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

And we’re back! We have one more week before the final episode of the famed “Star Wars” nonology that’s likely to be another huge 2019 blockbuster. First, we get the sequel to a movie that gave the previous installment in that series a run for its money.

JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL (Sony Pictures)

Jumanji
A scene from JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL (courtesy: Sony Pictures)

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Awkwafina, Nick Jonas, Danny Devito, Madison Iseman, Alex Wolff, Rhys Darby, Danny Glover, Dania Ramirez
Directed By: Jake Kasdan (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Sex TapeBad TeacherWalk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, The TV Set)
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Expected to be another one of the holiday’s bigger hits is a sequel to a movie that no one saw coming, let alone did anyone see it becoming one of the biggest blockbusters of 2017 despite being released in the very last full week of the year.

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Reteaming Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart from the action-comedy Central Intelligence, Jumanji: Welcome to the Junglewas an attempt to create a new version of the 1995 adventure-comedy that was actually based on a book by Chris Van Allsburg. It had a few connections to the movie but the board game of that film were replaced by a vintage video game. The movie opened the weekend before Christmas 2017 in the second weekend of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, taking second place with a solid $36.2 million after opening Wednesday. That wasn’t bad but what happened over the next few weeks was even more amazing. On the first weekend of 2018, Jumanji surpassed The Last Jedi to become the #1 movie. It then stayed #1 for most of that month, lost first place briefly to Maze Runner: The Death Cure, but then went back to #1 the following week. By the time it left theaters in late May, it had amassed $404.5 million in North America alone, which is 11 times its opening weekend!

What’s amazing about that run is that this was the sort of thing that classics like Steve Spielberg’s E.T. the Extraterrestrial and James Cameron’s Titanic would have done back in the day before the movie biz became ALL about opening weekend.  The Jumanji movie also made over $500 million overseas and came close to making a billion globally, so yeah, a sequel was a given and

This puts a lot of pressure on the sequel, Jumanji: The Next Level, as it reunites the original cast, including Jack Black and Karen Gillan, as well as Nick Jonas and Alex Wolff, and then adds the likes of Awkwafina (possibly a future Oscar nominee for The Farewell), plus Danny DeVito and Danny Gloveras two older relatives who get sucked into the video game. With Johnson and Hart portraying those characters in their avatar bodies, there should be a good amount of new gags to deliver.

What’s interesting is that Hart had a pretty good box office run on his own before being teamed with Johnson for Central Intelligence, which grossed $127.4 million domestically and a little less overseas. Before that movie, Hart really didn’t have much of a draw overseas and teaming him with Johnson helped over there. People like this pairing enough that Hart even made an unadvertised appearance in Johnson’s recent Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw with Jason Statham. That movie did okay with $173 million domestically, which is less than the typical “Fast and Furious” movie, but better than most of Johnson’s 2018 releases, Skyscraperand Rampage. The latter made just over $100 million, but the former didn’t even make that amount. It makes one wonder whether Johnson is a proper A-list box office star, or it relies mainly on the material. This is already the case with the likes of Will Smith, Eddie Murphy and Brad Pitt, who were once a guaranteed box office hit but not so much anymore. (See the fall’s As Astraand Gemini Manas proof for two of them.)

Meanwhile, Hart went from 2017’s Jumanji to starring in Night School with Tiffany Haddish and The Upside with Bryan Cranston, even if the summer’s animated The Secret Life of Pets 2 didn’t do as well as the original movie. Still, Hart’s solo movies still don’t play as well overseas, maybe because the humor is so specific to his American fans. (This is odd since The Upside was a remake of an absolutely HUGE French comedy called The Intouchables.)

By now, maybe you read my review of Jumanji: The Next Level, and other reviews generally have been mixed, although the movie does feel fairly review-proof considering the love for the first movie and the target audience. (In general, critics tend to get cranky this time of year since they’ve already voted on awards and figured out their top 10, and very little that hasn’t already been screened will make that list… even the next “Star Wars” movie!)

There’s still a matter of Jumanji opening in the generally slower weeks before Christmas, and also opening in a year when “sequelitis” has proven to be a real killer. These things are likely to keep The Next Level from having a huge opening, not to mention the fact that next week’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker might have a bigger impact on its legs than The Last Jedi did. If the Jumanji sequel is any good, it might hold up well through this month into next year ala the first one, but it’s always tough to repeat something that was as big an anomaly as was the previous Jumanji movie.

