September 10-12 Box Office Predictions

In the immortal words of Lloyd Christmas: I was way off! I’m speaking of the marvelous performance of Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which smashed the Labor Day weekend all-time record. We’ll get to that in a second. The major release this weekend is James Wan’s latest horror offering Malignant. My detailed prediction post on it can be found here:

Malignant Box Office Prediction

There’s arguably been an over saturation in the market lately for scary pics. Malignant doesn’t seem to have much heat, but I have to give the reminder that this genre often over performs. I’ll still go with under $10 million and that would be good for second place.

Back to Shang-Chi. The acclaimed 25th MCU entry claimed the second highest COVID era debut (barely behind the other Marvel premiere from 2021 – Black Widow). Scarlett Johansson’s stand-alone title fell a steep 68% in its sophomore frame. I don’t foresee that occurring with Shang-Chi. With an A Cinemascore grade and it not being available on Disney Plus, a mid 50s dip seems more likely as it could foreseeably be #1 for the entire month of September.

Here’s how I see the top 5 shaking out:

1. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Predicted Gross: $36.4 million

2. Malignant

Predicted Gross: $7.6 million

3. Free Guy

Predicted Gross: $5.5 million

4. Candyman

Predicted Gross: $5.1 million

5. Jungle Cruise

Predicted Gross: $2.4 million

Box Office Results (September 3-6)

Mark it down as one of my incorrect forecasts ever. I thought the challenges facing Shang-Chi (COVID and the fact that big movies don’t really come out at this time of year) meant a $58.9 million four-day gross. Whoops. Try $94.6 million! Its $75 million traditional three-day take, as mentioned, is just after the $80 million that Widow made. Simply put, this is another testament that theatrical only can still be a moneymaking venture and that’s music to industry ears. To put it in perspective, the previous Labor Day record was 2007’s Halloween at $30 million. Rings tripled that and then some.

On the flip side, I was a little too generous to the holdovers. Candyman earned $12.5 million in its sophomore frame (a bit under my $13.4 million projection). The horror sequel/reboot, after its better than expected start, is up to $41 million.

Free Guy was third with $11.2 million (I said $14.2 million) and it’s made $94 million as it hurls towards the century mark.

PAW Patrol: The Movie sat in the four spot with $5.3 million compared to my $6.7 million prediction. Tally is $31 million.

Rounding out the top five was Jungle Cruise with $5.1 million. Once again, I went with more at $6.9 million. It has sailed off with $106 million.

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

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Box Office Prediction

A new group of Marvel cinematic heroes and villains arrives onscreen over Labor Day weekend with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The 25th MCU feature (and second of four in 2021) is out in theaters only with Disney choosing not to make it available simultaneously on their streaming service. I have already written a bit about the challenges it faces. They include releasing it during a holiday frame not known for unveiling blockbusters, as well as ongoing COVID related hindrances. You can read that post here:

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Labor Day Box Office

Destin Daniel Cretton, who’s best known for dramas with Captain Marvel Brie Larson like The Glass Castle and Just Mercy, directs. The cast features Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Florian Munteanu, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh, and Tony Leung. You can also expect some villains that have populated previous MCU flicks.

Early word-of-mouth should help. Rings currently sports a strong 92% Rotten Tomatoes rating. That said, there is the possibility that the non-traditional release date and other factors threaten to make this the lowest MCU premiere of the lot. It also doesn’t help that there’s really no familiar characters to draw some viewers out. The same could be said for Guardians of the Galaxy and Black Panther, but they had sizzling buzz that this needs to generate in a hurry (the solid reviews might help).

Shang-Chi will have a posted four-day gross due to the Labor Day holiday (where 2007’s Halloween holds the largest ever debut at $30 million). There’s little question that this should easily eclipse that record. In MCU terms, 2008’s The Incredible Hulk experienced the smallest start at $55 million. That’s followed by 2015’s Ant-Man with $57 million.

The extra day of reported earnings may help. I don’t see this getting anywhere near what Black Widow did ($80 million) at the start of summer. My feeling is that Rings, in its Friday to Sunday financial report, may hold the distinction of having the smallest gross in the MCU franchise. Yet the Monday could push it toward a mid to high 50s take with $60M+ certainly as a possibility.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings opening weekend prediction: $58.9 million

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Labor Day Box Office

Quick! Tell me everything you remember about the 2009 rom com All About Steve? Search that memory! My guess is not much. It stars Sandra Bullock and Bradley Cooper and it’s certainly not what most moviegoers remember about the two actors from that particular year. To be fair, they both hit career milestones 12 years ago. Bullock won an Oscar for The Blind Side. Cooper became a household name that summer in The Hangover. 

