Welcome back to the Beat’s weekly didn’t exactly work out that way!

The holiday movie season was supposed to start last weekend, but it didn’t exactly work out that way. Veteran’s Day is Monday, so there may be a few schools out for the last holiday before Thanksgiving later this month, and there’s a couple movies that might try to capitalize on that fact, but they probably will fall by the wayside compared to two of the weekend’s stronger studio films.

DOCTOR SLEEP (Warner Bros.)

Doctor Sleep
Warner Bros.

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Zahn McClarnon, Cliff Curtis, Kyliegh Curran, Carel Struycken, Emily Alyn Lind, Jacob Tremblay
Directed By: Mike Flanagan (Oculus, The Haunting of Hill House, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Hush, Gerald’s Gameand more)
MPAA Rating: R

The Renaissance return of Stephen King continues this weekend as we get the third theatrical release based on one of his novels this year. Of course a lot of what’s going is due to the success of Itin 2017, but there’s a lot more King movies to come in the next few years. Doctor Sleepis somewhat of an anomaly, because it’s based on a more recent King bestseller, plus it’s the very first adaptation of that book.  It’s also a direct sequel to one of King’s most popular books and movies, The Shining, which Stanley Kubrick adapted way back in 1980.

Doctor Sleep stars Ewan McGregor as the grown-up Danny Torrance, the young boy who was threatened by his alcoholic father (Jack Nicholson) as the family was holed up for the winter at the abandoned Overlook Hotel in The Shining.  Torrance has to help a young girl named Abra (newcomer Kyliegh Curran) who is being hunted down by a woman named “Rose the Hat” (Rebecca Ferguson from the last couple “Mission: Impossible” movies) and her tribe of vampires who use kids’ shining powers to give them extended life. i

It’s somewhat hard to tell how many people will go to see the movie cause of McGregor, as his last movie, Disney’s Christopher Robin had other things going for it, as did his 2017 movie Beauty and the Beast. (Hint: It starts with a “D”) It’s been a long time since McGregor has had anything that could be considered a “blockbuster hit” — maybe Angels and Demons —  but people seem excited about him returning as Obi Wan Kenobi for a future “Star Wars” series, so maybe that’s enough.

Despite any potential draw that can be attributed to McGregor or Ferguson, it’s really the fact that this is Stephen King and specifically a sequel to The Shining that will get the fans into theaters. Director Mike Flanagan is no stranger to adapting Stephen King, having previously directed Gerald’s Game(for Netflix) as well as the popular horror series The Haunting of Hill House. Previously, Flanagan directed the prequel Ouija: Origin of Evil, Oculusand a couple other Netflix movies (Before I Wake and Hush).

It’s no point really looking back at the box office showing for The Shining since that was so long ago, but we can look back at more recent offerings like the Pet Semataryremake from April, which opened with $24.5 million but only made $54.7 million total domestic. That’s probably a good benchmark for where Doctor Sleepcould end up, especially with reviews being slightly better than the recent It: Chapter Two.

Warner Bros. has wisely been leaning on The Shining connections as far as the commercials, even though that’s really only at the beginning and ending of the movie. Otherwise, it mostly follows the three main characters, including Abra, for a long, slow and not particularly scary journey until the final showdown at the Overlook Hotel.

Some people wonder why the studio didn’t open the movie before Halloween, and maybe the studio feared Terminator: Dark Fate, which ended up underperforming this past weekend. Even so, the opening will probably more in line with Pet Semataryi.e. $25 to 30 million opening than the crazy showing for Itor its recent sequel, It: Part Two. We’ll have to see if audiences, especially horror fans, dig it as much as the critics, but I think it will end up with less than $80 million total.

My Review of Doctor Sleep

My Interview with Kyliegh Curran (Check back on Thursday)


Last Christmas
Universal Pictures

Cast: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Emma Thompson
Directed By: Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters, Spy, A Simple Favorand more)
MPAA Rating: PG-13

What’s likely to be one of the surprises of the holiday season is this holiday rom-com based on the popular George Michael song of the same name that brings together the wonderful Dame Emma Thompson with Bridesmaids director Paul Feig and two of the cast from the 2018 hit Crazy Rich Asians with the breakout star of HBO’s Game of Thrones.

