Box Office Guy

Patrick Reardon

I remember the first time I read the name "John Wick." It was the autumn of 2013. I received a random call from a former colleague of mine asking if I had George Clooney's cell phone number. After having a good laugh I sarcastically explained that George and I weren't particularly close. Although we met once, it wasn't exactly memorable (for him at least). After asking why this person needed George's number they explained that they heard a rumor that Mr. Clooney had access to geo-location satellite. They were hoping to use this satellite to locate one of their journalist friends who may have gone missing in a far off place. This is completely true and probably doesn't even crack my top 100 of strange requests I've received working in and around show business.

While I couldn't put them it touch with Clooney directly, I said I might know someone who could get them in touch with someone in his inner circle. So I texted another former colleague and she got me the contact information for George's producing partner. Better than nothing. And since I hadn't seen this former colleague in a while we exchanged a few more texts to catch up. I asked what she was working on and she wrote that she was in New York working on a movie titled, "John Wick." I thought to myself, "what the hell is John Wick?"

Flash forward to a little over a year later and mystery man "John Wick" was getting ready to hit theaters. At first glance it looked like a stylish, run-of-the-mill Keanu Reeves action flick. But then is started getting good reviews and solid buzz all over social media. So I checked it out on opening weekend and was stunned to stumble into the next viable action movie franchise.

The original "John Wick" didn't pull in blockbuster business. It opened up with $14.5m and ended up with a domestic tally of $43m, which was good but not great once your factor in the films $20m budget. It was right on the bubble for a proper sequel. But then strong home video sales and non-stop airings on HBO grew the cult of Wick and in the coming months proved that demand for a sequel was stronger than expected (this phenomenon is also know as "The Austin Powers Effect").

When "John Wick: Chapter 2" arrived in February 2017 it more than doubled the numbers of its predecessor ($30.4m opening, $92m domestic total). And based on the buzz it's been generating, it appears that "John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum" is also going to improve upon the performance of its predecessor. Compared to the previous two films, hit-starved Lionsgate is truly treating this like a event, hence the prime late spring/early summer release date and expanded theater count (an estimated 3,700+, up over 500 from "Chapter 2"). I expect "Parabellum" to clear the $50m mark and it's my clear lineup anchor for this weekend. More importantly this will ensure a "John Wick 4" sometime in 2021.

Also opening in theaters this weekend is "A Dog's Journey" which is a direct sequel to 2017's "A Dog's Purpose," but isn't a predecessor to "A Dog's Way Home" which came out earlier this year even though it was written by the same author (W. Bruce Cameron). Confused yet? I'll do my best to untangle

"A Dog's Purpose" starred Dennis Quaid and the vocal talents of Josh Gad. The 2017 Universal flick had a solid $18.2m opening on its way to a very respectable domestic haul of $64.3m (on a reported $22m budget). Then earlier this year "A Dog's Way Home" had an $11.3m opening and a $42m domestic total. I honestly though it was a sequel to "Purpose" but not exactly. Although the film had the same producer (Gavin Polone) and same source material author (W. Bruce Cameron,) it was released by Sony and didn't feature either Quaid or Gad.

This weekend, "A Dog's Journey" picks up where a "A Dog's Purpose" left off (with Quaid and Gad back in the fold). I think the close proximity to "A Dog's Way Home" is going to prevent "Journey" from reaching the heights of the original film. I'm not sure audiences are eager to rush out to see another "A Dog's" movie, especially since they didn't exactly turn out in droves just four months ago. I expect an opening in the $10m-$12m range with a pretty limited ceiling which doesn't make it an attractive option this weekend. Plus, if you're dying to get your canine fix, it appears that "John Wick: Chapter 3" makes excellent use of dogs.

The final new wide release this weekend is "The Sun is Also a Star," an adaptation of the popular young adult novel of the same name. Sometimes it's tough to gauge the box office viability of these adaptations since they're never present on my personal reading queue. For every smash like "The Fault in Our Stars" ($48m opening) there are three titles that don't break through the clutter ("After," Midnight Sun," and "Before I Fall" have a combined domestic box office TOTAL of $34m). Based on the low theater count (an estimated 2,200+) and a quiet marketing campaign (aside from a few billboards I've barely seen any ads) my guess is it's clearly going to fall into the latter category of young adult adaptations. I expect an opening in the $5m-$7m range, which isn't good enough for me to screen it at a cost of FB$96.

For my FML lineup this weekend, in "Wick" I trust. I don't expect "Detective Pikachu" to have much of a hold and I think the box office will be top heavy with "Wick" and "Endgame." I plan to use "Wick" as my anchor, a screen of "Endgame" a screen of "Long Shot" and filler. It would take some pretty awful Thursday night numbers to push me away from a "Wick" based strategy. I expect John Wick to get the job done. He always does…

Weekend Picks

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

  1. John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (FB$538)
  2. Avengers: Endgame (FB$378)
  3. Pokémon Detective Pikachu (FB$334)
  4. A Dog's Journey (FB$173)
  5. The Sun is Also a Star (FB$96)

Bonus Pick of the Week: "John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum" (FB$528) If reports start trickling in on Saturday morning that "Wick" is headed for a $60m opening, would I be surprised? Mildly, but far from shocked. The fact that this is even in play makes "Parabellum" an easy bonus pick this weekend.

Coming Attractions

Even though it feels like summer movie season is now a year round event, next weekend (Memorial Day) is the true start of the traditional summer blockbuster season. The biggest new release is a highly risky live action remake of the Disney classic "Aladdin" (with Will Smith is genie mode). I'm still on the fence with this one. It could keep the Disney hit machine rolling or it could be the first true dud of summer. More detailed "Aladdin" talk next week in our annual FML summer movie preview. Elsewhere in theaters Olivia Wilde makes her directorial debut with the potential indie sleeper "Booksmart" and "Brightburn" looks to deliver a darker take on the superhero mythos.

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