Box Office Guy: Justice League

Patrick Reardon

I don't have a hot take for the box office prospects for "Justice League." I'm not going to tell you that it will break box office records. It won't. I'm not going to say this is the movie where fans collectively say they've finally had enough of superhero movies. It's not. "Justice League" will be the latest superhero flick to have a $100m+ opening (just two weeks after "Thor: Ragnarok" pulled off this feat). Critics will probably hate it, fan boys will endlessly debate it on social media and I expect lukewarm audiences to casually shrug their shoulders and say something along the lines of, "meh, when's the next superhero movie I need to see?" This is exactly how I felt walking out of "Batman v Superman." The idea of "needing" to see a movie rather than "wanting" to see a movie is problematic. Watching this glut of superhero movies now feels like a chore instead of a joyous activity.

I've been on the fence about seeing "Justice League" in a theater. The pros? I won't fall behind on my D.C. extended cinematic universe homework. The cons? "Batman v Superman" was a mess, a lot of Zack Snyder, based on the marketing it looks like more of the same, "Suicide Squad" was terrible, a lot of Zack Snyder, I merely liked but didn't love "Wonder Woman," early buzz is that it's just two hours of set up for future movies instead of a solid standalone movie and even more Zack Snyder. The fact is I have other things I need (and want) to do this weekend. Spending over two hours cramming for a nonexistent D.C. exam isn't at the top of my to-do list. I'm not quitting superhero movies altogether. I'll eventually watch "Justice League" on Blu-Ray, Netflix, cable or a plane. But in order for me to see a superhero movie in a theater in the future, it will need to look like a genuinely good movie that is doing something unique within the genre.

I'm not the first movie fan to feel this way and I assure you I won't be the last. At some point audiences are going to tire of seeing the same variation of a superhero movie over and over again. Hopefully Hollywood has a back-up plan. But that's probably wishful thinking.

With a likely $100m+ opening (I have it around $115m) "Justice League" has been spilt into daily pricing in Fantasy Movie League. I believe the Friday/Saturday/Sunday split will be in line with "Thor: Ragnarok" from two weeks ago (38%/36%/26%). Based on these percentages I think the 2x Saturday lineup is the best way to go if you roll with "Justice League" as your anchor.

Also opening in theaters this weekend is Sony Animation's "The Star," which doesn't look like first-rate animated fare. It looks like Sony is trying to make a quick grab to take advantage of the holiday season before "Coco" sucks up all the family audiences next week and then hopefully make their money back in ancillary markets. The FML pricing gods are daring you to play it at FB$120 but the floor for this film is dangerous. "The Star" is a stay away for me.

And as if I didn't have enough practical reasons to dump on "The Star" there is another one that has been annoying me to no end. In case you don't live in the Los Angeles area or have never visited we have a special place called Grauman's Chinese Theater (although it's now technically the ‘TCL Chinese Theater' nobody actually calls it that). In addition to being a fantastic, historic movie theater the forecourt features genuine Hollywood history. The forecourt is where movie stars throughout the years have had their handprints and footprints immortalized in cement. It features every A-list player you can imagine: Bob Hope, Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Jack Nicholson, Eddie Murphy, Harrison Ford, Johnny Depp, etc. Too many to list here. Granted the area surrounding the Chinese theater has become a crowded, gentrified, touristy cluster-f that I usually try to avoid. But on the rare occasion I make it over to the Chinese theater (maybe once or twice a year) I always get a kick out of the forecourt.

But lately the bar for getting your hand and footprints in cement has been lowered quite a bit. In recent years such non-movie people such as Katy Perry, Demi Lovato and Kobe Bryant have been honored with their own slab of personalized concrete. But a few weeks ago the Chinese theater crossed a line. To help promote "The Star" Mariah Carey (who voices a character in the film) was honored with a handprint ceremony. Mariah Carey? Seriously? This woman's two biggest contributions to cinema were "Glitter" (six Razzie nominations including a win for Carey as Worst Actress) and showing up as a social worker sans makeup in "Precious" for about ten minutes.

I have nothing personal against Ms. Carey, but the fact that she is a part of any group that includes Tom Hanks, Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg is outrageous. Handprint ceremonies should be for the true elites of the movie business, not for a singer who played herself in a bit part in "You Don't Mess With the Zohan." If this slippery slope continues the next thing you know they'll be having handprint ceremonies for YouTubers and then I'm REALLY going to lose my mind.

Now that my mini-rant is over our last new wide release this weekend is "Wonder" starting Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay ("Room"). "Wonder" is based on a best selling novel about a fifth grade boy with facial deformities who attempts to attend public school for the first time.

Despite the sentimental feel to the movie I think it's going to get lost in the shuffle this weekend. Roberts and Wilson are no longer at a place in their careers where they can help a little movie break through the clutter. Unless the reviews on Friday are spectacular (the early ones have merely been good, not great) I just don't see audiences turning out in droves here. Even with a price tag of FB$140 I don't trust this movie to perform well amongst all the competition out there.

This weekend is the first one I can remember where a movie being split into daily pricing didn't seem like a slam-dunk to be a part of a perfect cinema. If "Justice League" is weaker than expected on Thursday night I can see a scenario where 3x "Thor" or 6x "Murder on the Orient Express" could end up as a better play. Especially since "Murder" has been doing very solid mid-week business ($2.3m on Monday, $3.1m on Tuesday) and appeals to older audiences who aren't in a rush to see movies on opening weekend.

Weekend Picks

My picks for this weekend's top 5 in total box office (this week's cost in FML Bux in parentheses):
1. Justice League - Friday (FB$636)
2. Justice League - Saturday (FB$434)
3. Justice League - Sunday (FB$334)
4. Thor: Ragnarok (FB$269)
5. Murder on the Orient Express (FB$152)

Bonus Pick of the Week: "Lady Bird" This will totally depend on the theater count (unavailable at press time). Writer/Director Greta Gerwig's "Lady Bird" has performed well in its two weeks of limited release (week 1 $364k on 4 screens, week 2 $1.2m on 37 screens). If "Lady Bird" gets another significant screen-bump it should be able to take advantage of its reasonable FB$30 price tag and should find itself in the bonus hunt.

Coming Attractions

This Thanksgiving I'm thankful that Pixar is giving us an original film instead of another half-baked sequel. Hopefully "Coco" has more in common with "Inside Out" than it does with "The Good Dinosaur."

Follow me on Twitter @TheBoxOfficeGuy

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