New Line / Paramount
Black Panther (Marvel/Disney)
Game Night (Warner Bros.)
Peter Rabbit (Sony)
Fifty Shades Freed (Universal)
I made a joke last week that no one really cared about any movie beyond Marvel Studios’ Black Panther, and though my prediction was off by $77 million effin’ dollars (gulp), at least that part of the weekend preview was absolutely correct.
Black Panther looks to continue its amazing run by being #1 for a second weekend with somewhere closer to $90 million after having a record-setting Tuesday earlier in the week. Black Panther Is likely to stay #1 until Ava Duvernay’s A Wrinkle in Time opens on March 9 and Twitter forgets all about it. (I’m kidding… again!) The question is how much room will be left for new movies, and the answer to that is: Not much. In fact, it’s likely that neither of the two new movies will make more than $20 million, although at least one of them will make the good old college try.
New Line / Warner Bros.
The dark comedy Game Night, starring Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams, is the latest movie from Jonathan Goldstein and John Frances Daley, and if you read my interview with the filmmakers, then you already know they directed the 2015 Vacation remake and wrote the New Line hit Horrible Bosses and co-wrote last year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Game Night isn’t meant to be a broad comedy like last year’s New Line bomb The House, starring Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler, but more of a comedic thriller. Bateman and McAdams are a formidable duo with comedy hits under their belts, and in this one, they play a competitive couple whose monthly game night is disrupted by the arrival of Bateman’s brother, played by Kyle Chandler, who invites them to a murder-mystery game at his house. When he’s kidnapped (for real), they all think it’s part of the game. The film also stars Jesse Plemons from Breaking Bad in a hilarious role as their creepy dog-loving neighbor.
In recent months, Bateman has found quite a bit of success with his Netflix dramatic series Ozark (a few episodes which he directed), but he continues to find success with his theatrical comedies like 2016’s Office Christmas Party, which grossed $54.8 million with a similar high-concept premise as Game Night. Before that, Bateman starred in Joel Edgerton’s thriller The Gift, which showed off his dramatic chops. Even so, it’s been a while since Bateman has had a big comedy hit like 2013’s Identity Thief, 2011’s Horrible Bosses or 2009’s Couples Retreat, all which grossed over $100 million. All of those movies were similar ensemble comedies like Game Night, as Bateman continues to reap the rewards of being on Arrested Development.
On the other hand, it’s been quite some time since McAdams has done a comedy, although appearing in Marvel’s Doctor Strange and the Oscar-winning Spotlight certainly didn’t hurt McAdams’s career, earning her a year off. McAdams’ last comedy was Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris, which received a number of Oscar nominations… but the less said about Allen the better probably. That means we have to go all the way back to 2005 for McAdams’ last comedy The Family Stone, which grossed $60 million. More importantly, McAdams starred in the New Line hit comedy Wedding Crashers, which grossed more than $200 million and started a wave of R-rated comedies, some good and some bad.
High concept comedies like Game Night tend to do well, because they offer premises that are both easy to market and easy to understand. Like Office Christmas Party, enough moviegoers will be familiar with the fun and humor that inherently comes with their own game nights. That should help make Game Night an easy choice when going to the movie theater this weekend even if New Line started the film’s marketing campaign later than usual. Although I liked the movie, I’m pleasantly shocked by its positive reviews, since comedies rarely get a break from critics.
Those reviews should definitely help Game Night open slightly better than Office Christmas Party’s $16.8 million, because New Line really knows how to market this kind of comedy and capitalize on those great reviews. (The House was a real anomaly for the Warner Bros. division, but that was also a very, very bad movie.)
|Opening Weekend||Current Gross||Total Facebook Likes||Twitter Activity (Past Week)|
|Fifty Shades Freed||$38.6m||$81.5m||201,392||36,141|
Opening in almost 1,400 fewer theaters is Paramount Pictures’ Annihilation, Alex Garland’s follow-up to his critically-acclaimed 2015 film Ex Machina, this one a sci-fi thriller starring Natalie Portman. Based on the “Southern Reach” trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer, the film is about a dimension that’s slowly taking over a swamp area, so a group of women scientists and soldiers are sent in to investigate. For Portman’s Lena, it’s a chance to figure out what happened to her military husband (Ex Machina and Star Wars star Oscar Isaac) who disappeared for a year into “The Shimmer” with no recollection of what happened.
Unlike McAdams, Portman hasn’t been taking a break since receiving her third Oscar nomination for the biopic Jackie early last year, but her projects – like Terrence Mallick’s Song to Song – were so low profile she might as well have been taking a year off. In fact, other than Jackie and the Thor movies, it doesn’t seem like Portman’s been doing much other than having another baby, but she’s had a bunch of smaller movies including her directorial debut A Tale of Love and Darkness and the Western Jane Got a Gun that was delayed then buried by the Weinstein Company.
Garland’s latest movie is really good, maybe not quite as good as Paramount’s 2016 release Arrival, but it should appeal to a similar ground of discerning filmgoers who enjoy intelligent science fiction. Paramount released Arrival, starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, in November 2016 into 2,316 theaters where it grossed an astounding $24 million, helped by critical support out of the Sept. festival season. That movie grossed $100 million and received eight Oscar nominations, winning one for sound editing, while helping to boost Denis Villeneuve’s cred going into last year’s Blade Runner 2049.
