Box Office Guy

Patrick Reardon

Last weekend "Joker" continued to laugh his ass off to the tune of $55.9m (down a mere 42%), "The Addams Family" landed the family audience it was targeting ($30.3m) and "Gemini Man"….was released in theaters. I personally experienced a moment that perfectly encapsulates the tepid response to "Gemini Man."

Last weekend I went to a sparsely attended matinee of the Will Smith sci-fi action flick. There were roughly ten people in the audience including an older couple sitting in front of me. About ninety minutes into the film the woman started shaking her husband and uttered the words, "wake up, wake up, you're having a nightmare!" And I wasn't even that annoyed. In fact I was a little jealous because there was a good chance this old man's nightmare was more entertaining than what was up on the screen. Gemini Man: Come For Double Will Smith at a Jarring High Frame Rate, Stay to Catch Up on Sleep! Hopefully this weekends two new wide releases (both sequels) will fare better with audiences.

While both new wide releases this weekend are sequels, they exist for different reasons. "Maleficent: Mistress of Evil" exists almost solely because the first one made a ton of money. In May 2014 "Maleficent" had a $69.4m opening and ended up with a domestic tally of $241.4m (it also tacked on an additional $517.1m overseas). These numbers put it right in the middle of the pack amongst live-action Disney remakes. Not quite the heights of "Beauty and the Beast" ($504m domestically) or "The Jungle Book" ($364m domestically), but stronger than the likes of "Dumbo" ($114.8m domestically) or "Cinderella" ($201.2m domestically). The numbers for "Maleficent" were strong enough to justify a sequel but I don't believe there was a huge audience demand for another installment.

The 7.0 audience score on IMDb and 70% audience score on rotten tomatoes tells me that audiences merely liked "Maleficent," but didn't love it. Honestly, besides Angelina Jolie's performance in the title role was there anything particularly memorable about "Maleficent?" By the time it got to its third act it had morphed into a generic CGI-fest (as so many movies tend to do these days). I'm getting a lot of "Alice in Wonderland" vibes here, which was a prime example of, "seen by many, loved by few." Disney's live-action "Alice in Wonderland" from Tim Burton grossed $334.2m domestically (and over a billion dollars worldwide). But did you ever meet anybody who absolutely loved "Alice" and was dying for a sequel? Six years later the sequel "Alice Through the Looking Glass" cratered with a disastrous $77m domestically. I think "Mistress of Evil" could be looking at a similar fate.

Although the Disney marketing machine is strong enough to propel "Mistress of Evil" to the top spot this weekend, I think it's going to drop roughly 50% from its predecessor and will end up in the mid-high $30s this weekend. With a high cost of FB$559, I don't trust "Maleficent: Mistress of Evil" as a lineup anchor and I'll be seeking better value elsewhere.

The other new wide release this weekend is also a sequel but it exists for a different reason than "Maleficent": good old word of mouth. "Zombieland" did just fine at the box office. It opened in October 2009 with a healthy $24.7m and ended up a solid (but far from spectacular) $75.6m. Overseas business wasn't bustling ($26.8m). While these numbers were good (especially for a film with a budget in the low-mid $20s) they weren't strong enough to automatically fast track a sequel. But a few things have happened in the past ten years which bode well for the release of "Zombieland: Double Tap" this weekend:

The Film Has Gained a Lot of New Fans

If you've spent any time channel surfing over the past decade (believe it or not there are still some cable subscribers out there,) there is a good chance you've seen "Zombieland" in heavy rotation. Whenever a movie gets a lot of play on cable, it's for a simple reason: people are actually watching it. I think this helped "Zombieland" garner a lot of new fans over the years and helped stoke demand for a sequel.

The Cast and Crew Have Blown Up

Since the first "Zombieland", Emma Stone has gone from "that girl from Superbad" to as Oscar winning leading lady who is firmly on the A-list ("La La Land," "The Help," "The Favourite," etc.). Jesse Eisenberg has gone from nerdy "that guy" into nerdy "it guy" ("The Social Network," the "Now You See Me" movies, Lex Luthor in the D.C. universe). And while Woody Harrelson was already established when the original film was released, he has widened his audience over the past decade with roles in a slew of film/TV franchises: "Hunger Games," Planet of the Apes," "Now You See Me," "True Detective". Director Ruben Fleischer made his feature directorial debut with "Zombieland" and directed one of last year's biggest hits ("Venom" $856.1m worldwide gross). Writers Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick have also seen their careers skyrocket with the two "Deadpool" movies (grossed a combined $1.5 BILLION worldwide) and the upcoming high-profile Netflix film "6 Underground." They're all back for "Double Tap" and they should collectively protect the films floor.

With this demand from fans of the original, a high theater count (an estimated 3,500) and mostly positive early reviews, I expect "Zombieland: Double Tap" to end up in the high $20s this weekend which makes it a viable lineup anchor at FB$377. The only negative I see is that "Joker" is still going strong with the demographics that "Double Tap" is chasing.

For my FML lineup this weekend I'm leaning towards a hedge of 1x "Joker" and 1x "Zombieland: Double Tap." "Joker" held up shockingly well last weekend (a minor 42% drop) and I don't think it's going anywhere for a while. And as mentioned earlier I like the upside of "Zombieland." Watch the Thursday preview numbers closely to see how much of a threat "Double Tap" will be to the reign of "Joker."

Weekend Picks

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

  1. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (FB$559)
  2. Joker (FB$431)
  3. Zombieland: Double Tap (FB$377)
  4. The Addams Family (FB$251)
  5. Gemini Man (FB$126)

Bonus Pick of the Week: "Parasite" (FB$16) This one is all about an accurate screen count (which was unavailable as I was writing this). The buzzy Korean drama from director Bong Joon Ho ("Snowpiercer," "Okja") made a splash last weekend by grossing $384k in just three theaters ($128k per screen average). To be a relevant bonus play it probably needs to clear $1.2m. I think if it adds at least an additional 125 theaters this number is achievable.

Coming Attractions

With much of the country engaging in pre-Halloween festivities, next weekend should be a pretty quiet one at the box office. The horror-thriller "Countdown" will attempt to snag teens looking for a scare, Naomie Harris is on the run from both cops and criminals in the action-thriller "Black and Blue," and "The Current War: Director's Cut" is finally getting a release nearly two years after it sold at the Toronto Film Festival (due to a Harvey Weinstein fueled delay).

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