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Box Office Preview – Tim Burton’s DUMBO Flies Into Theaters… But Will it Succeed?


Welcome back to the Beat’s weekly Box Office Preview!
While we’re still reeling from the rather mixed reviews for Jordan Peele’s Us, three new movies enter wide (or semi-wide) release while a couple others expand across the country. There’s clearly one movie this weekend that has a chance at dethroning the blockbuster horror hit Us and that would be the latest from Tim Burton.

DUMBO (Disney)

Walt Disney Pictures

Cast: Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny Devito, Eva Green, Alan Arkin, Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins
Directed By: Tim Burton (Alice in Wonderland, Batman, Sleepy Hollow, Beetlejuice and SO MANY MORE!)
MPAA Rating: PG
After three years away, filmmaker Tim Burton returns to theaters with his latest adaptation for Disney after having huge success nine years ago with Alice in Wonderland, starring frequent collaborator Johnny Depp. That movie made a billion worldwide after a $116.1 million opening weekend in North America in early March, and it started Disney down a road of remaking ALL of their animated movies into live action ones.
Although Burton has made original movies in the past, he’s had the most success with movies based on previous properties like 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 2001’s Planet of the Apes, and of course, the early Batman movies. Burton’s last film in 2016 was an adaptation of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, which opened with $28.9 million and grossed $87.2 million for Fox. His only other movie to make $50 million since Alice was 2012’s Dark Shadows, also starring Johnny Depp.
Dumbo is one of the classic Walt Disney characters, star of the master’s fourth animated movie in 1941, which was based on a storyline written by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl with Helen Durney illustrating. Although the flying elephant might not be as known to the last few generations of kids, Disney has done a decent job repacking its classic character for modern audiences, as seen by the success of 2015’s Cinderella, directed by Kenneth Brannagh, which made over $200 million domestic after a $68 million opening in March. A few years earlier, Disney had success with Sam Raimi’s reinvention of Frank L. Baum with Oz the Great and Powerful, another March wide release in 2013 which opened with $79 million and also surpassed $200 million. The hits kept rolling with Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book in 2016, which opened over $100 million and grossed almost a billion worldwide. And then there was Beauty and the Beast in 2017 with Harry Potter star Emma Watson, which grossed more than $500 million domestic after whopping $174.7 million opening.
Clearly, Disney has had great success bringing their classic animated characters back to the big screen in live action adaptations, although there were a few stumbling blocks like 2016’s Pete’s Dragon, a summer release that grossed $76 million after opening with $21.5 million. Dumbo is probably a better-known character and movie to adapt, but in some ways, Burton is a bigger selling point than the actual source material. Oddly, Dumbo is also the first non-Marvel movie released by Disney this year, as the studio allowed other studios’ animated family movies to open and fizzle away.
On top of that, the cast isn’t particularly strong with Colin Farrell returning to Disney after playing the title role in Saving Mr. Banks– Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson got most of the attention for that one, Michael Keaton (reuniting with Burton after their Batman movies), Danny Devito (ditto) as well as frequent Burton collaborator Eva Green, who played Miss Peregrine and appeared in his Dark Shadows remake.
Not everything Burton has made has turned to gold, and with Dumbo, you’re looking at a character that just might not be very well-known to anyone under 30 years old, even if the character has been kept alive due to the Disney theme parks. This makes it seem like it might be harder to achieve the $65 to 80 million opening of other Disney movies even if ticket inflation (plus the higher ticket prices for IMAX/3D) should help. Also, not helping are the rather mixed reviews that appeared yesterday.
It’s been long enough since the release of Wonder Park and How to Train Your Dragon that there’s still room for another strong family film, especially with many schools being out for spring break, although this one is likely to end up in the $50 to 60 million range in its opening weekend and might be a push to get past $150 million domestically, especially if audiences don’t embrace it like other Disney adaptations.


