Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Sony)
Paddington 2 (Warner Bros.)
The Post (20th Century Fox)
Proud Mary (Screen Gems)
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Lucasfilm / Disney)
The Commuter (Lionsgate)
(Note: the above are all four-day projections through Monday.)
After last week’s fantastic showing at the box office, we can only hope that the upcoming four-day holiday weekend to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth will continue the same level of moviegoer love.
There’s a number of strong movies opening Friday, but as we saw all too well last week, can anything dethrone the Jumanji juggernaut? Probably not, as it edges closer to its $300 million milestone with another $30 million plus over the four-day weekend. Otherwise, this weekend might be a royal mess with three new wide releases (and Spielberg’s The Post) competing for business and ending up in the $15 million to $25 million range. In other words, it’s doubtful any of the new releases will be able to surpass the $30 million plus Jumanji will make in its fourth weekend, so it should remain #1 again.
The movie with the best chance at stealing family business away from Jumanji is Warner Bros’ Paddington 2, starring Ben Whishaw as the voice of the cuddly bear and an all-British cast that includes Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins, plus the voices of Michael Gambon and Imelda Staunton. The returning cast is joined by Hugh Grant who has been doing a lot of the TV promotion for the movie.
Warners picked the movie up from the Weinstein Company after producer David Heyman of the Harry Potter series pulled it after the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke. It’s likely to be a nice start for 2018 as Warner Bros. releases the movie into 3,702 theaters, the most for an MLK weekend release.
The original Paddington was released by TWC over the same weekend in 2015 to the tune of $25.5 million over the four-day weekend on its way to $76.3 million total domestic. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the $191.8 million made overseas, but Warner Bros. must have been confident they could set-up a quick marketing strategy with this known commodity after coming on board just two months ago.
Reviews in England, where the movie was released last year, were very positive and the American reviews are following suit (Still 100% on Rotten Tomatoes!) so parents won’t be so trepidatious about taking their kids to see it. I can see the family film doing a similar $25 million or possibly more over the four days, placing it second.
|Opening Weekend||Current Gross||Total Facebook Likes||Twitter Activity (Past Week)|
|Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle||$36.2m||$251.8m||
|Star Wars: The Last Jedi||$220.0m||$576.8m||19,590,755||244,921|
20th Century Fox
Before we get to the other new wide releases, it should be mentioned that 20th Century Fox are giving Steven Spielberg’s The Post, starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, a nationwide expansion into more than 2,800 theaters after platforming the movie over the holidays. It grossed $2 million in just nine theaters and then last Friday expanded to 36 theaters where it averaged $47,000 leaving it with $4 million in limited release.
Obviously, Fox were hoping The Post would win one or two Golden Globes or other nominations – it was shut-out both by SAG and BAFTA — so it’s relying more on positive reviews (87% on Rotten Tomatoes) and positive word-of-mouth for its nationwide expansion. As it is, we’ll still have to wait more than a week to see how Spielberg’s latest film played for Oscar voters.
What’s interesting about The Post is that it’s one of those movies that opens in limited release in Dec. does okay, but then explodes when it opens nationwide. As we saw with films like Fox’s The Revenant and Clint Eastwood films Gran Torino and American Sniper, there’s still room to find an audience among fans of Spielberg and his two prestigious actors in new territories, but mostly among older moviegoers.
While I doubt The Post will connect with moviegoers in every part of the country as some of those other films mentioned, it still has strong enough star power and positive reviews to open with northwards of $17 million over the four-day weekend. That should be good enough for third place barring any breakouts among the films below.
Sony’s Screen Gems division is taking advantage of the government holiday to release an action-thriller that should appeal to African-American audiences, as Empire’s Taraji P. Henson stars in Proud Mary, directed by London Has Fallen helmer Babak Najafi. An Oscar nominee for David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Henson’s popularity really exploded when she debuted as Cookie on the Fox show Empire, for which she’s won a Golden Globe and received two Emmy nominations.
An action-thriller driven by a popular WOC (“woman of color”) might be exactly the right movie at the right time as moviegoers have demanded more diverse action stars they can relate to. This is being released after a year in which women helped turn action films like Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Wonder Woman into the year’s biggest blockbusters. And speaking as a man, I know that I totally would want to see Taraji P. Henson kicking ass and taking names. Older audiences will no doubt be reminded of the classic ‘70s blaxploitation films like Pam Grier’s Foxy Brown, and Coffy, to which Proud Mary is most definitely a throwback.
As has been the case with past Screen Gems films, Proud Mary won’t screen for critics in advance, though the audience wanting to see this movie wouldn’t necessarily rely on mostly white critics for their movie recommendations. Despite opening in less than 2,500 theaters, Proud Mary is playing in enough urban regions where it could drum up $15 to 17 million over the extended weekend.
