Box Office Preview – SHAZAM! Offers More Box Office Superheroics Though PET SEMATARY Offers Deadly Competition
Welcome back to the Beat’s weekly Box Office Preview!
It’s April and unlike a few weekends this year, this isn’t a week with a number of throwaway films. No, there are two pretty big movies this week that will be fighting to get business away from Us and Captain Marvel. Unfortunately, one of them is a horror movie and the other is a superhero film about a character once known as “Captain Marvel.”
SHAZAM! (New Line / Warner Bros.)
Cast: Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Djimon Hounsou, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Glazer, Grace Fulton, Ian Chen, Faithe Herman, Cooper Andrews
Directed By: David F. Sandberg (Lights Out, Annabelle: Creation)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
As we enter into April, we get our second superhero movie of the year and the first from Warner Bros/DC Entertainment, as the company takes its biggest risk since 2017’sSuicide Squadmovie.
Some of you may know Shazam as the superhero formerly named “Captain Marvel,” created by CC Beck in 1939’s Whiz Comics #2. Everything was going nice and fine until a guy named Stan Lee renamed his company — formerly called Timely and then Atlas Comics — as “Marvel Comics.” When Fawcett Comics lost the right to publish Captain Marvel comics in 1953 (claiming him to be too similar to Superman), Marvel got the trademark and Stan Lee created a new character called Captain Mar-Vell for 1967’s Marvel Super-Heroes #12. The rest is her-story.
But enough about him or her, because we’re here to talk about DC Comics, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros’ attempt to build a similar expanded universe as Marvel Studios’ MCU. In 1972, Carmine Infantino licensed the character from Fawcett and over the next twenty years, many at DC Comics have tried to keep the character alive but the character started to become known as “Shazam!” appearing in various comics, including a great Jerry Ordway run in the ‘90s. Shazam also had a short-lived Saturday morning television show in the ‘70s that few will remember.
Mind you, New Line has had the rights to make a Shazam/Captain Marvel movie for nearly two decades, and superstar Dwayne Johnson has been attached to appear in the movie as villain Black Adam for almost as long. Johnson is still an exec. producer on Shazam!even though he was too busy with other movies to appear in this one, but the reins were taken up by Swedish filmmaker David F. Sandberg after having the horror hits Lights OutandAnnabelle:Creation.
Starring as Shazam is Zachary Levi, a known comic fan who also played Fandral in Thor: The Dark Worldand Thor: Ragnarokbut gets a lot bigger chance to shine in this role. Mark Strong, who oddly played the anti-hero Sinestro in 2011’s Green Lantern opposite Ryan “Deadpool” Reynolds plays Thaddeus Sivana, his second DC villain, and then there’s Djimon Housou, who is making a play to surpass both Reynolds and Chris Evans as the “most comic characters played” having appeared both in the recent Captain Marvel and last year’s Aquaman. (He plays the wizard also called Shazam in the movie.) The rest of the cast? Mostly little-known or unknown actors like Jack Dylan Grazer from It (as Freddy Freeman), Grace Fulton (Annabelle: Creation) as Mary Bromfield and Disney star Asher Angel as Billy Batson.
Even though it’s been eight years since the disaster that was Green Lantern, we have to look at that as one of the benchmark’s forShazam! That movie opened with $53.2 million and ended up making $219 million globally. That isn’t good, considering the movie reportedly cost $200 million to make.
Warner Bros. seems to have recovered from the problems it has had bringing DC superheroes other than Batman and Superman to the big screen with 2017’s Wonder Woman, which opened with $103.2 million and grossed over $400 million in North America alone. Last year’s Aquaman, directed by Lights Out producer James Wan, did almost as well, crossing a billion worldwide but opening with $67.8 million.
That gap between Green Lantern and Aquaman and then Wonder Woman is fairly significant, and you have to figure that all three of them are more popular and known superheroes among non-comic readers, each of them being founding members of DC’s Justice League. By comparions, Shazam has barely had his own comic book other than a back-up feature in Geoff Johns’ New 52 Justice League reboot, which is the basis for Shazam!, as well as a new series to help regenerate interest in the character.
