Welcome back to the Beat’s weekly Box Office Preview!
While we’ve generally had a disappointing year other than Captain Marvel and Jordan Peele’s Us, this weekend probably won’t help matters, as we have a reboot, a twist on a remake, a kids’ film and whatever After is.  Either way, it feels as if movie theaters are slammed with movies right now, which make it tough for any of the new movies to make much impact.

HELLBOY (Lionsgate)

Lionsgate

Cast: David Harbour, Ian McShane, Milla Jovovich, Sasha Lane, Penelope Mitchell, Daniel Dae Kim, Thomas Haden Church, Sophie Okonedo
Directed By: Neil Marshall (The Descent, Game of Thrones, Doomsday, Centurion)
MPAA Rating: R
Probably the strongest contender of the weekend is this attempt to bring Mike Mignola’s devilish superhero Hellboy back to theaters, having been eleven years since Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army. This time, it’s Lionsgate who is giving Hellboy a go after movies released by Universal and Sony.
For the third Hellboy movie (and the third studio), things have been rebooted with Stranger Things star David Harbour in the horns and red body paint and Game of Thrones director Neil Marshall behind the camera. The cast also includes popular genre actors like Ian McShane (Deadwood) and Milla Jovovich from the Resident Evilmovies, as well as the likes of indie darling Sasha Lane (American Honey), Daniel Dae Kim from Lostand Hawaii 5-0, Thomas Haden Church (remember him as Sandman from Spider-Man 3?) and more.
The weird thing is that it has been over ten years since the last Hellboy movie, and while del Toro has continued to build his popularity in the years since, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comics at Dark Horse have maintained a relatively steady readership without ever doing Marvel or DC numbers.
Del Toro’s original Hellboy only made about $60 million domestically in April 2004 after opening with a moderate $21.2 million, while the sequel four years later opened with $34.5 million and ended up with $76 million domestic and a little more than that overseas. Apparently, that was enough to revive the franchise but it’s a little weird that Lionsgate decided to start from scratch since del Toro had set-up a third movie with the last one. Who knows? Maybe Mignola got tired of waiting for that third movie and worked out a new deal to keep the character alive.
The time that’s passed plus the growing interest for other superhero characters probably won’t be doing Lionsgate’s Hellboy many favors, especially opening against the well-received Shazam! and with Marvel’s Captain Marvel still playing well. The marketing for the movie hasn’t helped much, as there was a lot of chatter about how bad the movie looked when the first trailer debuted. (Reviews are embargoed until Wednesday evening, so we’ll have to see if that helps or not. Here’s my review, and it’s at around 11% on Rotten Tomatoes, so nope… reviews won’t help.)
Because of this, I feel like it’s probably going to open worse than the first Hellboy, somewhere between $18 and 21 million, rather than anywhere near the $30 million plus of del Toro’s sequel. It really only has about two weeks to make any money, too, before Avengers: Endgame destroys everything in theaters…and it will. I’ll be genuinely surprised if any of the movies opening in theaters this week are able to get past that juggernaut.
You can also read my own review of Hellboy on The Beat later this evening.

LITTLE  (Universal)

