“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” and “The LEGO Ninjago Movie” Will Try to Take Down the Blockbuster “It”

20th Century Fox / Warner Bros.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

$45.5 million

The LEGO Ninjago Movie

 $38.6 million

It

$29.5 million

Friend Request

$7.4 million

American Assassin

$7 million

After two weeks of It at #1, it’s time for a couple new movies to give it a go at the top of the box office. This week we have two strong movies that could easily have opened during the summer or spring and done quite well. Instead, they’re being released during the best September at the box office ever. Although these two movies are targeting very different audiences, one being a hard-R and the other being PG, it might still be a close race for the top spot. Oh, and to make matters more complex, there’s a third R-rated horror movie in the mix, as well.

20th Century Fox

After the success of Kingsman: The Secret Service in 2015 – it grossed $128.3 million domestic and $286 million worldwide — director Matthew Vaughn has returned for a second helping of R-rated spy action-comedy with Kingsman: The Golden Circle.  Taron Egerton’s Eggy is now a full-time Kingsman, and he has to work with tech expert Merlin (Mark Strong) to rebuild the Kingsmen after a mysterious villain destroys the entire organization. To do so, they call upon their American counterparts, the Statesmen, to find and stop this killer who wants to release a deadly virus into the atmosphere.

Unlike the first movie, which was based on the existing comic by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons (Watchmen), this one is a new story created by Vaughn with his frequent collaborator Jane Goldman. The sequel’s antagonist is played by Julianne Moore, just one of a few key additions to the cast, as Egerton and Strong are joined by Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges and Pedro Pascal (Narcos). The first three of these presumably should help attract some of the Americans who might have felt the original movie was “too British.”

Reviews so far are mixed at best, many critics opining that The Golden Circle is just more of the same and not nearly as innovative as the first Kingsman. It’s literally right down the middle at 51% on RottenTomatoes, which might give some uncertain moviegoers pause to go see the sequel. Likewise, the Kingsman sequel is coming into an odd space between the year’s franchise fatigue and the month’s sudden burst of energy at the box office.

Figure that it will open bigger than the original movie, but fall away quicker, especially with direct competition for 20-30 something males from American Made and Blade Runner 2049 in the coming weeks. Kingsman: The Golden Circle should still bring in $40 to 45 million this weekend but end up just over $100 million total in North America.

Matthew Vaughn Interview

Opening Weekend Current Gross Total Facebook Likes Twitter Activity (Past Week)
Kingsman: The Golden Circle N/A N/A 1,230,285 186,306
The LEGO Ninjago Movie N/A N/A 89,491 7,288
It $123.4m $236.4m 1,529,688 115,101
Friend Request  N/A N/A 11,062 N/A
American Assassin  $14.8m  $20m 153,471  24,944

Warner Bros.

Similarly, Warner Bros. has had so much success with The LEGO Movie and this year’s LEGO Batman Movie their decision to make The LEGO Ninjago Movie, based on the popular cartoons and toy line of the same name, should prove to be a wise one, as it should be a solid draw for families who’ve had very few other options this past month.

What I DON’T know about Ninjago could fill an encyclopedia (one with all blank pages), but the cartoons and LEGO sets must be popular enough with kids that Warner Bros. would make a bigger budget feature film with a voice cast that includes Jackie Chan, Dave Franco, Kumail Nanjiani, Fred Armisen and Michael Peña.

There was a time when no studio would think of releasing a family movie in September. School is back in session, kids are all played out from the summer vacation, and it just never seemed like the best time for a family movie with just two months until the holidays. That changed in 2009 when Sony released Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which opened with $30 million. A few years later, a 3D rerelease of The
Lion King release had similar success as did the sequel to Cloudy. Adam Sandler found huge success in 2012 with Hotel Transylvania’s $42.5 million opening and that movie’s sequel broke its predecessor’s Sept. opening record with $48.5 million three years later. (Of course, both those records have gone bye-bye thanks to Warner Bros’ It.)

Although Warner Bros. didn’t have as much success with last year’s Storks, which opened to just $21 million, they have a well-deserved confidence in the LEGO brand after two hit movies. 2014’s The LEGO Movie grossed $258 million domestically while The LEGO Batman Movie made a solid $177 million opening earlier this year after a $59 mill. opening.

It’s hard to imagine that Ninjago will have nearly as much appeal with the older male Batman fans, who will have other options like Kingsman and it, but as mentioned above, there hasn’t been a family film release since the Weinstein’s Leap! in August, and that didn’t exactly do big business. Parents will be ready to get the kids out of the house.

As luck would have it, reviews are also as mixed and Fandango.com ticket sales won’t help matters because they’re neck and neck between the two movies.

Maybe in a different market, The LEGO Ninjago Movie would also open in the $50 million range, but it’s more likely to end up somewhere between $35 and $40 million, taking second place to Kingsman.