It’s doubtful there will be as much push for people to go see another white male superhero after the grassroots campaign to make Black Panther and Captain Marve ltwo of Marvel Studios’ biggest hits.
Reviews for the movie have been very good and Warner Bros. wisely gave the movie a sneak preview on March 23 where it made $3.3 million in 1,200 theaters, which is better than Warner Bros’ Aquaman preview, which took in $2.9 million. That $3.3 million will probably be rolled into the opening weekend, but I still think it’s a good way to build word-of-mouth for the movie, as have various fan screenings including one at WonderCon last weekend.
The film will benefit from the schools that are off for Spring Break, which will help both with the Friday and Sunday numbers, especially since Shazam! has a friendlier PG-13. Even so, it does have some tough competition for older teens with Paramount’s Pet Sematary remake (see below).
Due to these factors, Shazam! can probably open with more than $55 million but maybe less than $60 million, though it might not be hampered by next week’s Hellboy (which is R-rated) and could have a decent run up until Avengers: Endgame opens later in the month. I wouldn’t be surprised if Shazam! is able to bring in $200 million domestically with decent word-of-mouth although it still has too many factors working against it to achieve the success of the recent Captain Marvel movie.
Also, check outmy review of Shazam!
PET SEMATARY (Paramount)
Cast: Jason Clarke, John Lithgow, Amy Seimetz, Jeté Laurence
Directed By: Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes, Absence)
MPAA Rating: R
Offered as counter-programming is a horror movie that could seriously cut into Shazam!’s opening weekend, a new adaptation of Stephen King’s 1983 novel that was famously adapted into a fairly decent 1989 movie by Mary Lambert.
So thirty years later, it’s okay to redo all the movies based on King’s properties and most of that comes from the success of Warner Bros’ Itin Sept. 2017, which opened with an astounding $123.4 million, making it the highest opening both for a horror film and second biggest opening for an R-rated film after 2016’s Deadpool.
Pet Sematarywas another one of King’s popular books that led to a theatrical movie, rather than a television mini-series, and with new and younger audiences discovering King’s work, it makes sense for Paramount to jump into the game with this remake.
There’s a few hurdles facing Pet Sematary, one of them being the same as Shazam! as the only real name and possible box office draw is John Lithgow. It does star Jason Clarke, who is rather prolific, having already appeared in Serenity this year and starring as Ted Kennedy in Chappaquiddick last year. Despite the amount of work he gets, Clarke has yet to prove himself as any kind of draw. His wife is played by indie darling Amy Seimetz (Upstream Color) who previously forayed into studio films with Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant. As most will realize by now, there’s a special exception that horror films have where they can fare well even without big name stars if the premise is easy to market, and that’s certainly the case with Pet Sematary.
The second issue facing Pet Sematary is that the movie was previous made thirty years ago and older Stephen King fans might not think it’s worth remaking it, not that it stopped New Line’s It from achieving one of the biggest openings for a horror movie ever.
Paramount had a decent-sized horror hit last year with John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place, and the studio has been trying to replicate that success by premiering Pet Sematary at SXSW, where it received mostly glowing reviews. The movie has yet to be screened for the remainder of the critical community, so we’ll have to see if they feel the same way as the festival attendees.
Either way, Pet Sematary should do decently, but it might be a pipe dream to think that Stephen King fans (new and old) will be rushing out to see this as they did with It a few years ago. The best this can do is second place, probably with $30 million or less, then we’ll have to see how it fares over the next couple weeks before New Line’s The Curse of La Llorona opens on April 19.
THE BEST OF ENEMIES (STXfilms)
Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Sam Rockwell, Wes Bentley, Anne Heche, John Gallagher Jr., Nicholas Logan
Written and Directed by Robin Bissell (debut)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Trying to offer something for older audiences that might not be interested in either of the movies above, we get this drama that seems like something that’s more likely to open in the fall awards season… if it’s any good.
