“Nevertheless, she persisted” is a phrase famously uttered by US Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell in reference to fellow Senator Elizabeth Warren back in February but it could also sum up “Wonder Woman”s quest to finally make it to the big screen, more than 75 years after debuting as an All Star Comics book, in addition to a fairly lethal dose of Hollywood misogyny. More on that film later.
As for this past Memorial Day weekend (still ongoing here in the States), Johnny Depp’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” was basically a tale of two hemispheres. As we predicted last week, North American grosses were a small percentage of the worldwide take and the four day North American tally of USD $75 million was hefty without being voluminous and down 30% from “Stranger Tides”. However, turn your gaze to the east, young man, and you’ll find that Depp & Co grabbed a booty of USD $275 million worldwide and that adds up to one of the most successful global openings ever. Yes ever.
This POTC actually fared a bit better in the audience reaction department than the previous effort, “Stranger Tides”. “DMTNT” popped an A-Cinemascore compared to B+ for ST. Don’t mind us if we don’t mention the film’s Rotten Tomatoes score, which on the bright side was far better than “Baywatch”.
Oh speaking of which, perhaps it’s time to stop trying to make feature films out of 70’s and 80’s TV shows. For every “Batman” there are a multitude of “Bewitched”, “Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle” and “Wild Wild West”s. Yes, “The Fugitive” was excellent but there was also “Chips”, “I Spy” and the positively dreadful “Mod Squad”. These films generally have zero in the nostalgia tank and audiences are catching on to the fact that if we were all dying to see feature film versions of Reagan era television shows, studios would have done so long ago. “Baywatch” was the latest casualty, coming in at USD $21 million for the four day weekend. In retrospect I guess Paramount felt they already had the men on board so let’s feature Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron in all the marketing and go for the female audience to try to make this a USD $50 million opening. What could go amiss?
Johnson is one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood today so this opening (or lack thereof) is a mildly perplexing. It may just be moviegoers signaling to Hollywood that they won’t him in just anything. And enough of finding old issues of TV Guide to fill out release schedules, ok?
Now that the boys have had their chance let’s see what the women can do.
“Wonder Woman” (WB)—Inconceivably, several industry publications had the opening of “Wonder Woman” at USD $50-60 million as late as 2-3 weeks ago. The highest I saw at that point was USD $65 million. Huh? If you looked closer and spoke with exhibitors about what their patrons were excited for, one film kept coming up time and time again, “Wonder Woman”. Shrewdly marketed by Warners, it looks like the studio and DC have perfectly positioned the film for a worldwide audience and should have a USD $100 million opening on their hands domestically and a sizeable take overseas as well. The first female superhero film (sorry, I don’t count “Catwoman”) which was also directed by a woman (Patty Jenkins), WW has been brilliantly patient in rolling out its marketing campaign and has effectively minimized the historical setting of the film. As “Baywatch” tried and failed to reach both men and women, WW should successfully run the gamut of gender and age demographics.
The Verdict: As previously mentioned, Warners has done a stellar job in marketing WW and the film will have very little in its way to divert moviegoers’ attentions. The last POTC that opened on Memorial Day, 2007’s “At World’s End”, dropped 61% on week two and “Dead Men Tell No Tales” figures to blow past that. Look out below. Couple that with the disappointment that was “Baywatch” and this past weekend’s 70%(!) drop on “Alien: Covenant” means Gal Gadot has the playing field to herself. Bracelets of Submission for everyone! USD $106 million.
“Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” (Fox/DK)—Not too subtely setting itself up for sequels, “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie”, invades local multiplexes and should be a hit with its intended age group, which hopefully does not extend past 9-10 year olds, otherwise I’d seriously worry about the future of the youth in this country. Kevin Hart and Ed Helms seem to lend their voices to every animated film and do so here because it’s been at least three months since either has done a movie voiceover.
The Verdict: Dreamworks Animation can open a film and Fox will fall into a lot more playdates this coming Tuesday now that exhibitors won’t have to put away much playtime for “Alien: Covenant”. Small town split screens of AC and “Wimpy Kid”, anyone? It’s been nine weeks since the last animated film (“Boss Baby”) came out and the lil ‘uns will be itching for a return to a face full of popcorn. USD $34 million.
Lionsgate/Pantelion has the road trip comedy, “3 Idiotas” opening on roughly 300-400 screens.
Lastly, I seldom recommend films in this weekly column but I have to go off script for a film that is finally opening here in the States from IFC. Late last year I saw British director Ken Loach’s “I, Daniel Blake”, a poignant drama about one man’s battle against unfair health care and employment systems in the north of England. It was the rare film that stuck with me long after the film’s gut-wreching conclusion.
Stand-up comedian Dave Johns and newcomer Hayley Squires give touching and remarkably honest performances as two people on the complete opposite ends of the age spectrum who have both been left behind by an uncaring political system that allowed them to fall between the cracks with meager chances of escaping. Despite being set in Newcastle England, “I, Daniel Blake” is especially relevant for American audiences, especially in light of today’s quagmire of a political landscape.
For years Loach has been the voice for the downtrotten and this film, which won last year’s Palme D’Or at Cannes, is a poignant look at frustration, hope, civility, decency and self-respect and of how we care for others in this world reflects who were are as human beings.
It is essential viewing.
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