All About Steve won some awards as well. Not the kind that gets bragged about. The pic took home two Golden Raspberry trophies for Worst On Screen Couple and for Bullock as Worst Actress. Its Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 6%. And it’s largely a forgotten blip on the filmographies of two accomplished performers.

Yet it does currently stand at #10 when it comes to biggest Labor Day openings in box office history. That’s because Labor Day weekend has traditionally not been a time for studios to release hoped for blockbusters. In normal times, that frame is generally seen as one in which the summer season is winding down and the fall projects are gearing up. It’s kind of an in between time.

The distinction for highest premiere over the holiday belongs to 2007’s Halloween (the reboot by Rob Zombie). It made $30 million out of the gate.

When you get down to Steve in tenth, the take is a mere $14 million for the four-day gross. There’s other pics you might have conveniently forgot about on that list. How about the ping pong comedy Balls of Fury with George Lopez and Christopher Walken? It’s #8 (also with $14 million). There’s the musical doc One Direction: This Is Us which is perched in fourth with $18 million. Jeepers Creepers and its sequel both make appearances.

Why the Labor Day history lesson? Because Disney is about to go against the grain and release their newest Marvel Cinematic Universe product in what has usually been a quiet time.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings opens September 3rd and hopes to blow away Halloween‘s current record. It should have no problem doing just that. However, it also risks having the designation of being the MCU’s smallest opener. The current mark belongs to The Incredible Hulk at $55 million.

Current projections have Rings doing about $50 million for the Friday to Monday frame. It may certainly exceed that and early word-of-mouth is encouraging (my official prediction will be up on Tuesday or Wednesday). Unlike Black Widow, the house that Mickey built is not making Rings simultaneously available for a $30 fee on Disney Plus.

There’s a case to be made that the 25th MCU flick faces challenges no other has. Black Widow had the advantage of a well-known character at the center. That helped propel the stand-alone entry to an $80 million bow as COVID continues to be a hindrance to earning power. Shang-Chi introduces a whole new group of players to this multi-billion cinematic universe. That didn’t hurt Guardians of the Galaxy or Black Panther, but they both had sizzling buzz leading to their unveilings.

So what will be talked about more in two weeks? The nearly certain record Rings will accomplish with its record Labor Day haul? Or the possibility that it sets a low mark for its practically never miss franchise? One thing is clear: Machete will drop down to spot 10 in all-time Labor Day beginnings. And there will nothing to see in the top ten about All About Steve.

Free Guy Makes Them Pay

As uncertainty regarding the box office continues amidst COVID concerns, there has been one undeniable bright spot in the dog days of August. That would be Shawn Levy’s Free Guy starring Ryan Reynolds and its apparent second weekend grosses only puts an exclamation on the point.

The sci-fi family comedy surprised the film community originally with better than expected reviews (82% on Rotten Tomatoes). It continued to do so when it exceeded projections with a robust $28 million debut. Most forecasts ranged from the high teens to low 20s (my own was $21 million).

Yet perhaps the most encouraging sign are reports of its sophomore frame grosses. Free Guy will easily remain #1 with a projected drop around 40%. That should put it at approximately $17 million with an overall domestic take in the mid to upper 50s. With sturdy word-of-mouth, the Fox property seems destined to cross the $100 million mark stateside. The studio is already lining up a sequel. For context, that should be stronger than the second weekend for Jungle Cruise (which opened larger… more on that below).

Why is this somewhat unanticipated? To put it simply, Free Guy is performing in frame #2 much the same way it would without a pandemic. The few blockbusters of the season have experienced huge falls in their second outings and Free Guy is bucking that trend. Black Widow tumbled 68%. The Suicide Squad crashed at 71%. Even the aforementioned Jungle Cruise took a 55% dip.

What do all three of those titles have in common? That trio was available simultaneously on Disney Plus (Widow, Cruise) or HBO Max (Squad). Free Guy can be streamed only in the theater. With its positive audience reaction (it has an A on Cinemascore), moviegoers are proving that a title can have staying power if it’s: 1) good and 2) just in theaters.

This is a rare piece of good news for multiplexes in an industry starving for it. There are three other offerings this weekend aimed toward adults: Reminiscence, The Protege, and The Night House. All are headed toward meager starts outside of the top five. The other newbie is PAW Patrol: The Movie and it looks to slightly exceed expectations with around $12-$13 million (it’s also streaming on Paramount+).

