Avatar Box Office Prediction

20th Century Studios is hoping moviegoers are ready for a return trip to Pandora (and its Papyrus font) when it re-releases Avatar into multiplexes on September 23rd. It arrives three months before James Cameron’s long gestating sequel Avatar: The Way of Water. The original 2009 3D tale revolutionized that technology and it broke the director’s own record to become the highest grossing domestic earner of all time. (topping Titanic). That designation stood for six years until Star Wars: The Force Awakens came along.

Journeying to approximately 1800 venues, Avatar will look to add to the $760 million already in its coffers. The best case scenario is that it could top the charts over Don’t Worry Darling or The Woman King. A far likelier outcome, in my view, is a third place showing in the high single digits.

Avatar re-release opening weekend prediction: $8.5 million

For my Don’t Worry Darling prediction, click here:

Don’t Worry Darling Box Office Prediction

Oscar Predictions: Men

In 2015, Alex Garland nabbed an Original Screenplay Oscar nod for his directorial debut Ex Machina. That acclaimed sci-fi tale also surprisingly took the gold in Visual Effects over heavy hitters like Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. 

His 2018 follow-up Annihilation didn’t fare as well at multiplexes or with awards voters. Despite an 88% Rotten Tomatoes rating (Machina got a 92%), it failed to generate any nominations.

On February 20th comes Garland’s third behind the camera effort Men. Featuring Jessie Buckley and Rory Kinnear, the A24 release sounds like it’s right up the distributor’s dark alley. That means it may score better with critics than crowds. The RT is currently the filmmaker’s lowest at 83% (still pretty darn solid). Like Annihilation, don’t expect it to be in the Academy mix. My Oscar prediction posts will continue…

December 24-26 Box Office Predictions

Blogger’s Update (12/21): On the eve of its premiere, I’m revising down Resurrections prediction from $30.7 million for the three-day and $47.2 million for the five-day to $26.7 million and $40.3 million for the five-day. This puts Sing 2 in the 2 spot.

The Christmas box office weekend is nearly upon us as a quintet of newcomers are presented either Wednesday or Saturday. We have the return of Neo and Trinity in The Matrix Resurrections, animated sequel Sing 2, Kingsman prequel The King’s Man, true life gridiron tale American Underdog, and the Denzel Washington directed romantic drama A Journal for Jordan. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on them here:

The Matrix Resurrections Box Office Prediction

Sing 2 Box Office Prediction

The King’s Man Box Office Prediction

American Underdog Box Office Prediction

A Journal for Jordan Box Office Prediction

None of the newcomers stand a chance at dethroning the reign of Spider-Man atop the charts after it achieved the second largest opening of all-time (more on that below). No Way Home should dominate yet again and the question is how much it falls in weekend #2. The MCU juggernaut scored a rare A+ Cinemascore average meaning audiences are loving what they see.

One potential comp could be Star Wars: The Force Awakens which dropped 40% in its sophomore holiday frame. I’ll say Spidey falls a bit more than that (more in the 50-55% percent range).

With the webslinger secure in first position, there could be a real fight for the runner-up spot. I have Matrix barely getting by Sing 2 (though the latter will almost certainly leg out stronger in subsequent weekends). I’m only forecasting a $400k difference between them.

The King’s Man could be the odd sequel/prequel out as far as interest in concerned. I have it falling under double digits for the traditional Friday to Sunday portion of the weekend. That should be good enough for fourth place.

Underdog and Journal both premiere on Christmas Day and will only have two days tallied toward their grosses. I have the former at just over $6 million and the latter a tad shy of $3 million.

Holdovers not named Spider-Man should experience declines in the 40s and up range (this appears to be case when Christmas falls on a Saturday and Christmas Eve is a somewhat smaller day for earnings). Encanto could be an outlier and probably suffers the smallest drop.

Finally, Paul Thomas Anderson’s acclaimed awards contender Licorice Pizza expands and could deliver a $1-2 million showing (I’ll skew toward the middle of the range as it’s out on approximately 750 screens).

