Welcome back to the Beat’s weekly Box Office Preview!
It’s Thanksgiving weekend! And since this is my first Thanksgiving box office column for The Beat, I figure I should reiterate some of the things I’ve said when I was writing this as The Weekend Warrior at various places.
The important thing to know about Thanksgiving, besides the fact that it’s an ideal time to catch up on movies with almost everyone off from work on Thursday and Friday. It’s also a holiday that’s all about family… for better or worse. It’s the reason why Walt Disney Pictures has cleaned up over Thanksgiving going back decades, since the company has always specialized in family films, currently having 10 out of the top 15 Thanksgiving weekend openers ever. This is the weekend where people REALLY start getting into the holiday spirit, which is why holiday and Christmas-related films have also done well, even comedies that few people will remember… like Christmas with the Kranks and Four Christmases. Anyone remember those winners?
It might be little surprise that Frozen is still Disney’s biggest opener with $93 million over the five-day holiday, although it did have a single-theater release the week prior. With that in mind, its sequel Frozen 2 might even surpass that amount, as it will aim to best the overall Thanksgiving weekend record of $74.2 million held by The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in 2013.
The last thing to know about Thanksgiving weekend is that it’s generally hard to predict. All bets are off when you have a few million people who don’t regularly go to the movies out and about at the malls for Black Friday holiday shopping.
KNIVES OUT (Lionsgate)
Cast: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Christopher Plummer, Ana de Armas, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, LaKeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell
Directed By: Rian Johnson (Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Brick, The Brothers Bloom)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
The movie that already seems to be topping many critics lists for the year after debuting at the Toronto Film Festival in September is only the fifth movie from filmmaker Rian Johnson, his follow-up to 2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a movie you may have heard about while it was on the path to make $1.3 billion worldwide.
Johnson already had many fans from his earlier work like 2012’s sci-film Looper, starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, which made $66 million domestically and another $100 million overseas, putting the filmmaker on the map to get the Star Warsgig.
Knives Outmay be more in line with his lesser-known (but still awesome) 2009 film The Brothers Bloom, a star-studded comedic genre film that plays with the idea of the “whodunnit” that was revived (sort of) with last year’s Murder on the Orient Express remake (which will get a Murder on the Nilesecret next year after making over $100 million in North America). Directed by Kenneth Branagh, that movie opened a few weeks before Thanksgiving but actually got a nice bump as a movie to see with the family once the holiday hit.
Knives Out deals with the death of a mystery writer (Oscar-winner Christopher Plummer) at his 80th birthday party attended by his entire contentious family. Johnson already had an incredible rep with his previous movies and directing episodes of “Breaking Bad,” which helped him to put together an absolutely astounding cast for this one, including Daniel Craig in a far-too-rare non-Bond role, playing the detective sent to investigate the death.
It also stars Chris Evans in an almost-as-rare non-Marvel role, plus Jamie Lee Curtis, who is hot right now after her successful comeback in last year’s hit Halloween sequel-remake. Other fine actors like Michael Shannon, Toni Colette and Lakeith Stanfield are also on board, but the real breakout has to be Ana de Armas, who appeared in the Blade Runner sequel a few years ago and Todd Phillips’ War Dogs, but really gets a great spotlight in this film. She’s also the next “Bond girl” (if that is even a thing anymore), since she’ll be co-starring with Craig in his final Bond movie, next year’s No Time to Die.
The good thing about having such a large and prestigious cast may be obvious, but probably the biggest one is that they’re all great talk show guests and coveted magazine cover interviews, which will help to drive up awareness for Knives Out, where it might not have gotten nearly as much as was the case with Fox Searchlight’s recent Ready or Not, which still made $28 million domestically and about the same overseas without the big names.
There’s been a huge amount of anticipation for the movie since TIFF, where it received mostly favorable reviews. Lionsgate wisely gave the movie sneak previews this past Friday and Saturday in a number of theaters to build word-of-mouth, where it grossed $2 million that presumably will be rolled into this week’s numbers.
Releasing the movie over Thanksgiving may be a rick, but it’s meant to take advantage of potentially dysfunctional families with older kids who might want to go see a movie together who feel that something like Disney’s Frozen 2is too “kiddie” for their tastes. Maybe it will pay off, although I still think it might do better business on Tuesday through Thursday than over the weekend proper. We’ll have to see how things pan out, as there hasn’t been a release like this on Thanksgiving proper, but I think the movie making $26 to 27 million in its first five days with between $17 and 19 million of that over the weekend proper.
