Box Office Guy

Patrick Reardon

Last weekend a pair of big budget movies ended up with wildly different results. Nostalgia fueled "Bad Boys For Life" to a stellar $73m over the 4-day MLK weekend. More importantly this box office performance made it possible that we might see a "Bad Boys" sequel twenty five years from now that takes place primarily in a Miami Beach retirement community. Elsewhere in theaters "Dolittle" proved that it was the film to beat….at the 2020 Razzie Awards. This weekend a pair of lower profile newcomers are hitting theaters with the hope of carving out some decent niche business.

Up first is the crime drama "The Gentleman" from director Guy Ritchie which is somewhat of a return to his filmmaking roots. After beginning his career with a string of four stylish gangster films (I'm purposely ignoring "Swept Away," love makes people do crazy things) Ritchie made the transition into bigger studio fare. While his crime flicks were mostly critically acclaimed and have scores of admirers, none of them really lit up the box office:

1999 - Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels ($3.4m domestic total)
2000 - Snatch ($30.1m domestic total)
2007 - Revolver ($84k domestic total)
2008 - RocknRolla ($5.7m domestic total)

Ritchie then adjusted his style to adapt to more mainstream fare with mixed results:

2009 - Sherlock Holmes ($209m domestic total)
2011 - Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows ($186.8m domestic total)
2015 - The Man From U.N.C.L.E. ($45.4m domestic total)
2017 - King Arthur: Legend of the Sword ($39.2m domestic total)

After the disappointment of Ritchie's non-Sherlock films he hit the jackpot last year with "Aladdin," which easily ended up being the biggest hit of his career ($355.6m domestic total, over one BILLION dollars worldwide). But despite the tremendous success of "Aladdin" it never felt like a "Guy Ritchie Movie." "The Gentleman" feels like a Ritchie's way of cleansing his soul from blue genies and family friendly shenanigans to get back to what made him famous in the first place (plus with the cash he made from "Aladdin" he can pretty much do whatever he wants in the near future).

I haven't had the chance to see "The Gentlemen" yet but having seen Ritchie's previous gangster movies, it's probably safe to say there are drug dealers, guns, henchman, unusual/grisly deaths, a plethora of coincidences, a smattering of chance encounters, lots of quick cuts and a smorgasbord of indecipherable accents. In other words, this feels like a "Guy Ritchie Movie." While this may delight his fans, it's not a great formula for box office gold (see the results above). Even though Ritchie is working with a pretty stacked cast (Matthew McConaughey, Colin Farrell, Charlie Hunnam, Hugh Grant, etc.) and early reviews have been mostly positive this far; I have a tough time seeing "The Gentlemen" breaking through. This is a movie that is going to skew older and male, and "Bad Boys For Life" will still be the top choice for that demographic this weekend. With a cost of FB$170 "The Gentlemen" only needs to approach the low-mid teens to be worth screening in FML but I'm not entirely confident it can get there.

Also opening wide this weekend is the horror film "The Turning" which is based on the classic 1898 Henry James novella. I had to read this book in high school and I would have killed to have been able to use a modern horror movie as a study aid. The plot of the film revolves around a young governess (a fancy term for a nanny) played by Mackenzie Davis, who is hired to care for a pair of creepy kids in a scary old mansion. If you've never seen a horror movie, you'll be shocked to find out that this turns out to be a miserable job and all kinds of bad things start happening.

Despite its highbrow source material, "The Turning" isn't going to reinvent the horror movie wheel. While I still have stock in Mackenzie Davis (I think she's one great role away from stardom) she's not going to move the needle here. Ditto for Finn Wolfhard from "Stranger Things" as one of the creepy kids. But it's always foolish to completely dismiss the box office prospects for a horror film. Especially one that is rated PG-13 and doesn't have any competition for horror audiences (both "The Grudge" and "Underwater" quickly flamed out). Watch the Thursday night numbers carefully. If this looks headed towards $10m or less I would stay away. If it looks like it's projected for the $10m-$12m range (which is where my gut tells me it will land) then it might be worth a screen. If it looks like it can get to the teens find a way to make more room for it at FB$147.

For my Fantasy Movie League lineup I can't make a compelling case to stray from "Bad Boys For Life." Word of mouth has been strong and I don't think "The Gentlemen" is strong enough to siphon moviegoers away. As of right now I'm leaving towards 2x "Bad Boys," 1x "The Turning" (provided Thursday night previews aren't a disaster) and a boatload of my bonus pick (see below).

Weekend Picks

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

  1. Bad Boys For Life (FB$353)
  2. 1917 (FB$212)
  3. The Gentlemen (FB$170)
  4. Dolittle (FB$167)
  5. The Turning (FB$147)

Bonus Pick of the Week: "Parasite" (FB$29) It didn't deliver for me last weekend in the bonus hunt so of course I need to double down. After winning the big prize at the SAG awards this past Sunday night "Parasite" has surprisingly emerged as a potential Best Picture winner. With the Academy Awards just two weeks away I still think there is going to be a surge of people who still need to see "Parasite" before the big night. And with a low cost of FB$29 it's still a low risk proposition for the bottom of your Cineplex.

Coming Attractions

Super Bowl weekend is typically slow at the box office and 2020 won't be any different. The only new wide releases next weekend are the horror thriller "Gretel & Hansel" and the (horribly titled) Blake Lively revenge thriller "The Rhythm Section."

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