With all this Yuletide activity, I’m expanding my normal top 5 to a top 10 and here’s how I see it:

1. Spider-Man: No Way Home

Predicted Gross: $125.2 million

2. Sing 2

Predicted Gross: $31.3 million (Friday to Sunday); $46.8 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

3. The Matrix Resurrections

Predicted Gross: $26.7 million (Friday to Sunday); $40.3 million

4. The King’s Man

Predicted Gross: $8.8 million (Friday to Sunday); $13.1 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

5. American Underdog

Predicted Gross: $7.2 million

6. Encanto

Predicted Gross: $4.3 million

7. A Journal for Jordan

Predicted Gross: $2.9 million

8. Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Predicted Gross: $2 million

9. West Side Story

Predicted Gross: $2 million

10. Licorice Pizza

Predicted Gross: $1.8 million

Box Office Results (December 17-19)

Spider-Man: No Way Home swung to unprecedented heights (regardless of pandemic times) as it demolished box office records and accomplished the #2 highest domestic opening of all-time (behind only the MCU’s Avengers: Endgame). Coming in just ahead of previous runner-up Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Spidey sequel made $260.1 million (laying my estimate of $213.7 million to waste). While other pics are struggling in the marketplace, audiences were clearly primed for the event flick.

Encanto took second with $6.4 million, in range with my $6 million for projection and the Disney toon is up to $81 million.

West Side Story plummeted a troubling 65% for third in its sophomore outing with $3.6 million (below my $5.5 million take). Steven Spielberg’s musical has managed only $18 million in its ten days of release.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife was fourth with $3.4 million (I said $3.6 million) for $117 million overall.

Finally, Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley struggled to find a crowd preoccupied with Spider-Man. Despite star power and its Oscar winning filmmaker, the noir thriller debuted in fifth with a measly $2.8 million compared to my $3.3 million prediction.

And that does it for now, folks! Have a Happy Holidays!

Oscar Predictions – Spider-Man: No Way Home

When Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man trilogy kicked off nearly 20 years ago, it managed to nab a Best Visual Effects nod (losing to Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers). Two years later, the 2004 sequel won the prize. Since then, the five Spidey features that followed (Maguire’s third, both Andrew Garfield iterations, and the first two Tom Holland MCU flicks) didn’t show up in the race. Will Spider-Man: No Way Home change that?

The 27th entry (and fourth this year) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe debuts Friday and I have it pegged for the fourth best domestic opening of all time (behind Avengers: Endgame, Avengers: Infinity War, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens). The review embargo lifted early this morning and it stands at an impressive 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.

While nearly all critical notices are positive, I don’t think this will be the second MCU title to nab a Best Picture nomination behind Black Panther. While Best Sound is feasible, Home‘s best hope at Academy inclusion is in Visual Effects. MCU movies vying for that prize is not unusual. The inaugural pic in the biggest franchise of all (2008’s Iron Man) made the cut. So have Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Infinity War, and Endgame. None have won.

So despite the last quintet of web slinger sagas not being honored for their effects, Home should have no problem? I don’t think it’s quite that simple. There are two Warner Bros sci-fi extravaganzas (Dune and The Matrix Resurrections) that should get in. That leaves three slots. Warner has another hopeful with Godzilla vs. Kong. Marvel itself has Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Eternals (and Black Widow to a lesser degree) vying for spots. Shang-Chi especially could get in (the Critics Choice Awards included it on their ballot). Don’t Look Up, Finch, and No Time to Die are other possibilities. It’s worth noting that whether Home makes the five, Dune is the very heavy favorite to take gold.