So will studios adjust to Free Guy‘s solid performance? It could be a mixed bag. First, they might have to feel they have a product as pleasing as what Mr. Levy and Mr. Reynolds have created. Just yesterday, Universal Pictures announced they are keeping their animated sequel The Addams Family 2 in theaters but also making it available via streaming on the same say. On the other hand, Disney is keeping the next MCU adventure Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings only in cineplexes for 45 days starting Labor Day weekend. That might be the biggest test we have seen thus far for the theater only experiment.

Is Free Guy an anomaly or proof that if you build it only in theaters… they will come? We may need some more samples before studios make more decisions that favor theater chains.

Jungle Cruise Review

Jungle Cruise, based on the at this point ancient Disney theme park ride, is stocked with bad puns, over plotting, and elaborate adventure set pieces that includes inexplicable Metallica infused orchestral cues. This is a big budget fantasy with two megawatt movie stars and animals that absolutely look CG. There are occasions where the screenwriters don’t feel the need to convince us that the two leads have fallen for each other. That’s just what happens in these thrill rides. That said, I found the picture to be an energetic ball of fun that kids will probably dig on several occasions. It comes close at times to matching the joyfulness of the first Pirates of the Caribbean and mostly avoids the tedium that cursed the sequels to varying degrees.

The film takes place in 1916, two years into World War I or The Great War at the time since the protagonists didn’t know a sequel was coming. Dr. Lily (Emily Blunt) is a botanist who believe she’s found the locale for the Tears of the Moon. That tree is said to break curses and offer healing powers for the ill. She wants to find it to advance medicine, but she lets her haughty yet stylish brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) try to sell potential funders. This is not a female friendly era after all. German royal Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons) wants the Tears for more nefarious purposes. It involves using the Tears for fears and everybody wants to rule the world, don’t they? I can do bad puns too, folks!

Doc Lily and her brother need to find the Tree that is located deep in the Amazon River. Through a series of bumblings, her captain is Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson). He arrives with his rinky dink boat, his Jaguar avatar assistant Proxima, and a cast of supporting characters tasked with making the jungle seem more dangerous than it is. The real danger involves obtaining the life force that is the Tree with its magical petals. Not only is the deranged Prince pining for it, but so is the cursed and undead Pirates like Aguirre (Edgar Ramirez) and his minions.

By the time our two leads have been bitten by the love bug, Jungle Cruise gives us numerous action sequences on a majestic scale. Jaume Collet-Serra, best known for directing mid to low budget Liam Neeson genre exercises or horror flicks like The Shallows, accustoms himself well to the Mouse Factory machine. As mentioned, Frank and Lily’s romance might come off a bit shallow and forced. Yet the grand entertainment offered up by their surroundings makes up for it. And Johnson and Blunt certainly have the charisma to carry us on the journey. You could even say that we’re far from the shallow now (bad pun for the win!).

One could nitpick or pay admission to the notion that this mostly delivers on the rendering of its ride translated to the big screen (or wherever you may roam while viewing on Disney Plus). I found it fairly easy to go with the latter.

*** (out of four)

August 6-8 Box Office Predictions

James Gunn’s version of The Suicide Squad hits theaters and HBO Max streaming this Friday and it’s got surprisingly terrific reviews as a bonus feature to bring viewers out. You can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:

The Suicide Squad Box Office Prediction

The first Squad from 2016 (the one without the THE in front of the title) landed just a 26% Rotten Tomatoes score while THE reboot is perched at an unexpectedly lofty 96%. However, with the Delta variant in play and the availability to HBO subscribers, I have this Squad achieving a low to possibly mid 40s start.

Margot Robbie and her devious friends represent the only newcomer. Jungle Cruise opened a bit above most projections (including mine). The question is whether its Disney Plus simultaneous debut will cause it to drop precipitously like Black Widow and other recent titles. I suspect the sophomore frame dip may not be quite as severe and mid 50s is my forecast.

The holdover battle for the #3 spot could be close between M. Night Shyamalan’s Old, critical favorite The Green Knight, and Black Widow. I actually think Widow could rise from 4th to 3rd with the smallest drop (assuming Old falls about 50%). Knight, despite the laudatory reviews and a larger than expected debut, only nabbed a C+ Cinemascore grade and that could mean a 60% range dip is in the cards.