QUEEN AND SLIM (Universal)
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith, Chloe Sevigny, Flea, Benito Martinez, Bokeem Woodbine, Sturgill Simpson, Jah Di’Allo Winston, Bertrand E. Boyd II
Directed By: Melina Matsoukas (music videos, mainly)
MPAA Rating: R
This bit of holiday counter-programming is a little bit of an anomaly, because while yes, it’s important that movies like this are made, one has to wonder WHY RELEASE THIS MOVIE ON THANKSGIVING WEEKEND?!? There, I said it, because if you read what I wrote at the top of this column, you already know that artsy message movies like Queen and Slim have NEVER done well over the Thanksgiving holiday. Do you want to take grandma to a movie where Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya and newcomer Jodie Turner-Smith have hot sex in a car juxtaposed with a #BlackLivesMatter moment? Okay, maybe you do. I don’t know your grandmother that well.
Essentially, Kaluuya and Turner-Smith play a man and woman going on their first date when they fall foul of a police officer. One thing leads to another and the two of them are on the run, trying to keep from becoming just another statistic.
The only real selling point for the movie – actually, there’s two – is that this is the first feature film work by Lena Waithe, who has found herself quite a fanbase for shows like Showtime’s The Chi and an Emmy-winning episode of Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, called… irony alert!!!… “Thanksgiving.” This is Waithe’s first feature film screenplay, co-written by author James Frey, whose controversial Oprah Book Club pick A Million Little Pieces is also hitting theaters next week courtesy of Aaron and Sam Taylor Johnson. The movie is also the first feature from director Melina Matsoukas, who is best known for music videos like Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” and also directed that Master of None episode.
The other selling point is Kaluuya, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role in Jordan Peele‘s cutting edge horror film Get Out ($176 million domestic gross), then went onto appear in Marvel’s ginormous blockbuster Black Out, and last year’s Widows, which, like last week’s 21 Bridges, did not capitalize on Kaluuya’s previous success and popularity.
Reviews so far have been good with 91% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, but trust me, if I reviewed this, the number would be lower, and maybe a few more critics won’t be as bullish as more reviews come out. (I get the impression that not a lot of critics have seen the movie, maybe because it didn’t go the festival route, which is usually the case with “awards movies.”)
After having a number of fall flops including the “sure-fire” holiday rom-com Last Christmas, Universal is releasing Queen and Slim into less than 2,000 theaters, really hoping for the best. There have been far better movies made about the “Black Lives Matter” movement – last year’s The Hate U Give, for instance (even the recent police thriller Black and Blue – but I’m sure that people will rally behind the movie, because… why not? The sad fact is that Queen and Slim was never meant for me, and I’m probably very out of touch with the audience it’s meant for, so I may be completely underestimating its attraction and potential.
That said, I really don’t see this making more than $6 or 7 million over the three-day weekend and maybe $9 million in its first five days, but this is not the awards contender many (including myself) may have hoped for, and I think this movie will be forgotten by the time Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalkerhits theaters, if not sooner.
This Week’s Box Office Predictions:
- Frozen 2 (Walt Disney) – $74 million -42% ($105 million 5-day)
- Knives Out (Lionsgate) – $18 million N/A ($26 million 5-day)
- Ford vs. Ferrari (20thCentury Fox) – $10.5 million -35% ($15 million 5-day)
- A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Sony/Tristar) – $10 million ($14 million 5-day)
- Queen and Slim (Universal) – $6.5 million N/A ($9.2 million 5-day)
- 21 Bridges (SPXfilms) – $5.5 million -40% ($8 million 5-day)
- Playing with Fire (Paramount) – $3.4 million -25% ($4.8 million 5-day)
- Midway (Lionsgate) – $2.6 million -45% ($4 million 5-day)
- Last Christmas (Universal) – $2.1 million -30% ($3 million 5-day)
- The Good Liar (Warner Bros) – $2 million -39% ($3 million 5-day)
Not a ton of new limited releases this weekend, which is nothing new, although you can catch Netflix’s The Two Popes, starring Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins as… two popes… in select cities before its streaming release. New Yorkers should also get to the Film Forum this weekend to see Michael Apted’s doc 63 Up, the culmination of a series of docs the filmmaker has made over the course of 56 years. Also, France’s submission for the Oscars, the police thriller Les Miserables (no relation to the novel or musical) will get an awards-consideration run in New York and L.A. starting Friday.
I’ll actually be taking off next week since I doubt I’ll have much to write about the sole wide release, Playmobil: The Movie (WHY!?!) … but the Box Office Preview will be back on December 11 for another fairly busy weekend with Dwayne Johnson,Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillen returning for Jumanji: the Next Level and lots more.