Elvis Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Update (06/23): On the eve of its premiere, I am revising my Elvis prediction from $42.6M to $35.6M. That still gives it the #1 slot over Top Gun: Maverick… barely.

Warner Bros is betting that Elvis will get moviegoers all shook up when it hits theaters on June 24th. The extravagant musical comes from Baz Luhrmann, maker of Moulin Rouge! and 2013’s The Great Gatsby. Austin Butler, in a performance garnering some awards chatter, plays The King with Tom Hanks as The Colonel. Costars include Helen Thomson, Richard Roxburgh, Olivia DeJonge, Luke Bracey, Natasha Bassett, Kelvin Harrison Jr., and Kodi Smit-McPhee.

While Butler’s work has been lauded across the board, reviews for the film are a bit more mixed. It received a warm welcome at the Cannes Film Festival and it could certainly be an audience pleaser. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 77%.

The studio would love for Elvis to approach the earnings of Bohemian Rhapsody from 2018 (and maybe win some of the same Oscars). The Freddie Mercury biopic took in $51 million for its start with an overall domestic haul of $216 million. Coincidentally that’s the same figure that Gatsby made for Luhrmann’s personal best. WB is  hoping for a better beginning than 2019’s Rocketman, the Elton John tale which debuted with $25 million (with a $96 million eventual tally).

Obviously Elvis Presley is one of music’s biggest sensations ever and that could propel this to a premiere on pace with Rhapsody. Older moviegoers have recently proven they’re willing to venture out thanks to Top Gun: Maverick. 

I’m tempted to project this hits $45-50 million, but I’ll hedge a bit and say it fall a little shy of that.

Elvis opening weekend prediction: $35.6 million

For my The Black Phone prediction, click here:

The Black Phone Box Office Prediction

Oscar Predictions: Elvis

Will Elvis be in the building when the Oscars air next year? The eagerly anticipated Baz Luhrmann biopic has debuted at Cannes prior to its June 24th stateside bow. The splashy musical casts Austin Butler as The King with Tom Hanks (in some apparently memorable makeup) as Colonel Parker. Costars include Helen Thomson, Richard Roxburgh, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Olivia DeJonge, and Kelvin Harrison, Jr.

Luhrmann’s movies can attract wildly divergent opinions. Elvis is currently at 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. Yet it’s worth noting that the negative reviews are quite negative and the positive ones point out plenty of flaws. It’s not often you’ll read this, but Hanks’s work is drawing mixed buzz. He’ll need some coattail action to be a factor in Supporting Actor.

On the flip side, Luhrmann’s pictures also generate Academy mentions. His last four have done so. 1996’s Romeo + Juliet was nominated for Art Direction. 2001’s Moulin Rouge! was his most acclaimed title with 8 nods including Picture (though not Director). It was victorious in Art Direction and Costume Design. His less regarded 2008 follow-up Australia received a Costume Design nod while 2013’s The Great Gatsby landed wins for Costume Design and Production Design.

We are talking about Elvis so you have to assume Costume Design is easily in play. So are Production Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, and Sound. And, yes, Best Picture is a possibility. Whether or not it hits at the box office could move the needle one way or the other on the big race. If he couldn’t do so for Rouge!, I doubt Luhrmann gets his first behind the camera recognition.

One consistent thread in most of the reaction thus far compliments the performance of Butler. He is absolutely in the mix for Best Actor. Butler’s best hope is to follow in the footsteps of Rami Malek, who took home the gold stature for 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody as rock legend Freddie Mercury. Or he could end up like Taron Egerton, who surprisingly was left off the final five in 2019 as Elton John in Rocketman. 

Bottom line: despite some grumbling, Elvis has at least established itself as a mover and shaker for the awards season. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscars 2021: The Case of Nicole Kidman

Playing TV legend Lucille Ball, Nicole Kidman’s performance in Being the Ricardos is next up in my Case Of posts for the Best Actress nominees. If you didn’t catch the first three entries, they’re here:

Oscars 2021: The Case of Jessica Chastain

Oscars 2021: The Case of Olivia Colman

Oscars 2021: The Case of Penelope Cruz

The Case for Nicole Kidman:

It actually seems like Kidman should have more than five nominations and she hasn’t won in 19 years. Ricardos is a golden opportunity for the Academy to make her a two-time winner. The Golden Globes made a victory here more possible when she took the top Drama prize at that ceremony. Oscar voters were clearly impressed with the cast as Javier Bardem and J.K. Simmons also received nods.

