It’s Hammer Time as Thor Smashes November Records While Moms’ Moms Party It Up. This Weekend at the Box Office.

By Patrick von Sychowski | November 5, 2017 8:09 pm PST
Box Office - Murder on the Orient Express, Daddys Home 2, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

This week Jim Amos is taking a well-deserved brake, having been proven right to be very bullish about “Thor: Ragnarok” and predicting the “A Bad Moms Christmas” box office haul to within a rounding error. Instead it falls to conductors and porters J. Sperling Reich and Patrick von Sychowski to drive the Box Office Prediction Express. What could possibly go wrong?

First stop is Taika Watiti’s firmly tongue-in-cheek third outing for the Norse God of Thunder which found worshipers amongst critics (93% Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences (Cinemascore A) alike. Paul Dergarabedian of comScore tells us that the films is “generating a rare 5 out of 5 star rating as it inspires a full 30% of moviegoers to vow to see it again in theaters while a whopping 31% say they will buy the film on Blu-Ray disc.” Expect Hollywood executives to convert to Old Norse religion en mass if Thor can revive the physical disc market. But in the meantime it should generate hefty business throughout November.

Our Celluloid Junkie Review Quote of the week, this week is from Bilge Ebiri of the Village Voice, who notes that “Like most of the better Marvel efforts, ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ feels like the work of a unique sensibility instead of a huddle of brand managers.” To put the box office success of “Thor: Ragnarok” into perspective, our friends at comScore have helpfully provided this Marvel box office track record for reference.

Meanwhile, “Bad Moms” celebrated Christmas with their mothers by taking no notice of the lesser critical (Rotten Tomatoes score of 32% – ouch!) and audience appreciation (Cinemascore B), earning around USD $20 million, only slightly down from the first one that took USD $23.8 million in its debut weekend. This film’s sweet spot was always going to be the weeks around Thanksgiving, leading into December and Christmas, rather than hours after Halloween had ended. A word of advice, don’t wait until Christmas to catch this one in the cinema. There is simply too much coming down the celluloid tracks.

In other items of note:

  • U.S. box office is still down year-on-year, but steaming ahead in the United Kingdom. UK Cinema Association (and UNIC) head Phil Clapp points out that adaptability, access and Alzheimer friendly screenings are all helping to create new audiences. All this and “Paddington 2” still to release;
  • Apparently Disney is charging North American exhibitors 65% of box office for the upcoming “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” along with a 5% penalty for any cinema which doesn’t keep the film in its largest auditorium for the first four weeks of release.  We explain why Disney can get away with such a move, and why there’s little theatre operators can do about it.

Now, to quote Jon Voight from the under-rated classic “Runaway Train” (screenplay by Akira Kurusawa, who would have guessed?), “Win, lose, what’s the difference?” – here are the prospects for this coming weekend.

“Murder on the Orient Express” (Fox)—Steaming (not streaming) into town, Kenneth Branagh’s 65mm re-make of the Agatha Christie who-dunnit has the most celebrities crammed into a single carriage, since, well the 1974 “Murder on the Orient Express”. The original won an Oscar for Ingrid Bergman – who needed a voice coach to have a more pronounced Swedish accent – and was the only Agatha Christie film adaptation that the author approved of. Will this one do better?

The Verdict: Adult audiences have been poorly served at the multiplex since “Dunkirk” this summer and though they seem to have stayed away from “Blade Runner 2049,” there is reason to be optimistic that that they will be prepared to board this one. A star-studded cast and lavish production values makes this more than Masterpiece Theatre for the big screen, even if Rotten Tomatoes languishes at 65%. This is also the first major release in 70mm since “Dunkirk,” though it won’t play on Imax because “Thor: Ragnarok” has all the screens tied up. All aboard for USD $20 million.

“Daddy’s Home 2” (PAR)—Deja vu at the multiplex as bad moms and their badder moms are replaced with bad dads and more inter-generational slapstick. Mark Wahlberg / Mel Gibson and Will Ferrell / John Lithgow are the rivaling père et fils pairings. There is a Christmas theme to this one too, so you’re not imagining it, because at this rate “A Madea Christmas Sequel” will open just after July 4th 2019.

The Verdict: Paramount desperately needs this to be a hit. The original earned USD $150 million total in domestic (USD $92 million), though this latest entry is likely to fall short of its predecessor’s USD $38 million opening as it gets squeezed by moms, Thor and Poirot. (If it crosses USD $20 million, then expect Mel Gibson to be have been rehabilitated in the eyes of Hollywood.) Solid but unspectacular USD $18 million.

” Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (FSL)—Winner at Vennice and Torono ‘Three Billboards’ features Frances McDormand as a small-town mother seeking justice for her killed daughter. Opening on two screens each in New York and Los Angeles – with an RT of 98% you can expect a very high per-screen average.

“Thelma” (Motlys)—After Norsemen with mythical powers comes an art-house film about a Norwegian teen with mystical powers.

“Thumper”, “Mayhem”, “Bitch”, “Destination Unknown”, “Intent To Destroy”, “The Price”, “No Greater Love”, “A Bride for Rip Van Winkle” and Cannes-winner “The Square” round off the other speciality releases.

On the EVENT CINEMA front this week, Fathom Events will be distributing a documentary on legendary wrestler Ted DiBiase on November 7th.  The Exhibition on Screen series expands on November 8th with “Renoir – Revered and Reviled” which takes a closer look at the artists impressionist paintings.  That same night Screenvision Media brings a film adaptation of Michael John LaChiusa’s musical “Hello Again” into cinemas.  Next Sunday, November 12th, you’ll be able to catch “Casablanca” on the big screen as Turner Classic Movies brings the movie back to theatres to celebrate it’s 75th anniversary.

A light week overall, but it should leave enough screens to spread the box office love all around as we close in on the holiday and ‘For Your Consideration’ season.

Patrick von Sychowski
Follow me