Universal

Cast: Regina Hall, Issa Rae, Marsai Martin, Justin Hartley, Tracee Ellis Ross, Tone Bell, JD McCrary
Directed By: Tina Gordon (Peeples)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
While most people continue making comparisons between Warner Bros’ Shazam!and the ‘80s Tom Hanks comedy Big, here comes producer Will Packer Productions’ second attempt of the year to revise and update a classic comedy…. Switching “Big” to “Little.”
The previous WPP twist on a remake attempt was Taraji P. Henson’s What Men Want, which grossed $54.5 million after opening in early January, and Little is another showcase for talented women including Regina HallIssa Rae from HBO’s Insecure and young Marsai Martin from ABC’s Black-Ish. This is a strong cast of popular African-American women with Rae and Martin taking on their biggest roles to date.
The premise of Littleis the type of body-swapping comedy we’ve seen many times over the years, but particularly in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Other recent attempts to revive that comedy sub-genre have led to the disappointing 2011 comedy The Change-Up,starring Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman, and I guess Kevin Spacey’s Nine Lives? (Spacey also switched bodies with Christopher Plummer for Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World.) In fact, the last really successful body-swap movie was Zac Efron’s17 Again(also starring The Change-Up’s Leslie Mann), which grossed $136 million globally, probably due to Efron’s fanbase.
I’m not sure Hall has really proven herself as a lead, having played supporting roles in movies like last year’s The Hate U Give, and both Rae and Martin are popular from their television shows but haven’t done much movie work yet. (Rae also had a small role inThe Hate U Give, oddly enough.)
Will Packer has had quite a bit of success in recent years with comedies like Girls Trip (also starring Regina Hall) and last year’s Night School, and there’s no reason why this shouldn’t continue that run. In any other weekend, I could see Little opening with $20 million or more, but Little hasn’t gotten nearly as much promotion as Jordan Peele’s Us, and there may just be too many options in theaters right now.

MISSING LINK (Annapurna/UA Releasing)

LAIKA/UA Releasing

Voice Cast: Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldano, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Thompson, Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry
Written and Directed by Chris Butler (ParaNorman)
MPAA Rating: PG
The second bit of counter-programming is the latest stop-motion animation film from LAIKA, who had a solid with 2009’s Coraline, based on the book by Neil Gaiman, and then had moderate success with their next three movies Paranorman, The Box Trolls and Kubo and the Two Strings, all released by Focus Features. (The Portland-based LAIKA was also involved with Tim Burton’s Corpse Bridein 2005.)
LAIKA has now moved over to Annapurna Pictures through the newly-formed United Artists Releasing, even though most of their movies through Focus made around $50 million domestically, although Coraline is still the studio’s biggest success.
This new movie is one of three animated movies dealing with Bigfoot/Yeti/Sasquatch legends, this one with Hugh Jackman voicing the role of Sir Lionel Frost, an explorer who goes to the Pacific Northwest to prove the existence of the Sasquatch, voiced by Zach Galifianakis. Guardians of the Galaxy’s Zoe Saldana plays a woman who comes along for the ride, since she has a map Sir Lionel needs for his quest.
Unlike some of LAIKA’s other films, Missing Link doesn’t seem like a particularly original movie if you consider Warner Bros’ Smallfoot that came out last September or DreamWorks’ upcoming Abominable, which is ALSO about the urban myth. Even so, it’s received the best reviews of the week so far, maybe because it’s the only movie that allowed reviews to post already.
Smallfoot opened with $23 million last September, which would be HUGE for LAIKA, but Missing Link seems to be more in the vein of Paramount’s recent Wonder Park, which opened with $15.8 million and has made around $43 million so far. The big difference with LAIKA’s latest is that it is being released by Annapurna Pictures, a studio still trying to find its feet since joining with MGM to form UA Releasing. Annapurna’s highest-grossing release so far is Adam McKay’s Vice, which made less than $50 million despite numerous Oscar nominations.
Still, United Artists has managed to get the movie into roughly 3,500 theaters for the weekend, and without a ton of PG movies in theaters, especially with Tim Burton’s Dumbo disappointing, this does have a good chance of opening in the $11 to 14 million range, but that’s probably fourth place at best.

