Welcome back to the Beat’s weekly Box Office Preview!
Woo!  Are we all recovered from last week’s amazing Avengers: Endgame opening yet? No? Neither am I, and I’m not sure anyone is.
But it’s May, and unfortunately, Avengers: Endgame has already stolen all the thunder for the tried-and-true first-week-of-May start-of-summer slot we’ve all become so accustomed to. Now, the first weekend of May is all about, “What studio or movie is crazy enough to try to take on the second weekend of a hugely popular record-breaking Marvel movie?”
Well, let me tell you…

LONG SHOT (Lionsgate)

Long Shot
Lionsgate

Cast: Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron, O’Shea Jackson, Jr, June Diane Raphael, Ravi Patel, Andy Serkis, Alexander Skarsgard, Bob Odenkirk, Randall Park
Directed By: Jonathan Levine (50/50, Warm Bodies, The Night Beforeand more)
MPAA Rating: R
The first bit of counter-programming offered to feed the Endgamebeast is a new romantic comedy starring Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron in one of the most unlikely romantic duos of the year… or maybe the century?
If there’s one Hollywood filmmaker/actor who has the balls to take on the second week of a Marvel movie, it’s Seth Rogen, whose 2014 movie Neighbors opened the second weekend of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and opened #1 with $49 million. Granted, that wasn’t REALLY a Marvel movie, and it was already so poorly received that it would end THAT attempt by Sony to keep their web-swinging property alive, but Neighbors was also one of the rare second weekend of May hits. (A couple others? Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby and J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot.)
In general, Rogen has proven himself quite a few times since appearing in Judd Apatow’s directorial debut The 40-Year-Old Virgin before being the unlikely romantic lead of its rom-com follow-up Knocked Up ($148 million gross). Long Shot is in a similar vein, reteaming Rogen with director Jonathan Levine from 50/50 and The Night Before, two of Rogen’s lesser hits. Rogen and producing partner Evan Goldberg have had success going back to 2007’s Superbad, which came out a few months after Knocked Up. Other hits the duo have had include Pineapple Express, Neighbors and This is the End (their directorial debut). There have been a few stumbling blocks like The Interview (by the writer of Long Shot) but the less said about that disaster the better.
There was a time when it was believed that Charlize Theron was also a box office draw, maybe around the time of George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road or Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, but both her 2018 movies bombed. In fact, no one knows better what a bad idea it is to open a movie in the second weekend of a Marvel movie than Theron, since her last movie Tully, directed by Jason Reitman, bombed with less than $10 million despite getting similar buzz out of a film festival – in that case, Sundance. Her previous film Gringo did even worse.
Pairing the two of them together is going to be interesting, since they would seem to have different audiences. Rogen’s male fans might not be so interested in the romance angle of Long Shot; Theron’s female fans might look at Rogen’s juvenile brand of humor as below them.  Or maybe Long Shot will end up being the best date movie possible.
Lionsgate premiered the movie at SXSW where it received decent reviews and Lionsgate wisely screened the movie for exhibitors at CinemaCon a few weeks later, where it was also well-received.
But there’s still the matter of a giant blockbuster that has received such raves that people might be seeing it for a second or third or 34th time this weekend. That’s how crazy the Endgame juggernaut has become.
Long Shot has the benefit of being one of the few comedies in theaters other than Little, which is quickly vanishing from theaters, and that could help it make $15 to 16 million this weekend. That’s not huge but enough to take second place.
You can read my interview with director Jonathan Levine here, and then look for my interview with O’Shea Jackson Jr. aka the Son of Ice Cube later this week.

