Welcome back to the Beat’s weekly Box Office Preview!

I’m not going to continue on about the “Dog Days of Summer” but the second to last weekend of August is known to be one of the worst dumping grounds for movies, even if this year, there are a couple not-so-bad choices. Will moviegoers care and give them a look or are they just waiting for September’s It: Chapter Two at this point?

ANGEL HAS FALLEN (Lionsgate)

Angel Has Fallen
Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman in ANGEL HAS FALLEN (courtesy: Lionsgate)

Cast: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Jada Pinkett Smith, Danny Huston, Nick Nolte, Tim Blake Nelson
Directed By: Ric Roman Waugh (Snitch, Shot Caller, Felon)
MPAA Rating: R

Gerard Butler’s secret service agent Mike Banning is back for his third film, and this time, he’s on the run, as he’s been framed for trying to assassinate Morgan Freeman’s President Trumbull i.e. his good friend that he protected in two previous films.

This unexpected franchise began with 2013’s Olympus Has Fallen, directed by Antoine Fuqua, that was an early hit for the long-gone distributor Film District, coming close to $100 million after opening with $30.4 million in late March. It grossed another $71 million overseas. Its sequel London Has Fallen was released by Focus Features three years later. Although it fell short domestically while doing better overseas, its $205 million worldwide gross felt like a safe bet to make a third movie, and so the producers began developing it.

Both Butler and Freeman are back, joined by Jada Pinkett-Smith, Danny Huston, Tim Blake Nelson and Piper Perabo, who replaces Radha Mitchell as Mike’s wife. Aaron Eckhart from the first two movies is gone, and I’m not sure that anyone will notice or care. (Eckhart hasn’t even been in a movie in the last two years.)

Butler’s career has been all over the place since his early hit Reign of Fireand his first mega-blockbuster 300 with a few moderate performers recently like Geostorm and Den of Thievesand his late 2018 bomb Hunter Killer. Freeman has been dealing with the repercussions of #MeToo accusations which had him appearing in the recent Brian Bankswithout being credited and not appearing in any trailers even though that could have helped the movie. The 82 (!) year old actor hasn’t been in a movie otherwise since last year’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, a rare Disney bomb, but he’s mainly been appearing in ensemble comedies with other similarly old actors like Just Getting Started and Going in Style, the latter doing significantly better than the former.

Angel Has Fallenis directed by Ric Roman Waugh, the filmmaker who made 2017’s Shot Caller, but whose biggest movie to date was Dwayne Johnson’s Snitch, which made $43 million back in 2013. Waugh gives the movie a distinctive look and feel, bringing in the character work he’s done so well in previous films to help round out Butler’s character while also giving it a feel not unlike The Fugitive.

Oddly this is the third movie this year that’s the third movie of a franchise being distributed by a third studio, which was the case with How to Train Your Dragonand Hellboy, which Lionsgate distributed. The last movie was a bit of a disaster, because it was very poorly reviewed, which I don’t think will be the case with Angel Has Fallen.

Although Angel Has Fallenmight be the strongest movie of the weekend, it’s also coming into a market where “sequelitis” is a real thing – see the two sequels released this past weekend for example. That  alone might keep it from even opening with the $21 million range of London Has Fallenin 2016, but Lionsgate opening the movie in late August shows the studio isn’t as bullish on the movie as it should be despite screening it screen early for critics can review. Those reviews should be popping up sometime Wesnesday.

Considering the bad release weekend, I think Angel Has Fallen is good for $15 million or maybe a little more, and it could remain #1 next weekend with no real Labor Day releases as competition, but it will be losing theaters as soon as It: Chapter Two opens after Labor Day and probably will end up with less than $50 million domestic.

My Interview with Director Ric Roman Waugh

OVERCOMER (Sony/Affirm Films)

Overcomer
Affirm Films

Cast: Alex Kendrick, Kendrick Cross, Ben Davies, Holly A. Morris, Shari Rigby, Priscilla C. Shirer, Alex Wright-Thompson
Directed By: Alex Kendrick (Courageous, War Room, Fireproof, Facing the Giants)
MPAA Rating: PG

I’ll be the first to admit that I know next to nothing about the slew of faith-based dramas that have been hitting theatrs over the past few years, some doing way better than others.

Georgia-based actor/director Alex Kendrick has been one of the more successful filmmakers in that realm from his 2006 independent film Facing the Giants, which grossed $10 million, to its follow-ups Fireproof and Courageous, which both grossed in the $33 million range. (The first of those cost $500,000 to make, the second $2 million, so they were both very profitable.) Kendrick’s 2015 film War Room opened with $11.3 million in just 1,135 theaters and went onto gross $67.8 million, which is also very impressive considering it cost $3 million to make.  And mind you, I haven’t seen a single one of these movies!

That last movie was with Sony division Tristar, but now that Sony has its own faith-based label Affirm, one presumes that fans of Kendrick’s work will be interested to see his latest movie as well. Kendrick has used a fairly interesting grassroots campaign to get church groups to buy entire theaters of tickets on a movie’s opening weekend, which helps drive up those numbers.

The plot for this one is slightly vaguer with Kendrick playing a high school coach whose team’s dreams of going to the championships are dashed when he gets some bad news, but the underlying current is that it’s about finding one’s identity in faith. Its audience mainly lies in the South and Midwest, the Bible Belt, where there’s a lot of church-going folks who would find this of more interest than other offerings in theaters.