Even so, Jumanji is getting the widest release of the new movies this weekend, and it might even be in more theaters than Disney’s Frozen II, although I don’t expect that to lose too many theaters this week either.

Jumanji: The Next Level should be good for $50 to 55 million this weekend, and even if next week will be tough for it, once Christmas hits, people will be looking for other movies to see, and this will be a given. I expect the movie won’t match up to the gross of the first one, but I can totally see it making $250 million or slightly more.

My Review of Jumanji: The Next Level


RICHARD JEWELL (Warner Bros.)

Richard Jewell
Warner Bros.

Cast: Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde, Kathy Bates
Directed By: Clint Eastwood (SO MANY MOVIES!!!)
MPAA Rating: R

The first movie offering some counter-programming for Sony’s big December release is the latest from Oscar-winning filmmaker Clint Eastwood, who has become one of the more reliable filmmakers, not just in terms of box office but also for awards-worthy movies.

Maybe that shouldn’t be too surprising, since the soon-to-be 90 (!!!) year old filmmaker has been making movies since he was 25 years old. Sure, he’s been a little hit or miss with his choices, but Richard Jewellmight be seen as the latest in his “Great American Heroes” series, which has already delivered hits like the blockbuster American Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper, and Sully, starring Tom Hanks as the hero pilot who landed his plane on the Hudson River.

Richard Jewell may or may not be known as the protagonists of those movies, but he was the security guard who drew attention to a suspicious package at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, and in turn, was accused of planting it to get attention after an explosion that killed two people.

Jewell is played by Paul Walter Hauser, who had roles in the Oscar-nominated I, Tonyaand Spike Lee’s BlackKklansman, but he really has been getting a lot more attention for his portrayal of Jewell. Even so, he isn’t a well-known star that people might go to see for him.  Eastwood’s better-known cast includes Oscar-winning actors Sam Rockwell (as Jewell’s lawyer) and Kathy Bates (as his mother), plus it also stars Jon Hamm and Olivia Wilde, as the main FBI agent on the case and an Atlanta reporter who first breaks that Jewell might be a suspect.

Relevant Clint Eastwood Films:

The Mule (Dec. 14, 2018)
Opening: $17.5 million; Domestic Total: $103.8 million

The 15:17 to Paris (Feb. 9, 2018)
Opening: $12.5 million; Domestic Total: $36.3 million

Sully (Sept. 9, 2016)
Opening: $35 million; Domestic Total: $125 million

American Sniper (Dec. 25, 2014)
Opening: $89.3 million; Domestic Total: $350.1 million

J. Edgar (Nov. 9, 2011)
Opening: $11.2 million; Domestic Total: $37.3 million

Invictus (Dec. 11, 2009)
Opening: $8.6 million; Domestic Total: $37.5 million

Gran Torino (Dec. 12, 2008)
Opening: $29.5 million; Domestic Total: $148.1 million

Mind you, the above is just the movies Clint has directed in the past 11 years or so, and it’s not even all of them, but you can definitely notice a few trends. The one anomaly above is American Sniper, which platformed and rode the awards wave to a huge January nationwide opening. Warner Bros. took a similar approach with Gran Torino, a fiction movie in which Eastwood starred. Eastwood also starred in last year’s The Mule, also a fiction film which opened moderately this same weekend but took advantage of holiday business to make more than $100 million. Warners would love that to be the case with Richard Jewell but without Eastwood starring, that seems unlikely. There’s also Eastwood’s real-life films like the afore-mentioned Sully and J. Edgar, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, which didn’t really deliver the way many hoped.

Reviews have been pretty fantastic for Richard Jewellwith Warners beginning to show it a few weeks back, and critics and awards prognosticators generally liking it despite Eastwood’s questionably conservative political stance. Other than Wilde and Bates, this is another movie driven by white men, which doesn’t make it very socially-correct for anyone under 40 to have much interest.

Warner Bros. is opening Clint’s latest in a fairly moderate 2,300 theaters, possibly with a chance to expand if it does well. It’s certainly likely to do very well in Atlanta where most of the story took place, but maybe not in other cities where Richard Jewell and the events surrounding him have mostly been forgotten. Still, Richard Jewell should be good for a $9 to 11 million opening based on Eastwood alone, and with the holidays coming up, word-of-mouth should help it make $50 million or maybe more if it starts earning some awards or nominations this week.