And with that, my top 5 take on the frame ahead:

1. The Suicide Squad

Predicted Gross: $40.8 million

2. Jungle Cruise

Predicted Gross: $15.5 million

3. Black Widow

Predicted Gross: $3.7 million

4. Old

Predicted Gross: $3.5 million

5. The Green Knight

Predicted Gross: $2.7 million

Box Office Results (July 30-August 1)

Disney had reason to celebrate over the weekend as Jungle Cruise with Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt opened at the high end of projections. The theme ride based adventure, sporting mostly positive reviews, landed with $35 million (ahead of my $28.4 million estimate). Additionally, the studio’s streamer Disney Plus reported $30 million in rental action. That’s about as rosy as scenario possible given the continuing complications for theaters.

Old dropped to second with a near 60% plummet at $6.8 million, in line with my $6.6 million take. It’s earned $30 million so far and that’s decent considering the small budget.

The Mouse Factory wasn’t the only studio that exceeded projections as The Green Knight was third with $6.7 million – well beyond my meager $3.4 million guesstimate. As mentioned above, the middling audience reaction could halt its momentum in weekend #2, but that’s certainly a better start than anticipated.

Black Widow was fourth with $6.4 million (I said $5.6 million) to bring its tally to $167 million.

Matt Damon’s Stillwater premiered in fifth with a muted $5.1 million. That’s right in line with my $5.2 million estimate as mostly solid reviews couldn’t bring adult moviegoers out in substantial fashion.

Space Jam: A New Legacy was sixth with $4.2 million (I was close with $4.5 million) for a three week $60 million total.

Lastly, Snake Eyes nosedived in its second outing after a disastrous opening with $4 million (I said $4.7 million). The ill-fated G.I. Joe reboot has amassed just $22 million.

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

Oscar Watch: Jungle Cruise

Debuting in multiplexes and on Disney Plus, Jungle Cruise sails into theaters and couches on Friday hoping for smooth box office returns. Based on the longtime attraction at the Mouse Factory’s theme parks, Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt headline the fantasy adventure from director Jaume Collet-Serra.

The studio has, of course, made a boatload of cash with similar fare. The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise stands at over $4 billion worldwide. That series also earned some Oscar love. In addition to Johnny Depp’s nominated performance in the 2003 original, part 1 nabbed four tech nods in the sound races (when they were divided into categories), Makeup, and Visual Effects. Sequel Dead Men’s Chest earned four mentions in the two sound contests, Art Direction (now Production Design), and Visual Effects (where it won). Threequel At World’s End also won Visual Effects and was nominated in Makeup. The fourth and fifth editions garnered no Academy attention.

The early chatter for Jungle Cruise compares it to more to The Mummy (as in the Brendan Fraser one) and not Pirates. That adventure earned a lone Sound nod in 1999.

So where does Jungle Cruise stand? Reviews are decent with a 69% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Sound and Visual Effects are certainly possible. That said, even some of the positive critical reaction isn’t overly kind to the CG effects. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this make the shortlist for VE and not make the final five while Sound is a bit iffy as well. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

July 30-August 1 Box Office Predictions

Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt’s theme ride based Disney adventure Jungle Cruise should have no trouble topping the charts as July rolls to August at the box office. It opens alongside the Matt Damon drama Stillwater and David Lowery’s medieval tale The Green Knight with Dev Patel and Alicia Vikander. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on all of them here:

Jungle Cruise Box Office Prediction

Stillwater Box Office Prediction

The Green Knight Box Office Prediction

After a rather sluggish weekend where no newcomer topped $20 million, Jungle should easily cruise to that and more. Whether it tops $30 million is more of a question mark (especially with the Delta variant complicating matters). I’m putting it just under $30M while no other title should hit $10 million.

The jockeying for slots 2-5 could be interesting. Let’s get The Green Knight out of the way. While Lowery is an acclaimed indie filmmaker, I don’t see this having much initial crossover appeal. I have yet to see a theater count and my estimate of $3.4  million puts it well outside the top 5 (my estimate could change based on number of screens). **Blogger’s Update (07/28): the 2500 estimated screen count has revised my estimate for this up from $2.2M to $3.4M

Stillwater is a bit more of a head scratcher. It has solid reviews yet I can’t shake the feeling that this might have been better positioned for an autumn release. It could certainly open higher than my $5.2 million projection, but I also wouldn’t shocked if it went lower.

The position of Stillwater in the top 5 will be determined by the sophomore drops of Old and Snake Eyes and the fourth weekend performance of Black Widow. 

