My box office predictions have been in a dormancy stage as chains struggle to obtain new product in these COVID times. It picks up again next weekend with the release of The War with Grandpa as uncertainty continues with the financial viability for theatrical releases.
This comedy starring Robert De Niro has had a checkered history even before the virus. Shot in 2017, it was originally scheduled for a 2018 debut. However, its original distributor was The Weinstein Company and the release was shelved due to the high profile legal troubles of its founder. 101 Studios eventually picked it up and here we are.
Tim Hill directs and he’s mostly known for kid friendly and animated fare such as Alvin and the Chipmunks and this year’s The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run. Costars include Uma Thurman, Christopher Walken, Rob Riggle, Oakes Fegley, Cheech Marin, and Jane Seymour.
When Tenet underperformed stateside in July, it set off a wave of delays. That includes just this week as No Time to Die experienced another push (this time to Easter 2021). Simply put, audiences have yet to develop a comfort level with a return to multiplexes.
Don’t look for Grandpa to change that. The film’s trailer was greeted with some eye rolling as this looks like a return to De Niro comedic mediocrity (just months after a more acclaimed turn in The Irishman). The Coronavirus questions persist: how many venues will this actually play in? This is even more of an issue now that Regal Cinemas has announced the closure of over 500 theaters. Amidst all of this, I believe Grandpa will struggle to hit $2 million for a quiet start.
The War with Grandpa opening weekend prediction: $1.9 million
**Blogger’s Update (09/27/18): My estimate has risen to $27.6 million to $31.6 million
One of the most dependable comedic actors at the box office teams with one of the hottest newer names when Night School opens next weekend. Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish headline the pic about a group trying to pass their GED exam. Malcolm D. Lee (who just directed Haddish in her breakout Girls Trip) is behind the camera. The supporting cast includes Rob Riggle, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Taran Killam, Romany Malco, and Keith David.
Hart has been a model of consistency in recent years when it comes to high earners. In addition to just coming off the massive blockbuster Jumanji Welcome to the Jungle, he’s had a handful of $30 million plus openers including Think Like a Man, both Ride Along features, Get Hard, and Central Intelligence. The Think Like a Man sequel almost reached $30 million while About Last Night made $25.6 million for its start. The low-end of the spectrum is The Wedding Ringer with $20.6 million. As for Lee and Haddish’s Trip, it took in $31.2 million.
The collaboration of these talents should yield pleasing results and the likely #1 spot over its made competitor – the animated Smallfoot. I’m a little skeptical this reaches $30 million, though it certainly could. A gross in the mid to high 20s seems more probable.
Night School opening weekend prediction: $31.6 million
Based on a 2006 Japanese flick, romantic drama Midnight Sun hopes to light up cinemas next weekend. It could face an uphill battle. From director Scott Speer, Bella Thorne and Patrick Schwarzenegger (scion of Ahnuld) headline with the former playing a teen girl with a rare condition that makes her averse to sunlight. Mr. Schwarzenegger is her longtime crush. Rob Riggle and Quinn Shephard costar.
Since it’s not based on some YA novel with a lot of fans, I’m having a tough time picturing Sun breaking through with its intended young and female audience. The Open Road Films production is rolling out on approximately 2000 screens and I’ll say it doesn’t even manage to hit $5 million out of the gate.
Midnight Sun opening weekend prediction: $4 million
For my Pacific Rim Uprising prediction, click here:
Blogger’s Note (01/18/18): I am revising my 12 Strong prediction from $17.9 million down to $13.9 million
Warner Bros is hoping to show a force of box office strength when 12 Strong debuts in theaters next Friday. Subtitled The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers, the action drama recounts the true story of the first fighters sent overseas immediately following the 9/11 attacks. Marking the directorial debut of former war photojournalist Nicolai Fuglsig, the cast includes Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Pena, Trevante Rhodes, William Fichtner, and Rob Riggle.
Over the last few years, January has proven to be fertile ground for similarly themed pics. In 2014, Lone Survivor debuted to a terrific $37 million. Two years ago, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi took in a little over $19 million out of the gate, though it opened over the four-day MLK frame. The pinnacle of the genre (and openings for the month of January overall) was in 2015 when American Sniper astonished prognosticators with $107 million for its four-day MLK weekend premiere.
As you can see, it isn’t rare to see these true life war tales perform quite nicely with moviegoers. Hemsworth brings some star power and he’s just coming off the franchise best performance of his Thor series.
