Box Office Guy

Patrick Reardon

Ouch. Last weekend was ugly at the box office. "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" was the only one of the five new releases last weekend to exceed expectations ($20.9m). "Dora" was lost ($17.4m), "The Art of Racing in the Rain" has Disney wanting to abandon all inherited 20th Century Fox projects ($8.1m), "Brian Banks" couldn't get out of movie jail ($2.2m) and "The Kitchen" was one of the biggest disasters of the year ($5.5m). Too many new movies? Probably. Will Hollywood learn from their mistake? No chance since this weekend features FIVE new releases once again. This could get even uglier than last weekend.

"The Angry Birds Movie 2" is a follow up to the 2016 with the exact same title (sans the "2"). The original had a $38.2m opening on its way to a $107.5m domestic total (modest by animated standards). I used to waste a lot of time play the mobile version of Angry Birds several years ago but grew tired of it after a while. I sense I'm not alone.

Over the past three years I don't believe the Angry Birds property has raised its Q rating in the pop culture zeitgeist, which is why I'm expecting a steep box office dip for the sequel. In a world where "The Secret Life of Pets 2" couldn't even make 50% of the total of the original and even "Toy Story 4" was down from its predecessor (when adjusted for inflation), I don't see how "The Angry Birds Movie 2" reverses this trend. Look for an opening in the mid-high teens this weekend. Fortunately for Fantasy Movie League players "Birds 2" opened on Tuesday (to a lukewarm $2.6m) so they'll have a decent sample size to use when determining whether the birds justify the cost of FB$201. Considering the rest of this weeks slate is pretty tepid it might be worth the risk.

The FML pricing gods must know something that I don't (happens all the time). But they have "47 Meters Down: Uncaged" priced at FB$202 (the highest priced option in all of FML this weekend). The original "47 Meters Down" did adequate business in 2017 ($11.2m opening, $44.3m domestic total). Not bad for a fairly low budget genre film, but hardly a runaway success. To justify the FB$202 price tag it you need to be confident that it can reach the mid-high teens. I just don't see it.

Even though the original didn't have a ton of star power it at least starred Mandy Moore who had a little heat on her following the first season of "This is Us" (the most successful rookie drama that season). Whereas this sequel is devoid of star power (unless you're the president of the John Corbett fan club). And, even though they cast the daughters of Sylvester Stallone and Jamie Foxx, that doesn't necessarily mean their dad's fans will follow them.

Granted the sharks are the real stars here but man eating aquatic creatures had a tough time earlier this summer. The well reviewed "Crawl" only managed a $12m opening last month and looks like it's going to top out around $40m domestically. I have a hard time seeing "Uncaged" improving upon these numbers and I think it has a potentially disastrous floor. At FB$202 there are better values out there. It would have to put up some shocking numbers on Thursday night to make me reconsider.

The wild card this weekend is "Good Boys," an R-rated comedy from producer Seth Rogen. I'm leading with Rogen here because "Superbad" (which Rogen co-wrote, co-executive produced and co-starred) is easily the best comp for this film. On this same weekend twelve years ago, "Superbad" opened up with $33.1m on its way to a highly profitable $121.5m domestic run. In the process it cemented producer Judd Apatow's place as the king of film comedy, expanded Rogen's growing clout, and hurled Jonah Hill onto the Hollywood A-list. But whereas "Superbad" followed the shenanigans of two high schoolers (Hill was actually in his mid 20s when he shot the film), "Good Boys" has a much trickier obstacle to overcome: it's core cast is a trio of twelve year olds that are actually being played by twelve year olds.

But despite a core cast of preteens this film definitely earns its R-rating:

Is it possible all the funny parts are in the trailer? Potentially, but my gut says the film will be funny. After all this is the same creative team that drew an audience for what was essentially a vulgar (but hilarious) Pixar movie ("Sausage Party" $34.3m opening, $97.7m domestic total). But will adult audiences plunk down money for a movie starring twelve-year-olds that isn't targeted at twelve-year-olds?

I honestly don't know, which is why "Good Boys" is the biggest wild card this weekend. I can see an opening that approaches the $20m neighborhood. I can also see it failing to clear $10m. It's a high-risk, high-reward play. Watch the Thursday night preview numbers carefully. If it performs significantly above the competition it might be worth the roll of the dice at FB$171. If not, you're probably better off with those kid-friendly animated birds and holdovers.

Also opening (semi) wide this weekend is the feel-goof film "Blinded by the Light." The plot revolves around a teenager of Pakistani descent growing up in 1980s England, who uses the music of Bruce Springsteen as his spiritual guide. The film garnered great buzz on the film festival circuit and reviews have been stellar thus far. But, unfortunately, the film doesn't seem to have any momentum behind it.

Comparisons to "Yesterday" were inevitable but this is a very different film. Whereas "Yesterday" was a whimsical fantasy/love story with a great marketing hook ("what if only one person on earth remembered The Beatles?"), "Blinded by the Light" is more of a traditional coming of age story based on the memoir of a British-Pakistani journalist. But despite garnering better reviews ("Blinded" currently sports a 92% on rotten tomatoes), I don't expect it to come anywhere near the opening of "Yesterday" ($17m).

With so many options this weekend and a low-ish theater count (an estimated 2,000+) I think it's going to be tough for "Blinded" to rise about the $5m-$7m range. Word of mouth should give it decent legs in the weeks to come but I have a tough time seeing it get off to a fast start. I'm pulling for the film to find an audience but it's a risky play at FB$77.

And last (and quite possibly least), "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" is opening this weekend. The film is based on the best selling novel, which chronicles a woman who disappears from her suburban life to reignite her creative passions. Although the film features a talented ensemble (Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup, Kristen Wiig, etc.) none of them move the box office needle. And even though it's directed by the well respected/namey Richard Linklater, he's only had once bonafide box office hit in his entire career ("School of Rock," $81.3m domestic total).

With so much competition, a lackluster marketing campaign (who is this movie for?), a low theater count (an estimated 2,400) and zero buzz (still under a critic embargo as of Wednesday afternoon) I think "Bernadette" will have trouble breaking the $5m mark this weekend. By this time next week "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" will become a self-fulfilling prophecy at the box office.

Weekend Picks

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

  1. The Angry Birds Move 2 (FB$201)
  2. Good Boys (FB$171)
  3. Hobbs & Shaw (FB$174)
  4. The Lion King (FB$145)
  5. Dora and the Lost City of Gold (FB$120)

Bonus Pick of the Week: "Good Boys" (FB$171) As mentioned above it's risky. But of all the newcomers I think this is the one with the best chance of exceeding expectations. We're nearly two thirds of the way through 2019 and there has yet to be an R-rated comedy that has truly connected with audiences (unless you want to reach for the modestly successful retread "What Men Want"). I think "Good Boys" has the potential to fill that void and worm its way into the bonus hunt.

Coming Attractions

Next weekend instead of another five wide release bloodbath moviegoers will have a mere trio of rookies to choose from. A violent game of hide and go seek breaks out in "Ready Or Not" (opens Wednesday), some sort of obstacle is overcome in the faith-based "Overcomer," and Gerard Butler is back for third time as the world's unluckiest secret service agent in "Angel Has Fallen."

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