Box Office Guy

Patrick Reardon

Last weekend "Dumbo" didn't soar, Jordan Peele wasn't quite able to avoid the typical second-weekend-horror-movie drop (but everything is gravy for "Us" going forward) and "Captain Marvel" was nice and steady. This weekend box office should remain solid (but not quite spectacular) thanks to a pair of semi-promising newcomers.

Full disclosure, I know virtually nothing about "Shazam!" With all due respect to D.C. super-fans (who are the most even-tempered, rational, self-aware, emphatic people found throughout the entire internet) I suspect I'm not alone. As always, when in question look to the theatrical trailer .

Okay, so it's like "Big" but if Josh Baskin had a lot more imagination and/or ambition? I'm not sold but I'm fully aware that I'm not the target audience for this film. Whereas most comic book movies prioritize targeting the eyeballs of young men (and older men who act like they're much younger men), "Shazam!" seems determined to capture family audiences, many of whom may have been put off by a steady stream of doom and gloom superhero movies (yes, I'm talking about you "Justice League!"). And I happen to agree with this strategy.

"Shazam!" isn't going to out-Marvel "The Avengers," empower like "Wonder-Woman," or push the envelope like "Deadpool," so why not lighten things up and go after family audiences? With this family friendly tone, an ultra-wide theater count (an estimated 4,100+), a one week head-start on the much darker "Hellboy" and a three week head-start on "Avengers: Endgame"; "Shazam!" should be able to carve out some decent business. I expect an opening right around $50m. Unfortunately I don't love the way it's priced (FB$674). In order to justify this cost, it's going to have to fly a lot higher than $50m, especially when you factor in the way I believe the weekend's next wide release is going to perform.

This weekends release slate also includes a remake of Stephen King's "Pet Sematary." This redo is arriving almost thirty years to the day after the release of the original film, which grossed $12m on its opening weekend on its way to a final domestic tally of $57.5m (23rd highest grossing film of 1989). When adjusted for inflation those numbers come out to about a $27m opening and a $130m domestic total. I believe this remake will have a similar opening weekend (but a smaller domestic haul overall).

Adaptations of King's works have run the box office gamut. He's had old school classic hits ("Carrie," "The Shining"), well reviewed films that garnered a decent sized audience ("Stand By Me," "Misery'), well reviewed films that nobody saw in a theater but everybody eventually saw on TNT or AMC ("The Shawshank Redemption"), profitable flicks you vaguely remember ("The Green Mile," "1408") and a lot of misses ("Thinner," "Maximum Overdrive," "Dreamcatcher," etc.).

Between a recent blockbuster ("IT" $327.5m domestic total, highest ever for a horror film), some well regarded streaming efforts ("Gerald's Game" on Netflix, "11.22.63." on Hulu), a promising upcoming slate ("IT: Chapter 2" and "Doctor Sleep" are set to hit theaters later this year), I think we're at the beginning of a Stephen King big screen renaissance. A group of talented young writer-directors who grew up reading King's work are taking the helm of many of these projects and are giving them the treatment they deserve (which wasn't always the case in the 80s and 90s). I expect this new iteration of "Pet Sematary" to be a beneficiary of the renewed interest in King on the big screen. Look for an opening in the mid-high $20s this weekend, with an even higher upside if word of mouth is good (early reviews have been positive thus far). At FB$334 I believe it's a viable anchor this weekend (especially if you have doubts about "Shazam!).

The third and final new wide release this weekend is "The Best of Enemies" starring Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell. The film is based on the true story of a civil rights activist squaring off with a senior member of the KKK over school integrations in early 1970s North Carolina.

The film has a good cast, intriguing subject matter and what appear to be solid production values. But do you know what it doesn't have? Much of a chance at the box office.

This is the type of film that could have thrived on HBO or a streaming service but made the costly choice of heading into theaters. Between a low theater count (an estimated 1,600+), a ton of competition (besides the two big new wide releases "Us," "Dumbo," and "Captain Marvel" are far from finished) and no critical/awards push to speak of (the fact that this type of movie was still under a critic embargo on Wednesday is not a good sign); I have a hard time seeing a path to victory for "The Best of Enemies" to succeed this weekend. The FML pricing gods have made it tempting at FB$80 but this is a stay away for me.

Weekend Picks

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

  1. Shazam! (FB$674)
  2. Pet Sematary (FB$334)
  3. Dumbo (FB$277)
  4. Us (FB$205)
  5. Captain Marvel (FB$139)

Bonus Pick of the Week: "Us" (FB$205) After its record-breaking opening weekend ($71.1m) it took a fairly steep dive in its second weekend (as horror movies often do) as it earned $33.2m. Even though it has direct horror competition in the form of "Pet Sematary" I expect "Us" to stabilize this weekend and I really like the way it's priced. If "Shazam!" and "Pet Sematary" both fall short of their ambitious pricing then I can see the tethered being very involved in the bonus hunt.

Coming Attractions

"Hellboy" rises from the ashes in an attempt to reboot the long dormant property, "Insecure" star Issa Rae tests her big screen drawing power in the comedy "Little" and Hugh Jackman and a cast of dozens (Zack Galifianakis, Emma Thompson, Timothy Olyphant, etc.) provide their voices to the animated family film "Missing Link."

Follow me on Twitter @TheBoxOfficeGuy