Jackson played his nephew, both actors are present in the newest iteration. Tim Story (maker of the RideAlong pics) directs with a supporting cast including Alexandra Shipp, Regina Hall, and Method Man.
Reportedly made for a smallish $30 million budget, the studio behind Shaft would love to match the $21 million opening weekend debut of the 2000 Jackson led summer flick. Tracking puts in right in that range. However, we’ve seen reboots disappoint in 2019.
I’ll say this gets to mid to high teens and considering the price tag, that’s not too shabby.
Shaft opening weekend prediction: $16.8 million
For my MeninBlack: International prediction, click here:
The Men in Black are back onscreen for the first time in seven years, but they look a lot different this time around. Subtitled International, this is a sequel/reboot of the franchise that ruled the summer 22 years ago. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are nowhere to be found. Instead it’s Marvel Cinematic Universe and Thor: Ragnarok stars Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson in the lead roles with F. Gary Gray taking over directorial duties from Barry Sonnenfeld. The supporting cast includes Rebecca Ferguson, Kumail Nanjiani, Rafe Spall, Liam Neeson, and Emma Thompson (reprising her role from 2012’s MIB3).
Despite its two stars being part of this season’s behemoth Avengers: Endgame, audiences might be skeptical to revisit a two decade old series that they identified with Smith (currently headlining the hit Aladdin). Comparing the opening grosses of the MIB trilogy that preceded it is tricky. All three opened over holiday weekends with the first two over July 4th and the third over Memorial Day weekend. Their traditional Friday to Sunday grosses were consistent in the low to mid 50s. When factoring in the extra holiday additions, parts one and two got into the 80s with #3 nearing $70 million. It’s worth mentioning that each entry earned less domestically overall than the previous one.
MeninBlack: International, holiday or no holiday, looks bound for the lowest premiere yet in the franchise. I’ll say low 30s.
MeninBlack: International opening weekend prediction: $30.7 million
Any fears of a sophomore slide are quickly dispelled by we the audience in Us, Jordan Peele’s follow-up to his blockbuster cultural milestone GetOut from 2017. That Oscar nominated debut defied genre. Yes, it was sort of a horror flick but it brought in a racial subtext that got crowds talking. I believe GetOut gets better with every viewing and I suspect this will too.
Us, in some respects, is more of a traditional fright fest in comparison to the auteur’s first feature. There’s more jump scares, and more overall freak out moments. Yet there’s a whole lot of allegorical treatment on (yes) race, but also class and the concept of nature vs. nurture. Peele’s second pic furthers the notion that he’s an immensely talented filmmaker with lots to say. Us also leaves more up for interpretation than Get Out. It’s messier and that’s not really a criticism.
Lupita Nyong’o is Adelaide, the matriarch of the Wilson family. She’s married to the slightly goofy Gabe (Winston Duke) with two young children Zora and Jason (Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex). We first meet Adelaide in flashback circa 1986 as a little girl accompanying her parents to the beach in Santa Cruz. She wanders into a funhouse where she encounters a hall of mirrors. Instead of only seeing her reflection, she encounters her scary doppelgänger. The event literally leaves her speechless for an extended period of time.
We flash forward to over three decades later with her brood and they’re vacationing at their lake house in the same area. She’s talking now and has tried her best to repress that childhood event. The family meets up with their wealthy, boozy, and snobby friends (Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker) at the same beach. Soon enough, Adelaide is unable to bury what happened in 1986.
It turns out that doppelgänger (named Red) is back and she brings along sadistic doubles of the whole family to terrorize them. Red (naturally also played by Nyong’o) speaks in a genuinely hair raising whisper. Referred to as The Tethered, the versions of Gabe and the two children are also creepy and with murder on their minds. This is the section of the film where the gory action kicks into overdrive.
Without spoiling the rest, Us goes about answering the questions of why characters have these bloodthirsty counterparts. It’s horror, it’s government conspiracy, it’s very funny at times. The use of music (from the terrific Mike Gioulakis score to inventive spins of classic hip hop hits “I Got 5 On It” and “F*** The Police”) is expertly placed.
Lupita Nyong’o, in her dual role, is terrific. Switching between a mom in protection mode of her rather normal family to a mom orchestrating that normal family’s demise, it’s quite a role to pull off and she certainly does. Actors in this genre rarely get awards attention and the Supporting Actress winner from 12YearsaSlave deserves it. Duke (and Moss and Heidecker) bring the comic relief.
In some respects, I look at Us as the Unbreakable for Peele if GetOut is his TheSixthSense. Why the M. Night Shyamalan comparison? SixthSense was a massive hit that also nabbed a Best Picture nod. Unbreakable was his breathlessly awaited next movie. It was appreciated by some and confounded others by not being as easily accessible. Those same issues apply to Us. However, just as the reputation for Unbreakable grew with time, I suspect that will hold true for Peele’s second turn. I don’t know if I’d say Us quite matches the potency of GetOut, but I think it could on subsequent screenings. For my first viewing, it definitely provided a whole lot to appreciate as this director continues to show he’s a force behind the camera.
