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

What a weekend! We’re moving quickly into the slowest month of the summer and we have five new movies, one based on a popular cartoon, three based on novels of various types (including one comic book) and then a real-life story. Obviously, it’s impossible for all of these to do huge business just by the nature of coming out in such a busy weekend, but the one with the strongest chances would probably be…

DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD (Paramount)

Dora the Explorer
Paramount Pictures

Cast: Isabella Moner, Eva Longoria, Danny Trejo, Michael Peña, Q’orianka Kilcher, Benicio del Toro, Eugenio Derbez, Temuera Morrison
Directed By: James Bobin (The Muppets, Muppets Most Wanted, Alice Through the Looking Glass)
MPAA Rating: PG

As summer starts to wind to its close, we’re starting to get the last attempt at a tentpole based on preexisting material from a studio. Paramount Pictures certainly has a solid IP (i.e. intellectual property) in the hit Nickelodeon animated series Dora the Explorer, which has been airing in some configuration or another for almost two decades, creating new fans as kids get to the age where they’re plopped down in front of the TV (or these days, YouTube) to watch Dora’s adventures.

Playing Dora is Isabella Moner, who starred with Mark Wahlberg in Michael Bay’s Transformers: The Last Knight, but more importantly, she reteamed with Wahlberg for last year’s excellent Paramount comedy Instant Family.  From the trailers, we can tell that Moner imbues the perfect bubbly personality for Dora that can make her a beloved live action incarnation. Her parents are played by Michael Peña from the Ant-Man movies and Eva Longorria from Real Housewives, and the movie also stars Eugenio Derbez, a hugely popular Mexican star who has starred in crossover hits like How to Be a Latin Lover and last year’s Overboard remake.  It also features the voices of Oscar-winner Benicio Del Toroand Danny Trejo, best known for his R-rated work with filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, most notably the “Machete” movies.

The movie is directed by British filmmaker James Bobin, who went from directing Sacha Baron Cohen’s Da Ali G Show and HBO’s Flight of the Conchords to directing a couple Muppets movies for Disney and then the ill-fated Alice Through the Looking Glass sequel.

The results are an adventure-comedy not unlike 2017’s hit Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle with trailers that have focused on humor that can appeal to younger kids. The title even has an Indiana Jones-like quality, which helps tie it into another one of Paramount’s long-running franchises that’s now over at Disney… just like the Marvel movies.

What’s amazing about this movie is that it doesn’t feature a single white actor, which is perfectly in line with the current call for diversity in films, but it’s also a mighty smart move by Paramount, because they realize that America’s LatinX population is known to be one of the fastest growing movie audiences nationwide.  (Dora has also been a regular part of “Nick en español” that ran on Telemundo and Univision, so the audience of younger LatinX fans should be there having growing up on the character.)Dora was originally supposed to come out in late July, but Paramount moved it back, possibly to give it more space from Disney’s The Lion King, which has still been going strong in its third weekend. Releasing a family film in August is always dubious but Paramount already had a decent hit this weekend with the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, which opened with $65.6 million on its way to $191 million domestic. That might be a little too optimistic for Dora, which will almost certainly be catering more to younger girls and parents with kids than the guys who grew up with the ‘90s cartoons and movies.

Reviews are fairly mixed at this time, although the movie’s also fairly critic-proof since younger girls and older ones that grew up with “Dora” will probably be interested in the movie based on nostalgia alone.

I wouldn’t be too surprised to see this winning the weekend with somewhere in the high $20 million range, as it’s the type of family film that can do some decent business despite an August release. We’ll have to see how well it holds up in the weeks before school starts especially with Sony’s Angry Birds Movie sequel next weekend.

SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK (CBS Films/Lionsgate)

Scary Stories
CBS Films

Cast: Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush, Austin Zajur, Dean Norris, Gil Bellows, Lorraine Toussaint, Austin Abrams
Directed By: André Øvredal (Trollhunter, The Autopsy of Jane Doe)
MPAA Rating: PG-13

This week’s horror offering – we’re gonna have at least one a week for the rest of the month – is this movie version of Alvin Schwartz’s popular book series Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, which has the prestige of Oscar-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro producing and popular Norwegian genre filmmaker André Øvredal (Trollhunters) behind the camera.

It’s not uncommon for horror movies to feature lesser-known actors, but this one is quite daring as it introduces a mostly unknown cast including Zoe CollettiMichael Garza, Austin Zajur and Gabriel Rush, who are all great as the film’s young stars similar to the young casts of It and Netflix’s Stranger Things.