It sounds like a mish-mash of unrelated things, but the combination of holiday with romance and humor is what’s going to get women of all ages seeing Last Christmas, not just this weekend but throughout the month leading up to and including Thanksgiving weekend.

It’s going to be particularly interesting to see if Game of Thronesstar Emilia Clarke is able to break out doing a rom-com compared to the failure of her turn as Sarah Connor in the LAST attempt to revive the “Terminator” franchise. She’s been teamed with the rugged and good-looking Asian Brit Henry Golding fromCrazy Rich Asians in this very British holiday meet-cute, and that movie’s Michelle Yeoh is also in this movie in a different role. (Yeoh and Golding don’t actually have any scenes together in this one.)  Then on top of that, you have Thompson, who co-wrote the screenplay and is still very popular in the States.

Probably the best comparison for Last Christmas is the recent Universal hit Yesterday, which grossed $73.3 million domestically despite being very British. Going back a bit further, we can look at Richard Curtis’ Love Actually, which opened on this same weekend sixteen years ago. It opened with just $6.9 million but still ended up making $59.7 million domestically to become a popular holiday favorite.

Last Christmas will probably do okay with $15 to 18 million this weekend, but it should get decent word-of-mouth business as we get closer to Thanksgiving when more people will be in the holiday spirit. I expect this to make $70 million or more in North America alone, as it’s the closest thing we have to a Christmas movie in the weeks ahead.

MIDWAY (Lionsgate)


Cast: Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Ed Skrein, Dennis Quaid, Nick Jonas, Luke Evans, Mandy Moore, Aaron Eckhart, Keann Johnson, Darren Criss, Luke Kleintank, Alexander Ludwig
Directed By: Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Patriot, White House Down, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla and more)
MPAA Rating: PG-13

At one time, a WWII movie directed by Roland Emmerich would be an automatic summer blockbuster, but that probably was ten or more years ago when the German-born filmmaker was at his height of success with movies that grossed between $100 and 200 million. Of course, that was all coming after his biggest blockbuster to date, 1996’s Independence Day, starring Will Smith, which grossed $300 million domestically. Its 2016 sequel Independence Day: Resurgencedidn’t do quite as well, opening with $41 million and making just over $100 million in North America, showing how his popularity had been waning.

Midway is more of a real-world action movie than anything else he’s done with actors like Woody Harrelson (who appeared in Emmerich’s 2012), Patrick Wilson, Dennis Quaid (star of Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow) and Aaron Eckhart playing real-life naval officers involved in the battle of Midway. All of them are solid actors but none have definite potential as box office draws these days. Then again, there’s a much stronger cast of younger actors, including Nick Jonas, Darren Criss, Keann Johnson and Alexander Ludwig, which could help entice a younger audience to see this over one of the other two movies.

Unfortunately, Midway is another example of a movie made by and starring mostly white males, which is so out of tune with the country’s needs for diversity and representation right now. Next week’s Ford vs. Ferrari just clinches that, and this might limit the movie’s audience as well.

Sadly, it doesn’t feel like Americans are that interested in American history – although the success of last week’s Harriet might disprove this – but this one will probably hope to bring in older males not interested in the King movie, which seems like a stronger prospect.

I just don’t see Midway making more than $15 million this, although it might get a nice bump on Monday from Veteran’s Day, but after that, it’s gonna have a tough time making more than $50 million total.

My Interview with Roland Emmerich

My Review


Playing with Fire

Cast: John Cena, Kegan Michael-Key, John Leguizamo, Brianna Hildebrand, Judy Greer, Dennis Haysbert, Tyler Mane
Directed By: Andy Fickman  (The Game Plan, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, You Again, Race to Witch Mountain, Parental Guidanceand more)
MPAA Rating:  PG

The other movie that might have trouble finding an audience despite it having a few good things going for it is this new family comedy from Nickelodeon and Paramount Pictures, directed by Andy Fickman (Parental Guidance).