Here’s my hunch: by the time Academy voters cast their final votes, Home appears bound to have heightened box office numbers to their highest achievements in the pandemic era. That fact alone might get it some recognition from the Oscars and that would be for its visuals. Another interesting stat: of the ten current largest stateside premieres ever, only two (Avengers: Age of Ultron and Jurassic World) didn’t score at least one nomination from the Academy. That puts this in a decent position. My Oscar Predictions posts for the films of 2021 will continue…

Box Office Predictions: Weekend of December 17-19

**Blogger’s Note (12/14): After elevating my Spidey prediction from $193.7M to $223.7M – I’m reverting down to $188.7M… (12/16) – Spidey revised to $213.7M and Alley down to $3.3M

Marvel’s Spider-Man: No Way Home looks to demolish pandemic era records and possibly double the opening weekend record of these COVID times and then some. We also have Guillermo del Toro’s noir thriller Nightmare Alley with Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, and plenty of other Oscar winners and nominees out. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on the newbies right here:

Spider-Man: No Way Home Box Office Prediction

Nightmare Alley Box Office Prediction

Spidey is poised for numbers not seen since 2019. Some prognostications have this as high as $250 million. I’m going with a $223.7 million haul, but I must say I do so with some trepidation due to these continuing uncertain times. If it achieves my mark, that would be good for the 4th largest domestic debut of all time (right behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens and just ahead of its sequel The Last Jedi).

There’s obviously no question as to what will be #1. Home will do that by outgrossing the rest of the top five combined with possibly $200 million to spare. What’s #2 is a legitimate question. West Side Story had a disappointing debut and will hope to leg out well over the coming holiday frames. It may have a soft sophomore dip due to being counter programming to Spidey. Yet I’ll peg it for a 40% drop as it hopes to rebound over Christmas and with ongoing awards buzz. That could put it in a fierce battle for the runner-up position with Encanto.

Or… Nightmare Alley could open in second. I’m skeptical. Despite an all-star cast and coming from an acclaimed director, Alley is starting out at a distinct disadvantage with the web slinger siphoning away much of its intended crowd. I’ll say it kicks off with a subdued 4th place start. Ghostbusters: Afterlife should round out the top five.

And with that, my take on what should be a record breaking weekend:

1. Spider-Man: No Way Home

Predicted Gross: $213.7 million

2. Encanto

Predicted Gross: $6 million

3. West Side Story

Predicted Gross: $5.5 million

4. Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Predicted Gross: $3.6 million

5. Nightmare Alley

Predicted Gross: $3.3 million

Box Office Results (December 10-12)

There likely wasn’t a whole lot of celebratory dancing at 20th Century Studios as West Side Story struggled out of the gate. Its $10.5 million barely managed a #1 showing and came in under my $14.8 million call. As mentioned, the story may not be over as audiences could find it over the holidays. Its studio is certainly hoping so.

Encanto slipped to second with $9.9 million, above my $8.5 million take for $71 million overall.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife was third at $7.1 million (ahead of my $5.8 million prediction) for $112 million total.

Fourth place was House of Gucci with $4.1 million. My projection was on the money at $4 million. Tally is $41 million.

Eternals was in the five spot with $3.1 million (I said $2.8 million) as it’s up to $161 million.

Last and least, the football drama National Champions fumbled terribly. I thought it might manage $1.6 million. Not so much. It was an unlucky 13th with $321,000. Oof.

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

2020 AFI Top 10 Films Predictions

The American Film Institute will announce their top 10 pictures of the year tomorrow and it’s usually a safe predictor of half or more of the films that will land Best Picture nods at the Oscars. Over the past five years, the magic number has been 7 of the AFI selections getting Oscar love in the big race. That holds true for 2016, 2017, and 2019. In 2015 – it was 6. In 2018- it was 5.

So where do we stand this year? My overall estimates keep the estimated AFI number at 7 for my current Best Picture hopefuls (which could and probably will change). It is worth noting that for the previous two years, there’s a bit of an asterisk. Being that it’s the American Film Institute, foreign selections are ineligible. Due to this, surefire Oscar contenders Roma and Parasite didn’t qualify. This would apply in 2020 to The Father which is a British production.

As for the matches, they are as follows: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Mank, Minari, News of the World, Nomadland, One Night in Miami, and The Trial of the Chicago 7.