Next up is Liam Neeson’s latest action-thriller The Commuter from Lionsgate, which reunites Neeson with director Jaume Collet-Serra, who directed Neeson in Unknown (2011), Non-Stop (2014) and Run All Night (2015). The middle one of those movies is the most important one, because The Commuter is in the same vein as Non-Stop, being an action-thriller on a train rather than a plane, and it being the biggest hit for the duo, opening to $29 million in Feb. 2014. Their follow-up Run All Night didn’t fare nearly as well, for whatever reason, making less total than Non-Stop did opening weekend.
Either way, Lionsgate is relying on Neeson’s popularity among action fans, both young and old, that helped Fox turn the Taken franchise into a huge money maker in the States.
In any other weekend, The Commuter would be one of the big players, but it’s facing too much competition from The Post for older adults and Proud Mary for urban audiences, so it’s likely to end up in the same $15 to 17 million range as Proud Mary and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. (See what I mean about this weekend being a mess?)
Lionsgate’s Latin division Pantelion Films will release the animated film Condorita: La Pelicula into around 150 theaters, but it’s trying to take on way too much stronger family competition, and it’s hard to imagine it will make more than a million.
At one point, Sony Pictures Classics was going to expand Annette Bening’s Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool into significantly wider release, but the movie has been performing so poorly in New York and L.A. (probably due to the amount of competition) that those plans have changed with an expansion into just 9 theaters after Bening and Jamie Bell receiving BAFTA nominations earlier this week.
|Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle||75%||90%||7.2||58||A-|
|Star Wars: The Last Jedi||90%||49%||7.5||85||A-|
Out of the week’s limited releases, the strongest offering is probably The Insult from Ziad Doueiri (The Attack), Lebanon’s short-listed Oscar selection that Cohen Media will release in New York and L.A. Friday. The controversial film from the cameraman of some of Tarantino’s early films involves a dispute between a Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian refugee that ends up in court.
Samuel Goldwyn releases Damon Cardasis’ Saturday Church, which premiered at Tribeca last year, tells the story of teenager Ulysses (newcomer Luka Swag, who won an acting prize at Outfest), a shy and effeminate boy struggling with gender identity issues while trying to be the “man of the house.” It takes him into the heart of the transgender community and a community program for LGBTQ youth called “Saturday Church.” And it’s kind of a musical.
Alexander Bustillo and Julien Maury’s French horror film Inside gets the remake treatment by director Miguel Ángel Vivas, as it follows a young pregnant woman named Sarah (Rachel Nichols), trying to recover at home after a car crash when a menacing visitor (Laura Harring) shows up threatening Sarah and her unborn child. Vertical releases this in select cities and On Demand.
Music Box Films releases Daniela Thomas’ black and white Brazilian period piece Vazante at the IFC Center in New York and Laemmle Royal in L.A. Friday. Set in 1821, it involves a man whose wife dies in labor while he’s on a trading expedition so he marries her young niece Beatriz, who is separated from her family, so she seeks solace with the oppressed residents of her new husband’s estate.
Film Movement releases another interesting film from a woman filmmaker is photographer Laurie Simmons’ directorial debut My Art, a feminist take on the classic “artist in a mid-life crisis” movie in which she plays an artist who escapes to a friend’s upstate summer house and finds inspiration in her neighbors, including Robert Clohessy, Josh Safdie, Parker Posey and John Rothman. Simmons’ daughter Lena Dunham – you might have heard of her – also makes a cameo.
Fans of older veteran actors might appreciate two indie comedies coming out this weekend. From Gravita Ventures, there’s Abe and Phil’s Last Poker Game, starring Martin Landau and Paul Sorvino, while Shout! Studios releases Humor Me from Sam Hoffman (Old Jews Telling Jokes), starring Elliot Gould and Jemaine Clement (who isn’t quite so old or veteran).
French New Wave filmmaker Philippe Garrel turns 70 in a couple months and MUBI is releasing his latest Lover for a Day in New York Friday at Lincoln Center’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center and in L.A. on Jan. 26 at the Laemmle Music Hall.
On Friday, Netflix will premiere The Polka King, the new movie from Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky (Infinitely Polar Bear) starring Jack Black as Jan Lewan, the “Polka King of Pennsylvania” who created a Ponzi scheme by getting his fans to invest in his business with the promise of big returns. It co-stars Jenny Slate, Jason Schwartzman, JB Smoov and Jacqui Weaver so clearly the casting directing never looked past the “J”s.
Related: Interview with Wally Wolodarksy and Maya Forbes (Coming soon!)
While you have Netflix loaded, of course you’re going to watch David Letterman’s new show My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, the first episode featuring none other than Barack Obama!
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. Also, feel free to leave a few comments with your own predictions or thoughts on which movies you’re hoping to see this weekend.
(Sources: Boxofficemojo.com, BoxOffice.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