Disney, be it through their traditionally animated works or especially Pixar, has had a stranglehold on the Best Animated Feature race at the Oscars. The category began in 2001. Of the 21 winners, 15 are from the Mouse Factory. That includes 9 out of the last 10 (the outlier is Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse).
The Disney domination appears fragile in 2022. Their adventure tale Strange World, focused on a legendary group of explorers, hits multiplexes over the Turkey Day weekend. Don Hall and Qui Nguyen direct with a voice cast including Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, Jaboukie Young-White, Gabrielle Union, and Lucy Liu.
With its review embargo up, the Rotten Tomatoes meter is at 72%. That’s pretty low for this studio’s product. The Pixar offering from earlier in the year, Turning Red, sits at 95%. Now that World has been seen, it appears Red is Disney’s strongest contender to take the Academy’s prize. In fact, Strange World could miss the top five altogether.
However, Red is expected to come up short to Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio from Netflix. We were waiting to see if Strange could present a challenge. It will not and my Oscar prediction posts will continue…
The last time Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal played father and son, it was nearly 20 years ago in Roland Emmerich’s disaster epic The Day After Tomorrow. For the upcoming holiday, they’re family again in the Mouse Factory’s animated Strange World (out Wednesday November 23rd). Voicing a pair of explorers in the sci-fi themed adventure, Don Hall (who made Big Hero 6 and Raya and the Last Dragon) and Qui Nguyen direct. Other voices getting in on the action include Jaboukie Young-White, Gabrielle Union, and Lucy Liu.
Disney is no stranger to releasing high profile product over the long Turkey Day frame. Sometimes that’s Pixar material or traditionally drawn fare such as this. Frozen remains the gold standard. It debuted to $67 million for the Friday to Sunday portion of Thanksgiving weekend with $93 million when counting Wednesday and Thursday. Other Disney releases like Moana and Coco made off with $82 and $72 million over their respective first five. On the other hand, The Good Dinosaur grossed just under $40 million from Friday to Sunday in 2015 with $55 million for the extended period. Perhaps the best comp is last year’s Encanto. It made $27 million for the three-day with $40 million for the five.
The buzz seems strangely quiet considering the studio pedigree. I would argue Encanto had more heat before it opened. Strange could manage only a second place start behind the third outing for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (which does give Disney a one-two punch for the weekend). This might open a little closer to Dreamworks Animation’s Penguins of Madagascar from eight Thanksgivings ago at $25 million (Fri-Sun) and $35 million (Wed-Sun). It might even fall short of that.
Strange World opening weekend prediction: $19.3 million (Friday to Sunday); $26.7 million (Wednesday to Sunday)
Baz Luhrmann’s eagerly awaited Elvis isn’t the only feature about a 60s rock icon premiering at Cannes this week. We also have Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind, a documentary that marks the solo directorial debut of Ethan Coen. Just last year, his brother Joel’s first filmmaking foray without his brother The Tragedy of Macbeth nabbed three Oscar nods.
Trouble faces a more troubled path to awards attention. Early critical reaction puts it at 70% on Rotten Tomatoes. The story is apparently told almost entirely through archival interviews and it may appeal only to diehard fans of the troubled and dynamic singer.
Way back in 1989, Mr. Lewis got the biopic treatment with Dennis Quaid portraying the piano man in Great Balls of Fire! It received mixed reaction as well and didn’t resonate with the Academy. This probably won’t either. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…
American Underdog tells the story of Kurt Warner, who went from undrafted quarterback to Super Bowl winner in his first season as a starter. It comes from directors Andrew and Joe Erwin, who have found success with faith based dramas like Woodlawn (another true life gridiron tale) and I Can Only Imagine. Zachary Levi of Shazam! fame is Warner with Anna Paquin as his wife and Dennis Quaid playing Coach Dick Vermeil.
Opening Christmas Day (a Saturday), Underdog will indeed be just that considering the holiday competition. The Erwin brothers have a commendable track record, but whether this registers with a Christian fanbase is an open question.
Underdog could surprise and reach double digits, but a gross of $6-8 million for its (rare) two-day opening weekend is likely where this plays.
American Underdog opening weekend prediction: $7.2 million
For my The Matrix Resurrections prediction, click here:
1993 was an exceptionally strong year in the Supporting Actor category with five worthy nominees in the mix: Leonardo DiCaprio in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Ralph Fiennes for Schindler’s List, Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive, John Malkovich for In the Line of Fire, and Pete Postlethwaite for In the Name of the Father. Jones would ultimately walk away with the prize.
However, there are three other performances that come to mind in that particular year and they will be showcased in my next Shoulda Been Contender posts. It starts with Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday in Tombstone. Nearly 30 years later, you may not remember that there were two competing Wyatt Earp pics happening. Lawrence Kasdan’s Wyatt Earp with Kevin Costner and Dennis Quaid was the 1994 summer release that was a potential Oscar contender and blockbuster. It turned out to be neither. Tombstone, released in December 1993, wasn’t so eagerly anticipated.