The Case Against Nicole Kidman:

A SAG award might’ve made her the heavy frontrunner, but Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye) won it. Ricardos itself received mixed critical reaction and missed major categories like Picture and Original Screenplay.

Previous Nominations: 4

Moulin Rouge! (2001 – Actress); The Hours (2002 – Actress, WON)Rabbit Hole (2010 – Actress); Lion (2016 – Supporting Actress)

The Verdict:

As has been discussed many times on the blog, Best Actress is wide open (just like last year). I’d say Kidman and Chastain (based on their early hardware) probably stand the best chance, but nobody is an overwhelming favorite by any means.

My Case OF posts will continue with Best Actor hopefuls and Will Smith in King Richard

Oscar Predictions: Being the Ricardos

Nicole Kidman and Aaron Sorkin could be in line for their respective fifth acting and writing nods at the Oscars with Being the Ricardos. The biopic, out December 10 in limited fashion before its Amazon Prime premiere December 21, centers on Kidman’s Lucille Ball and Javier Bardem’s Desi.

After generating some casting controversy ink for its leads, an early screening this weekend has been met with positive social media reaction. It indicates Kidman has a better chance at making the top five in Best Actress than I originally anticipated. If so, this would mark her fifth nod overall after winning 19 years ago for The Hours (the others were in lead with Moulin Rouge! and Rabbit Hole and supporting for Lion).

Bardem’s inclusion could be a less likely scenario though not impossible if voters fall hard for the pic. A Supporting Actor victor for 2007’s No Country for Old Men, he’s a two-time Actor contestant with Before Nights Falls and Biutiful. 

In a Supporting Actor race that’s seemingly wide open, J.K. Simmons (playing William Frawley) could be back seven years after his gold statue for Whiplash. Same goes for Nina Arianda’s Vivian Vance though it is worth noting there’s several viable possibilities in Supporting Actress.

As for the writer/director, I’d say Sorkin’s original screenplay has a far better shot at making it than his behind the camera work. That’s similar to his trajectory last year when his penmanship of The Trial of the Chicago 7 received a nomination. He’s thrice been up before with his screenplays for The Social Network (where he won), Moneyball, and Molly’s Game. 

Last and certainly not least, the Academy often falls for fare about its own industry and a Best Picture nod is not out of the question. I’ve yet to list Ricardos in my top 15. Look for that to change on Thursday when I update and you can certainly anticipate its quartet of actors to rise. My Oscar Predictions for the films of 2021 will continue…

Summer 2001: The Top 10 Hits and More

My annual recounting of the cinematic seasons that preceded 30, 20, and 10 years prior continues on the blog today with the summer of 2001! It was a frame dominated by an animated jolly green giant that kicked off a massive franchise for its studio.

As is tradition, I’ll run through the top 10 domestic grossers as well as other notables pics and some flops. If you missed my post covering 1991’s May-August output, you can find it here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/06/26/summer-1991-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

Let’s get to it!

10. Dr. Dolittle 2

Domestic Gross: $112 million

Eddie Murphy returned as the doc who talks to animals in this sequel that managed to cross the century mark, but failed to approach the $144 million earned by its 1998 predecessor. This would mark the end of Eddie’s involvement in the franchise, but a direct to DVD third helping came in 2006.

9. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Domestic Gross: $131 million

Angelina Jolie (fresh off an Oscar for Girl, Interrupted) headlined the video game adaptation that, despite weak reviews, spawned a sequel and an eventual reboot with Alicia Vikander that will soon get its own follow-up.

8. The Fast and the Furious

Domestic Gross: $144 million

We first saw Vin Diesel and Paul Walker and those souped up whips 20 years ago. Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or haven’t heard of The Rock), this begat a franchise which is still running strong today. F9 is currently the #1 movie in America in this series that has topped a billion bucks.

7. American Pie 2

Domestic Gross: $145 million

Universal quickly green lighted this sequel to 1999’s smash hit comedy. The gross out gags in part 2 (which resulted in another theatrical effort in 2003 and numerous direct to DVD entries) stands as the largest worldwide earner of the bunch.

