Much like Flounder in “Animal House” rubbing his hands together near the end of the movie and screaming, “This is gonna be great!,” it’s always amusing to watch the game of high stakes studio chess when we have weekends like this one where there’s a battle for the top spot at the box office. And now that it’s a three way steel cage match, this week the game gets even more complicated. Studios all want press for having “won” the weekend even if the final numbers say otherwise come Monday, so they will try to stretch those reported grosses (hopefully) just far enough to outdistance their competition. Both mainstream and industry news outlets report the weekend estimates but only industry websites report the Monday finals, or actuals.
“Kingsman: Golden Circle”, “American Made” and “It” all looked to come in at roughly the same $17 million total so it was Sunday Funday waiting for who would blink first and report their number. That studio was Fox announcing a $17 million take for “Kingsman”. Then Universal chimed in with a stretch-the-rubber-band $17 million reported number for “American Made”. But the best was saved for last as Pennywise strolled in and claimed a $17.3 million weekend, grabbing the box office crown. (Insert stuffy British aristocratic accent here) Well played, sir.
Getting back to the new openings, Tom Cruise continues to head in the wrong direction with his non-“Mission: Impossible” openings as “American Made” became his lowest debut since “Rock of Ages” days. A B+ Cinemascore and a Rotten Tomatoes (RT) number of 87 proved that Mr’s Cruise and Doug Liman made a pretty darn good film, but unfortunately one that most Americans opted to ignore.
Sony’s Where-Are-They-Now Tour 2016/17 hit a new nadir with a DOA $6.7 million opening for the new version of “Flatliners”. A Cinemascore of B- wasn’t terrible, especially for what could be considered a horror film, but the film’s RT score was, umm, umm, umm, zero. Nada. Nyet. Zilch. Not a sausage. No wonder there was a news blackout on critic reviews until day of opening and no Thursday night late shows. I envisioned every critic in America tied up in a warehouse in Piscataway, New Jersey all last week and finally released Friday morning. Their last minute scramble (and I do mean last minute) to get more than the 2,100 they had settled on Monday didn’t help either. John Nugent from Empire Magazine put it best when he wrote in his review, “The original Flatliners should have had a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ order attached to it.”
The news didn’t get boatloads better for the other openings this week as the expansion of “Battle of the Sexes” could only muster $3.4 million (in 1,213 locations) and, worse, the film’s once promising Oscar possibilities seem to have quickly faded. “Til Death Do Us Part” opened to a respectable per location average (PLA) of $2,790 in 562 locations but Pure Flix’s faith based film, “A Question of Faith”, didn’t have many answers for moviegoers and barely topped the $1 million mark.
Finally, the Bollywood title “Judwaa 2” grossed $605,000 in 193 locations and Dame Judi Dench’s “Victoria and Abdul” almost cracked the top 10 while in only 77 theatres.
In other items of note…
- NCM debuted their new pre-show this past weekend, entitled Noovie. The company also announced a partnership with Disney to provide original, behind-the-scenes content for the service.
- AMC Theatres have now officially bought into Virtual Reality with a $20 million deal with VR startup Dreamscape;
- Lost among last week’s release schedule changes was that A24 moved their Greta Gerwig directed drama, “Lady Bird” up to November 3rd. Did anyone else notice that on that date we have both “LBJ” and “Lady Bird”? Get it?
- Later this week or by Friday, “It” will have reached the USD $300 million plateau;
OK, time to check out the Gang of Three that will attempt to lay claim to the box office throne this week.
“Blade Runner 2049” (WB)—35 years ago, director Ridley Scott gave us a look into the future with the original “Blade Runner”, a film that produced widely divergent reactions from movigoers. Some considered the film a masterpiece of sci-fi and one of the truly groundbreaking films of the 1980s. Some, and I have to apologize that I include myself in this category, never quite “got” the film, much to the abject horror of my friends. Despite the movie’s place in American film culture, it only grossed USD $27 million in its initial run, though it was brought back two additional times and enjoyed a robust afterlife in the ancillary market. Harrison Ford returns and teams up with Ryan Gosling in a plot that hopefully this time the Replicant challenged can understand. Ridley Scott is back but only as producer as directing chores have landed in the lap of Denis Villeneuve. Jared Leto also co-stars. Sean Young did not return, which just cemented my belief in an All-Being.
The Verdict: Early reactions have included such phrases as “monumental”, “visually orgasmic” and “one of the classics of modern cinema”. “Battlefield Earth” this is not. The current RT score is hovering in the mid 90’s and exhibitor screening reactions, though muzzled by WB’s gag order, were excellent as well. Presales numbers are very strong and the word around the industry is that it could very well hit that half century mark. Let’s say it does barely get there and do USD $53 million, which, for those of you scoring at home, is 8.6 times what the original opened to.
“The Mountain Between Us” (Fox)—Director Hanny Abu-Assad may not be a household name but he did helm the outstanding “Omar” and if there has to be yet another plane-crashes-in-the-snowy-mountains movie then at least we should thank Fox for making the two leads Kate Winslet and Idris Elba. I don’t know how the film ends but I’m holding out hope for these two crazy kids to get married so their friends can ask, “so how did you two meet?”.
The Verdict: Elba and Winslet aren’t box office gold by themselves. It has to be as part of a grander concept film or with other big name actors. This feels like it could just slip under the radar. The RT score is in the low 70s and exhibitor reaction was good but not great. Double digits? Probably not. $8 million.
“My Little Pony: The Movie” (LG)—For any parent who felt that “The Care Bears Movie” had too much sex and violence we present for your approval, “My Little Pony: The Movie”. I’d love to relay the plot but after I read the first five words of the synopsis, “A dark force threatens Ponyville”, I nearly lost my will to live and gave up. The film features the vocal talents of Emily Blunt (who must have kids this age) Liev Schreiber (who must have kids this age) and Kristen Chenoweth, who thanks to an odd federal law must voice at least one character in every animated film until 2019. And not for nothing but who thought making this film, clearly geared toward the I-just-graduated-from-training-pants audience, come in at nearly 100 minutes was a good idea? This isn’t “Saving Private Ryan”, get ‘em in and get ‘em out before they take a full blown nutty in the aisles.
The Verdict: All kidding aside, this harmless little movie could attract a (very) young girl audience and there are worse things a parent could do with their Saturday than to take their little princess to see “My Little Pony”. $6 million.
“The Florida Project” (A24)– Willem Defoe stars in this well reviewed childhood drama.
On the EVENT CINEMA front this week, Tuesday we have “La Boheme” from the Royal Opera House in the UK & Ireland and the inspiration film, “Mully” here in the States. Thursday brings us the anime title, “No Game No Life Zero” in the US and the National Theatre Live encore of “Hamlet” in the UK. Finally, get the prune juice and tapioca pudding ready at the concession stands because the biggest Event Cinema presentation of the week by far is next Saturday’s season opener of The Met Opera from New York featuring Bellini’s “Norma”. Just to give you a hint as to who your clientele will be, many attendees on Saturday were probably alive when Vincenzo Bellini wrote the opera.
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