Let me start by stating the obvious – with COVID-19 or the Coronavirus dominating the worldwide news cycle, its impact on the moviegoing public is very far from the most important story. However, this is a blog focused on the world of film and especially the box office.
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has touched the cinematic universe this week and beyond. The major news in this space began a couple of days back when the latest James Bond pic No Time to Die was delayed from April 10th until November. Producers made no secret that Coronavirus was the reason. For a tentpole release of this stature to get delayed opens up the real possibility of others that could follow. On a smaller scale, the Dave Bautista comedy My Spy was pushed from next Friday to mid April.
News continued yesterday as the South by Southwest Festival in Austin was canceled. Scheduled to begin on March 16, SXSW serves as a launching pad for dozens of features and documentaries. In 2020, this included such high profile titles as David Lowery’s The Green Knight, Judd Apatow’s The King of Staten Island with Pete Davidson, and Michael Showalter’s The Big Sick follow-up The Lovebirds starring Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae.
We will see what the future brings as outside factors are certainly influencing how studios and festival organizers make decisions.
Crashing into the Oscar conversation this weekend via the Telluride Film Festival is Waves, the third feature from writer/director Trey Edward Shults. Focusing on an African American family in South Florida, the drama is being hailed by some critics as a masterpiece. A24 will be distributing this and releasing it stateside on November 1. The buzz suggests the studio might have another Moonlight on its hands and that won Best Picture.
The ensemble cast of includes Kelvin Harrison, Jr., Lucas Hedges, Taylor Russell, Alexa Demie, Renee Elise Goldsberry, and Sterling K. Brown. Of those cast members, several could be in contention with Harrison and Russell getting early ink.
As for Shults, his 2015 debut Krisha won an Audience Award at the South by Southwest Festival. 2017’s horror pic ItComesatNight developed a solid critical following. This looks to put him on another level with potential nods for his directing and screenplay and the film itself. Bottom line: in a weekend full of awards bait stories, Waves is perhaps the biggest breakout yet. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
After premiering last weekend in limited release to pleasing box office results, ThePeanutButterFalcon is generating buzz among audiences. The dramedy centers on a boy with Down syndrome (Zack Gottsagen) who dreams of becoming a pro wrestler and his unique journey to get there. The impressive supporting cast includes Shia LaBeouf (experiencing an indie career resurgence with this and HoneyBoy), Dakota Johnson, John Hawkes, Bruce Dern, Jon Bernthal, and Thomas Haden Church. It marks the directorial debut of Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, who also penned the screenplay inspired by the tale of Huckleberry Finn.
When Falcon debuted earlier this year at the South by Southwest Festival, it picked up an Audience Favorite prize. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 96%. Could Academy voters take notice?
In order for that to occur, the pic will really need to take off with crowds in coming weeks and the jury is still out. I would say it stands an outside shot at an Original Screenplay nod, but competition could be brutal. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
GoodBoys is looking to become this summer’s Superbad when the raunchy comedy debuts next weekend. Marking the directorial debut of Gene Stupnitsky, the film centers on three preteens doing R rated shenanigans. The kids are played by Jacob Tremblay of Room and Wonder fame, as well as unknowns Keith L. Williams and Brady Noon. Costars include Will Forte, Molly Gordon, and Lil Rel Howery.
Keeping with the Superbad theme, Boys comes from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s production company, who wrote that 2007 hit. The pic was first unveiled in March at the South by Southwest Festival to positive reaction. The Rotten Tomatoes score is at 78%.
That said, the buzz for this doesn’t seem as high. The chance for this to over perform is there. Yet I’m skeptical this earns half of the $33 million achieved by Superbad, which premiered over the same late summer weekend a dozen years ago. In fact, its debut might be in the preteens just like its stars.
GoodBoys opening weekend prediction: $14.3 million
For my TheAngryBirdsMovie2 prediction, click here:
The best known actress involved with Booksmart is making her directorial debut and is not in front of the camera. Yet the pic is riding a wave of critical kudos since its premiere at South by Southwest in March. The comedy is centered on two teenage girls and their last day of high school. Olivia Wilde makes that aforementioned first turn in the captain’s chair. Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein (best known as Saoirse Ronan’s bestie in LadyBird) are the two graduates. Costars include Jessica Williams, Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, and Jason Sudeikis (Wilde’s hubby).
Booksmart stands at a super fresh 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. It could still face hurdles when it opens over the long Memorial Day weekend. Opening on approximately 2300 screens, I’m skeptical as to its awareness factor among general audiences. This could be a slow builder if word-of-mouth takes off or become a cult hit following the theatrical release.
I’ll say a debut in the upper single digits is where this starts out at.
Booksmart opening weekend prediction: $8.6 million
Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron headline the improbable rom com LongShot, out in theaters next weekend. It marks the latest collaboration between Rogen and director Jonathan Levine after 50/50 and TheNightBefore (Levine’s latest was 2017’s Snatched). The film casts Theron as the U.S. Secretary of State who strikes up a romance with Rogen’s journalist. Costars include O’Shea Jackson Jr., June Diane Raphael, Andy Serkis, Alexander Skarsgard, and Lisa Kudrow.
