Box Office Guy

Patrick Reardon

This feels like the calm before the "Avengers" box office storm makes landfall on April 26th. But before we find out the collective fates of our favorite super heroes there are a couple more weeks of tepid April box office to get through. This weekend there are four new wide releases that will attempt to dethrone "Shazam!" (highly unlikely). Up first is a reboot I'm not sure we actually needed.

Lionsgate's "Hellboy" is a reboot of the hit franchise from the early 2000s. Wait a minute, are we sure this was really a "hit" franchise?

The first "Hellboy" was released in April 2004 and had a $23.2m opening on its way to a domestic total of $59.6m. Considering it had a reported budget of $66m those box office returns aren't great. So it must have a mint internationally, right? Surprisingly no. It only grossed $39.7m overseas, making this the rare 21st century fantasy/action/comic-book movie that made less internationally than it did domestically. I can only guess that the home video numbers for "Hellboy" were strong because four years later a sequel arrived.

"Hellboy II: The Golden Army" arrived in July 2008 and improved upon the performance of its predecessor. But not by much. "The Golden Army" enjoyed a $34.5m opening weekend and ended up with a final domestic tally of $76m. But with a higher production budget of $85m the film was far from profitable. Even though the international numbers were stronger ($84.4m) they weren't mighty enough to warrant a third installment.

Flash forward eleven years and Lionsgate is trying to bring "Hellboy" back to life. Original director Guillermo del Toro and star Ron Perlman are out and Neil Marshall and David Harbour (of "Stranger Things" fame) are in. However, the most important change with this new reiteration of "Hellboy" is the rating.

Whereas the first two "Hellboy" movies were rated PG-13 this new version is rated-R. This will please fan boys since it allows "Hellboy" to stay more faithful to its comic book roots, but it also makes it less accessible to younger viewers. Between competition from "Shazam!," anticipation for "Avengers," a lack of interest from the original films and a lack of overall buzz; I'm not big on the box office outlook for "Hellboy." I think this one is for diehard fans only and I think it's going to struggle in the low-mid teens this weekend. With a cost of FB$228 I think there are better values elsewhere.

Also opening wide this weekend is the comedy "Little" starring Issa Rae and Regina Hall. The film is the latest in the resilient body-switching sub-genre (ala "Big," "13 Going on 30," "17 Again," etc.). It wouldn't surprise me if 100 years from now there were only four types of films being produced: superhero movies, low budget horror, animated kids fare and body switching comedies.

Rae has made an impact on the small screen with her HBO show "Insecure" which is about to enter its fourth season, but this is her first test on the big screen. Although "Insecure" is critically acclaimed and has a loyal following, it isn't a particularly large following. The third season of "Insecure" only averaged around 650k viewers per episode. Even if every one of these viewers bought a ticket for "Little" this weekend (average cost of a movie ticket is $9.03) that would only come out to about $5.9m.

To hedge against Rae's untested star power Universal is wisely marketing the film as "From The Producers of Girls Trip and Night School" and is playing up the films physical comedy. I think the film is headed for the mid-teens this weekend. But in order to make an impact in FML this weekend it will need to hit the high-teens (or higher) and I'm not 100% convinced it can get there. Based purely on the way its priced (FB$230), I'm leery of "Little" this weekend.

The third new wide release of the weekend is the animated film "Missing Link" from Laika Studios (Annapurna is distributing). It looks like pretty standard animated fare with an impressive collection of vocal talent (Hugh Jackman, Zack Galifianakis, Zoe Saldana, etc.). Considering this is the first animated film that Annapurna has distributed (they've struggled since becoming a distributor two years ago) it would seem like "Missing Link" would be poised to under-perform. But two reasons give me pause to bet against it.

The first is the fact that "Missing Link" is from Laika Studios. The stop motion animation studio has released five feature length films over the past fourteen years. These films have had an average opening of $16m and the lowest opening weekend they've had was $12.6m for "Kubo and the Two Strings." With a cost of FB$155 "Missing Link" only needs to sniff the low-teens to be a factor this weekend.

The other reason that gives me pause is that a month ago I foolishly underestimated the power of parents wanting to shut their kids up for ninety minutes when I low-balled the box office chances for "Wonder Park." In a world where "Wonder Park" can have a $15.8m opening weekend I see no reason why "Missing Link" can't get within striking distance of this number.

The fourth and final new wide release this weekend is the young adult thriller "After." I haven't seen a single ad for this film and haven't heard even an inkling about it. When in doubt, go to the tape .

So is this "Twilight" without glittery vampires? "Fear" without Mark Wahlberg? I have no idea what this movie is and who it's for. This distributor (Aviron) had a dud this past January with "Serenity" ($4.4m opening, $8.5m domestic total) but at least that film had enough star power from Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway to put it on people's radars. With "After" it looks like they're headed for their second box office misfire in a row. Even at FB$89 I can't recommend screening it since its floor is so dangerously low.

As you might have gathered I'm not 100% sold on any of this weekends new releases. I think "Shazam!" is still a viable anchor and I believe "Captain Marvel" will remain steady over the next couple of weeks. They're not sexy picks but I think a super-hero laden lineup is the way to go 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. Shazam! (FB$334)
  2. Hellboy (FB$228)
  3. Little (FB$230)
  4. Missing Link (FB$155)
  5. Pet Sematary (FB$150)

Bonus Pick of the Week: "Missing Link" (FB$155) High risk, high reward. If it can perform like previous Laika films it should be in bonus contention (thanks to a high 3,500+ theater count). There is risk here because occasionally animated films like this fall flat (i.e. "Norm of the North," "The Wild Life," "Rock Dog") but for the most part computer animated kids flicks are a pretty safe bet.

Coming Attractions

It looks like "The Nun" and "Annabelle" have some competition in the form of the horror film "The Curse of La Llorona." Elsewhere Chrissy Metz stars is the faith-based "Breakthrough" and Disney Nature puts some adorable "Penguins" on display. My guess is there will be marching involved.

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