Box Office Predictions: February 16-19

Blogger’s Note Part II (02/15): And my Panther estimate continues to go up. Now at $193.8 million

Blogger’s Note (02/15): On the eve of their premieres, I’m making the following adjustments: revising Panther up from $168.8M to $178.8M; Early Man from $5.4M to $5.7M; and Samson from $2.2M to $3.1M.

It should be a commanding weekend for Marvel’s Black Panther as it opens over President’s Day in what could be a record-breaking February debut. We also have the stop-motion animated feature Early Man premiering. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:

Panther sprints into theaters with red hot word-of-mouth and sizzling reviews. The film appears to have entered into true event picture territory and it has sky high expectations. In order to blast through the current February record, it would need to eclipse Deadpool from two years ago, which also opened over the four-day POTUS frame. That movie earned $132 million from Friday to Sunday and $152 million when including Monday. My Panther estimate has Chadwick Boseman and company exceeding that.

I’m not expecting much from Early Man, which will experience severe competition from the second weekend of Peter Rabbit (likely to remain #2) and all the kiddos flocking to Panther. My $5.7 million forecast for it puts it outside the top 5.

I didn’t do an individual prediction post for Samson, a Biblical drama from Pure Flix that’s slated to open on around 1200 screens. I’ve got it pegged at just $3.1 million.

As mentioned, I see Rabbit retaining the number two spot while Fifty Shades Freed seems likely to drop to third. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and The 15:17 to Paris should round out the top five.

And with that, my top 5 predictions for the four-day holiday weekend:

1. Black Panther

Predicted Gross: $193.8 million

2. Peter Rabbit

Predicted Gross: $20.9 million

3. Fifty Shades Freed

Predicted Gross: $17 million

4. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Predicted Gross: $9.6 million

5. The 15:17 to Paris 

Predicted Gross: $7.9 million

Box Office Results (February 9-11)

Fifty Shades Freed closed out the franchise this weekend with the lowest debut of the three features, as anticipated. The final pairing of Anastasia and Christian took in $38.5 million, right on target with my $38.4 million estimate. The good news for Fifty? Its total this weekend including international sales brought the series overall to a billion dollars worldwide.

Peter Rabbit hopped into the second position with a strong $25 million, eclipsing my $18.7 million prediction. The family friendly tale (or tail if you will) looks to continue its impressive grosses in its sophomore frame where it should experience a smallish dip.

Clint Eastwood’s true-life terrorism drama The 15:17 to Paris opened in third to a middling $12.5 million, just below my $13.1 million projection. Mostly negative reviews likely didn’t help.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was fourth with $10 million (I was lower at $8.6 million) for a grand tally of $365 million.

The Greatest Showman rounded out the top five with $6.4 million (I was in line with my $6.3 million forecast) for $146 million total.

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


Darkest Hour Movie Review

Winston Churchill died 100 years after Abraham Lincoln. In the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister is now regarded as one of, if not thee nation’s most revered leaders in perilous times. Like Lincoln. And like Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln from 2012, Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour focuses on a short period when both men’s leadership abilities were put to their most strenuous tests. Lincoln featured Daniel Day-Lewis embodying the 16th President of the United States in memorable and Oscar-winning fashion. Hour has Gary Oldman with an equally towering performance that is also barreling toward Academy gold.

The picture takes place in May 1940 as Churchill becomes the doubted but consensus choice to succeed Neville Chamberlain as PM of England. He’s known as much if not more for his failures in previous offices than his successes. Churchill enters the position at a precarious moment for the country. Hitler is on the march, conquering European countries with sights set on England. King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) is suspicious of the new leader. Office holders, especially Lord Halifax (Stephen Dillane), are pleading for Churchill to cut a deal with the Nazi Party.

It is Churchill’s instinct to fight on the battlefield and with his detractors. He gets support from his wife Clementine (Kristin Scott Thomas). His historic decision-making and speech dictation is witnessed by new personal secretary Elizabeth (Lily James). The key choices he must make involve Operation Dynamo, which was just chronicled in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk.