6. Planet of the Apes

Domestic Gross: $180 million

Tim Burton’s reimagining of the 1968 classic didn’t result in the new franchise that 20th Century Fox hoped for. Critics had their knives out for Mark Wahlberg’s lead performance and the surprise ending that didn’t pack the wallop of Charlton Heston’s encounter with the Statue of Liberty. The studio would get their successful trilogy a decade later beginning with Rise of the Planet of the Apes (which will be covered in 2011’s blog post).

5. Jurassic Park III

Domestic Gross: $181 million

Joe Johnston took over directorial duties from Steven Spielberg is this threequel. Sam Neill was back in this dino-tale that (while profitable) failed to reach the heights of the first two commercially. A reboot 14 years later would get the series back in billion dollar good standing.

4. Pearl Harbor

Domestic Gross: $198 million

Michael Bay’s romantic war epic failed with reviewers but still approached $200 million domestically and $450 million worldwide. Its six Golden Raspberry nominations topped its four Oscar nods.

3. The Mummy Returns

Domestic Gross: $202 million

Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz returned for this adventure sequel to the 1999 hit that topped part 1 domestically by nearly $50 million. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson would join the fun here and was rewarded with his spin-off (The Scorpion King) the next year. A third Mummy landed with disappointing results in 2008.

2. Rush Hour 2

Domestic Gross: $226 million

It was the best of times for director Brett Ratner and stars Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan as this action comedy built upon the grosses of the 1998 original. A third would follow six years later.

1. Shrek

Mike Myers as the title character ogre, Eddie Murphy stealing scenes with his voice work as Donkey, and Cameron Diaz as Princess Fiona proved that Disney wasn’t the only animation game in town. Shrek even competed for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in this DreamWorks game changer that resulted in three sequels and a stage musical.

And now for some other notables flicks from the summer that was:

The Princess Diaries

Domestic Gross: $108 million

Disney’s live-action fairy tale served as a breakout role for Anne Hathaway and a return to the studio for Julie Andrews for the first time since Mary Poppins. A 2004 sequel followed.

The Others

Domestic Gross: $96 million

With its own Sixth Sense style twist ending, this gothic horror pic with Nicole Kidman earned solid reviews and got genre fans to turn out.

Legally Blonde

Domestic Gross: $96 million

Shrek isn’t the only feature to spawn a Broadway treatment. So did this Reese Witherspoon hit which also resulted in a sequel and a third Blonde that is slated for May 2022.

Cats & Dogs

Domestic Gross: $93 million

Dr. Dolittle wasn’t the only animal game in town. This kiddie pic featuring featuring talking creatures also began a franchise.

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence

Domestic Gross: $78 million

Long planned as a project for Stanley Kubrick (who passed away in 1999), Steven Spielberg directed this sci-fi visual feast with Haley Joel Osment. The film elicited strong reactions from critics and crowds (both positively and negatively). It may not have reached $100 million domestic, but it’s still a picture people like to debate about today and that’s more that can be said for most titles on this list.

Swordfish

Domestic Gross: $69 million

Hugh Jackman and John Travolta headlined this action pic which somewhat underperformed expectations. This is mostly known as the film that paid Halle Berry an extra $500,000 to go topless during a few seconds of screen time.

Moulin Rouge!

Domestic Gross: $57 million

Baz Luhrmann’s postmodern musical with Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor scored 8 Oscar nominations and has its legions of fans that have endured over the past two decades.

Sexy Beast

Domestic Gross: $6 million

This crime drama is mostly known for its menacing supporting turn from Sir Ben Kingsley, who was rewarded with an Oscar nod.

Ghost World

Domestic Gross: $6 million

Terry Zwigoff’s dark comedy (based on a late 90s comic book) earned raves for its screenplay and for costars Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, and Steve Buscemi.

And now for some pictures that did not meet expectations:

America’s Sweethearts

Domestic Gross: $93 million

Yes, it may have approached $100 million, but this rom com starring Julia Roberts and featuring John Cusack, Billy Crystal (who cowrote), and Catherine Zeta-Jones didn’t come near what her previous blockbusters like My Best Friend’s Wedding, Notting Hill, and Runaway Bride managed.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Domestic Gross: $84 million

Disney’s animated sci-fi adventure was a letdown that didn’t recoup its reported $100 million budget domestically. A hoped for franchise with TV spin-offs and Disneyland ride attraction never rose to the surface.

