Box Office Guy: Fist Fight

Patrick Reardon

Last weekend Batman, Christian Grey and John Wick each put up decent numbers, providing a nice boost to the overall box office. This four-day weekend brings us another trio of wide releases, but unfortunately I don't see any of them performing as well as last weeks threesome. Up first is "Three O'Clock High" for grown-ups.

"Fist Fight" stars Ice Cube and Charlie Day as a couple of high school teachers who plan to have an after school fight. The film features a relatable concept (there are a ton of teachers I had growing up that I would pay top dollar to see fight), appealing leads, a deep bench of scene-stealers (Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Kumail Nanjiani, etc.) and an experienced television director (Richie Keen) who is adept at comedy. So why am I not more excited about its prospects?

For starters, as of Wednesday afternoon the film was still under a critic embargo. This always makes me suspicious, especially for comedies. I can't recall the last time a comedy that was under a critic embargo actually turned out to be a good film. What are they hiding? Its either the film is so funny the studio genuinely wants to surprise audiences or all the funny parts are already in the film's trailers and TV spots. Ninety nine times out of one hundred it's the latter.

While the film should be competitive for second place behind "LEGO Batman" this weekend, I think it's too expensive to trust at FB$340. Barring a major sea change in word of mouth I'm going to steer clear of "Fist Fight."

Up next is the big budget action film "The Great Wall" starring Matt Damon. At face value this film (the largest ever shot entirely in China) might seem like an odd choice for Damon who is still very much an A-list actor. Damon is still at a point in his career where he gets a wave of offers (with the exception of the ones snatched up first by Leonardo DiCaprio). His decision to star in "The Great Wall" was primarily a business decision, as opposed to a creative one.

In addition to the paycheck, the release of this film significantly raises Damon's profile in China (the last major film market that hasn't been completely tapped) and it will likely make it easier for future Damon films to get a Chinese release. It's a smart business move and I can't fault him for it. As for the film's prospects in FML, I don't think they're as rosy as Damon's future star power in China.

With a high price tag of FB$337 I don't think there is a big enough audience to justify screening it. The film is already a hit in China (and other foreign territories) and the U.S. box office almost feels like an afterthought. While some projections have it opening in the low $20s I think the mid-high teens are more realistic. There are better values out there this weekend.

The least promising newcomer of the week is "A Cure For Wellness" from director Gore Verbinski. This film appears to be following the "Shutter Island" marketing template from 2010. How successful have they been following this template?

-Same weekend in February? Check.

-Young guy sent to a remote location to investigate a mystery? Check.

-Marketing playing up the surreal imagery of the film? Check.

-A-list star? No. While star Dane DeHaan sometimes gets labeled with that "next Leo" moniker he has a long way to go before that comparison holds any water.

-A-list filmmaker? Yes. While Verbinski lacks the prestige of Martin Scorsese he is one of the most financially successful directors of the last fifteen years due to the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise (although this is his first film in over a decade that doesn't feature Johnny Depp).

-Shelled out for an expensive Super Bowl commercial? Check.

While it may appear to have a lot in common with "Shutter Island" ($41.1m opening, $128m domestic total), "A Cure For Wellness" is headed for a disappointing opening. Reviews have been weak thus far and it's an incredibly competitive weekend. There is also buzz that the nearly two and a half hour running time makes it a difficult watch. Even with an "I dare you to screen it" price tag of FB$167, this is a stay away for me due to the frighteningly low floor.

In case it wasn't already obvious I'm not wild about any of the new releases for my FML lineup this weekend. As for the holdovers I expect "Fifty Shades Darker" FB$334 to fall of a cliff now that Valentine's Day is in our rearview mirror and I anticipate "John Wick: Chapter 2" (FB$294) will perform like a typical action film with a fairly steep second week decline. With these two holdovers and three newcomers cannibalizing each other for second place, it's unlikely that any of them will over-perform which leads me to "The LEGO Batman Movie" (FB$602) as my anchor. Granted it's expensive, but if it holds up like the original "LEGO" movie (which had a miniscule 28% drop in its second weekend) it's a safe option to build your lineup around. As for the rest of my screens you can fit a lot of my bonus pick (see below).

Weekend Picks

My picks for this weekend's top 5 in total box office (this week's cost in FML Bux in parentheses):
1. The LEGO Batman Movie (FB$602)
2. Fist Fight (FB$340)
3. Fifty Shades Darker (FB$334)
4. John Wick: Chapter 2 (FB$294)
5. The Great Wall (FB$337)

Bonus Pick of the Week:"La La Land" Despite losing nearly 1,200 screens last weekend it only dropped 33%. With this being the last full weekend to catch the film before the Academy Awards I expect it to be in bonus contention at FB$54.

Coming Attractions

I'm not optimistic about two of the newcomers next weekend: the animated adventure "Rock Dog" and the action thriller "Collide." However I've had a good feeling for a while about the horror movie "Get Out," the directorial debut of Jordan Peele. It could be this years "The Cabin in the Woods" but with even more upside.

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