Now for the differences. AFI has shown a Disney love recently that the Academy did not share. AFI nominated Inside Out, Zootopia, and Mary Poppins Returns over the last five years with Oscar not following suit. Therefore I’m saying Pixar’s Soul makes the AFI cut.

The other two are critical favorites that (at press time) I have just missing Oscar’s cut: Promising Young Woman and Sound of Metal. This means the three pics I have getting Oscar’s attention and not from AFI are Da 5 Bloods, The Father, and Judas and the Black Messiah.

What else could surprise? I would not be shocked to see Borat Subsequent Moviefilm make AFI’s list. If they don’t choose that comedy, there’s a lesser chance that Palm Springs could show up. AFI has also selected some blockbusters that Oscar ignored as of late. Examples include Knives Out, A Quiet Place, Wonder Woman, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. However, due to COVID in 2020, there’s just not a huge list of those types of contenders. Could Tenet sneak in? Doubtful.

Others that could be sleepers are First Cow, Pieces of a Woman, Malcolm & Marie, and Hillbilly Elegy, but here’s my take on what AFI does tomorrow:

AFI TOP TEN LIST PREDICTIONS

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Mank

Minari

News of the World

Nomadland

One Night in Miami

Promising Young Woman

Soul

Sound of Metal

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Daily Streaming Guide: March 18th Edition

Continuing on with my Daily Streaming Guide for worthy titles available on various services – let’s call today the Alex Garland Edition. He’s the director behind both science fiction titles that are highly worthy of a look:

Netflix

We begin with his intelligent 2015 effort about artificial intelligence – Ex Machina starring Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, and Alicia Vikander. Made for a reported lowly $15 million, this is the type of sci-fi that Stanley Kubrick probably would have been proud of. Machina even won the Oscar for Visual Effects over high-profile features like Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It also features one of the greatest out of nowhere dance sequences in cinematic history in my view.

Hulu

Garland’s excursion into high minded sci-fi continued with Annihilation, his 2018 follow-up. The visually stunning experience featuring Natalie Portman and Isaac (again) has themes that will stick with you post credits. And just like Ex Machina features a scene that floored me, so does this. The former involved dancing. The latter involves a human and a bear sharing the same voice. You’ll see what I mean. It’s terrifying and thrilling simultaneously.

I’ll be back at it soon, folks! Until then…

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Movie Review

We talk about the Star Wars franchise the same way we speak of politics or sports. With passion and fervent opinions and disagreements. Perhaps we are giving it too much credit, but it’s become an American cinematic pastime. No group of films has inspired as much thought and re-thought. So we arrive at the ninth episode, The Rise of Skywalker, with all that baggage and more. After all, this one is tasked with closing out the saga that began at a time far, far away in 1977. Returning to direct with that weight on his shoulders is J.J. Abrams, who kickstarted the series for new owner Disney four years ago with The Force Awakens.

He does so two years following The Last Jedi from Rian Johnson, which sharply divided fans and critics by going in unexpected directions. Even Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, didn’t jive with the choices Johnson made with his character shuddered on an island and not wishing to utilize his Jedi skills. That was one compliant from some diehard fans, among others. You could say they had their knives out for it, so to speak.

I found The Last Jedi to be flawed and disjointed, but also filled with great moments. There aren’t many of them here in Skywalker. As I ponder it, episodes VII-IX do follow a similar arc as the iconic I-III. The Force Awakens was tasked with introducing new and exciting characters from these galaxies. It also had to mix in Luke and Leia and Han Solo and Chewie. I felt, for the most part, that it did so successfully. That especially applies to Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). In fact, their little therapy sessions from The Last Jedi were highlights of the whole trilogy. The common critique of Awakens is that it was a rehash of the first Star Wars. While this is with some merit, it didn’t take away my immense enjoyment of it.

