Box Office Guy

Patrick Reardon

Pennywise wasn't as strong the second time around but don't feel bad for the sassy homicidal clown. "It Chapter Two" still managed to post the second best numbers of all time for a horror movie (trailing only the first "It"). "Chapter 2" shouldn't have any problem floating to the top again but he's going to get a surprisingly lively challenge from J-Lo and a group of strippers.

Believe it or not, Jennifer Lopez has been in our lives for damn near a quarter of a century. In this time period she's starred in dozens of movies. She had a legit music career (which led to her transformation into "J-Lo"). Her Grammy dress became a thing of legend. She's been involved in a string of high profile relationships (Sean Combs, Ben Affleck, Alex Rodriguez, etc.). She was in a high profile marriage to a global superstar (Marc Anthony) and a low-profile marriage to a backup dancer (Cris Judd). She also starred in an NBC drama with Ray Liotta ("Shades of Blue") that somehow lasted three seasons yet I've never met anyone who has actually watched an episode. Love her or hate her, there's no denying that she's been one of the most famous human beings in the world over the past twenty-five years. However, her fame has never been commensurate with her box office track record.

Lopez has had her share of solid hits ("Maid in Manhattan" $94m, "Monster in Law" $82.9m), not-so-great movies that were profitable ("The Wedding Planner" $60.4m, "The Boy Next Door" $35.4m on a $4m budget), decent movies that never found a big audience ("Out of Sight" $37.6m) and one of the biggest bombs of all time ("Gigli" $6.1m). And, for the record, I have actually seen "Gigli" and can attest that it's genuinely terrible. In her up-and-down film career Lopez has never truly hit one out of the park (none of her films have ever eclipsed the $100m mark at the box office). Lopez will try to change that fact this weekend with the release of "Hustlers."

In "Hustlers", Lopez plays a former strip club employee who bands together with some of her former colleagues to turn the tables on their former Wall Street clientele. The film (based on a 2015 New York Magazine article) is essentially Robin Hood but with lap dances and stripper poles instead of a bow & arrow. This feels likes the right movie at the right time in 2019 and Lopez doesn't have to carry this one solo since she's part of a talented ensemble (Keke Palmer, Julia Stiles, Cardi B, etc.).

I think "Hustlers" is primed to be the best opening of Lopez' career (topping the $23.1m opening of "Monster-in-Law") due to the subject matter, cast, theater count (an estimated 3,100+), lack of competition ("It Chapter 2" will take a steep slide and is after a different audience), and the reviews have been largely positive coming out of its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. I don't love the way it's priced at FB$516 (the FML pricing gods are clearly on to the sleeper potential here). But if I'm trying to decide between "Hustlers" over-performing or "It Chapter Two" having a modest slide I'm leaning slightly towards "Hustlers."

"The Goldfinch" is based on the best-selling, Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Donna Tartt. To make a long (nearly 800 pages) story short it tells the tale of a young man who loses his mother while visiting an art museum and steals a rare Dutch painting from the debris. A rich Manhattan family then takes him in and he later ends up in a life of crime that revolves around art forgery. If this sounds like a tough sell that's probably because….this project is a tough sell. The closest comp I can think of is "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" (which was also based on a novel revolving around a young boy who loses a parent in a New York City bombing).

"Extremely Loud…" only grossed $31.8m domestically and had Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and a Best Picture nomination behind it. Its best week topped out at $10m (right after Oscar noms were announced) and I don't think "The Goldfinch" can reach that mark this weekend. "The Goldfinch" doesn't have nearly as much star power (nothing personal Ansel Elgort, Nicole Kidman, Jeffrey Wright, etc.) and awards seem like a long shot after a poorly reviewed world premiere in Toronto. Unless the fans of the book are being quiet and plan to rush out to see it this weekend (highly unlikely) I think "The Goldfinch" is really going to struggle. Even at FB$126 the floor is too dangerous for me to trust so I'll be steering clear.

There are only two viable lineup anchors this week. It's a choice between the safety of "It Chapter Two" or the potential upside of "Hustlers." The original "It" dropped 51% in its second weekend and I'm expecting a much steeper decline this time around. "Chapter 2" simply wasn't as good as the first film and I'm not expecting word-of-mouth to be as strong. Plus the 169-minute runtime will limit repeat viewings. So it looks like I'm going to roll with J-Lo. There's a sentence I never thought I'd write.

Weekend Picks

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

  1. It Chapter Two (FB$731)
  2. Hustlers (FB$516)
  3. The Goldfinch (FB$126)
  4. Good Boys (FB$71)
  5. Angel Has Fallen (FB$73)

Bonus Pick of the Week: "Brittany Runs a Marathon" (FB$37) This one is totally dependent on an accurate theater count (unavailable to me on Wednesday morning). The well-reviewed Jillian Bell comedy has been building steadily in limited release over the past four weeks. It cleared $1m last weekend in 230 theaters. If it can get into the $2m+ range this weekend (totally possible if it gets another significant theater bump) "Brittany" should be able to run itself into bonus contention.

Coming Attractions

Next weekend will be surprisingly crowded at the box office. Brad Pitt (fresh off of playing Cliff Booth) is headed into outer space to battle a global catastrophe (and some daddy issues) in "Ad Astra," the gang is all back in the big screen version of the popular cable drama "Downton Abbey," and everyone's favorite Vietnam vet turned semi-reluctant-mercenary killing machine is back for one last rodeo in "Rambo: Last Blood."

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