Playing with Fire brings wrestler John Cena into the family movie realm playing the head of a smoke jumping team – they’re the fire fighters who jump into forest fires to rescue people – who have to watch over three abandoned kids they rescue in one such fire.  Although Cena’s earliest films The Marine and 12 Roundswere mostly forgettable action-thrillers that did so-so business, his move to comedy with Amy Schumer’s Trainwreckand Sisters, starring Tina Feyand Amy Poehler, was better received, as were the Daddy’s Homemovies, which  Last year, Cena starred in the R-rated comedyBlockers, which grossed $60.3 million

It co-stars comic actor Kegan Michael Key from the popular show Key and Peele, as well as John Leguizamo, who hasn’t been in too many recent movies, as well as Judy Greer and wrestler/actor Tyler Mane, best known for playing Sabertooth in the first X-Men movie and Mike Myers’ in Rob Zombie’s Halloween.  The oldest of the three kids is played by Brianna Hildebrand from the Deadpool movies.

The premise is fairly simple, and we’ve seen many movies teaming burly action stars with kids in the past, including Fickman’s Disney film The Game Plan, starring Dwayne Johnson, which opened with $23 million in late September, 2007, and grossed a whopping $90.6 million domestically. Vin Diesel was also teamed with kids for Disney’s The Pacifierway back in 2005 and that ended up grossing $113 million after an opening of $30.5 million. There’s also older movie s like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Kindergarten Cop, but it definitely feels like a family comedy genre that’s mostly run its course.

The idea of a comedy about smoke jumpers could be seen as timely due to what’s going on in California over the last weeks, or it might just feel like very bad timing on the part of Paramount considering how many people are being left homeless by the fires. I highly doubt they’ll want to go seea John Cena comedy like this one.

Last year’s Instant Family (by the filmmakers behind Daddy’s Home, oddly) was actually one of the better movies in the genre, and it opened last November with just $14.5 million on its way to $67.3 million total, but I highly doubt reviews forPlaying with Firewill be anywhere as good for those for that heartfelt comedy.

This one probably won’t explode its opening weekend with so few family movies doing well this season. Chances are that most families are waiting for Frozen 2 in a couple weeks before spending the money to go see movies, so I’m expecting under $12 million opening weekend for Playing with Fire but maybe $35 to 45 million total.

This weekend, we should have three new movies in the top 3 as last week’s Terminator: Dark Fate should take a fairly big plunge in its second weekend, while other movies lose theaters after being around for a month or more. It will be interesting to see if movies like Parasite or Jojo Rabbit make a play for the top 10 with a serious expansion, but I think only the latter has a chance in making a toe dip into the bottom of the top 10 if expanded into 800 theaters or more.

This Week’s Box Office Predictions:

  1. Doctor Sleep (Warner Bros.) – $28 million N/A (up $2 million)*
  2. Last Christmas (Universal) – $17.2 million N/A
  3. Midway (Lionsgate) – $14 million N/A (up .7 million)*
  4. Terminator: Dark Fate (Paramount) – $13 million -55%
  5. Playing with Fire (Paramount) – $10.2 million N/A
  6. Joker (Warner Bros.) – $8 million -42% (down .5 million)*
  7. Harriet (Focus Features) – $7.5 million -36% (up .5 million)*
  8. Maleficent, Mistress of Evil (Walt Disney) – $7.2 million -45%
  9. The Addams Family (U.A. Releasing) – $5 million -40% (down .5 million)*
  10. Jojo Rabbit (Fox Searchlight) – $4 million +71%*

*UPDATE 11/7: A few minor changes due to theater counts. Fox Searchlight is giving Taika Waititi‘s Jojo Rabbit a big push into over 700 theaters, which should be enough to get it into the top 10. Focus is also expanding Harriet slightly more after its boffo first weekend and A+ CinemaScore.

Noah Baumbach’s new movie Marriage Story, starring Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, will get a limited theatrical release by Netfilx this weekend, while Shia LaBeouf’s autobiographical drama Honey Boy will also get a limited release from Neon.

Next week, James Mangold’s racing film Ford vs. Ferrari, starring Christian Bale and Matt Damon, takes on Sony’s new Charlie’s Angels reboot, starring Kristen Stewart!