This directorial debut by Robin Bissell tells the story of civil rights activist Ann Atwater, as played by Taraji P. Henson, who takes on Ku Klux Klan leader C.P. Ellis, played by Oscar-winner Sam Rockwell, to fight for school integration in 1971 Durham, North Carolina. And yes, it certainly seems like Sam Rockwell is being typecast as a racist, and that this might be another Green Book-like drama about how black and white people can work together that’s probably going to be taken just as adversely as the Best Picture winner.
Or rather and more likely, few will know this movie even exists, because it’s getting such a low-key movie compared to the two movies above.
What the movie has going for it is its two stars, particularly the Oscar-nominated Henson, who has become more popular since taking on the role of “Cookie” on Fox’s Empire. Henson is coming off the semi-remake What Men Wantin February, which has grossed $54 million so far after an $18 million opening. That isn’t too bad, but neither of her films from 2018 really broke out either and that was after being part of the SAG-winning cast of Hidden Empires in 2016. By comparison, Rockwell followed-up his Oscar-winning role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouriwith another Oscar nomination for Adam McKay’s Vice.
Best of Enemies is a classic case of two solid actors in a drama being opened wide right away rather than giving it a limited release to build word-of-mouth. STXfilms, whose box office track record took a giant leap with the Bryan Cranston-Kevin Hart “buddy comedy” The Upside, is giving the movie a moderate release into less than 2,000 theaters, which certainly will limit how well it does.
Maybe they realize that the marketing for the movie hasn’t made it a must-see against what’s already in theatres, so they’re just hoping for the best, and that will be somewhere in the $5 to 6 million this weekend. (And that might even be generous.) We’ll have to see if reviews of the movie help matters, but they’ll also be coming late compared to the other two movies.
We’ll also have to see how another superhero and horror movie might affect the continuing success of Jordan Peele’s Usand Marvel’s Captain Marvel, although they should still hold up better this weekend than Tim Burton’s Dumbo.
This Week’s Box Office Predictions:
- Shazam! (New Line / WB) – $58 million N/A
- Pet Sematary (Paramount) – $28.6 million N/A
- Dumbo (Disney) – $22 million -52%
- Us (Universal) – $18.5 million -43%
- Captain Marvel (Marvel Studios/Disney) – $11.4 million -44%
- The Best of Enemies (STXfilms) – $5.4 million N/A (up .4 million)*
- Unplanned (Pure Flix) – $4 million -37% (up 1.1 million)*
- Five Feet Apart (CBS Films / Lionsgate) – $3.8 million -38%
- Wonder Park (Paramount) – $3.1 million -38%
- How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (DreamWorks Animation) – $2.7 million -35%
*UPDATE: The only chang I’m making from my predictions earlier in the week is that I think the faith-based film Unplanned might hold better than I originally thought, partially due to its rare “A+” CinemaScore, but also because it adds another 500 theaters on Friday. I’m also going to give The Best of Enemies a little more credit for finding an audience through its counter-programming even if it won’t crack the top 5.
There’s some good stuff opening in limited release this weekend including seven-time Oscar nominee Mike Leigh’s latest Peterloo from Amazon, a historical drama about a peaceful rally in Manchester in the early 19thCentury that was racked by politically-motivated violence. Also, NEON will release the long-lost Aretha Franklin concert movie Amazing Grace, which was filmed in the early ‘70s for Franklin’s record label but was sitting in the vault until it was recently restored and finished. A24 will release Claire Denis’ first English-language film, the sci-fi thriller High Life, starring Robert Pattinson, and IFC Midnight will release Emma Tammi’s Western werewolf film The Wind int0 select cities on Friday, as well.
CORRECTION NOTE: Max Minghella’s Teen Spirit has been moved by Bleecker Street to March 12 instead.
Next week, we get our THIRD superhero movie of 2019, Lionsgate’s reboot of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, starring David Harbour (from Stranger Things), we get another Big remake (of sorts) with Little, plus Hugh Jackman provides his voice for LAIKA’s animated Missing Link. Also, look for my summer box office preview sometime next week.
Edward Douglas has been writing about movies and other forms of entertainment for over 25 years, so he’s probably older than you.