Harrison Ford and a furry friend that isn’t Chewbacca team up for The Call of the Wild next weekend. Based on Jack London’s 1903 adventure book, the wilderness tale pairing Ford with canine pal Buck comes from director Chris Sanders. It’s his live-action debut, but he’s had success making animated features including The Croods and How to Train Your Dragon. Costars include Dan Stevens, Omar Sy, Karen Gillan, and Bradley Whitford.
Coming from the newly named 20th Century Studios (now owned by Disney), Wild is a rather large gamble. The price tag reportedly tops $100 million and that’s steep considering the source material may not be as familiar to some of the young audience it is counting on. To add to that, Sonic the Hedgehog will be in its sophomore frame and that could cut into the crowd.
Older viewers turning out for Ford and the short novel it’s based on could potentially get this to top of its range ($20 million). Yet my feeling is low to mid teens is most likely.
The Call of the Wild opening weekend prediction: $14.6 million
One day before its galactic release, the review embargo for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has expired and the news is not so great. The ninth chapter of the ginormous franchise sits at 59% on Rotten Tomatoes. For all the talk about the mixed reaction to predecessor The Last Jedi in 2017, its RT score was 91%. Even last year’s mostly disregarded spin-off Solo: A Star Wars Story managed 70%.
So… what does that mean for Oscar attention? Well, any remote possibility of Skywalker playing in top line categories like Picture is gone. Yet possibilities for tech nods remain intact. When counting the eight official episodes and spin-offs Rogue One and Solo, the series as a whole has gathered 34 total nominations and won seven. Six of them went to the 1977 original with another for 1980’s sequel The Empire Strikes Back. That’s right… it’s been almost 40 years since a Star Wars pic has nabbed a competitive gold statue. And I don’t expect that streak to end here.
In this currently trilogy, 2015’s The Force Awakens received five nominations: Score for the legendary John Williams, Visual Effects, Editing, and both Sound categories. The Last Jedi got the same nods minus Editing. I anticipate Skywalker will probably be recognized for the same four as Jedi and win none. Interestingly, there’s a solid chance it loses three of them (Score and the Sounds) to 1917. As for Visual Effects, that could go to The Irishman or another epic Disney franchise finale Avengers: Endgame.
Today kicks off my posts on the performers who will be remembered for having a strong 2019 and making an impact on the silver screen. However, as I have in previous years, my first writeup goes to a studio. And while Disney could be named every year nowadays (and they certainly had a terrific year), we turn to Netflix in 2019.
It’s hard to believe now, but it was a few short years ago that their big budget TV series House of Cards was considered a risk. Could this streaming service provide truly quality original content? Times have changed, ladies and gents.
Netflix has become an undeniable hub for high profile directors and actors. 2019 saw the studio give us successful comedies such as Murder Mystery with Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston and the acclaimed rom com Always Be My Maybe.
Action directors like Michael Bay turned to the service with 6 Underground starring Ryan Reynolds. We have filmmakers like Steven Soderbergh making Netflix a home with both High Flying Bird and The Laundromat. Millions of eyeballs were tuned to the Breaking Bad continuation El Camino.
Most notably, 2019 seems destined to be the year when Oscar voters won’t be able to ignore it. The conversation about Netflix being able to garner multiple Academy nods is about to become a moot one. 2017 and 2018 saw voters nibble around the edges. Two years ago, Mudbound managed a Supporting Actress nod for Mary J. Blige and Adapted Screenplay. 2018’s Roma received a number of nominations and Alfonso Cuaron won for Best Director. It was considered a frontrunner for Picture, but lost to Green Book. Some blamed it on bias against the biggest streamer.
This year, we have two films that could win the largest prize of all – Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story. Other contenders for a nomination include The Two Popes and Dolemite Is My Name, which returned to Eddie Murphy to form. Between those four pictures, you could see as many as a dozen acting nominations.
There’s little doubt that 2019 gave us a shifting in the tide of Netflix’s credibility. And that’s likely to stay. My Year Of posts will continue soon with some of the actors who had a lot to celebrate…
Blogger’s Note (12/19): Hours before its opening, I am revising my estimate down from $206.4M to $191.4M
The ninth episode in the galaxy is not far, far away as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker arrives in a theater near you next weekend. Capping the third trilogy of the landmark franchise, the film finds J.J. Abrams returning to the director’s chair after Rian Johnson (currently having his own box office hit with Knives Out) handled duties on previous entry The Last Jedi in 2017. The familiar faces introduced four years ago in The Force Awakens return with Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac headlining. Stars from the original trilogy are back including Carrie Fisher (via unreleased footage from previous efforts), Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, and two cast members making their respective first appearances since 1983’s Return of the Jedi and 2005’s Revenge of the Sith – Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian and Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine. Other notable performers returning include Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong’o, and Kelly Marie Tran. Newcomers to the series are Naomi Ackie, Keri Russell, and Richard E. Grant.
Disney took over the reigns of George Lucas’s creation a few years back and the results have been billions more into the Mouse Factory’s considerable coffers. That said, the last two years have shown some chinks in the once impenetrable armor. The aforementioned Last Jedi divided audiences and critics and came in $300 million under Awakens. A few months later in May of 2018, prequel and spinoff Solo: A Star Wars Story was the first picture in the series that was a genuine disappointment and actually lost money.