That said, expectations are certainly more in line with Benghazi and not Survivor and definitely not Sniper. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a debut slightly over $20 million, but I’ll estimate Strong takes in high teens for its start.
12 Strong opening weekend prediction: $13.9 million
If nothing else, Sony Pictures Animation’s The Emoji Movie will go down in film lore as having Sir Patrick Stewart provide the voice of what is commonly called the “poop emoji”. He’s one of several famous faces lending voice to those things we send on our phones all day. They include T.J. Miller, Anna Faris, James Corden, Sofia Vergara, Christina Aguilera, and Rob Riggle.
The reported $50 million budgeted 3D computer-animated comedy isn’t the first pic based on something we associate with our iPhones and droids. That would be last summer’s The Angry Birds Movie, which debuted to $38 million. I don’t see Emoji quite reaching those numbers, yet I don’t see it as low as the $23 million earned out of the gate for this summer’s Captain Underpants, another non-sequel ‘toon.
I am forecasting this will basically fall between those debuts. In doing so, it may create a serious three-way battle for box office supremacy next weekend with the premiere of Atomic Blonde and the second weekend of Dunkirk.
The Emoji Movie opening weekend prediction: $28.4 million
How to Be a Latin Lover hits stateside screens next weekend and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that it could be a decent sleeper hit. The rom com stars Eugenio Derbez, who’s a massive movie star in Latin America. Lover boasts a supporting cast of recognizable faces including Salma Hayek, Rob Lowe, Kristen Bell, Michael Cera, Raquel Welch, and Rob Riggle.
In 2013, Derbez directed and starred in Instructions Not Included, which shocked domestic box office prognosticators when it made nearly $8 million on only 347 screens. It eventually made $44M in the U.S. Lover is bound to be a huge hit in Mexico when it premieres on May 5.
I don’t quite expect Instructions numbers here. Then again, no one saw Instructions coming either. I’ll say it manages between $5-possibly $7 million for a respectable showing.
How to Be a Latin Lover opening weekend prediction: $6.3 million
TheGirlontheTrain isn’t the only title out next weekend based on a bestseller as MiddleSchool: TheWorstYearsofMyLife debuts. Based on James Patterson and Chris Tebbits’s 2011 book, the comedy aims to capitalize on its successful source material.
Griffin Gluck plays the middle schooler having a bad time with a supporting cast that includes Lauren Graham, Rob Riggle, and Andy Daly. Steve Carr (in his comfort zone after making other youth oriented yuck fests like Dr. Dolittle2 and PaulBlart: MallCop) directs.
My expectation is that this will have a tough time breaking through to teens. The marketing campaign has been somewhat quiet. At least the animated blockbusters this year are geared toward a pre-teen audience and their parents attend, too. School could struggle to reach double digits, resulting in middling numbers.
MiddleSchool: TheWorstYearsofMyLife opening weekend prediction: $7.8 million
Let’s Be Cops has roughly the effect of probably watching a student film trying to mimic a decent buddy cop comedy/action flick. And that may be an unfair insult to the work of students and their films. It’s amateurish, poorly written, and gives its actors (some of them quite talented, but you don’t see it here) little to work with. Director/co-writer Luke Greenfield and Nicholas Thomas’s screenplay is mostly devoid of anything resembling originality and quite absent of many genuine laughs.
The concept is simple: two lifelong buddies have made a pact to leave Los Angeles by the time they’re 30 if they haven’t “made it”. Justin (Damon Wayans Jr.) is a struggling video game developer and Ryan (Jake Johnson) is a once promising college quarterback sidelined by a past injury. Clearly they haven’t made it and they’re prepared to return to Columbus, Ohio (I don’t know why my city had to be brought into this mess). A costume party interferes with their California split when they dress up as cops and – wouldn’t you know it! – they get mistaken for actual law enforcement. Suddenly women find them attractive! They can get into clubs easily! And they get caught up with some bad guy Albanians!
Let us count just some of the citations of mediocrity (to be kind) in this screenplay:
1) Jake’s past football glory days cause him to spend his days voluntarily teaching a bunch of young boys the game while cussing them out the majority of the time. It’s more creepy than funny.
2) Justin is supposed to be some genius video game developer whose bosses just don’t understand him, but his “genius” pitch for a game called Patrolman seems really familiar and dull.
3) The main baddie played by James D’Arcy is quite possibly the most cliched villain in a genre ripe with them.