     
Rotten Tomatoes IMDb Metacritic
Critics Users Stars  
Kingsman: The Golden Circle 51 N/A N/A 47
The Lego Ninjago Movie 51 N/A N/A 54
It 85 87 8 70
Friend Request 32 N/A N/A 44
American Assassin 35 70 6.7 45

Entertainment StudiosEntertainment Studios

The third wide release this weekend is the horror film Friend Request from Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures. Like their summer hit 47 Meters Down, this is a genre film that’s been sitting on the shelf as far as a U.S. release, while being released in Germany, the UK and other territories before Entertainment Studios stepped in to release it.

Directed by German filmmaker Simon Verhoeven, this is the type of R-rated technology-based horror we’ve seen before, most recently with the 2015 release Unfriended, which opened with $15 million and grossed $32.5 million in North America, after playing a couple prominent genre fests.

There’s always worries with a movie like this that potential pirated copies are already available on torrent sites so why should moviegoers go to see the movie in theaters, especially when early reviews aren’t very good.

Friend Request might seem like a viable alternative to Kingsman for the younger moviegoers looking for more scares after It, although the negative reviews are fairly accurate that the movie is indeed very, very bad. Even so, this one may still bring in $7 to 8 million over the weekend, though it’s more likely to get slaughtered by the competition.

It should end up comfortably in third place with between $28 and 30 million, while last week’s new movies American Assassin and mother! should have considerable drops to make way for the new movies. Based on its “F” CinemaScore, the latter will have a much larger 2nd weekend drop.

Last week’s Brad’s Status, starring Ben Stiller and written/directed by Mike White (School of Rock), will get a moderately wide release into roughly 450 theaters by Annapurna Pictures and Amazon Studios. Despite the number of big movies being released this weekend, there’s still enough of a potential audience for it to break into the top 10 with between $1.5 and 2 million.

Mike White Interview

Focus Features

There are three fairly high-profile limited releases out tomorrow, all which could do well enough to warrant a wider release.

First up is Fox Searchlight’s Battle of the Sexes, starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell as tennis great Billie Jean King and her adversary Bobbie Riggs. Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who received an Oscar nomination for Little Miss Sunshine, it’s a real crowd-pleasing film that hopefully Searchlight can do better with than they did with Patti Cake$. Chances are likely that having stars like Stone and Carell to do the talk show rounds will help get the word out on this strong and timely female empowerment film. (My own interview with directors Dayton and Faris should be online tomorrow, hopefully.)

Focus Features’ Victoria and Abdul is the latest pairing of director Stephen Frears and Dame Judi Dench, following their Oscar-nominated 2013 movie Philomena. In this one Dench plays Queen Victoria for the second time and first tine in 20 years since Mrs. Brown this time later in the queen’s life when she encounters an Indian man (Bollywood star Ali Fazal, who appeared in Furious 7) who becomes her confidante and teacher.

There’s also Stronger from Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions with Jake Gyllenhaal playing Jeff Bauman, one of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings who lost both his legs and had to work with his ex-girlfriend(Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black) to recover.

I can recommend the above three movies wholeheartedly, having seen them at TIFF, and you can read more about all three of them in my feature below about the movies based on true stories that played at TIFF.

TIFF True Stories

David Gordon Green Interview

An amazing doc that should be checked out is Peter Nicks’ The Force, released by Kino Lorber, which takes an in-depth look inside the Oakland Police Dept, as it deals with internal and external scandal from its interactions with the community and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. This is an even more fascinating film than the recent Whose Streets?, because Nicks got access inside the training of Orlando’s next gen policemen, so the movie is far more two-sided than these docs tend to be.  Nicks won the Director’s Prize at Sundance earlier this year for the film.

Other films out this week include the innovative animated biopic Loving Vincent, directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Worldman, bringing Vincent Van Gogh’s artwork to life using 125 trained painters to create a fully oil-painted film.

A24 will release Woodshock, fashion designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy’s directorial debut starring Kirsten Dunst as a woman dealing with loss with the help of a reality-altering “cannabinoid drug.” It opens in New York and L.A.

Norwegian filmmaker Erik (1000 Times Good Night) Poppe’s The King’s Choice from Samuel Goldwyn Films is about the King of Norway dealing with the invading German forces in April 1940, sort of a Norwegian Darkest Hour, I guess.

Other films out tomorrow include Vincent Sabella’s personal film Elizabeth Blue (starring the awesome Adewale Akkinuoye-Agbaje from Suicide Squad), the horror sequel The Houses That October Built 2 from RLJ Entertainment, Dwight Little’s true crime tale Last Rampage starring Robert Patrick and Heather Graham from Epic Pictures, Jeremy Kagan’s drama Shot starring Noah Wyle (ER) and Sharon Leal, the comedy Big Bear from Blue Fox Entertainment and Shout! Factory Films’ The Tiger Hunter.

Check back on Saturday morning for an update on how the movies above are faring 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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