UGLYDOLLS (STXfilms)

UGLYDOLLS
STXfilms

Voice Cast: Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas, Pitbull, Janelle Monae, Blake Shelton, Gabriel Iglesias, Wanda Sykes
Directed By: Kelly Asbury (Smurfs: The Lost Village, Gnomeo and Juliet, Shrek 2, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron)
MPAA Rating: PG
The second bit of counter-programming this weekend is something that I will freely admit I know very little to nothing about, and that’s the plush toys created by David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim first introduced in 2001 that are now the basis for STXfilms’ first animated feature.
What this odd entry into the summer has going for it besides the familiarity with the toy brand is that it’s a musical with a talented cast of singer/songwriters including Kelly Clarkson, Blake Shelton, Nick Jonas, Pitbull and Janelle Monae, a few of whom have been doing the talk show circuit promoting the movie. Directing the movie is a DreamWorks Animation vet who went on to direct the Miramax hit Gnomeo and Juliet and the animated Smurfs movie for Sony Pictures Animation from a few years back.
STXfilms has done erratically with their releases, having hit earlier this year with The Upside, then flopping with Best of Enemies. UglyDolls is really the studio’s first attempt at an animated film as well as a PG family film. Not having any sort of track record to go by makes it tough to determine how the movie might do.
Either way, STXfilms offered a decent presentation at CinemaCon a few weeks back and got the movie into over 3,600 theaters this weekend, which could give it the type of visibility needed to make some dough.
Personally, I don’t see much appeal behind the movie’s musical talent and songs which seem like Trolls-lite at best. I just don’t know anyone even remotely interested in this movie, though it probably can still pull in $13 to 15 million due to its saturation in the market. Even if this movie does okay this weekend, it’s gonna get clobbered by next week’s Detective Pikachu, so I’m not sure it will make more than $50 million total in North America.

THE INTRUDER (Sony/Screen Gems)

The Intruder
Screen Gems

Cast: Michael Ealy, Meagan Good, Dennis Quaid
Directed By: Deon Taylor (Traffik, Meet the Blacks, Supremacy)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
The third new movie of the weekend is a psychological thriller you may have remembered me mentioning a few months back, a throwback to the 90s movies where people were just trying to go about their life when they encounter someone
In this case, it’s a young couple, played by Michael Ealy and Meagan Good, who buy a house out in the woods from Dennis Quaid, and let’s just say that his seller’s remorse emerges in rather creepy ways.
It’s the new movie from director Deon Taylor, a powerhouse in the world of modern black film who has been producing movies independently through his Hidden Empire brand for a number of years. Last year, his independent thriller Traffik opened with around $9 million with not a ton of backing from distributor CodeBlack, but his latest has a much stronger studio in Sony’s Screen Gems.
The cast will also be part of what gets people interested in the film, particularly Quaid, who seems to be playing a strong antagonist role unlike anything we’ve seen from him since Cold Creek Manorin 2003. That opened moderately and last year’s sci-fi film Kin didn’t do so well, but Quaid is also coming off the success of last year’s I Can Only Imagine and 2007’s A Dog’s Purpose, which is getting a sequel later this month. Taylor has a couple other movies he’s directed for Screen Gems, so he clearly will have the studio’s backing on The Intruder.
Ealy and Good have been in a number of hit films geared towards African-American audiences, Ealy a regular in the films of producer Will Packer, who used to release films through Screen Gems, such as Think Like A Man, About Last Night and 2015’s The Perfect Guy. Ealy’s career goes all the way back to the first Barbershop movie and its sequel, so he’s clearly known. Good also starred in the Think Like a Man movies, as well as quite a few other movies made by Packer for Screen Gems like You Got Served, Stomp the Yard, but she’s also been in a ton of independent films including Rian Johnson’s debut Brick. In fact, she’s been acting in movies since she was in teenager and even made an appearance in Shazam!, playing the superhero version of the lovable Darla.
So The Intruder certainly has a lot going for it but the genre will help generate interest as much as the cast, and presumably, African-American audiences that dig this sort of movie will make this a priority over other offerings, including Long Shot.
Screen Gems is opening The Intruder moderately in under 2,500 theaters which might keep it from besting the two wider releases above, but it should still do well among audiences in urban areas looking for something new. I could see this making a play for third place with between $11 and 13 million this weekend, though it might get edged out by being in 1,000 fewer theaters than UglyDolls.

