Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time” Looks to Dethrone “Black Panther” But Might That Plan Fail?

wrinklepantherDisney / Marvel

Black Panther (Marvel / Disney)

$38m

-43%

A Wrinkle in Time (Walt Disney) 

$34m

New

The Strangers: Prey at Night (Aviron) 

$10.2m

New

Red Sparrow (20th Century Fox) 

$7.9m

-53%

Peter Rabbit (Sony)

$7m

-30%

After three weeks of Black Panther dominating at the box office, the Marvel superhero movie might finally have some competition for the top spot, and it’s another movie from Walt Disney Pictures, oddly enough. We’re a week into March, a month that’s often delivered a number of big hits including Disney’s Beauty and the Beast last year and Warners’ Batman v Superman two years ago. In fact, before Fox’s animated Ice Age in 2002, very few movies did well in March, but the success of Zack Snyder’s 300 and other animated family films taking advantage of school spring break, has made it a viable release month, leading to blockbuster hits like the first The Hunger Games movie.

WrinkleInTimeOprahWalt Disney Pictures

Directed by Ava Duvernay (Selmai), A Wrinkle in Time is an adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s 1974 novel of the same name, and apparently, a lot of people read the book in school. Of course, I did not, so I do not know very much about the plot, although it looks like a typical Disney family-friendly fantasy epic.

The film stars newcomer Storm Reid as Meg, an awkward 13-year-old outsider, who encounters three supernatural beings who travel through space and time using a tesseract…but not the one in Marvel’s The Avengers.  More importantly, those magical beings are played by Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon, both of whom have proven star power to bring their fans into theaters, as well as Mindy Kaling from The Office and The Mindy Project.

Disney is doing their usual marketing strategy to get the word out to the younger audience that will be interested in the PG-rated movie, and it’s really going to be the first choice for most parents with kids with pre-teen and teen girls being the film’s main target audience. Disney has had their share of success with family films in March, although last year’s Beauty and the Beast, 2010’s Alice in Wonderland and 2015’s Cinderella opened slightly later in the month as well as having the popularity of earlier movies to build upon. The same can be said about Sam Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful which opened this same weekend in 2013. As mentioned above, lots of animated movies have had success in the month of March with few family films and schools closing for spring break.

A Wrinkle in Time doesn’t have the benefits of being based on an already-successful Disney classic, so a better comparison might be Bryan Singer’s Jack the Giant Slayer, another March fantasy epic with mixed reviews that opened with $27.2 million and grossed just $65 million domestically. (It did almost twice that amount overseas.) The name draw of Oprah and Reese, plus the growing interest in DuVernay as a director, should allow Wrinkle to do better both opening and overall, but honestly, it doesn’t look very good to me.

One thing Disney hasn’t done with A Wrinkle in Time is screen the movie too far in advance for critics, so there weren’t any reviews before Wednesday. The early reviews that have surfaced aren’t particularly positive either, which is surprising considering the popularity of the source material and the prestige of those both behind and in front of the camera. Even so, the poor reviews might put this Disney release closer to the range of Spielberg’s The BFG or Pete’s Dragon, both which opened in 2016 in the $18 to 22 million range.  (Note: As with every Disney movie, I haven’t been invited to see A Wrinkle in Time in advance, so I can’t offer any other personal opinion on the quality of the film other than what is already out there in reviews.)

It seems like it could be a very tight race for first place this weekend as A Wrinkle in Time is shooting for the same mid-$30 millions as Black Panther, but the mediocre early reviews of the movie is likely to hurt Wrinkle among older audiences than it is among kids. Even if it opens in second place, A Wrinkle in Time should continue to do well as schools take their spring break with a domestic gross of $100 million or more well in sight.

Meanwhile, Black Panther has grossed $516 million in three weeks and shows no signs of slowing down, so unless A Wrinkle in Time steals away a lot of its potential audience, it probably will be #1 again with somewhere tween $35 and 38 million, just ahead of A Wrinkle in Time.