A better comparison and benchmark for Annihilation might be last year’s Life, also produced by Skydance and starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds but only grossing $30 million domestically after a $12.5 million opening.
Paramount clearly doesn’t have much confidence in Annihilation after test screening it, because originally it was supposed to come out last fall but then was moved to the less desirable month after test screenings. Paramount also sold the international rights to Netflix. (Unlike the recent Netflix streaming release of The Cloverfield Paradox, Paramount has already been advertising Annihilation’s theatrical release, so we can’t expect another last-minute Netflix release this time.) Paramount only started screening the movie for most critics this week, making it even tougher to build buzz among moviegoers outside diehard sci-fi fans.
Not helping matters is that Paramount is giving the film a very moderate release into slightly over 2,000 theaters, a number so low that few movies other than maybe Paranormal Activity (and Arrival, apparently) would have any cahnce of breaking out. With buzz building over the last few months, Annihilation should do significantly better per-theater than Game Night, although that movie’s 1,500 theater advantage will mean Annihilation has to settle for third place this weekend. It should still be good for somewhere between $11 and 13 million, maybe more if the positive reviews generate some last-minute interest.
I know almost nothing about the movie Every Day except that it’s the first wide release from the relaunched Orion Pictures, who will release it into 1,650 theaters despite not being confident enough in the film to screen it for critics in advance.
With a bit of research, I learned that it’s based on David Lethian’s 2012 fantasy-romance novel (which I haven’t read) and that it stars Angourie Rice, who played Betty in last year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. It’s also directed by Michael Sucsy, who directed The Vow (which I never saw), and it’s a high concept romance film about a teen who falls in love with the mysterious “A” who inhabits a different body every day, so he’s played by a bunch of different actors.
That’s it. That’s all I know about Every Day, but frankly, with the minimal promotion Orion is giving the film, I don’t expect it to make more than $3 million despite its wide release. It probably will make enough to just squeak into the bottom half of the top 10, but it’s not likely to find much of an audience beyond those who read and enjoyed the book.
|Fifty Shades Freed||12%||44%||4.3||32||B+|
There are a number of decent genre flicks this weekend, but the one I’d recommend most is Brian O’Malley’s gothic thriller The Lodgers being released by Epic Pictures. It’s a good old-fashioned gothic horror film starring Charlotte Vega ([REC] 3: Genesis) and Bill Milner (Son of Rambow) as twin sister and brother Rachel and Edward who live alone in a giant mansion in the Irish countryside whose lives are disrupted by her meeting a disabled veteran back from WWI (Eugene Simon from Game of Thrones). It opens in select cities and On Demand, so check it out, and you can learn more about the movie by reading my interview with O’Malley.
Oscilloscope is releasing Rainer Sarnet’s black and white thriller November in New York Friday then in L.A. on March 2. Set in 19th century Estonia, it involves a romance between a peasant girl named Llina, a village boy named Hans and how she tries to win his love using supernatural means. The film won an award for cinematography when it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, and I hope to watch and possibly write about in Saturday’s “Under the Radar.”
Ellen Page stars in David Freyne’s apocalyptic thriller The Cured, which will be released by IFC Midnight in New York (IFC Center and uptown Landmark) and L.A. (Nuart Theater) after playing Toronto and Fantastic Fest last September. It’s a twist on the classic zombie movie, this one taking place after a cure is found and the former infected need to face up to their actions while infected.
I’ve never been a big fan of Heather Graham (outside her playing Roller Girl in Boogie Nights, of course), but she’s written and directed her first movie Half Magic, which Momentum will release in select cities as well as on VOD and Digital HD tomorrow. She plays one of three women who form a sisterhood to fight against sexism and bad relationships, which makes it kind of perfect to be released right now.
Gravitas Ventures is releasing two movies this weekend, 7 Guardians of the Tomb and The Survivors Guide to Prison. One is a fantasy-adventure starring Kellan Lutz and BingBing Li, the other is a doc about prison life featuring Danny Trejo and produced by Adrian Grenier, David and Christina Arquette and exec. produced by Susan Sarandon.
Cinedigm is releasing Ben Parker’s The Chamber in theaters and On Demand (notice a trend here?), starring Johannes Bah Kuhnke (Force Majeure) as the head of special ops unit trying to find a mysterious item at the bottom of North Korea’s Yellow Sea.
Streaming on Netflix Friday is Duncan Jones’ Mute, the thematic follow-up to his 2009 debut Moon, this one starring Alexander Skarsgard as a mute bartender who has to find his missing girlfriend (Seyneb Saleh) in a futuristic Berlin. Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux play military surgeons (and mercenaries) who could help him… but instead have their own interconnected storyline. You can read more about the movie in my interview with Jones tomorrow.
As a life-long Beatles fan, I’m also excited that 2002’s Concert for George is being re-released into theaters over the next couple weeks, and you can find out when and where it’s playing near you on the official site.
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.)
Edward Douglas | East Coast Editor