EL CHICANO (Briarcliff)

El Chicano
Briarcliff Entertainment

Cast: Raul Castillo, David Castañeda, Jose Pablo Cantillo, George Lopez, Sal Lopez, Roberto Garcia
Directed By: Ben Hernandez Bray (debut)
MPAA Rating: R
While all of this week’s new movies could be considered “underdogs,” the one true underdog of this weekend is this Latinx action-thriller co-written and produced by Joe Carnahan (Smokin’ Aces, Narc), which is looking to create a new vigilante hero in the title character.
El Chicano is the new film from Carnahan and Frank Grillo’s production company War Party, based on Ben Hernandez Bray’s story, which allows the frequent Carnahan stunt coordinator and actor to make his feature film directorial debut.
It stars Raul Castillo, a long-time character actor transitioning to lead roles following the Sundance breakout We the Animals, as twin brothers in L.A.’s Barrio who end up on opposite sides of the law with Diego a detective and his brother Pedro. What ties them together is a mysterious vigilante known as “El Chicano” who has been preying on the city’s gangbanger element. The movie also stars George Lopez, who remains a bit of an icon within the Latinx community from all the stuff he’s accomplished, and having him in the cast could help the film’s draw.
Otherwise, El Chicano might be a tough sell for anyone other than Latino males in big cities, but it was never really meant for anyone else. We’ll still have to see into how many theaters fledgling distributor Briarcliff releases it, but at least they’ve been marketing it during WWE shows the past couple weeks.
Depending on that theater count, El Chicano might be lucky to make $3 million this weekend, which at least would get it into the top 10, but it’s probably going to try to bring in that Latino male audience who could just as well see Endgame again.
Regardless, check out my interview with director Ben Bray and co-writer/producer Joe Carnahan.
Either way, does any of it really matter? Even with an expected 57% drop or more in its second weekend, Avengers: Endgamewill still make more than those four new movies put together, as it takes the record for biggest second weekend ever.

This Week’s Box Office Predictions:  

  1. Avengers: Endgame (Marvel / Disney) – $152 million -57%
  2. Long Shot (Lionsgate) – $15 million N/A
  3. UglyDolls (STXfilms) – $13.8 million N/A
  4. The Intruder (Screen Gems) – $12 million N/A
  5. Captain Marvel (Marvel Studios/Disney) – $5 million -40%
  6. Breakthrough (20thCentury Fox) – $4.5 million -35%
  7. The Curse of La Llorona (New Line/WB) – $3.6 million -55%
  8. Shazam! (New Line / WB) – $2.5 million -55% (down .6 million)
  9. Dumbo (Disney) – $1.9 million -45%   (down .1 million)
  10. Little (Universal) – $1.7 million -50% (down .2 million
    *El Chicano (Briarcliff) – $1.5 million (down 1 million)

UPDATE: Well, El Chicano is only opening in roughly 600 theaters, which is about half of what I projected earlier this week, so I’ve changed my prediction accordingly. Likewise, most of the bottom half of the top 10 have lost even more theaters this weekend and some will be completely out of theaters pretty soon.
There aren’t too many limited releases of note this weekend although French auteur Olivier Assayas’ latest movie Non-Fiction will be released by IFC Films and the great Zhang Yimou returns to martial arts with Shadow (Well GO USA). Also, after playing the Tribeca Film Festival Werner Herzog and André Singer’s new doc Meeting Gorbachev (The Orchard) will open at New York’s Film Forum.
Next week, Warner Bros will bring back a popular video game franchise with Pokemon: Detective Pikachu will take on the Anne Hathaway-Rebel Wilson comedy The Hustle (UA Releasing)– a remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, no less – and STXfilms targets older women with the new Diane Keaton comedy Poms.

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