4) Talented comic performers like Rob Riggle and Natasha Leggero are saddled with little to do.
I could go on and the same rule applies to Johnson and Wayans Jr., who can’t rise above the material despite their efforts. And there’s Andy Garcia as the time honored crooked cop (the true nature of his character is supposed to a big reveal, but you won’t care).
The screenwriters bank on this flimsy premise of watching these two play boy in blue providing consistent humor for 100 minutes. It would have been great if “Let’s Be Just A Little Original” would have made it into their game plan.
David Spade once said that when you see a classic rock band in concert and they proclaim that they’re about to perform a track off their new album, it’s essentially inviting the crowd to take a restroom break. At the conclusion of Dumb and Dumber To, scenes from the 1994 original are played next to this two decades later sequel. It has a likely similar effect to watching The Rolling Stones play “Satisfaction” while simultaneously playing some unknown new cut. Bottom line: this film feels very new album too much of the time.
The Farrelly Brothers and Jim Carrey created their zaniest and most consistently laugh out loud feature in ’94 with Dumb and Dumber and got an unexpectedly great assist from Jeff Daniels, who managed be to Carrey’s equal. There’s little doubt that the studio has probably been attempting for years to get the dim duo back as Harry (Daniels) and Lloyd (Carrey). We can be sure of this because New Line even went as far as releasing a dud of a 2003 prequel which featured younger actors playing them. That didn’t go over so well with audiences.
It took two decades for the gang to reunite. If you think it may have a little to do with Carrey not having much box office success in recent years, you’re probably not dumb. When we begin, Lloyd is completing a moronic practical joke on his bestie that he’s managed to keep up since we last left them not realizing they could’ve run off with the bikini team.
We soon discover that Harry has a long lost daughter he wasn’t aware of from Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner, who if nothing else proves she’s a good sport). This leads our dynamically dumb duo on a trek to Santa Fe to find her. The daughter (Rachel Melvin) also is super hot and not very bright. Her adoptive father is a brilliant scientist whose trophy wife (Laurie Holden) is trying to off him, along with her boy toy (a sadly underutilized Rob Riggle). We could delve deeper into the plot, but let’s be real. It’s hardly important and to be fair, it wasn’t in the original either.
Dumb and Dumber To is about seeing Carrey and Daniels back amongst their most iconic roles. The actors reprise their roles with glee and often remind us why we found them so strangely endearing in the first place and in countless cable TV re-airings. They could’ve slept walk through their return and they do anything but.
Some of the gags work well due to them, like Lloyd being blissfully unaware that a highly agitated slobbery dog would rather rip out his larynx than play with him. Yet these moments are too far in between. A good portion of the proceedings here have an air of desperation. Bringing their blind neighbor Billy and creepy trucker Sea Bass back results in only retreading jokes that worked better when Ace of Base were chart toppers.
Our leads give it their all and we as an audience occasionally get rewarded. Not enough though, but this isn’t nearly as bad as it might’ve been. The greatest hits happened in 1994. The new material is often an excuse for that bathroom break in the middle of its countless bathroom jokes.
One of the most beloved comedic duos returns as Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey) blast back in theaters in Dumb and Dumber To, out Friday. The Farrelly Brothers are back in the director chairs as this sequel is released nearly 20 years after the original earned $127 million domestically. Kathleen Turner, Laurie Holden, and Rob Riggle are in the supporting cast.
A lot has changed in those two decades. At the time, Carrey was a box office force as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, and the first Dumber all were huge hits in 1994. In the last decade or so, Carrey’s power has waned. His last traditional comedic release, 2008’s Yes Man, couldn’t break the $100M dollar mark. We’re a long ways away from even 2003 when his Bruce Almighty could debut to $67 million. And it’s important to remember that to a young generation of moviegoers, a high-profile Carrey release is something they’re not accustomed to rushing out to the multiplex to see.
Having said that, 1994’s Dumb and Dumber is arguably the actor’s most fondly remembered release with its constant rotation on cable TV and the great work of Jeff Daniels is part of the reason as well. The most fair comparison to how Dumb To could perform may well be last year’s Anchorman sequel (another cherished comedy) which got off to a $28M traditional Friday to Sunday start.
Rolling out in approximately 3000 theaters, the Anchorman number is just about where I see this premiering. It could certainly reach past $30M, but I’ll put it just under that.
Dumb and Dumber To opening weekend prediction: $29.2 million