BLACK CHRISTMAS (Universal)

Black Christmas
Universal Pictures

Cast: Imogen Poots, Cary Elwes, Lily Donoghue, Brittany O’Grady, Aleyse Shannon, Lucy Curry, Ben Black
Directed By: Sophia Takai (Always Shine, Green)
MPAA Rating: PG-13

The last new movie coming out this weekend has quite a bit going for it, although it’s a strange weekend to be releasing a horror movie, even if it is the second remake of a semi-classic holiday horror movie. Filmmaker Sophia Takai has made a few decent indie horror films like Always Shine, and she’s the first woman director to make a Blumhouse movie to date, so that’s pretty significant.

Black Christmasis set at Hawthorne College where a group of sorority sisters are preparing for a bunch of seasonal parties over the holidays, as a masked stalker begins killing them one by one.

The cast is interesting, including 30-year-old Imogen Poots (Green Room), Cary Elwes (who also starred in a few of the “Saw” films) and other young female actors – no real standouts that can sell the movie, but that’s rarely the case with horror films anyway.

The 2006 remake of Black Christmas, released by the now-defunct Dimension Films, opened on Christmas Day proper but only made $16 million total, which may be why Universal decided to give this one an earlier release.  While a horror movie like Black Christmas could normally do well, it’s being released in an odd weekend where it’s not even remotely the first or second movie of interest. Then again, it’s also coming out on Friday the 13thwhere horror can thrive, and that certainly will give the movie a nice boost leading into the weekend.

Universal is well aware that it’s hard to get critics on the side of a horror movie, and there’s also a question of whether a slasher film could have any success in this day and age where women are being victimized in all aspects of life, so why put them through this? The last “slasher flick” in this vein was last year’s Hell Fest from CBS Films, which only made $11 million after a weak $5.1 million in less than 2,300 theaters. That last bit may be why Universal hasn’t screened the movie too far in advance, and you probably won’t be seeing any reviews before the movie opens on Thursday evening for previews.

Even so, a movie like this could easily bring in $10 to 12 million just based on the concept, and its release so close to the holidays could even give it a bump over the coming weeks, although it will quickly lose any business to stronger December releases.

My Review of Black Christmas 


This Week’s Box Office Predictions:

  1. Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony) – $52.3 million N/A
  2. Frozen II (Disney) – $19 million -45%
  3. Black Christmas (Universal) – $11.7 million N/A
  4. Richard Jewell (Warner Bros.) – $10.5 million N/A
  5. Knives Out (Lionsgate) – $8.1 million -43%
  6. Ford v. Ferrari (20th Century Fox) – $3.7 million -46%
  7. Queen and Slim (Universal) – $3.5 million -47%
  8. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Sony/Tristar) – $3 million -42%
  9. Dark Waters (Focus Features) – $2.3 million -44%
  10. Playing with Fire (Paramount) – $1.3 million -48%

Lots of limited releases this weekend, including a few that will be in the awards conversations for the next few weeks. First up is Jay Roach’s Bombshell, about the Roger Aisles sex abuse scandal at Fox News, starring Charlize TheronNicole Kidman, Margot Robbie and John Lithgow as Aisles.

Terrence Malick’s latest film A Hidden Life will also open in select cities, an intriguing (and gorgeously-shot) WWII film set in Austria, about a farmer who refuses to swear allegiance to Hitler and is thrown into prison for treason, away from his home and family. 

Good Time directors Josh and Benny Safdie’s new movie Uncut Gems (A24), starring no-less than Adam Sandler, will get a limited release in advance of its nationwide release on Christmas Day. This has already gotten quite a bit of awards buzz, mainly from critics.

Also, Amazon is releasing the biopic Seberg (as in Jane) with Kristen Stewart playing the famed 60s French actor who had an affair with a Black Panthers leader, played by Anthony Mackie.

Although it’s not getting much of a theatrical release, which is kind of surprising, Michael Bay’s new action-comedy 6 Underground, starring Ryan Reynolds, will debut on the Netflix streaming service on Friday as well.

Next week, a little movie you might have heard of called Cats!!!! There’s also a movie called…  Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker that might be better than Cats, and you’ll want to see it again and again…

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1 COMMENT

  1. I was thinking about seeing RICHARD JEWELL, until learning that it repeats the tired (and phony) cliche of the female journalist sleeping with a source to get a story. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution denies that this happened. So I won’t be seeing the movie.

    I wish Clint had retired after THE MULE, which was a perfect swan song.

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