The movie is primarily depending on the popularity of the books in a similar way as Sony’s 2015 Goosebumpsmovies, which grossed $80 million after a $23.6 million opening. Last year’s sequel made about half that amount, although its $15 million opening is probably a good benchmark for Scary Stories, which is more likely to appeal to older horror fans dues to del Toro’s involvement.

Del Toro has a pretty good track record as a producer with the directors whose work he showcased from Juan Bayona’s debut The Orphanage in 2007, the sci-fi thriller Splice in 2010 ($7.4 million opening to 2013’s Mamafrom It director Andy Muschietti, which opened with $28.4 million and made $71.6 million domestically. A better comparison for this might be 2011’s Don’t be Afraid of the Dark, which opened later in August with $8.5 million and grossed $24 million total, though that was without having a series of books as its basis.

I generally don’t like to throw entire studios under the bus, but CBS Films has not had the best track record either in terms of marketing or distribution. It’s not like they release a ton of movies but their choices seem to be all over the place from the Ron Howard Pavarotti doc earlier this summer to movies like Jennifer Lopez’s The Back-Up Plan and the ensemble comedy Last Vegas, both of these over five years ago. The studio did one have one previous horror hit in The Woman in Black, starring Daniel Radcliffe, but that was also in early 2012. Last year’s Hell Fest made $11.1 million total after a $5.1 million opening weekend, but that movie also cost only $5.5 million.

One presumes that the popularity of the books and having del Toro’s name on it should help with business, especially among horror connoisseurs. Also, being PG-13 means that it might be able to get in some of the teenagers before school starts, but really, this is going to be fans of the book and diehard horror fans rather than the “horror tourists” that flock to movies like some of the more mainstream horror movies.

Scary Stories is probably good for $11 to 13 million this weekend, depending on whether or not CBS has done enough to make fans of the books aware of the movie, as well as intriguing horror fans. Since I’m under a rather silly embargo, I can’t tell you if the movie is good or not, but I do think it should be able to hang around long enough to make close to $30 million.

My Interview with André Øvredal

My Review of SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK

THE KITCHEN (New Line/WB)

The Kitchen
New Line / WB

Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elisabeth Moss, Domhnall Gleeson, Common, Margo Martindale, Bill Camp, James Badge Dale, Annabella Sciorra, Brian d’Arcy James
Written and Directed By: Andrea Berloff (directorial debut of Oscar-nominated writer of Straight Outta Compton, Blood Father, Sleepless)
MPAA Rating: R

What should hold similar interest for Beat-readers is this crime-drama based on the 2014 Vertigo comic book by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle, which is the directorial debut by Straight Outta Compton’s Oscar-nominated screenwriter Andrea Berloff. She has assembled an impressive cast of superstars in terms of award-winning (and nominated actors) in Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss. The cast also includes rapper CommonDomhnall Gleeson (from the “Star Wars” movies) and popular character actors like Margo Martindale and Bill Camp.

What’s going to make this movie a tough sell is that it’s in a genre that in the past has primarily been of interest to older guys. There’s nothing to say they’ll be nearly as interested in a female-dominated gangster flick, mainly because it just hasn’t been done. The hopes are that women who have never been as interested in movies like Scorsese’s Goodfellasmight find something more relatable in Berloff’s film, which makes The Kitchenan interesting release. New Line’s trailers for the movies have been solid, capitalizing on the things that makes movies like this so popular but also showing off the talents of its primary cast.

Warners’ last attempt at a gangster movie was Scott Cooper’s 2015 movie Black Mass, starring Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger (the basis for Scorsese’s Oscar-winning The Departed). That movie was given a mid-September release with a significant awards push including a premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, and that ended up grossing $62.5 million after a $22.6 million opening.

Even with the talented cast, this one seems to be fighting against the odds including much stronger returning movies, but it should be capable of making $10 to 11 million opening weekend. We’ll have to see whether the movie is able to find its target audience and get decent reviews, but it’s likely to be competing with Tarantino’s movie to get into the top 5.

My Interview with Filmmaker Andrea Berloff

My review of THE KITCHEN 

THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN (20h Century Fox)

Art of Racing in the Rain
20th Century Fox

Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Milo Ventimiglia, Kevin Costner (voice), Martin Donovan
Directed By: Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn, Goodbye Christopher Robin, Woman in Gold)
MPAA Rating: PG

One of the weekend’s lower-key releases that actually looks kind of nice and pleasant PG movie that has Kevin Costner voicing a dog. I’m going to try to ignore the fact that it’s being released almost three years to the date of the release of Nine Lives that had Kevin Spacey voicing a cat, and hopefully this one will do slightly better.