Oldman, buried under impressive makeup that render him barely recognizable, excels in making Churchill a force of nature. We’ve seen Oldman’s chameleon like abilities to disappear into a character before and it’s on full display here. The Prime Minister’s boozing and oratory prowess and connection to his countrymen are also displayed. The supporting players are all just fine, if understandably relegated to the sideline in favor of a far larger personality. Those in Churchill’s orbit probably came to realize they were part of his show. Same here with Mr. Oldman.

Darkest Hour doesn’t quite reach the heights of dramatic impact as the films mentioned from Spielberg and Nolan. It is, however, a well-crafted tale of leading with gut and gusto at a juncture when it was needed and with Oldman spearheading the eventual charge to victory.

*** (out of four)

Early Man Box Office Prediction

StudioCanal is hoping family audiences will wish to travel to the Stone Age when their stop-motion animated tale Early Man debuts next weekend. Directed by Nick Park, maker of Chicken Run and numerous Wallace & Gromit efforts, the pic features the voices of Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, and Timothy Spall.

Expected to debut on approximately 2200 screens at press time, Early Man could have trouble finding its intended audience. There is direct competition in the form of the second weekend of Peter Rabbit. Also Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle should still be making some dough. Most importantly, plenty of kids will be preoccupied with what should be a massive opening for Black Panther.

I’ll project Early Man struggles in its four-day Presidents Day weekend roll out.

Early Man opening weekend prediction: $5.7 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

For my Black Panther prediction, click here:

Oscar Watch: The 15:17 to Paris

For much of 2017, there was speculation that Clint Eastwood’s true life terrorism pic The 15:17 to Paris could become a late entry into the Oscar race. It didn’t materialize and it was slated for an opening this Friday. I found it a bit curious that the review embargo didn’t lift until two days prior to its debut.

We may now know why. Early critical reaction to Paris has been rather negative. The film casts the three real life heroes (Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos) who thwarted a 2015 French train attack alongside more familiar faces including Jenna Fischer, Judy Greer, and Tony Hale.

Eastwood has, of course, been no stranger to Oscar glory with 1992’s Unforgiven and 2004’s Million Dollar Baby both winning Best Picture and Director. In the 21st century,  Mystic River, Letters from Iwo Jima, and American Sniper were nominated. His projects often merit Academy chatter and this one did until now.

The 15:17 to Paris seems destined for zero awards attention. That also means Jaleel White (TV’s Urkel who from “Family Matters” appears) will not receive his first Oscar nomination.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Black Panther Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note Part II (02/15): For the second time today, my Panther prediction is going up. Now at $193.8M

Blogger’s Note (02/15): On the eve of its premiere, I am revising my Panther estimate up by $10 million – from $168.8M to $178.8M

Marvel Studios is back in business next Friday and it’s likely to be a massive cause of celebration for the studio when Black Panther opens. Rolling out over the four-day Presidents Day holiday weekend, Chadwick Boseman plays the title character who we first saw in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. Ryan Coogler, who helmed the acclaimed Creed, directs. Costars include Creed himself, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Winston Duke, Sterling K. Brown, and Andy Serkis.

The reported $200 million has been garnering buzz for some time and it’s reaching a fever pitch. Reviews were released today and it sits at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Earlier today, I wrote a post about its chances at Oscar attention, which I believe to be quite real (even considering the extremely early release date on the calendar):

Two years ago on this same weekend, Deadpool rode a similar wave of sizzling word of mouth to a $152 million opening, which is the current record for February. Black Panther could be poised to top it with a more friendly PG-13 rating and the vaunted Disney marketing machine behind it.

I’ll project Panther sprints to a new record for the month and jump starts yet another franchise bonanza for the MCU.

Black Panther opening weekend prediction: $193.8 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

For my Early Man prediction, click here:

Oscar Watch: Black Panther

The drumbeat began sounding loudly within recent weeks and today’s critical reaction to Marvel’s Black Panther is deafening. The Ryan Coogler directed superhero pic (out next Friday) with Chadwick Boseman in the title role sits at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 50 reviews thus far.

As you may have noticed, it’s only February. Prognosticating the movies that may get honored for next year’s Oscars is a tricky proposition at best. Yet Black Panther is worth the speculation for a variety of reasons. When it comes to drumbeats, there’s been a ramp up that a comic book adaptation (which have dominated the box office charts all century) has to get Best Picture notice soon. Ten years ago, The Dark Knight came close. In 2016, Deadpool emerged as a late contender. Last year, the same applied for Wonder Woman. And 2017’s Logan is the first superhero flick to get a Screenplay nod. None were nominated for the big prize.

It’s unknown what will transpire over the next year before the next Oscar nominations come out, but I feel confident with this prediction: Panther will be in the mix and not on the back burner for discussion. Already it appears that it will be one of the most critically acclaimed titles in its genre and it will almost certainly become a box office juggernaut.

If Panther manages a Picture nod, the love could extend to director Coogler and its Adapted Screenplay. The film seems to be a decent bet for a variety of tech nods, including Visual Effects, the Sound categories, and Makeup and Hairstyling.

Bottom line: the acclaim for Panther is here and may not go away come Academy voting time.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Box Office Predictions: February 9-11

After a sluggish frame to start the month of February, things should be looking up this weekend as three higher profile titles debut: threequel Fifty Shades Freed, animated/live-action pic Peter Rabbit, and Clint Eastwood’s true-life terrorism drama The 15:17 to Paris. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:

As I see it, the trio of newcomers should rather easily populate numbers 1-3 with Freed leading the charge, albeit with less dollars coming in than either of its predecessors. Rabbit should sit in the two spot with 15:17 third.

That means Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle should fall to fourth and I’ll project The Greatest Showman remains in the top five with its continued smallish declines.

And with that, my top 5 projections for the weekend:

1. Fifty Shades Freed

Predicted Gross: $38.4 million

2. Peter Rabbit

Predicted Gross: $18.7 million

3. The 15:17 to Paris

Predicted Gross: $13.1 million

4. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Predicted Gross: $8.6 million

5. The Greatest Showman

Predicted Gross: $6.3 million

Box Office Results (February 2-4)

In a quiet Super Bowl weekend, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle swung back into the top spot with $10.9 million, a bit below my $12.4 million forecast. The mega hit has amassed $352 million overall.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure dropped to second with $10.4 million, in line with my $10.6 million projection for a two-week tally of $40 million.

The weekend’s only newcomer, Helen Mirren horror pic Winchester, debuted in third to a mediocre $9.3 million. I was close with $9.1 million. It did manage to garner the best per screen average of the top five. That said, look for it to drop big next weekend.

The Greatest Showman was fourth with $7.6 million (I said $7.9 million) for $137 million total.

The Post was fifth and I incorrectly had it outside the top 5. It made $5.2 million and it stands at $67 million.

Hostiles was sixth at $5.1 million (I said $5.8 million) for $20 million in sales.

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


The Florida Project Movie Review

Sean Baker’s The Florida Project portrays a slice of American life with characters who struggle mightily to get a piece of the pie. There’s kids and bright colors in a Disney setting that feels worlds away from the Magic Kingdom and short distance away from it that it is.

The film centers on six-year-old Moonee (Brooklyn Prince), who lives with mom Halley (Bria Vinaite) at a cheap hotel in close proximity to Mickey’s tourist attraction. The hotel is painted in gaudy palettes maintained by the hotel’s manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe), a kind and exasperated man who keeps a constant eye out for the kids who fill the premises. Halley is a former stripper constantly struggling to pay rent and make ends meet. Her friends at the hotel and their children are in similar situations. The never ending trials of the adults are seen, but mostly through the eyes of Moonee and friends Jancey (Valeria Cotto) and Scooty (Christopher Rivera).