If there’s a theme to this first full June weekend at the box office, it might be sequels not matching up to what’s come before. TheSecretLifeofPets2 and DarkPhoenix are the two newbies hitting screens and you can peruse my detailed predictions for each of them here:
The original Pets got off to an animated start three summers ago with $104 million. Part 2 is not expected to match it and I’m going with a mid 60s beginning. It should still face no issues topping the charts as the prospects for DarkPhoenix look dim.
It’s the final entry in the current iteration of the X-Men Universe and buzz appears lackluster (especially after the ho-hum reaction to 2016’s X–Men: Apocalypse). My mid 40s take gives it the worst premiere of any X title thus far.
As for holdovers, Godzilla: KingoftheMonsters was a big disappointment and I anticipate a sophomore decline in the mid 50s range. That could drop it to fourth place with Aladdin in third and Rocketman rounding out the top five.
Here’s how I have the top 5 panning out:
Predicted Gross: $65.2 million
Predicted Gross: $45.3 million
Predicted Gross: $26.5 million
4. Godzilla: KingoftheMonsters
Predicted Gross: $16.9 million
Predicted Gross: $14.9 million
As mentioned, Godzilla: KingoftheMonsters landed with a thud with $47.7 million – well below my $58.7 million projection. The reported $200 million dollar production made just over half of what 2014’s Godzilla ($91 million) took in for its start. Additionally it couldn’t reach the heights of 2017’s Kong: SkullIsland and its $61 million rollout. The two creatures will face each other next spring in Godzillavs. Kong.
Aladdin was second with $42.8 million in weekend #2 and held up a bit better than my $40.3 million estimate. The Disney live-action hit has amassed $185 million total.
The Elton John biopic Rocketman had a decent start in third with $25.7 million. I thought it would fly higher at $36.1 million. It’s still a fine opening for an R rated counter programming offering in blockbuster season, though it is just half of what BohemianRhapsody accomplished a few short months ago.
Blumhouse horror pic Ma with Octavia Spencer was fourth and landed in line with expectations at $18 million (I said $17.2 million). Considering its tiny $5 million price tag, it’s yet another profitable success for the studio.
JohnWick: Chapter3 – Parabellum was fifth with $11 million (I went with $12.7 million) as it brought its earnings to $125 million.
Closing out the latest chapter of the X-Men Universe that began in 2011, DarkPhoenix rises or falls in theaters next weekend. The fourth official entry in the current franchise iteration is a direct sequel to 2016’s X–Men: Apocalypse. This one is focused more on the Jean Grey character played by Sophie Turner, but it brings back Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, James McAvoy as Charles Xavier, and Michael Fassbender as Magneto. The familiar cast additionally includes Nicholas Hoult, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Evan Peters with Jessica Chastain joining the fray for the first time. Simon Kinberg, responsible for penning three previous X pics, makes his directorial debut.
Phoenix comes at a time where the franchise is going through a major transition. With Disney’s recent acquisition of Fox, it is believed the X-Men characters will be cast anew and melded with the vaunted Marvel Cinematic Universe at some juncture. The series is coming off Apocalypse, which didn’t impress critics and had a $155 million overall domestic gross that ranked well under predecessor DaysofFuturePast. The next X title (spin-off TheNewMutants) is out next spring and has been delayed on numerous occasions.
Anticipation seems muted here. Phoenix has the very real possibility of having the lowest premiere ever in the franchise’s history. That distinction for a non spin-off currently belongs to the 2000 original, which started with $54 million (not adjusted for inflation). Just below that is 2013’s TheWolverine at $53 million.
The opportunity for Disney to reinvigorate the series is coming, but I’ll project this latest entry will mark an overall low in earnings.
DarkPhoenix opening weekend prediction: $45.3 million
For my TheSecretLifeofPets2 prediction, click here:
Illumination Entertainment is back in the summer blockbuster animation game next weekend with the release of TheSecretLifeofPets2. The follow-up to the 2016 smash has Chris Renaud back in the director’s chair. Returning voices include Kevin Hart, Eric Stonestreet, Ellie Kemper, Bobby Moynihan, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress, and Jenny Slate. Patton Oswalt takes over the lead role of Max after Louis C.K. was dropped after recent controversies. Other familiar faces providing new voiceover work to the franchise include Tiffany Haddish, Nick Kroll, and Harrison Ford.
Three summers ago, the first Pets had a scorching start with a $104 million start and $368 million eventual domestic gross. It’s worth noting that competition on its opening weekend wasn’t as strong as DarkPhoenix will premiere against this. This sequel is garnering reviews in line with its predecessor. Part 1 ended up with a 73% Rotten Tomatoes score while this is at 68%.
I look for this to perform similarly to Illumination’s last two efforts. DespicableMe3 earned $72 million for its beginning two summers ago and Dr. Seuss’ TheGrinch made $67 million and perhaps a bit under.
TheSecretLifeofPets2 opening weekend prediction: $65.2 million