Looking at how well Kendrick’s other films have done, I can only imagine this one will open in the $10 million range as well, despite getting a late August release, and maybe slightly less for that reason alone.

(Incidentally, am I the only one who finds it funny that Kendrick’s latest faith-based movie is taking on a movie called “Angel Has Fallen”? Is that meant to be an omen?)

READY OR NOT (Fox Searchlight)

Ready or Not
Fox Searchlight

Cast: Samara Weaving, Mark O’Brien, Adam Brody, Andie MacDowell, Henry Czerny, Melanie Scrofano, Kristian Bruun, Nicky Guadagni, Elyse Levesque, John Ralston
Directed By: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett (Devil’s Due, segments in V/H/S and Southbound)
MPAA Rating: R

The second sort of high-profile movie of the weekend is the second movie from the filmmaking collective known as Radio Silence, whose feature debut Devil’s Due was a found footage horror movie released by big Fox in January 2014. It only cost $7 million to make but grossed $15.8 million after an opening weekend of $8.3 million

Although the cast for this horror movie, like many, is fairly unknown, the film’s Australian lead Samara Weaving is an actress to watch, having already had prominent roles in Joe Lynch’s office-place thrillerMayhem, the Oscar-nominated Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and with an upcoming role in next year’s Bill & Ted Face the MusicShe’s also appeared in a number of shows including Ash vs. Evil Dead, Picnic at Hanging Rock and Smilf, as well as the long-running Aussie series Home and Away.

Weaving has some better-known castmates in Andie MacDowell and Adam Brody but Mark O’Brien has also appeared on a number of popular shows like Halt and Catch Fireand more recently, City on the Hill.

As I’ve mentioned before, horror movies are all about the premise and the amount of gore and/or scares being offered, and this one offers more of the former than the latter, fully earning its R-rating. So far, it has an impressive 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes after playing recent genre festivals like Montreal’s Fantasia Fest.

This movie reminded me a lot of the Adam WingardSimon Barrett home invasion thrillerYou’re Next, which was released in 2013, nearly two years after its Toronto Film Festival premiere. It ended up opening with $7 million and grossed $18.5 million, which would be a fairly good benchmark for Ready or Not.

This is an odd release for Fox Searchlight, since the Fox subsidiary has mainly specialized in prestigious awards fare and a few comedies. It’s been a while since it played in the horror genre, most notably with Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, which made $45 million domestically, but that was also 13 years ago. Even the 2006 Hills Have Eyesremake seems like an anomaly compared to what Searchlight has been doing since then. (Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan might be the closest the studio has had to a “horror” blockbuster but that was also getting awards buzz after a festival release.)

Opening on Wednesday,Ready or Not probably will use its first couple days to build word of mouth, so don’t expect more than a couple million before it gets a bump over the weekend, although it’s still likely to end up with less than $7 million over the three-day weekend.

My Review of READY OR NOT

My Interview with Samara Weaving

My Interview with Radio Silence (Later this week)

Once again, because of the number of new movies being released, it means that a lot of movies — including more than a few that opened last weekend — will be bumped from the top 10. Angel Has Fallen should be #1 with less than $20 million but do not overlook the Sony/Affirm film Overcomer, which has a built-in audience.

This Week’s Box Office Predictions:  

  1. Angel Has Fallen (Lionsgate) – $15 million N/A
  2. Good Boys (Universal) – $10.5 million -50%
  3. Overcomer (Sony/Affirm) – $9.5 million N/A
  4. Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw (Universal) – $7.5 million -47%
  5. The Lion King (Walt Disney) – $7 million -40%
  6. Ready or Not (Fox Searchlight) – $7 million N/A (up .5 million) (expect another $1 to 2 million on Weds. and Thurs.)
  7. The Angry Birds Movie 2 (Sony) – $6.8 million -35%
  8. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (CBS Films/Lionsgate) – $5.2 million -48%
  9. Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (Sony) – $4.9 million -40%
  10. Dora and the Lost City of Gold (Paramount) – $4.5 million -47%

*UPDATE: A few minor changes, the first one being that Fox Searchlight is putting Ready or Not into more theaters on Friday following the $2 million it made on Wednesday, so there’s a chance it could break into the top 5 ahead of The Lion King. (Reviews have remained very positive since earlier in the week, as well.) Also, Roadside Attractions will be expanding The Peanut Butter Falcon nationwide into 991 theaters on Friday which could see it make around $3 million, which isn’t enough to break into the top 10 but is still impressive.

One of the better limited releases of the weekend is Paul Downs Collaizo’s Brittany Runs a Marathon (Amazon Studios) starring Jillian Bell (22 Jump Street) as a New Yorker who looks to make drastic changes in her life, starting with her decision to run every day. It’s an inspirational female-positive film that will hopefully bring in some young women this weekend before its wider release in September. Also, Michael Ealy stars in the remake of the 1990 psychological thriller Jacob’s Ladder, which will open in select cities and On Demand this Friday.  (I also interviewed Ealy, and you can read that here.)

Next week, it’s Labor Day weekend and Hollywood is pretty much taking off from releasing new movies, so instead of a look at the coming weekend, I’ll take a look  back at the summer box office. The week after that, we’ll be back with the regular box office preview of New Line’s It: Chapter Two.

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