Opening Weekend Current Gross Total Facebook Likes Twitter Activity (Past Week) 
Black Panther $202m $516m  790,461  665,255
A Wrinkle in Time N/A N/A  116,721  23,233
The Strangers: Prey at Night N/A N/A  361.409  10,649
Red Sparrow $16.9m $20.3m  103,603 49,043
Gringo N/A N/A  7,688  1,496
The Hurricane Heist N/A N/A  103,447 1,593

Strangers Prey at Night
Aviron Pictures

Next, we have a trio of films from fairly new distributors as Aviron Pictures releases the horror sequel The Strangers: Prey at Night, directed by Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down), which will probably offer the strongest R-rated fare for older teens and college age horror fans.

Rogue Pictures released the original The Strangers almost ten years ago, opening with $21 million and grossing $52.5 million based around a $9 million budget, a year before Jason Blum’s Paranormal Activity came around and Blumhouse was having successful low budget horror hits regularly.

The movie stars Christina Hendricks from Mad Men and Martin Henderson from Joseph Kahn’s Torque – he’s probably done other movies since then but that’s the only movie I know him from since it was my very first junket back in 2004. It also stars Bailee Madison, who starred in the Guillermo del Toro-produced Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston’s Just Go With It, as well as TV shows The Fosters and Good Witch.

The Strangers: Prey at Night seems to be a classic case of one of those sequels released far too late, in this case ten years, although the audience won’t necessarily be the now-ten-year-older fans of the original as much as the teen and older crowd who like to be scared. Reviews are mixed at best, but so were those for the original Strangers. 

The Strangers should be good for around $10 million (half the original movie’s opening) or maybe even slightly more with Aviron giving the movie a fairly persistent marketing push leading into the weekend.

It will be followed in fourth place by Fox’s Red Sparrow, then Sony’s Peter Rabbit and Game Night and Death Wish, which all should end up ahead of this week’s other new movies.

GringoFinalTrailerAmazon Studios

The next two movies I don’t have nearly as much confidence in, although I did like Nash Edgerton’s R-rated action-comedy Gringo, starring David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Josh Edgerton and Sharlto Copley. It involves a corporation that has produced a marijuana pill and their salesman (Oyelowo) who gets kidnapped in Mexico while trying to negotiate with a local drug kingpin. 

Edgerton’s previous feature, the Australian crime-thriller The Square, didn’t find much of an audience here in its initial release but his brother Joel has been doing quite well here, starring in last week’s Red Sparrow opposite Jennifer Lawrence.

Even though Oyelowo was fantastic as Martin Luther King, Jr. in Ava DuVernay’s Selma, he hasn’t quite proven himself as a box office draw as of yet. On the other hand, Charlize Theron has had a series of hits in recent years like George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and Snow White and the Huntsman, the latter two released in 2012. Her last film Atomic Blonde, which was sort of a cooler version of Red Sparrow, grossed $51.7 million after an $18.3 million opening, but that had a much stronger premise and the marketing focused more on that movie’s action. (Ironically, it was also directed by a former stuntman.)

Gringo is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea as dark comedy in general can be a tough sell, although Amazon Studios has used all of  its digital platform partners (like Amazon and IMDB) to sell what will be their first release as a distributor, not working with another studio. In some ways, the film reminds me of last year’s Free Fire from Ben Wheatley, a film starring Brie Larson that A24 opened only moderately wide that ended up bombing, grossing less than $2 million total.

I don’t expect Gringo to do nearly as badly, but even being released into 2,400 theaters, it’s likely  to end up near the bottom of the top 10 with around $5 to 6 million give or take.

hurr-heist-bannerEntertainment Studios

Oddly, Entertainment Studios, who had  their first hit with Johannes Roberts’ film 47 Meters Down last year, will try to steal away some of the audience for his new movie with The Hurricane Heist. It’s the first new movie from The Fast and the Furious director Rob Cohen since the 2015 thriller The Boy Next Door, starring Jennifer Lopez.

Although Cohen has a couple hits under his belt with Vin Diesel like The Fast and the Furious and the original xXx, he also has a notorious reputation for making bad action movies like Stealth and Alex Cross, starring Tyler Perry. I’m not expecting much more from The Hurricane Heist, which used to be called Category 5, but Entertainment Studios is relasing it into a similar number of theaters as Gringo and The Strangers.