Shot premiered in March at the South by Southwest Festival to favorable reviews and it stands at 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. A comparison to TheNightBefore is tricky. That pic opened in November 2015 on the weekend before Thanksgiving and against the finale of TheHungerGames franchise. The result was just a $9.8 million start (it legged out well the following holiday weekend).
I believe LongShot will top that number, but perhaps with low teens as it hopes for minimal drops in subsequent frames. If so, this could fall behind the debut grosses of its competition – TheIntruder and UglyDolls.
LongShot opening weekend prediction: $13.1 million
Next weekend could provide an interesting answer to a question not posed before – how much can a Conjuring series picture gross if a lot of moviegoers may not be aware it’s actually part of the franchise? I give you TheCurseofLaLlorona, the sixth entry in this scary supernatural cinematic universe. The 1970s set ghost tale is directed by Michael Chaves in his feature-length debut (he’s slated to be behind the camera for the third official Conjuring flick next year). Linda Cardellini headlines a cast that includes Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velásquez, Tony Amendola (reprising his Annabelle role), and Sean Patrick Thomas.
Llorona premiered last month at the South by Southwest Festival. Early reviews are mixed to negative with a current 44% Rotten Tomatoes score. At the time of its unveiling, it was a bit of a surprise that this even existed in the billion dollar worldwide franchise. It’s a legitimate question as to whether the marketing campaign has had enough time to establish that fact.
In my view, that almost certainly means this will experience the lowest debut of the series so far. Horror fans have certainly had options lately with Us and PetSematary. That said, it’s a risky group of films to bet against. Just last fall, TheNun unexpectedly set the franchise opening weekend high mark at $53 million. The lowest start belongs to Annabelle: Creation at a still impressive $35 million. That creepy doll, by the way, is back this June with AnnabelleComesHome.
Tracking currently has this at $20 million and that sounds about right.
TheCurseofLaLlorona opening weekend prediction: $20.1 million
Director Harmony Korine brings his drug fueled comedic sensibilities to the screen next weekend with the release of TheBeachBum. The Kids and SpringBreakers maker’s latest casts Matthew McConaughey as a stoner poet named Moondog. The supporting cast includes Isla Fisher, Snoop Dogg, Jonah Hill, Zac Efron, and Martin Lawrence.
There’s a niche market for Korine’s product and more solid reviews may have assisted. However, when Bum debuted at the South by Southwest Festival, it did so to mixed reaction. It currently has a 55% Rotten Tomatoes score.
It was only recently announced that this is being rolled out in wide fashion on Friday. A screen count could change my estimate, but as of now I’ll say it’ll be lucky to reach $2 million.
TheBeachBum opening weekend prediction: $1.6 million
Critics focused on the raunchy high school comedy Booksmart as one of the highlights coming from this year’s South by Southwest Festival. The film marks the directorial debut of actress Olivia Wilde. It stars Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein, best known as Saoirse Ronan’s bestie in LadyBird. Costars include Billie Lourd, Jessica Williams, Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, and Jason Sudeikis.
The film doesn’t open until Memorial Day weekend, but the loud buzz could certainly assist in making it a sleeper hit. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 100% currently. Could awards voters take notice? It’s doubtful. Feldstein is said to have a breakout role here. If there is any nomination chatter, it could center on the Original Screenplay from its four screenwriters – Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silverman. That said, if last year’s acclaimed EighthGrade couldn’t gain any traction, that doesn’t bode well here.
Bottom line: Booksmart is one to watch out for when it comes to box office surprises. Academy nods would surprise a lot more. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Blogger’s Note (03/19/19): The upgrade has happened from $48.8 million to $56.8 million
Next weekend we will find out if lightning strikes again for director Jordan Peele with the release of Us. The horror pic is Peele’s eagerly awaited sophomore effort and follow-up to his 2017 debut GetOut. That film rode a cultural wave of excitement and critical raves that resulted in a Best Picture nomination and an Oscar for Peele for his original screenplay.
Perhaps not since M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable (his feature after TheSixthSense) have we seen a movie that can sold mostly on “from the director of…”. Us centers on a family being terrorized by a brood that appears to be different versions of themselves. The cast includes Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, and Tim Heidecker.
Any fears of a sophomore slump were eliminated this past weekend when Us screened at South by Southwest. Reviews are strong with 100% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. GetOut exceeded opening weekend projections two years ago when it made $33 million for its start and legged out considerably to $176 million.
Us doesn’t have the benefit of unknown expectations. Peele’s name and some seriously effective trailers have prognosticators thinking this will exceed the first weekend of GetOut. Whether it experiences the smallish declines from weekend to weekend is a better question as Us should be more front-loaded with its earnings.
I’ll say mid to high 40s is where this lands with $50 million certainly being a possibility.