In a galaxy far, far away (as in around the corner at your local multiplex), “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” was everything that moviegoers and the movie industry for that matter, could have expected, racking up a sensational USD $220 million opening. That, by the way, was the second highest opener ever in North America. Quality-wise the film also scored a home run, nabbing a straight A Cinemascore and a Rotten Tomatoes mark of 93. The film easily outdistanced 2016’s “Rogue One” but was a bit under the 2015 reboot of the franchise, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, which was to be expected. That USD $220 million total was within $1 million of our prediction here last week. The previous two Star Wars outings enjoyed multipliers in the 3.4-3.8X range and, as they both also opened at Christmas, look for this one to be in the same area, probably more on the 3.4X end.
On the other end of the spectrum, no one was yelling “Ole!” to Fox’s “Ferdinand”, which opened to a less than stunning USD $13 million. The hope here is that Christmas animated titles usually have multipliers in the 4X range and sometimes even higher so by the time January comes and goes, “Ferdinand” could have a respectable cume here in the United States and figure box office to be significantly higher around the world. The film will also benefit from yet another straight A Cinemascore and, as a side note, when was the last time two movies opened on a weekend and they both received A Cinemascores? I’ll wait while you look that one up.
AT THE ART HOUSES
“I, Tonya,” “Call Me By Your Name,” and “The Shape of Water” continue to lead the limited release charge. “I, Tonya,” scored the highest per screen average in five theatres; the film scored a per location average of USD $35,000. Next is “Call Me By Your Name,” which expanded a bit to 30 theatres and maintained a USD $16,000 PLA and “The Shape of Water” is also holding strong with a PLA of USD $11,000 in 158 theatres.
OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE
- Kudos to the good people involved in trying to keep the Sag Harbor Cinema on Long Island open. They were successful in securing a $1.4 million loan from the State of New York and are within reach of the $8 million needed to purchase the cinema.
- Because we tackled the crystal ball job of predicting the Oscar nominated Best Picture candidates last week we will move on to the Best Actor guesses. Just a reminder, if Gary Oldman doesn’t win for “Darkest Hour” someone has got some ‘splainin’ to do, Lucy. Just saying. CERTAINTIES: Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”), Daniel Day-Lewis (“Phantom Thread”), Timothee Chalamet (“Call Me By Your Name”). POSSIBLES: Tom Hanks (“The Post”), Denzel Washington (“Roman J. Israel, Esq”), James Franco (“Disaster Artist”). SPOILERS: Christian Bale (“Hostiles”), Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”), Jake Gyllenhaal (“Stronger”)
- It appears that there is/was a core audience for “Disaster Artist”, namely devotees of the garishly dreadful ‘The Room”, but maybe very few others. The film fell 60% this past weekend and is now down to $2.6 million. This might be a difficult Monday for the good folks at A24, trying to hold onto screens they thought they were assured of over the Christmas holiday.
THIS COMING WEEKEND-WIDE RELEASES
Because of the sheer volume of openings this week I’ve condensed the summaries. I think you already know what “Jumanji” is about, for example.
“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” (Sony)—Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan star in this remake of the 1995 (also Sony) adventure/thriller. Jake Kasdan, who directed one of the most underappreciated films of the last 20 years (“Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”) is along for the helming ride.
The Verdict: The folks at Sony could sure use a hit and all signs point to them definitely having one here. 1995’s “Jumanji” opened to USD $11 million and went on to gross USD $100 million (I’m still recovering from what we actually had to do to get it to $100 mil by the way). The days of the 9 times multipliers went out with Toni Basil records and the AMC Pacer but “Jumanji” is still primed for a very successful run on both sides of the Atlantic. And having a Rotten Tomatoes score of 83 won’t hurt either. It could be the one film over the holiday week that everyone in the family can agree on. Someone can find fault with almost every other cinematic offering this Christmas but “Jumanji” may be the happiest medium for families looking to get away from ham leftovers and grandma’s hemorrhoid complaints. USD $46 million for 5 days.
“Greatest Showman” (Fox)—Hugh Jackman stars in this musical based on the life of circus pioneer P.T. Barnum. Zac Efron co-stars. The film is directed by Michael Gracey and, curiously, this is his first film as director and only has six credits for visual effects on his IMDB page. He is an odd choice to helm this grand scale of a film, indeed.