It stars Maggie Grace from Lost and Liam Neeson’s “teen” daughter in Taken, as well as Toby Kebbell (Planet of the Apes, Fantastic Four) and Ryan Kwanten (True Blood), and despite their previous projects, it doesn’t put much confidence that their names will matter to anyone interested in this movie. No surprise that the movie wasn’t screened for critics in advance, since reviews aren’t likely to be much better than those for the week’s other new films.

Honestly, I haven’t even watched the trailer for The Hurricane Heist, but having not seen a single commercial doesn’t bode well that the movie will find an audience, other than those intrigued by that absolutely amazing title. Expect this one to end up in the same $4 to 6 million range in the low-end of the top 10 along with Gringo, but it could end up surprising if those not interested in The Strangers checks this one out merely for its title.

Furthermore, Focus Features will release Corey Finley’s psychological thriller Thoroughbreds moderately wide after picking it up at the Sundance Film Festival last year. It stars Anya Taylor-Joy (Split) and Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel) as entitled Connecticut teens who plot a murder. I generally liked the movie, and I have an interview with the filmmaker to run tomorrow, but I’m not sure it can have much of an impact with the moderate release it’s getting, but I can see it taking in $1.5 to 2 million this weekend.

     
Rotten Tomatoes IMDb Metacritic CinemaScore
Critics Users Stars  
Black Panther 97% 79% 7.8  88  A+
A Wrinkle in Time 42% N/A N/A 54 N/A
The Strangers: Prey at Night 35% N/A N/A 49 N/A
Red Sparrow 48% 56% 6.7  53 B
Gringo 32% N/A N/A 45 N/A
The Hurricane Heist N/A N/A N/A 00 N/A

TheLeisureSeekerReviewSony Pictures Classics

As far as limited releases, Sony Pictures Classics finally releases Paolo Virzi’s The Leisure Seeker, a road dramedy starring Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland in New York and L.A. As you can tell from my review, I wasn’t really a fan of the film, but I guess that an older audience – yes, even older than me — might enjoy it.

Veep creator Armando Ianucci’s second feature as a director is the period comedy The Death of Stalin, starring Jeffrey Tambor, Steve Buscemi, the ubiquitous Andrea Riseborough and others. It’s a loose adaptation of Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin’s graphic novel about the power struggle that occurs after the death of Russian leader Joseph Stalin. I was missed on the film when I saw it at Toronto, but I know a lot of people who enjoyed it. Personally, I didn’t think it was as good as Veep or Ianucci’s previous film In the Loop.

Saban Films is releasing The Forgiven, a drama directed by Oscar nominee Roland Joffé (The Killing Fields, The Mission) starring Forest Whitaker as the Archbishop Desmond Tutu who meets with a notorious murderer (played by Eric Bana) who seeks clemency after the fall of Apartheid.

Korean auteur Hong Sangsoo’s new film Claire’s Camera is released via Cinema Guild, this one a comedy starring Isabelle Huppert, which opens at New York’s Film Society of Lincoln Center, while Greenwich Films releases Alison Chernick’s doc Itzhak about famed violinist Itzhak Perlman in New York Friday, then in L.A. March 16.

On Friday, Netflix offers The Outsider, a film starring Oscar winner Jared Leto as an American soldier who becomes involved with the Yakuza in Japan. Netflix is also offering the third and final season of Love, produced by Judd Apatow, starting Friday, and the second season of Krysten Ritter’s Jessica Jones from Marvel is now streaming.

That’s it for now. Check back on Saturday morning for an update on how the movies above are faring and then I’ll have the full weekend box office report on Monday.

(Sources: boxofficemojo.com, rottentomatoes.com, imdb.com, metacritic.com. Figures represent numbers at time of writing, and may have changed. Tracking Board does not report Rotten Tomatoes user ratings for movies that have not yet seen wide release.)

  | East Coast Editor
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Still quiet here.sas

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