The Box Office Guy

Patrick Reardon

Last weekend "Escape Room" took advantage of the lack of new competition to the tune of $18.2m. Next weekend "Glass" is poised to become the first breakout hit of 2019. But this weekend is a mixed bag. Three newcomers (plus one major expansion) will attempt to survive the dog days of early January. I have a feeling most of them will fall short, starting with this weekend's highest profile new flick.

"The Upside" is a remake of the 2011 blockbuster "The Intouchables." I'm not using the term "blockbuster" sarcastically. The French film about a wealthy quadriplegic and his unconventional caretaker grossed a massive $426.6m worldwide. Unfortunately only 2.4% of that total came from the United States and Canada ($10.2m), so outside of film buffs most North American moviegoers aren't familiar with it.

Since most of the domestic audiences aren't familiar with the source material this is being sold as a Kevin Hart buddy comedy with Hart playing the role of the caretaker and Bryan Cranston portraying the quadriplegic. Based on the performance of Hart's film "Night School" this past September (which was good but not as high as some of his previous outings) it appears that Hart's box office pull is slipping a bit. He can still bring in his audience to broad comedies (ala "Jumanji" or the "Ride Along" films) but it's much tougher to carry a change of pace dramedy like "The Upside." I think "The Upside" will struggle to get to the teens this weekend and I think there are better anchors out there for your FML lineups. And for the record I don't think the controversy surrounding Hart and the upcoming Academy Awards will have an effect on the box office. This movie was always going to be a tough sell (especially in early January).

Also opening wide this week is the canine pic "A Dog's Way Home." No big stars. No slick marketing gimmick. No "cool" factor. No problem?

Based on the performance of "A Dog's Purpose" (from the same author who wrote "A Dog's Way Home") in January of 2017 I think this film will end up in good shape this weekend. "A Dog's Purpose" grossed $18.2m on its opening weekend and ended up with a final domestic tally of $64.5m. I don't expect "A Dog's Way Home" to soar quite that high but it should end up in the low teens. At FB$207 it's a potentially viable lineup anchor and is worth a look.

Speaking of dogs I can honestly say the recent semi-resurgence of Keanu Reeves owes a huge debt to the adorable puppy at the beginning of "John Wick." If the Russian mobsters hadn't killed his dog Wick wouldn't have come out of retirement to give Reeves his only two box office hits of the past decade. Outside of the "John Wick" franchise Reeves' films have struggled to find an audience over the last ten years. With the exception of the two "John Wick" films Reeves has appeared in fourteen movies over the past ten years and the only one to get a wide release was "47 Ronin" (which only grossed $38.4m on a rumored $175m budget).

Let's play a game. Here is a list of fifteen movies. Thirteen of them are actually Keanu Reeves movies. Two of them I made up. Without cheating via IMDb can you spot the two fakes:

The Whole Truth
To The Bone
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee
Man of Tai Chi
Henry's Crime
Destination Wedding
The Bad Batch
A Happening of Monumental Proportions
Generation Um
The Devil You Know
Knock Knock
The Neon Demon

The point of this exercise is that Reeves has a film titled "Replicas" opening this weekend. Seriously, I didn't make this one up. But I do think it will end up on the aforementioned list which makes people say, "was that really a Keanu Reeves movie?" The film is opening to very little fanfare (I've barely seen any ads/promotion) and it feels that struggling distributor Entertainment Studios is dumping this film in early January and praying that it miraculously delivers some box office. I wouldn't hold your breath. Even with a cheap price tag of FB$58 I can't come up with a compelling reason to screen "Replicas." And if you think I'm bagging on Keanu does it make you feel better to know that I'll be in line on opening weekend for "John Wick 3" on May 17th?

Last but not least the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic "On The Basis of Sex" is expanding into 2,000 theaters this weekend (up from 112). The film has done modest platform business in grossing $1.6m over the past two weeks. Unfortunately the film has been virtually shut out of the awards discussion, which doesn't bode well for its long-term box office chances. Several months ago I thought Felicity Jones seemed like a safe bet to at least earn a Best Actress nomination for her portrayal of the young RBG. But for whatever reason it failed to catch on with critics or awards bodies. "On The Basis of Sex" could surprise and pull in better than expected this business this weekend but at a cost of FB$135 I can't trust it for my Fantasy Movie League lineup.

Weekend Picks

My picks for this weekend's top 5 in total box office (this week's cost in FML Bux in parentheses):

Aquaman (FB$269)
A Dog's Way Home (FB$207)
The Upside (FB$188)
Mary Poppins Returns (FB$132)
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (FB$127)

Bonus Pick of the Week: "Bohemian Rhapsody" (FB$56) The Queen biopic had quite a week. In addition to capturing two Golden Globes (including the award for best drama) it was also the FML bonus picture. I'm guessing Fox is prouder of the two globes but to each his own. Based on the big wins and with Oscar nomination voting opening this week, I can see Fox making an additional push to get this film a Best Picture nomination (which seemed like a long-shot just a few weeks ago). If Fox tries to build on this Globes momentum with some additional theaters I can see "Bohemian Rhapsody" being in the bonus hunt once again.

Coming Attractions

Nineteen years is a long time to complete a trilogy but I'm hoping M. Night Shyamalan saved the best for last with the release of "Glass." And I'm not exactly going out on a limb here but this will be the first big box office smash of 2019.

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