Welcome back to the Beat’s weekly Box Office Preview!

Believe it or not, this is the last weekend of October, and this is probably going to be a very bad weekend as people are preparing for the start of November and the beginning of the holiday movie season.

I guess this weekend is also the closest we’ll get to Halloween, so we have a couple of horror movies (and I’m using that term very loosely): One is a horror movie based on the realities of police/civilian relationships in the inner city, one is a horror movie about the complicated battle to bring electricity to America, and the third is an actual horror movie, so we’ll start with that one…

COUNTDOWN (STXfilms)

Countdown
STXfilms

Cast: Elizabeth Lail, Anne Winters, Charlie McDermott, Peter Facinelli, Jeannie Elise Mai, Talitha Bateman, Jordan Calloway
Written and directed by Justin Dec (directorial debut by Sean Ander’s production assistant)
MPAA Rating: PG-13

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Like Jexi a few weeks back, I’m not sure I’d know about this APP-based horror movie being released by STXfilms without much ado this weekend, maybe hoping younger audiences looking for some pre-Halloween chills will find it. It certainly has a cool premise about a smartphone APP that tells you the exact minute and second you’re going to die, great for people who won’t die until their late 70s, not so great for those who die in a couple days.

Yup, it’s pretty high concept in the vein of Final Destination (my personal favorite horror franchise), The Ringand more recent films like Happy Death Day and maybe Truth or Dare?These are all movies that had a relative amount of success based on the low cost to make them, but the only cast in this one that I’ve heard of is Peter Facinelli (who was in “The Twilight Saga”) and Charlie McDermott, who was on the ABC sitcom The Middle. I guess Elizabeth Lail also comes from ABC and Once Upon a Time, and Anne Winters has also done a bunch. The point is that no one (or few) are going to go see Countdown for the cast, and it’s more about the premise. The problem is that it also might be hard to get any sort of talk show awareness, which sometimes can help.

On top of that,Countdown is written and directed by someone who has never written or directed a movie, which isn’t always a bad thing but STXfilms isn’t screening the movie for critics in advance, which is almost ALWAYS a bad thing. (Note: Literally at the last minute, STXfilms changed its mind and invited critics in New York and L.A. to see the movie Weds night, so expect reviews on Thursday morning. I don’t expect them to be very good.)

So basically, this horror movie has a high-concept premise and hopefully, the kids saw the trailer in front of Annabelle Comes Home or some other movie and will look for some way to kill time. It’s being released into 2,670 theaters, but I probably would be shocked if the movie makes more than $10 million as it battles The Addams Family for fifth place.


BLACK AND BLUE (Screen Gems)

Black and Blue
Screen Gems

Cast: Naomie Harris, Tyrese Gibson, Mike Colter, Frank Grillo, Nafessa Williams
Directed By: Deon Taylor (The Intruder, Traffik, Meet the Blacks, Supremacy)
MPAA Rating: R

Although this police thriller isn’t getting the widest release of the new movies, there’s a good chance that it will find the biggest audience, mainly because it has a solid cast, and it’s a strong movie genre that will appeal to the film’s core urban base for sure.

It stars Naomi Harris (Moneypenny from recent Bond movies) as New Orleans policewoman Alicia West who recently started in a new division. One night when sent out on patrol with another officer, she an undercover cop named Malone (Frank Grillo) killing a drugdealer, something captured on her body cam. Malone has a lot of bad cops involved in his operation so they chase after Alicia, but also frame her for the murder so the drugdealers boss (Mike Colter) also wants her dead, so she turns to a guy at the local market (Tyrese Gibson) to help her escape.

This is the new movie from Deon Taylor, who is quickly becoming (in my mind) one of America’s most underrated directors, mostly targeting African-American audiences who want something that gives them relatable protagonists like the ones played by Harris and Gibson in this one. Earlier this year, Taylor directed the thriller The Intruder, released by Screen Gems in early May, and that opened moderately with around $11 million and grossed $35.4 million total.

Harris is a really good get for the film as she has done quite a variety of films from the James Bond movies Skyfall and Spectre, a few of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, Michael Mann’s Miami Vice and her Oscar-nominated performance in Barry Jenkins’ Oscar Best Picture Moonlight. She’s joined by Tyrese Gibson, best known from the “Fast and Furious” movies; Mike Colter (aka Netflix’s Luke Cage); Frank Grillo (the Captain America villain Crossbones) and Nafessa Williams, who plays the first black lesbian superhero Thunder on Black Lightning. That’s a really impressive cast that offers quite a lot of variety for the movie’s target audience but also could help it bring in others who just want to see a cool action-thriller.