Pure Flix

Cast: Ashley Bratcher, Brooks Ryan, Robia Scott, Jared Lotz, Emma Elle Roberts, Robin DeMarco, Robert Thomason, Tina Toner
Directed By: Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon
MPAA Rating: R
This is an odd one, because it’s a faith-based movie, but it’s also Pure Flix’s first R-rated movie, and it’s based on the true story of Abby Johnson, a Planned Parenthood clinic director who became an anti-abortion activist… and no, this is not the new movie from Jordan Peele either.
The movie stars Ashley Bratcher as Johnson, director of a Planned Parenthood clinic who fights for women’s rights until (and I’m quoting here) “the day she saw something that changed everything.”  What? Could it be that she suddenly decided that abortion was murder and became a pro-Lifer? Honestly? I have no idea and I don’t care, because this is clearly going to be propaganda made for the religious right, and that’s all I need to know.  Without getting further into the movie’s politics, this doesn’t really seem like a subject that might draw people into theaters even if they are pro-Life.
(Oddly, Johnson’s story has already been told in a similarly-titled rather mixed reviews, though this one will probably be a little more high-profile, for better or worse.)
Pure Flix rarely screens their movies for critics in advance, nor do they bother to promote their movies through normal channels, and yet, the people who like their movies somehow know of their existence. (This one is being advertised as “from the writers of God’s Not Dead,” the sequel which is Pure Flix’s biggest hit to date, even though it topped out at $20.8 million.)
Unplanned will open in 1,000 theaters on Friday, but I can’t imagine there would be a ton of interest in this subject matter even from those who flock to faith-based films.  It still might get into the top 10 with an opening in the $3 million range.

HOTEL MUMBAI (Bleecker Street)

Bleecker Street

Cast: Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Jason Isaacs, Angus McLaren, Nazanin Boniadi, Anupam Kher, Amandeep Singh
Directed by Anthony Maras (debut)
MPAA Rating: R
Expanding nationwide after a platform release this past Friday is Anthony Maras’s directorial debut, which attempts to recreate the terrorist attacks on the Hotel Taj in November 2008. This was actually one of the last movies produced by the Weinstein Co. that ended up being sold off when the company went bankrupt.
The bigger names among the cast are Dev Patel, Armie Hammer and Jason Isaacs, all of whom have been regulars in the realm of movies (and in Isaacs’ case, television) for many, many years. Armie Hammer had the most potential to breakout as a big star, and though he’s respected as an actor, he has yet to have a really huge live action movie since his early work in David Fincher’s The Social Network. One of his best bets was Disney’s The Lone Ranger with Johnny Depp, but that barely had an impact and neither did Guy Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. a few years later. Even so, Hammer has created a nice niche for himself in indie cinema with roles in Call Me By Your Name and last year’s On the Basis of Sex.
The sad truth is that real-world movies like this generally won’t do well without a big-name director behind the camera, such as Paul Greengrass, Clint Eastwood or Oliver Stone, and this cast doesn’t seem like one that can convince people to rush out to see this.
Reviews for Hotel Mumbai have been rather mixed reviews ever since it debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) last year, but that doesn’t mean there’s much buzz out in the world where movies like Captain Marvel and Us are getting all the attention. There may be some hope that the Indian cast might help bring in some of the Indo-American audiences that regularly go see Bollywood movies in the States, but the subject matter might be a tough one for those who were in India at the time of the attacks.
Last weekend, Hotel Mumbai opened in four theaters in New York and L.A. where it grossed $86,000 or about $21,500 per theater, which isn’t great for a nationwide expansion, but it’s at least a start. Because of that – and without having a set theater count at the time of this writing – Hotel Mumbai might have a hard time getting into the top 5 this weekend. Even so, it shouldn’t bomb completely and will make an appearance in the top 10 for sure, probably in the lower half with around $3 million. (As with other movies mentioned below, it all comes down to the theater counts.)



Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Snoop Dogg, Isla Fisher, Martin Lawrence, Zac Effron, Jonah Hill, Stefania Lavie Owen
Directed By: Harmony Korine (Spring Breakers, Gummo, Trash Humpers, Mister Lonely and more)
MPAA Rating: R
Next up is oddball auteur Harmony Korine’s follow-up to his 2013 hit Spring Breakers, this one starring Matthew McConaughey in the perfectly-titled The Beach Bum.  Korine has been an indie recluse for many years, but Spring Breakers was indeed a big break for him, as it got him further into the mainstream than ever before. It grossed $14.1 million making it one of A24’s first hits.
This one is a comedy starring Matthew McConaughey as Moondog, a drug-addled celebrity who lives live by his own rules. In other words, it’s not too far removed from McConaughey himself. McConaughey’s career has been up and down and all over the place both before and after he won the Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club in 2013. Other than animated movies like Sing and Kubo and the Two Strings, McConaughey has not been able to prove himself worthy of being considered A-list with back-to-back bombs like The Dark Tower in 2017, last year’s White Boy Rick and this year’s Serenity, which paired him with Anne Hathaway but made less in total than White Boy Rick’s opening, both below $10 million.
McConaughey is surrounded by another typical Harmony Korine oddball cast, including Snoop Dogg, Isla Fisher, Martin Lawrence (where has HE been?), and both Zac Efron and Jonah Hill, both of them considering their odder choices in terms of films/roles. Presumably, most of them have smaller roles since much of the marketing, for better or worse, is based around McConaughey.
At the last minute (seemingly), Neon decided to release The Beach Bum nationwide rather than giving it a limited release and rolling it out from there with hopes of growing an audience from word-of-mouth. This possibly might be since it wasn’t received as well at its SXSW premiere as other movies that played there.
This just seems like a bomb waiting to happen, although that depends heavily on how many theaters in which it opens, it should still be able to get into the top 10 even if it opens with less than $2 million (and it will).
Besides all of the above, Focus Features will expand Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s excellent directorial debut The Mustang, starring Matthias Schoenaerts, into more theaters nationwide, although I’m not sure there’s enough buzz from its platform release to break that into the top 10.
There’s little question that Tim Burton’s Disney should be able to bump Jordan Peele’s Us out of the #1 slot, but expect Peele’s horror film to hold up well as it continues to do business from word-of-mouth recommendations and required repeat viewings.

This Week’s Box Office Predictions:

  1. Dumbo (Disney) – $56 million N/A (up $1.5 million)*
  2. Us (Universal) – $35 million -51%
  3. Captain Marvel (Marvel Studios/Disney) – $18.5 million -47%
  4. Five Feet Apart  (CBS Films / Lionsgate) – $5.5 million -37%
  5. Wonder Park(Paramount) – $4.9 million -45%
  6. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (DreamWorks Animation) – $3.6 million -45%
  7. Unplanned (Pure Flix) – $3.1 million N/A
  8. Tyler Perry’s A Madea Famly Funeral (Lionsgate) – $2.6 million -45%
  9. Hotel Mumbai (Bleecker Street) – $2.5 million +4000% (down .9 million)*
  10. The Beach Bum (NEON) – $1.8 million N/A (Up .3 million)*

*UPDATE: It looks like The Beach Bum is opening in more theaters than Hotel Mumbai is expanding into, so a few minor changes there. Also, Dumbo is getting more theaters than projected so I’m giving that a little bump as well.
Not a ton of high-profile limited releases this weekend, but if you’re looking for something indie, there’s Kent Jones’ drama Diane starring May Kay Place, and the Steve Bannon documentary The Brink  from Magnolia.
Next week, April begins with the powerhouse twosome of Warner Bros’ Shazam! and Paramount’s Pet Semataryremake, as well as the Taraji P. Henson, Sam Rockwell drama The Best of Enemies.


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