The movie stars Amanda Seyfried and Milo Ventimiglia, the latter from NBC’s Heroes, who had a nice comeback with his popularity on This is Us. They’re both decent actors but neither which much proof of them being a box office draw, and that’s even with Seyfried’s starring role in Universal’s hit Mamma Mia movies, which put more focus on Meryl Streep and the ABBA songs.

This movie will be a good barometer for whether audiences are looking for more than just the usual that’s out there, and though this is rated PG, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going for the same young kids as Dora, as there are older audiences who might enjoy a good doggy movie. Granted, this is coming out just a few short months after Universal’s A Dog’s Journey, which only opened with $8 million and made $22 million total, just a little more than its predecessor made opening weekend.

Although it’s a crowded weekend, Art of Racing is probably good for between $7 and 8 million this weekend, as it brings in those looking for something a little more pleasant and less cynical than the movies that are generally being made these days.

BRIAN BANKS (Bleecker Street)

Brian Banks
Bleecker Street

Cast: Aldis Hodge, Greg Kinnear, Sherri Shepherd, Morgan Freeman
Directed By: Tom Shadyac  (The Nutty ProfessorBruce Almighty, Patch Adams, Liar Liar, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective)
MPAA Rating: PG-13

The underdog of this weekend is the real-life story of California high school football star Brian Banks, who ends up being put in prison for over a decade after being falsely accused of rape in 2002 and taking a bad prosecutor’s deal.  It stars Aldis Hodge, who was part of the SAG-award-winning cast of Hidden Figures and who can currently be seen opposite Kevin Bacon on the series City on the Hill.

It also stars Greg Kinnear, who is a solid actor but no one who has been able to get people into theaters, although he has had good luck in similar inspirational films like the faith-based Heaven is for Real in 2017 ($22.5 million opening on its way to $91.4 million gross) and the Nicholas Sparks movie The Last Song.  What’s odd is that Morgan Freeman also appears in the movie but completely uncredited, possibly doing his Bruce Almightydirector a favor but also hoping to avoid taking away from the importance of the movie’s subject due to recent accusations against him

Bleecker Street is giving this a moderately wide release into 1,500 theaters, probably focusing on the regions where Banks will be best known like Atlanta (where he played for the Falcons),

This is a decent true-life sports movie, one that’s quite inspirational.  I’m not really sure if many people know of its existence, and if they’ll want to shell out their hard-earned clams to see it in theaters rather than wait until its on cable or streaming (Bleecker Street just made a deal with Hulu) or other forms of entertainment. With that in mind, it’s gonna be struggling to get into the top 10 with around $3 million.

With Dora and the Lost City of Gold winning the weekend and other strong movies still holding strong, the above five movies will be scattered across the top 10 with Brian Banksjust ekeing its way into the mix.

This Week’s Box Office Predictions:

  1. Dora and the Lost City of Gold (Paramount) – $27.5 million N/A (down .5 million)*
  2. Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw (Universal) – $27 million -55%
  3. The Lion King (Walt Disney) – $20 million -48%
  4. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (CBS Films/Lionsgate) – $3 million N/A (up .5 million)*
  5. Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (Sony) – $10.5 million -48%
  6. The Kitchen (New Line/WB) – $10 million N/A (down .8 million)*
  7. The Art of Racing in the Rain (20thCentury Fox) – $7.8 million N/A (up .1 million)*
  8. Toy Story 4 (Disney/Pixar) – $4.3 million -40%
  9. Spider-Man: Far from Home (Sony) – $4 million -45%
  10. Brian Banks  (Bleecker Street) – $3.2 million N/A

*UPDATE: Doing a bit of reshuffling, particularly when it comes to The Kitchen which has gotten such unfavorable reviews, it’s not gonna help matters. Scary Stories is getting much better reviews, and there seems to be more demand making it one of the stronger picks for those not interested in Dora and the Lost City of Gold.

A few limited releases this weekend including Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz’s road comedy Peanut Butter Falcon, which will be released by Roadside Attractions. It stars Shia Labeouf, Dakota Johnson and Zack Gottsagen, a talented actor with Downs Syndrome, and despite its wonky title, it won the prestigious Audience Award at SXSW last year and there are some fun cameos for long-time wrestling fans. Bart Freundlich’s drama After the Wedding is a remake of Susanne Bier’s 2006 Danish drama, replacing Mads Mikkelsen with Michelle Williams and Freundlich’s wife Julianne Moore. Also, the Casey Affleck-directed Light of My Life will get a nominal theatrical release but mostly be seen on VOD.

Next week, FIVE MORE MOVIES!!! Holy crap, what on earth did I do to deserve this?! At least there’s one or two good movies in there but the highest profile movie is The Angry Birds Movie 2, so yeah, the Dog Days of Summer, they are officially upon us!

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