In Star Wars world, “disappointing” numbers are relative. The Last Jedi took in $220 million for its start on this same weekend two years ago, ending its run at $620 million domestically (that’s still good for #9 all-time). Yet, as mentioned, that’s considerably below the $936 million that Awakens achieved. It continues to stand at #1 overall in terms of stateside dollars.
Estimates for Skywalker show a pretty wide range. Some are as low as $175 million. Only in this franchise and the Marvel Cinematic Universe would that number be called low. Despite the mixed Jedi reaction and Solo grosses, I have a hard time buying that this last entry of the trilogy could come in with $45 million less than its predecessor.
The more reasonable anticipation is that this manages to top $200 million. There is certainly more serious family competition than Last Jedi had with Jumanji: The Next Level being in its second frame (it was the inverse in 2017 with predecessor Welcome to the Jungle arriving the week after Jedi).
My projection here gives Skywalker the seventh biggest debut ever, in between MCU titles The Avengers and Black Panther.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opening weekend prediction: $191.4 million
One week ahead of its massive launch, the review embargo has lifted for Disney’s Frozen II, the sequel to the 2013 animated smash that grossed over a billion dollars worldwide. Financial expectations are understandably enormous and a big question was whether it matches the quality of the original.
Early critical reaction suggests… not quite. Frozen achieved a 90% Rotten Tomatoes rating while the follow-up is currently at 81%. Part 1 was nominated for two Oscars and won both – Animated Feature and Best Original Song for the omnipresent “Let It Go” as sung by Idina Menzel (or whatever John Travolta called her at the Academy ceremony).
Frozen II is very likely to be nominated in both races like its predecessor. The tune is likely to be the ballad “Into the Unknown”. However, unlike the original, it may not be the favorite to win in either category. The biggest competition in Animated Feature comes from another Mouse Factory sequel with this summer’s Toy Story 4 (which I still believe to be the frontrunner). Another non-Disney sequel, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, could also be a factor – albeit less so than Woody and Buzz. In Original Song, there’s serious competitors in the form of Elton John and Taylor Swift tracks from Rocketman and Cats, respectively.
Bottom line: Frozen II should nab the same nods that Frozen did. Victories are another story. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Blogger’s Note (11/16): I’ve upgraded my estimate from $113.7M to $126.7M
Today, frozen is the word described by many as what they’re experiencing when they attempt to view Disney Plus on its first day of launch. Next weekend, Frozen II looks to heat up a sleepy box office and continue the Mouse Factory’s stellar year. This is the sequel to the 2013 smash hit that earned over a billion dollars worldwide. The computer animated musical fantasy has Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, and Josh Gad returning to voice their known characters along with newbies Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, Marsha Plimpton, and Jason Ritter. Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee make a return engagement behind the camera.
Six years ago in November, part 1 turned into a phenomenon. Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, the critically hailed Oscar winner took in $93 million and legged out impressively to a domestic haul of $400 million. This time around, expectations are understandably sky high. A gross north of $100 million out of the gate is anticipated.
With its rather short span between entries, Frozen II should achieve that status. I suspect earnings in the neighborhood of what Toy Story 4 ($120.9 million) took in this summer is the range. I’ll put it a few million over that mark.
Frozen II opening weekend prediction: $126.7 million
For my A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood prediction, click here:
The cavalcade of 2019 Disney live-action reimaginings continues next weekend with Maleficent: MistressofEvil. The fantasy adventure is the sequel to 2014’s Maleficent, which focused on the villainous title character from SleepingBeauty. Angelina Jolie returns along with Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, and Lesley Manville. Newcomers to the fold include Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ed Skrein, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Joachim Rønning (who recently co-directed the Mouse Factory’s PiratesoftheCaribbean: DeadMenTellNoTales) takes over for Robert Stromberg.
When it comes to comps for how Mistress might perform, that’s a tricky calculation. Since the release of part 1 five summers ago, there’s been eight Disney updates of their classic animated material. The last two from this summer (Aladdin and TheLionKing) were massive blockbusters based on beloved 1990s pics. This spring’s Dumbo, on the other hand, premiered with a so-so $45 million.
What about Maleficent itself? It opened just under $70 million with a $241 million eventual domestic haul. Yet five years is a fairly long break between sequels and some of the kiddos who attended could take a pass here. That brings up the example of AliceinWonderland and AliceThroughtheLookingGlass. In 2010, Wonderland was the first significant reimagining in several years. It debuted to $116 million. Six years later, LookingGlass was a huge flop and earned in the mid 20s for its start. For a non Disney example, SnowWhiteandtheHuntsman kicked off with a robust $56 million in 2012. Four years, its follow-up TheHuntsman: Winter’sWar sputtered with a meager $19.4 million.
While I don’t anticipate the drop-off here will be quite as dramatic as the last two scenarios, I do feel Evil will come in markedly lower than its predecessor. I’ll predict low to mid 30s could be the range and that means around half of the bounty from half a decade ago.
Maleficent: MistressofEvil opening weekend prediction: $32.3 million
For my Zombieland: Double Tap prediction, click here: