The Saw franchise is back in theaters on May 14 and it hopes to take a solid financial cut of box office grosses. Spiral (subtitled From the Book of Saw) is the ninth installment of the slasher series that began in 2004 and it definitely looks different (although not in every way). There’s more star power than we have seen before in the reboot with Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson leading the way. Other costars include Max Minghella and Marisol Nichols. This looks to be the first Saw pic without stalwart Tobin Bell (aka Jigsaw). Lionsgate did bring back a regular in the director’s chair with Darren Lynn Bousman, who made parts II-IV. That’s likely not an accident as that trio posted the biggest domestic grosses of the bunch.
Another shift is in the release strategy as this is the first Saw entry not premiering in October. That wasn’t always the case. Originally slated for October 2020, it was actually pushed up to May of last year. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic changed that plan. The reported $20 million production budget is actually listed as the highest thus far. Even with continued theatrical capacity limits, Spiral should have no trouble turning a profit.
The high mark opening weekend for the franchise is almost surely out of reach. Saw III holds that record with $33.6 million. A better question might be whether it gets the lowest start of the nine. That mark is held by 2009’s Saw VI at $14.1 million. Spiral, as just announced this week, is getting some competition trying to attract a similar audience. The Netflix zombie flick Army of the Dead from director Zack Snyder snagged deals with certain chains to put it on around 800 screens (my prediction for that one is coming soon).
Spiral will open on far more screens and should have no trouble debuting in first place (as five of the previous eight have done). I’m thinking this probably ends up in the range of its processor Jigsaw, which made $16.6 out of the gate.
Spiral opening weekend prediction: $16.1 million
For my Those Who Wish Me Dead prediction, click here:
Open Road Films hopes to reunite horror fans with theaters by way of Separation on April 30. William Brent Bell, maker of The Devil Inside, The Boy and its sequel Brahms: The Boy II, directs with a cast featuring Rupert Friend, Mamie Gummer, Madeline Brewer, and Brian Cox.
Luckily for prognosticators, there is a recent comp with The Unholy. It opened over Easter weekend with $3.2 million. Somewhat surprisingly, despite poor reviews and a mediocre C+ Cinemascore grade, that horror flick has experienced meager declines in subsequent weekends.
Separation doesn’t seem to have much buzz going for it either, but it should debut with a bit less than its genre counterpart. I’ll put it just over $2 million.
Separation opening weekend prediction: $2.3 million
As we wait to hear the Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards this Sunday evening (hint: it’s Soul), we have a fresh possibility for the competition next year. Formerly titled Connected, Netflix premieres The Mitchells vs. the Machines on April 30. The computer animated sci-fi comedy comes from director Michael Rianda and is produced by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (the team behind 2019’s Oscar recipient Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and The Lego Movie franchise). Actors doing voice work include Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Eric Andre, Fred Armisen, Beck Bennett, Conan O’Brien, and Olivia Colman.
The Sony Pictures release was originally slated for theatrical release before the COVID-19 pandemic switched it to streaming. Reviews out today are nearly across the board positive with a current 96% Rotten Tomatoes score. It is early in the year and there’s eight more months of animated hopefuls to come. Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon is already out and could easily make the final cut. Pixar’s Luca (out this summer) is certainly one to keep an eye on. However, Mitchells has already established itself as a contender in the 2021 mix.
Fresh off their massive success with Godzilla vs. Kong, Warner Bros is back in theaters and streaming on HBO Max with the release of Mortal Kombat on April 23. The film is, of course, an adaptation of the hugely profitable gaming franchise. It’s also a reboot of the film series that began in 1995 to potent box office returns and a 1997 sequel (Mortal Kombat: Annihilation) that couldn’t live up to the first. Therefore the series has been dormant nearly a quarter century.
Simon McQuoid makes his directorial debut (and James Wan as a coproducer) with a cast featuring Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Tadanobu Asano, Mehcad Brooks, Ludi Lin, Chin Han, and Hiroyuki Sanada. While it seems like every major motion picture has experienced major delays due to COVID-19, this one was only pushed three months from an original January release date.
As mentioned, its studio has found a formula that works in recent months with their simultaneous multiplex and HBO Max drop dates. Godzilla vs. Kong set the COVID times record with a much better than anticipated $32 million traditional opening weekend and nearly $50 million for its five-day Easter frame rollout.
Mortal Kombat may not have quite the appeal of those two monsters mashing, but it certainly has a built-in fanbase that will prefer to see it in the theaters. Its R rating (the first two flicks were PG-13) could be a minor hiccup, but I doubt that will have too much effect. It can’t hurt that there’s a new generation of video game players and their parents who are familiar with it.
I look for Kombat to punch in with a little more than half of what GvK accomplished and that means high teens is the range I’m forecasting.
Mortal Kombat opening weekend prediction: $17.5 million
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.
The long awaited sequel Coming 2 America begins streaming on Amazon Prime tomorrow as Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall return as their characters (plural) made famous in the 1988 classic. This was originally scheduled for the summer of 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic changed its theatrical rollout plan and its release date.
Its review embargo lifted today and the results are mixed with a current 52% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Don’t get me wrong – no one was thinking America would vie for Best Picture or additional top line races in 2022. That’s unlike 2019’s collaboration between Murphy and Coming director Craig Brewer. That film received far better critical reaction and some chatter of a Best Actor nod for its star that never came to fruition.
There are, however, categories down the line where this could contend. The obvious one is Makeup and Hairstyling. Part 1 was nominated and lost to Beetlejuice. The original also picked up a nod for Costume Design where Dangerous Liaisons emerged with the gold. Both of those races are most certainly in play for part 2 as well as Production Design (which could be a stretch). If it manages recognition for its costumes, Ruth Carter (who won in 2018 for Black Panther) would be back in the mix.
Bottom line: audiences have waited over 30 years for the return of Eddie and Arsenio as royalty, barbers, preachers, and an atrocious R&B crooner. It could also return in the same races come Oscar time next year. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
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.