Widow and Space Jam: A New Legacy have experienced hefty declines in their second frames. With mixed to negative reviews, I see no reason why Old and Snake Eyes won’t suffer the same fate. Both could see their fortunes fall in the mid 50s (that could be best case) or 60% or more. I’m thinking the latter. There’s a chance that Space Jam could stay in the high five if Snake Eyes dips in the mid 60s (I think it’ll be awfully close)

Here’s how I have all the action playing out:

1. Jungle Cruise

Predicted Gross: $28.4 million

2. Old

Predicted Gross: $6.6 million

3. Black Widow

Predicted Gross: $5.6 million

4. Stillwater

Predicted Gross: $5.2 million

5. Snake Eyes

Predicted Gross: $4.7 million

6. Space Jam: A New Legacy

Predicted Gross: $4.5 million

Box Office Results (July 23-25)

Considering its low budget, the performance of M. Night Shyamalan’s Old isn’t necessarily bad news for Universal. However, it definitely came in on the low end of expectations with $16.8 million for a gold medal showing. I was more generous at $19.8 million. Word-of-mouth doesn’t seem very encouraging and I anticipate a sophomore drop in the 60% range.

There’s really no way to spin the Snake Eyes gross in a positive way for Paramount with its disappointing silver medal. The hoped for G.I. Joe reboot tanked with just $13.3 million compared to my $17.2 million projection. You could say it was a real American no show with audiences. With a budget in the reported $100 million range, this should easily put this franchise on the skids for some time.

Black Widow took the bronze in weekend #3 with $11.6 million (I went a little higher at $12.9 million). The MCU stand-alone feature has made $154 million thus far and will be one of the lowest performers of the MCU library.

Space Jam: A New Legacy plummeted from its #1 perch to fourth with a near 70 percent fall. The $9.5 million gross was way under my take of $15.8 million and the two-week tally is $51 million. There’s no chance the LeBron and Looney Tunes sequel will make $100 million stateside.

F9 was fifth with $4.8 million (I said $5.1 million) to bring its total to $163 million.

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions was sixth in its second outing with only $3.5 million (I went with $4.5 million) for $16 million overall.

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

Jungle Cruise Box Office Prediction

Disney has certainly had luck basing movies on their theme park quantities before and they hope it continues on July 30th with the release of Jungle Cruise. The adventure pic (with a reported budget north of $200 million) pairs Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Emily Blunt (fresh off her hit sequel A Quiet Place Part II) in the early 20th Century set tale. Costars include Jack Whitehall, Edgar Ramirez, Jesse Plemons, and Paul Giamatti. Jaume Collet-Serra, best known for Liam Neeson action flicks such as Unknown and Non-Stop or horror fare like The Shallows, directs.

As the studio has in 2021 with recent projects like Cruella and Black Widow, this will simultaneously premiere on Disney Plus for an extra viewing fee of $30. That strategy has been called into question in recent days considering the precipitous sophomore drop for Widow. Truth be told, the $30 doesn’t seem so high when factoring in families watching and that could negatively impact theatrical earnings.

The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise (and The Haunted Mansion to a lesser degree) has shown an appetite for these Mouse Factory ride based attractions turned films. The star power of Johnson and Blunt doesn’t hurt either and I wouldn’t be too surprised to see this swing to over $30 million. However, the streaming competition could easily prevent that and I’ll estimate high 20s as it sets sail at multiplexes and at home.

Jungle Cruise opening weekend prediction: $28.4 million

For my Stillwater prediction, click here:

Stillwater Box Office Prediction

For my The Green Knight prediction, click here:

The Green Knight Box Office Prediction

Oscar Watch: The Velvet Underground

The 2021 crop of documentary hopefuls has the potential to be quite a sonically pleasing affair. Just recently, I discussed Questlove’s heralded Summer of Soul which seems like a surefire contender. We also have acclaimed directors known most for non-docs staking a claim in the subgenre.

At the Cannes Film Festival, Todd Haynes has just debuted The Velvet Underground. Focused on the influential NYC band featuring Lou Reed, this is yet another acclaimed example of an auteur dipping back into the musical vaults. Edgar Wright did so earlier this year with The Sparks Brothers. Peter Jackson has his three-part The Beatles: Get Back hitting Disney Plus in November.

Haynes is most known for numerous indie darlings. His screenplay for 2002’s Far from Heaven was nominated, but he was surprisingly not mentioned for directing or writing with 2015’s Carol. Could the Academy recognize him here?

It’s now standard practice on the blog to point out that the Academy’s documentary branch is a fickle bunch. There could simply be too many rock docs competing against each other (and I’d certainly give Soul an edge over this). However, depending on the forthcoming competition, there could potentially be room for this Underground offering. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…