Scary Movie 2

Domestic Gross: $71 million

This rushed horror spoof follow-up to the 2000 surprise smash couldn’t get close to the $157 million of the original. However, this didn’t stop several sequels from following that achieved greater success.

Evolution

Domestic Gross: $38 million

Director Ivan Reitman and supernatural comedy sure worked well in 1984 with Ghostbusters. Not so much here in this DreamWorks flop with David Duchovny which earned less than half its budget in North America.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

Domestic Gross: $32 million

Tomb Raider was an example of a video game adaptation that made money. Not so here with this rendering of the popular role playing fantasy series that didn’t score with audiences.

Ghosts of Mars

Domestic Gross: $8 million

It wasn’t a good day at the box office for this science fiction flop from director John Carpenter and Ice Cube.

Pootie Tang

Domestic Gross: $3 million

Moviegoers didn’t turn out for this comedy written and directed by Louis C.K. that originated from a sketch on The Chris Rock Show (who costars). Despite the failed run at the box office, it has since become a cult hit.

And that does it for 2001, folks! Look for my post about summer 2011 in the coming days…

The Best Picture Coulda Been Contenders: 1990-2008

In 2009, the Academy underwent a change in the number of Best Picture nominees honored each year. The rule change allowed a fluctuation of five to ten nominees per year, as opposed to a finite five (all other categories stayed at that number).

As has been discussed on this blog, many felt the change was triggered by 2008’s The Dark Knight, the critically acclaimed comic book pic that was also highest earner of the year. It failed to a garner a Best Picture nod and the thinking was that it was time for more popular options to make it into the mix.

Since the change, the magic number has been nine nominated pictures in most years. This got me thinking: what if that rule had been in effect during prior years? What movies that failed to get a nomination would have certainly made it?

That brings us here. I have gone back to 1990 through 2008 and I’m listing two films from each year that I am confident would have made the shortlist. In selecting each title, here were some of the key indicators. If a Director was nominated for his work and the film failed to get nominated, that probably means it would have been included. Additionally, the screenplay races are a decent predictor of some titles that might have made the magic nine (or eight or ten). For reference sake, I am including the five movies that did get nominated.

So here goes! Two features from 1990-2008 that coulda and likely woulda been contenders…

1990

The Actual Nominees: Dances with Wolves (Winner), Awakenings, Ghost, The Godfather Part III, GoodFellas

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: The Grifters, Reversal of Fortune

1991

The Actual Nominees: The Silence of the Lambs (W), Beauty and the Beast, Bugsy, JFK, The Prince of Tides

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Boyz N The Hood, Thelma & Louise

1992

The Actual Nominees: Unforgiven (W), The Crying Game, A Few Good Men, Howards End, Scent of a Woman

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Malcolm X, The Player

1993

The Actual Nominees: Schindler’s List (W), The Fugitive, In the Name of the Father, The Piano, The Remains of the Day

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Philadelphia, Short Cuts

1994

The Actual Nominees: Forrest Gump (W), Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, The Shawshank Redemption

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Bullets Over Broadway, Three Colors: Red

1995

The Actual Nominees: Braveheart (W), Apollo 13, Babe, Il Postino, Sense and Sensibility

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Dead Man Walking, Leaving Las Vegas

1996

The Actual Nominees: The English Patient (W), Fargo, Jerry Maguire, Secrets & Lies, Shine

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: The People Vs. Larry Flynt, Sling Blade

1997

The Actual Nominees: Titanic (W), As Good as It Gets, The Full Monty, Good Will Huinting, L.A. Confidential

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Boogie Nights, The Sweet Hereafter

1998

The Actual Nominees: Shakespeare in Love (W), Elizabeth, Life is Beautiful, Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Gods and Monsters, The Truman Show

1999

The Actual Nominees: American Beauty (W), The Cider House Rules, The Green Mile, The Insider, The Sixth Sense

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Being John Malkovich, Topsy-Turvy

2000

The Actual Nominees: Gladiator (W), Chocolat, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Erin Brockovich, Traffic

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Almost Famous, Billy Elliot

2001

The Actual Nominees: A Beautiful Mind (W), Gosford Park, In the Bedroom, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Moulin Rouge!