As mentioned, The Last Jedi was more of a mixed bag. Yet with Johnson’s sometimes confounding but often daring choices, it was also the boldest. This is where a comparison with 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back seems fair. Don’t get me wrong. It’s nowhere in its league, but it did take what happened in the predecessor and take it in unexpected directions.

And now The Last Skywalker. Like 1983’s Return of the Jedi, this trilogy finale has to wrap it all up. Allow me to throw in this disclaimer – I don’t hold Return of the Jedi anywhere near the regards of what came before it. While I feel there are terrific moments, there’s a lot that didn’t work me and not just the Ewoks. It often felt a little tired and unsure of what to do with itself for a chunk of the running time. That applies to Skywalker and there’s aren’t as many terrific moments.

The similarities don’t end on just a quality level. Ultimately, the main plot here finds Rey facing a choice of whether to stay a Jedi or follow her lineage to the dark side… just as Luke did in Jedi. By the way, those lineage inquiries are addressed. Another complaint in Rian Johnson’s script was how he handled that aspect. Rey’s supporting cast is around with Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) marshaling support to take on Kylo. And as the trailer suggested, Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is back in the mix, too. So is Billy Dee Williams as cocky fighter pilot Lando. His return isn’t exactly as pined for as what we got with Luke, Leia, and Han. As for Leia, Carrie Fisher does return utilizing unused footage from Awakens and Last Jedi. It’s handled delicately.

There are new players with Richard E. Grant joining Domhnall Gleeson as one of Kylo’s top lieutenants. Abrams throws some small parts to Keri Russell and Dominic Monaghan (who both starred in his TV shows). The short shrift is given to Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), who had more of a presence in Last Jedi, but is basically ignored. That’s not exactly a problem as this is the Rey and Kylo show. Once again, both Ridley and Driver’s performances are first rate. Truth be told, though, Johnson wrote their dynamic better the last time around.

For the major detractors of The Last Jedi, perhaps this episode will feel like a return to Star Wars normalcy. I’m happy to listen to an argument that Johnson’s effort pairs well with the return of Abrams, but it would take lots of convincing. Skywalker often reeks of a course correction. This is becoming more common with franchises. We just saw Terminator: Dark Fate ignore the three pictures ahead of it. The X-Men series had to get creative with their timeline and do away with it under specific circumstances.

Those franchises aren’t Star Wars. The meeting between Han Solo and his son Kylo in The Force Awakens was a memorable, emotional, and surprising one. Whatever Mark Hamill and others might think about his treatment in The Last Jedi, a brief reunion with his sister in it was marvelous. In Skywalker, Abrams goes for a lot of those moments. And it felt, well, forced. The visual splendor and incredible production design (and the rousing John Williams score) is intact. A few scenes with Rey and Kylo work. Ultimately, I suspect my feelings about The Rise of Skywalker will be somewhat similar to Return of the Jedi – as an inferior product to its two predecessors.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

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. 

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

2019: The Year of Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson starred in the biggest hit of the year that had the heftiest opening weekend of all time and is second on the overall stateside moneymakers list behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And that’s not even her most significant storyline from the past 12 months. That, ladies and gentlemen, earns her a spot on performers who had a spectacular 2019.

The film I’m referring to is, of course, Avengers: Endgame. That Marvel Cinematic Universe epic left numerous records in its dust. Mostly due to her involvement in that franchise, she’s already the biggest grossing actress in history. The involvement in it will continue in May 2020 with Black Widow, her own spin-off.

Yet the real reason for ScarJo’s inclusion here is that she could be poised to not only receive her first Oscar nomination, but her second. Despite acclaimed work in Lost in Translation and Match Point to name a couple, Academy voters have yet to honor her. Expect this to change at least once. A Best Actress nod for Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story seems virtually assured. Supporting Actress is also feasible for Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit. The Screen Actors Guild branch already nominated her twice for these pics.

In 2017, Johansson had a tough go with disappointments from different genres – Ghost in the Shell and Rough Night. Her 2019 has been anything but rough. My Year Of posts covering the bright spots of the year will continue…