Welcome back to the Beat’s weekly Box Office Preview!
We’re already into March, and it’s going to be another slower weekend before Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel blows the doors off the box office hinges. On the one hand, we get a new wide release from a filmmaker whose recent films rarely get out to the North American masses and on the other, it’s a very prolific and popular filmmaker finally putting to bed one of his most popular characters. We’ll get to the latter first.
TYLER PERRY’S A MADEA FAMILY FUNERAL (Lionsgate)
In the over 17 years I’ve been writing about box office, I’ve covered all twenty of Tyler Perry’s movies – 19 of those as writer/director – and I’ve learned more than once that one should never underestimate Perry, but at the same time, one shouldn’t overestimate his fanbase either.
I still remember writing about Diary of a Mad Black Woman in 2005, not knowing anything about Madea, Perry or his legacy as a playwright selling out theaters across the country to fans of his style of writing. In the time since then, Perry has taken over the directing duties and crossed-dress as Madea for fifteen movies total, including a couple that never got theatrical release. Clearly, he knows that the character has run her course as the movies went from grossing $50 million up to $90.5 million (2009’s Madea Goes to Jail) and then back down to $47.3 million for the recent Boo 2!: A Madea Halloween. That last movie, released in October 2017, contributed to the downwards spiral for Madea that began with 2013’s A Madea Christmas, which should have been a gigantic holiday hit, but failed to get too far past that $50 million benchmark. Because Perry’s movies rarely cost more than $20 to 25 million to make, they’re all fairly profitable.
Perry’s last two non-Madea movies – Acrimony and Nobody’s Fool– also failed to make much of a mark, each of them grossing less than Boo 2!’s $47 million. That should tell the people at Lionsgate greenlighting these films that maybe Perry’s fans want something more, and proof positive comes in the form of all the strong Afro-centric films released in 2018, including two Best Picture nominees in Black Panther and BlacKkKlansman.
It’s a fairly safe assumption that Perry and Madea’s fans will go out to see the final movie similar to how the last Harry Potter movie fared better than all the previous installments. At the same time, Perry is touring the country with “Madea’s Farewell Tour,” so maybe he finally has made enough money to stop dressing in drag and retire the Madea character for good. Unlike some of Perry’s previous movies, there are no other name stars to get audiences into theaters.
Since I’ve barely seen a quarter of Perry’s movies — Lionsgate rarely screens for critics in advance — I can’t tell you if A Madea Family Funeral looks much better or worse than any of them, but Madea Family Funeral should do decently with no immediate competition other than Paramount’s What Men Want, which has been losing steam each week. I don’t think it can be #1 even against the second weekend of How to Train Your Dragon, but an opening weekend in the low-to-mid $20 million range would be respectable enough.
GRETA (Focus Features)
A movie that has far less awareness and less going for it than Tyler Perry’s new movie is the latest from Irish auteur Neil Jordan directing his first movie in twelve years that will get a wide release following the Jodie Foster thriller The Brave One.
Greta is a psychological thriller starring Chloe Grace Moretz aka Hit Girl from the Kick-Ass movies and star of the Carrie remake, as Frances, a New York waitress who finds an abandoned purse on the subway with an ID inside and takes it back to the owner, an older woman named Greta, played by French actor Isabelle Huppert. At first, they strike up a friendship but when Frances starts learning more about Greta, things start getting weird and dangerous.
It’s actually a fairly cool take on meeting someone in New York who seems nice at first but then turns out to be quite a lot more than you bargained for, leading to full-on stalking and much, much worse. Focus has cut a decent trailer for the movie, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last year, though I’m not sure how many people know this movie exists. (Honestly, if I didn’t write about movies on a weekly basis, I’m not sure I would even know it existed. I saw the trailer once and not a single television commercial, so I’m not sure how much Focus has invested into promoting the film.)
Besides the premise, what Jordan’s latest has going for it is the two talented actors in the lead with Moretz still finding her feet as an actor at the age of 22, having acted for over thirteen years. In fact, her very first film was The Amityville Horror remake from 2005, starring Ryan Reynolds. She started getting more attention five years later by starring in Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass, the adaptation of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Matt Reeves’ horror remake Let Me In. In turn, that led to her working with Martin Scorsese (Hugo) and Tim Burton (Dark Shadows) and right into Kimberly Peirce’s remake of Stephen King’s Carrie in 2013. The latter probably should have been a bigger hit, especially if it was released a few laters after the King Renaissance post-It, but it only made $35.2 million.
Like with Carrie, Moretz is paired with an Oscar-worthy older actress in Isabelle Huppert, who was nominated for an Oscar for starring in Paul Verhoeven’s Elle a few years back. Other than that, Huppert has yet to make a mark in the States beyond fans of foreign cinema.
Jordan is still a respected filmmaker due to his work in the ‘80s and ‘90s including Interview with a Vampire, The Crying Game and others, but his last major U.S. release, The Brave One, made about as much as that Carrie remake. The younger women that might be interested in this movie due to its premise may never have even heard of him. Even so, Greta has chalked up generally favorable reviews since its TIFF premiere.
Sadly, I don’t think awareness for Greta is very high, and because of that, it might have difficulty even pulling in more than $5 million in the 2,000 theaters in which it’s being released. With many stronger movies in theaters, I’m not sure this will even crack the top 5 this weekend.
Expect How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World to remain #1 this weekend and maybe we’ll see a few bumps for the Oscar-winning movies still in theaters, although those movies’ studios would be wise to use this slower weekend to put those movies into more theaters for those that missed them. Either way, this weekend is likely to be another down weekend from the same weekend last year.
This Week’s Box Office Predictions:
- How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (DreamWorks Animation) – $34 million -38%
- Tyler Perry’s A Madea Famly Funeral (Lionsgate) – $22.8 million N/A
- Alita: Battle Angel (20thCentury Fox) – $6.3 million -40%
- The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (Warner Bros.) – $6 million -40%
- Greta (Focus Features) – $5.5 million N/A (+1 million)*
- Fighting with my Family (MGM) – $5 million -38%
- Isn’t It Romantic? (New Line/WB) – $4 million -44%
- Green Book (Universal) – $3.6 million +71%*
- Happy Death Day 2 U (Universal) – $2.6 million -51%
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Sony) – $2.5 million +184%*
*UPDATE: Two of Sunday’s Oscar winners that are still in theaters are likely to expand into more theaters with Sony’s Oscar-winning animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse going back into 2,365 theaters and Universal’s Green Book also re-expanding into 2,641 theaters. Because of this, I would expect one or both to reenter the top 10 in the same $2.5 to 3 million area of Happy Death Day 2 U, probably knocking out the bottom two movies above. Also, Greta is opening in far more theaters than stated earlier, so I’m giving it a suitable bump into the top 5.
Opening on Friday and playing in IMAX theaters across the country for one week only is Todd Douglas Miller’s doc Apollo 11 (NEON), which uses actual mostly-unseen archival footage and audio from the 1969 moon launch to recreate the historic event. If you enjoyed First Man (or even if you were disappointed by it), I highly recommend seeking this film out. (It will get a normal theatrical release starting March 8.)
A number of foreign auteurs are making their presence known this weekend in select cities, including French filmmaker Gaspar Noë’s bizarre dance thriller Climax (A24) and Michael Winterbottom’s India-based crime-thriller The Wedding Guest (IFC Films), starring Dev Patel.
Next week, Brie Larson is Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel!