Box Office Guy

Patrick Reardon

As expected "Captain Marvel" had no trouble holding on to the top spot at the box office last weekend. But I foolishly dismissed the power of parents wanting to shut their kids up for 90 minutes and "Wonder Park" debuted with a better than expected $15.9m. But it's all in the past now since this upcoming weekend will belong to Jordan Peele.

Peele's "Us," the follow-up to his 2017 smash "Get Out" opens wide this weekend. All "Get Out" managed to do was gross $33.4m on its opening weekend, earn $176m domestically (on a reported $4.5m budget), get nominated for four Academy Awards (Peele won for Best Original Screenplay) and it instantly shot Peele into the realm of A-list filmmakers. So expectations are deservedly high for "Us."

Following up a splashy directorial debut can be quite a tricky high-wire act (ask Kevin Costner, Richard Kelly, John Singleton, etc.). But based on great buzz out the SXSW film festival and one of the best trailers in recent years.

Peele seems like he's avoided any kind of sophomore jinx. Most of the box office tracking I've seen thus far has "Us" in the $45m range with a "chance" at getting to $50m. I think it has more than just a "chance" to soar past that number. This feels like an event across all demographics, especially African-Americans (a demographic where tracking if often way off). I don't see it reaching the heights of something like "It" ($123.4m debut) but I wouldn't be shocked if it approached the same level of the recent iteration of "Halloween" ($76.2m opening).

It will cost you a pretty penny to screen "Us" in your FML Cineplex (FB$689) but my gut tells me it's the right play. This feels like the type of movie where you'll be kicking yourself on Sunday night if you didn't screen it. It's my clear anchor this weekend.

With "Us" certain to have a big weekend and "Captain Marvel" still going strong there are no other new wide releases set for this weekend. However, to celebrate the film's 20th anniversary Sony is putting "Cruel Intentions" back in theaters for a week. This seems like a bit of overkill for a film that only grossed $38.3m and was the 52nd highest grossing film of 1999 (between #51 "Anna and the King" and #53 "10 Things I Hate About You"). For perspective when you adjust these numbers for inflation "Cruel Intentions" would have grossed roughly $68m in 2018 dollars, which is about what non-future classics "Skyscraper" and "Book Club" grossed last year.

Although it's not opening up in enough theaters to make much of a box office impact, it gives me a chance to pull a few select excerpts from my March 1999 ‘The Box Office Guy' column back when Fantasy Movie League was still in its infancy (when you had to play on a desktop computer with a dial-up connection):

  • While I don't see it beating out "Analyze This" for the top spot it should easily earn more than "8mm." And is it just me or has Nicolas Cage been making some odd choices with his career lately?
  • After the disappointing one-two punch of "Fear" ($6.3m opening) and "Pleasantville" ($8.9m opening) there is little hope that Reese Witherspoon will ever be capable of opening a movie. Whereas Ryan Phillippe appears headed for a much bigger career. After the success of "I Know What You Did Last Summer" ($72.6m domestic total) and the criminally mis-marketed "54," Phillippe is clearly one role away from superstardom.
  • "Cruel Intentions" must make an impact this weekend since there is a murderers row of potential blockbusters opening wide next weekend: "The Rage: Carrie 2," "The Corruptor," "Baby Geniuses," "The Deep End of the Ocean," and "Wing Commander."
  • I like "Rushmore" for the bonus this week. The second film from Wes Anderson has been adding screens every week and has been holding very steady. At FB13 it's a good way to fill out the bottom of your FML Cineplex.
  • With "Saving Private Ryan" appearing to have the Best Picture Oscar in the bag, "Shakespeare in Love" appears to be losing steam. This downward trend should continue unless Harvey Weinstein pulls off some sort of miracle through campaigning or other criminal activity. At FB$34 "Shakespeare in Love" is a stay-away for me this 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. Us (FB$689)
  2. Captain Marvel (FB$399)
  3. Wonder Park (FB$134)
  4. Five Feet Apart (FB$92)
  5. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (FB$74)

Bonus Pick of the Week: "Us" (FB$689) Purely a gut feeling. It just feels like the type of movie where people on Monday morning are saying, "I knew it was going to do well, but not THAT well."

Coming Attractions

March box office will remain strong next week as Tim Burton's live action remake of the beloved Disney classic "Dumbo" flies into theaters. The faith-based "Unplanned" is also opening wide but won't put up much of a fight against a flying elephant, the tethered and Carol Danvers.

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