Screen Gems is only releasing Black and Blue into roughly 2,000 theaters, which seems odd for a film that should be fairly popular, but the studio probably knows that this movie will probably do better in big cities rather than in rural areas and Midwestern suburbs. The Intruder opened in about 2,231 theaters and averaged nearly $5,000 per theater. One great thing Screen Gems has been doing lately is screening their movies for critics, and I mean as LOT. Not just the usual Wednesday night screening 24 hours before opening but weeks in advance…without an embargo either!

Even so, reviews so far have been mixed, although that might not matter if audiences in urban areas, particularly guys in their 20s and 30s, see this as a viable moviegoing option. In some ways, a movie like Black and Blue is kind of review proof, and it could do better in some theaters than others.

Black and Blue just seems stronger than the other new movies and those who’ve already seen Joker, Gemini Man and last week’s Zombieland: Double Tap will look for something new, which should help this one squeak into 4th place with $10 to 11 million.


THE CURRENT WAR: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT (101 Studios)

The Current War
101 Studios

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon, Tom Holland, Nicholas Hoult, Katherine Waterston, Matthew Macfadyen
Directed By: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, American Horror Story)
MPAA Rating: PG-13

You read that title right. A studio is actually releasing a movie’s “director’s cut” in wide release first, but there’s probably a good reason for that. The previous cut would probably have been by former Hollywood powerhouse and accused exec-offender Harvey WeinsteinThe Current War premiered at the Toronto Film Festival two years ago when the Weinstein Company was going to distribute it, but it wasn’t released well and after Harvey Weinstein got taken down, this movie ended up being put back on the shelf until another distributor came forward.

Obviously, having Doctor Strange and Spider-Man in the movie is what’s going to be its primary draw. What? Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Holland aren’t playing their popular MCU characters and this isn’t a sequel to Infinity War? Cumberbatch actually plays Thomas Edison and Holland is his assistant, while Michael Shannon plays George Edison and Nicholas Hoult is Nikola Tesla.

At one point, this was clearly going to be one of Weinstein’s big Oscar movies that year but then #MeToo happened… oh, yeah, and people saw the movie at TIFF and reviews weren’t great. You read that right (if you clicked on the link), The Current War is 31% Rotten, but its new distributor 101 Studios decided “Hey, let’s change the title, and we’ll get a new listing on RottenTomatoes, and no one will notice all those bad reviews.” Oops.

The movie is okay but I’m not really sure who it’s for. It reminds me a bit of the 2008 Greg Kinnear movie Flash of Genius, which was about the invention of the windshield wiper – it made less than $5 million total – or the 1917 Michael Keaton movie The Founder about fast food pioneer, which did a little better with $12.7 million.

Personally, I’ll be shocked if The Current War makes $3 million this weekend.


Either way, this week’s top 3 will be the same as last week’s top 3 with Maleficent remaining at #1 despite a disappointing showing this past weekend. As far as the new movies go, I’ll give a slight advantage to Screen Gems’ Black and Blue just because it seems like an easier sell premise and a cast its target audience might want to see vs. Countdown, which has a cool concept, and that’s about it.

This Week’s Box Office Predictions:

  1. Maleficent, Mistress of Evil (Walt Disney) – $19 million -49%
  2. Joker (Warner Bros.) – $16.1 million -45%
  3. Zombieland Double Tap (Sony) – $12.8 million -52%
  4. Black and Blue (Screen Gems) – $11 million N/A
  5. Countdown (STXfilms) – $10.3 million N/A
  6. The Addams Family (U.A. Releasing) – $9.5 million -42%
  7. Gemini Man (Paramount) – $3.8 million -55%
  8. The Current War (101 Studios) – $2.8 million N/A
  9. Abominable (DreamWorks/Universal) – $2.2 million -37%
  10. Downton Abbey (Focus Features) – $1.8 million -42%

We’ve had a number of big limited releases the past couple weeks, so this week is a little slower with Ira SachsFrankie (Sony Pictures Classics), the follow-up to his acclaimed Love is Strange with a cast that includes Isabelle Huppert, Brendan Gleeson, Marisa Tomei, Greg Kinnear and more. The Bruce Springsteen doc Western Stars is supposed to get a limited release after a couple Fathom Events screenings this past week. Apparently, Kanye West’s Jesus is King is being released into roughly 350 IMAX theaters across the country, but I’m not nearly cool enough to have seen that.

Next week, November and the holiday movie season kicks off with Paramount Pictures’ Terminator: Dark Fate, Edward Norton’s period drama Motherless Brooklyn, the Focus Features biopic Harriet (as in Tubman) and the animated Arctic Dogs from Entertainment Studios.

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