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AFTER (Aviron)

Aviron

Cast: Josephine Langford, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Selma Blair, Jennifer Beals, Peter Gallagher, Meadow Williams, Dylan Arnold, Samuel Larsen
Directed By: Jenny Gage (debut)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
As CBS Films’ Five Feet Apartstarts to leave theaters (or at least the top 10), we get another Y.A. romantic drama, this one based on the 2014 fan fiction* by Anna Todd about the rocky relationship between a young woman named Tessa (Josephine Langford) and British guy Hardin (Hero Fiennes Tiffin) who has a secret past. (*Don’t knock fan fiction. How do you think E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey came into existence?)
Unlike Five Feet Apart, which starred two young actors who have built a fanbase from other things, After stars two young actors who aren’t as well known, although Hero, nephew to Ralph and Joseph Fiennes, played the younger version of his uncle’s villainous Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
One has to expect that the only people who will have any interest in this movie are the younger women who read and enjoyed the book, but fledgling distributor Aviron hasn’t done too good a job letting anyone know the movie exists or why they should see it over other options.
Because of that and the moderate release into around 2,000 theaters, I think this will have a tough time getting into the top 5 and may not even make more than $6 million this weekend.
In fact, I have a strange feeling that none of the new movies will be able to best Warner Bros’ Shazam! in its second weekend, as positive word-of-mouth is just too strong, going by its “A” CinemaScore. Pet Sematary probably won’t fare as well, as that will have more direct competition from the R-rated Hellboy.

This Week’s Box Office Predictions:

  1. Shazam! (New Line / WB) – $27.6 million -47%
  2. Hellboy (Lionsgate) – $19.5 million N/A
  3. Little (Universal) – $16.5 million N/A
  4. Missing Link (UA Releasing) – $13 million N/A
  5. Pet Sematary (Paramount) – $10.3 million -60%
  6. Dumbo (Disney) – $9.5 million -48%
  7. Us (Universal) – $7.6 million -45%
  8. Captain Marvel (Marvel Studios/Disney) – $7.2 million -42%
  9. After (Aviron) – $5.5 million N/A
  10. Five Feet Apart (CBS Films / Lionsgate) – $2.2 million -38%

I goofed up last week, because actor Max Minghella’sdirectorial debut Teen Spirit (Bleecker Street) actually opens THIS Friday, starring Elle Fanning as a young woman from the Isle of Wight who seeks fame from an “American Idol”-like show called “Teen Spirit.” You can read my interview with Minghella about that movie here. I also completely forgot to mention French auteur Claire Denis’ English-language debut, the sci-fi thriller High Life (A24), starring Robert Pattinson, which opened in New York and L.A. last Friday.
This week’s new limited release I’m most excited about is Alex Ross Perry’s Her Smell, starring Elisabeth Moss as a punk rocker trying to deal with addiction, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last year.  Another movie that might be of interest is a spin-off from the martial arts franchise The Ip Man Legacy: Master Z (Well GO USA), starring Max Zhang with Michelle Yeoh, Tony Jaa and Dave Bautista.
Next week, the horrors continue with New Line’s The Curse of La Llorona, as well as the faith-based drama Breakthrough (20thCentury Fox) and the latest DisneyNature doc Penguins.

4 COMMENTS

  1. “Even so, it’s received the best reviews of the week so far, maybe because it’s the only movie that allowed reviews to post already.”
    Or because it’s a new LAIKA movie. Those guys have always made phenomenal movies. Haven’t disliked a single one of ’em. This is their biggest shot thus far, or so I’ve heard, so definitely worth watching if you like their stuff.

  2. The first Hellboy was a good if pretty unexceptional comic book flick. Hellboy II was one of the most gorgeous looking films you’ll ever see but it was written like a bedtime story for a not-terribly-bright four-year-old. I have no idea why the world needs another Hellboy movie.
    Mike

  3. I’ve read a lot about this Hellboy movie. Basically, Mignola is kinda shitty. He got upset with del Toro over #2 because he wasn’t too involved. Meanwhile, he was so awful to John Arcudi and Guy Davis that Davis quit comics altogether and is now one of del Toro’s main artists (this sentence is from Arcudi’s twitter). Mignola kept looking for a deal where he had more control and this was it.
    Regardless, I’m still looking forward to seeing it because I love the universe. It’s deep and I do like how the original creator is profiting from it.

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