The Verdict: As of December 17th there were still no reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Hmmm, that smell you’re detecting might not be cranberry sauce gone bad after all. There will be initial interest, especially from fans of the musical genre who were awakened with “La La Land” last year. How well it expands into Minnetonka, Minnesota and Ft. Kent, Maine remains in huge doubt, especially if those Rotten Tomatoes scores are less than stunning. USD $15 million for 5 days.
“Pitch Perfect 3” (Universal)—The Barden Bellas are back for a (hopefully) final turn in this third Pitch Perfect effort. Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and Brittany Snow are back but Elizabeth Banks is here only as a co-star, not as the director.
The Verdict: Pitchmas? Really, Universal? If there was ever a sequel that felt forced this would be it. Even Pitch Perfect fans have to be getting a wee bit tired of the same-old-same-old, don’t they? Seriously, don’t they? Answer me. Initial interest may be high but the audience for this may be waning (and aging) so don’t look for long playtime. USD $33 million.
“Downsizing” (Paramount)—Matt Damon stars as a man who simplifies his life by, yes, shrinking down to miniature size. Alexander Payne, he of “Nebraska,” “The Descendants” and “Sideways” fame, directs.
The Verdict: Normally I would say this looks like can’t miss holiday entertainment but let’s keep in mind that Paramount has had a terrible go of things lately and Matt Damon hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the American public, especially anyone who supports the #MeToo movement, by his recent vague comments about old buddy Harvey Weinstein. Oh and don’t forget “Suburbicon.” Though we’d all like to. USD $11 million
“Father Figures” (Warners)—Ed Helms and Owen Wilson star as brothers who embark on a road trip to find their biological father. Hilarity hopefully ensues. If you’re suggesting the film to a friend just recap it with “it’s like ‘Road Trip,’ but without the long nails.”
The Verdict: This film has the best chance to get lost at the holidays. If anyone is looking for a movie your entire extended family can see I doubt this would be it. For anyone seeking a comedy then there are also “Jumanji” and “Downsizing” options as well. USD $7 million.
THIS COMING WEEKEND-LIMITED AVAIL TITLES
“The Post” (Fox)—The story of the Washington Post’s efforts to publish the Pentagon Papers during the Watergate affair is quality entertainment with as luminous a cast and crew as one will find this holiday. Stephen Spielberg directs and Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep star. Yeah, could work. The film goes wide January 12th.
“Happy End” (Sony Classics)—No, not THAT kind of happy end, but a drama with Isabelle Huppert and Mathieu Kassovitz revolving around a wealthy family in northern France oblivious to the horrors of the nearby Calais refugee camps. Side note, the film is directed by Michael Haneke whose bio on IMDB appears to be written by, oh I don’t know, maybe Michael Haneke: “A true master of his craft, Michael Haneke is one of the greatest film artists working today and one who challenges his viewers each year and work goes by, with films that reflect real portions of life in realistic, disturbing and unforgettable ways. One of the most genuine filmmakers of the world cinema.” As Dave Edmunds once said, subtle as a flying mallet.
“Hostiles”—Christian Bale stars in this intriguing western about a US Army General who has to transport a dying Indian chief back to his homeland. Scott Cooper, who helmed both “Crazy Heart” and “Black Mass” sits in the director’s chair here and Rosamund Pike co-stars.
“Phantom Thread” (Focus)—Daniel Day-Lewis’ acting swan song is a drama about the couture fashion world of London in the 1950s. The film takes its time with pacing, shall we say, and never has a film featured this many shots of sewing and measuring. His frequent collaborator Paul Thomas Anderson is on board to direct. I really get an “Age of Innocence” feel here. As if there will be a small group of cinema snobs who proclaim this masterful storytelling with breathtaking attention to detail. The rest of us may do our Harvey Korman “Blazing Saddles” impression and mouth “WTF?”
“Molly’s Game” (STX)—Aaron Sorkin makes his directorial debut and Jessica Chastain plays the real-life Molly Bloom, who ran a high-stakes poker ring for Hollywood celebrities and Wall Street billionaires during the 2000s.
“Tiger Zinda Hai”—Okay, not exactly on every cinemagoer’s radar but for those of you cinema operators out there who attract a Bollywood audience, this new outing from the great Salman Khan should do, as they say in India, big Hollywood grosses.
If you are one of those people who complain that there just aren’t enough Nutcracker presentations every holiday season, well sit tight dear citizens because Tuesday we have “The Meshuga Nutcracker” for you.
CJ QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“So this is hell? And there’s a crucifix in it.”
–The Birdcage (1996)
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