Yet audiences liked what they saw when it debuted. It was a rock solid action western with Kurt Russell in the commanding lead as Earp. It become a high earner and remains an enduring favorite with moviegoers. As good as the picture is, Kilmer’s work was great with endless quotable lines and character quirks. Having already made a name for himself in Top Gun, Willow, and his uncanny impression of Jim Morrison in The Doors, Kilmer’s Holliday may still stand as his most memorable role. And that deserves mention in a year full of notable supporting turns.
As mentioned, I’m not finished with this category in 1993. Stay tuned…
Known for his mega budget disaster flicks such as Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, director Roland Emmerich tries his hand at a World War II epic next weekend with Midway. Budgeted at $75 million (pretty low considering the reported $165 million price tag for his 2016 dud sequel Independence Day: Resurgence), the cast includes Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, and Woody Harrelson.
I do not expect this to be Emmerich’s Saving Private Ryan or Dunkirk. Those WWII efforts had critical acclaim and Oscar buzz. This does not. There will be competition for the adult and action crowd with the debut of Doctor Sleep and second frame for Terminator: Dark Fate.
IMAX elevated pricing could help a bit, but I doubt it. My suspicion is that Midway posts middling to poor numbers in the low teens for an inauspicious start.
ADog’sJourney finds its way to theaters next weekend and it comes without the controversy that greeted its predecessor. In 2017, ADog’sPurpose got in some water when video surfaced of an animal being mistreated on set. The film managed to turn into a decent sized hit with an opening just north of $18 million and $64 eventual domestic gross. That’s enough to warrant a sequel and Journey is also based on a book by W. Bruce Cameron. Gail Mancuso takes over directorial duties from Lasse Hallstrom. Josh Gad is back voicing the lead canine and costars include Dennis Quaid, Marg Helgenberger, and Betty Gilpin.
I’m not confident that Journey will follow the same box office path as Purpose did with its high teens range. I do think it’ll manage to top 2019’s ADog’sWayHome, which premiered to $11.2 million. A gross just under the teens seems like the right call.
ADog’sJourney opening weekend prediction: $11.8 million
For my JohnWick: Chapter3 – Parabellum prediction, click here:
Home is apparently where the homicidal maniacs are when TheIntruder debuts next weekend. The thriller casts Michael Ealy and Meagan Good are new homebuyers whose previous owner (Dennis Quaid) goes to deadly lengths to keep it. Deon Taylor, maker of MeettheBlacks and Traffik, directs.
The pic was originally slated for April 26, but set its date back a week when Avengers: Endgame snatched up that real estate. The Screen Gems release looks to serve as counter programming to the MCU behemoth’s sophomore weekend.
It could find some success in that regard, particularly with African-American audiences. Opening against the animated Uglydolls and comedy LongShot, this has a legit shot at having the healthiest debut in the low to mid teens.
TheIntruder opening weekend prediction: $15.2 million
Labor Day weekend brings the sci-fi pic Kin, which hopes to bring in a family and teen audience that have had plenty to see this summer. It’s not based on a YA novel, but it could pass as such an adaptation. That may not be great news as the genre seems to be dwindling.
Jonathan and Josh Baker direct with a cast including Jack Reynor, Myles Truitt, Zoe Kravitz, Carrie Coon, Dennis Quaid, and James Franco as a crime lord (the guy is certainly eclectic).
The Lionsgate release seems to be flying well under the radar and the Labor Day release date doesn’t inspire much confidence in its prospects. This is typically a slow time of year on the box office calendar and I’m getting a bit of a DarkestMinds vibe here.
That means I foresee a holiday debut in the mid single digits.
Kin opening weekend prediction: $3.9 million (Friday to Monday estimate)
Blogger’s Note (03/14/18): I am revisiting my estimate considerably upwards to $5.4 million
Playing in theaters next weekend is the faith based drama ICanOnlyImagine, which tells the story behind the making of the most popular Christian contemporary song of all time. The song shares the title of the film from the band MercyMe with J. Michael Finley as lead singer Bart Millard. Costars include Dennis Quaid, Cloris Leachman, and Trace Adkins. The directors are Andrew and Jon Erwin, makers of Woodlawn and Moms’ NightOut.
I’ve yet to see a theater count for Imagine, but I would guess it’ll be relatively low at about 1,000. This genre has shown the ability to over perform estimates. That said, this one seems to be generating rather meager buzz. The Erwin brothers have seen their previous two outings make about $4 million for their starts. I’ll predict Imagine doesn’t quite reach that number.
ICanOnlyImagine opening weekend prediction: $5.4 million