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Black Hawk Down, Mulholland Drive

2002

The Actual Nominees: Chicago (W), Gangs of New York, The Hours, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Pianist

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Far from Heaven, Talk to Her

2003

The Actual Nominees: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (W), Lost in Translation, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Mystic River, Seabiscuit 

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: City of God, In America

2004

The Actual Nominees: Million Dollar Baby (W), The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Ray, Sideways

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Hotel Rwanda, Vera Drake

2005

The Actual Nominees: Crash (W), Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Syriana, Walk the Line

2006

The Actual Nominees: The Departed (W), Babel, Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Pan’s Labyrinth, United 93

2007

The Actual Nominees: No Country for Old Men (W), Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: Away from Her, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

2008

The Actual Nominees: Slumdog Millionaire (W), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader

The Two Coulda Been Contenders: The Dark Knight, Doubt

And there you have it! There will be a part II to this post. What if the rule change had never occurred? From 2009 until the present, what would have been the five nominated Pictures if only that number was allowed. Stay tuned…

 

Oscar History: 2001

As far as film history, the year 2001 will most be remembered for the first installments of two billion dollar franchises, The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Other than that, not much will be remembered about the year. It was an exceptionally weak year for movies.

This was reflected in a relatively unimpressive group of Best Picture nominees. Ron Howard’s good but not great A Beautiful Mind would take top prize against Robert Altman’s Gosford Park, Todd Field’s In the Bedroom, and Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge. The other nominee: Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, which began a three-year streak of the franchise’s entry being nominated.

I’ve always felt Fellowship was the best of the trilogy and I certainly would’ve had no problem with it winning over Mind. The Academy decided against some edgier material, such as David Lynch’s critically lauded Mulholland Drive and Chris Nolan’s twisty thriller Memento.

Ron Howard took Best Director over Altman and Jackson. Lynch would be nominated here for Mulholland, as well as Ridley Scott for Black Hawk Down. Field and Luhrmann were the two auteurs whose Picture was nominated left out. Certainly, I would’ve reserved a slot for Nolan for his work in Memento.

Denzel Washington would earn his first Best Actor prize for Training Day (he won Supporting Actor for Glory in 1989). Other nominees: previous year’s winner Russell Crowe for Mind, Sean Penn for I Am Sam, Will Smith as Ali, and Tom Wilkinson for In the Bedroom.

I would have considered Johnny Depp for his performance in Blow or Billy Bob Thornton in Monster’s Ball. Keeping with the Memento kick, how about Guy Pearce for his challenging lead role? And if you’ve read my previous Oscar History posts, you’ll notice I usually advocate for comedic performances, which the Academy typically ignores. So how about a shout-out to Ben Stiller for his hilarious turn as Derek Zoolander?

Oscar history would be made as Halle Berry became the first African-American to win Best Actress for Monster’s Ball. It would also be the first year where both the Actor and Actress prizes went to African-Americans. Other nominees: Judi Dench in Iris, Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge, Sissy Spacek for In the Bedroom, and Renee Zellwegger for Bridget Jones Diary. Other performances worthy of consideration: Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive and Audrey Tautou in Amelie.

Jim Broadbent was a surprise Supporting Actor winner for Iris, beating out favorites Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast and Ian McKellen in Lord of the Rings. Other nominees: Ethan Hawke for Training Day and Jon Voight in Ali.

Steve Buscemi in Ghost World and Gene Hackman in The Royal Tenenbaums were worthy nominees. And here’s a totally outside-the-box selection from me: Bruce Davison’s wonderful performance as Kirsten Dunst’s dad in the romantic drama Crazy/Beautiful, a greatly underrated film.

Jennifer Connelly would win Supporting Actress for A Beautiful Mind. Other nominees: Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith (both for Gosford Park), Marisa Tomei for In the Bedroom, and Kate Winslet for Iris.

I probably would have found room for Cameron Diaz’s effective performance as Tom Cruise’s jilted lover in Vanilla Sky.

So, all in all, other than some historical Actor and Actress winners, 2001 was a pretty blah year for the Academy. A Beautiful Mind is a solid flick, but definitely one of the least memorable Best Picture winners of recent years, as I see it.