We know there’s a lot of sad and desperate actions that allow Halley to plunk down the rent. Yet Moonee is still of the age where she doesn’t completely notice it or begin to comprehend it. The Florida Project presents her small world through her eyes. Each day, she sees parents and their kids staying at close by luxury hotels who are there to vacation and take in the wonder of what’s behind Disney’s gates. Her situation prevents her from entering them.

The screenplay by Baker and Chris Bergoch is less concerned with plot and more with tagging along with the youngsters. They seem real and not like movie kids who are all knowing and ahead of the adults. They get in trouble. They say mean things. And they’re bored and aimless much of the time while their elders tend to their struggles. They’re also played by genuinely impressive actors, especially Prince. First timer Vinaite creates quite a character in Halley, whose rough edges are not glossed over. And Dafoe has touching and forceful moments as witness to the motel’s daily drama.

We don’t see the people explored in The Florida Project onscreen often. The inhabitants of the Magic Castle motel don’t live in flyover territory. Far from it. They do live in territory that is driven by all day and night and mostly ignored. There’s enough heart and realism displayed here to make the two hours spent there worth it.

*** (out of four)

The Directors Guild Takes Shape

Last night, the Directors Guild of America bestowed their honors in film and television categories. It’s a night where Oscar prognosticators like myself take notice.

Why? In the 21st century, the DGA recipient for Outstanding Achievement in Feature Film has matched the Oscar winner for Best Director 14 out of 17 times. That’s a pretty remarkable predictor. And there was no upset yesterday with Guillermo del Toro getting the prize for The Shape of Water. Mr. del Toro can add this trophy to his Golden Globe and various others.

The DGA solidifies del Toro’s status as the person to beat at the big show. At this point, it’s tough to imagine anyone else taking it. Additionally, the movie associated with the DGA winner has won Best Picture twelve of seventeen times since 2000. This also allows Shape a front runner status in that race.

Will it change? We’ll know one month from today when the Academy Awards airs.

Roman J. Israel, Esq. Movie Review

Like his directorial debut Nightcrawler, Dan Gilroy combines a myopically focused central character with Los Angeles landscapes in Roman J. Israel, Esq. Denzel Washington is Roman, the secret weapon in a small law firm known for its justice fighting pursuits. He’s a behind the scenes legal guru who’s uncomfortable in the courtroom and dealing with people in general.

When the public face of the firm suffers a heart attack, Roman (who I’ll refer to as that but always uses his full name and title) must go job searching. He pairs up with George Pierce (Colin Farrell), who runs a more successful operation that puts dollar signs over the virtuous work Roman is used to. It creates an opportunity for him to expand his wallet, as he struggles with the morality of his more high scale surroundings and assignments.

Part of the conscience searching is represented by Maya (Carmen Ejogo), a civil rights activist inspired. She works in an underpaid environment that her new friend would flourish in. Yet he also is effective with George until a questionable ethical decision about a murder case changes things.

Gilroy created a masterwork in 2014 with Nightcrawler. In that, Gilroy wrote Jake Gyllenhaal his best role as a strange but ingenious man whose work comes before all else. That traits apply to Roman and we have Washington providing a unique and always watchable performance. With big glasses, an Afro, and an extensive music collection constantly filling his ear buds, we’ve never seen Denzel quite like this and he seems to relish it.

Unlike Nightcrawler, this picture doesn’t totally work. The court case involved is practically an afterthought. The interpersonal relationships between Roman with George and Maya feel a tad underserved. This may be because the central figure here can’t get too close to anyone, but the film sometimes feels as distant as he is.

Washington almost makes it all worth it anyway, but ultimately Roman J. Israel, Esq. is well meaning and also slightly disappointing.

**1/2 (out of four)