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

After two very disappointing weekends, this November is not looking like it’s going to be a very good month … that is, unless next week’s Disney sequel Frozen 2 turns things around in a big way, and it very well might. This weekend, there’s also the Disney+ in the room, as the streaming service launched on Tuesday. By the time you’re reading this on Wednesday… that is, assuming that you’re actually reading this and not watching Disney+ right now… we’ll know what sort of reach it has, and how it might affect this weekend’s box office. We’ll definitely know for sure by Sunday.

FORD V FERRARI (20th Century Fox)

Ford v Ferrari
20th Century Fox

Cast: Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Jon Bernthal, Tracy Letts, Caitriona Balfe, Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe, JJ Field, Ray McKinnon
Directed By: James Mangold (Walk the Line, Logan, The Wolverine, 3:10 to Yuma, Identity, Cop Land and more)
MPAA Rating: R

One of the big movies this weekend is the new movie from Logan and The Wolverinedirector James Mangold, who has been making pretty great movies for years now. He directed Girl, Interrupted, which won Angelina Jolie her first Oscar, then he directed Walk the Line, and his lead actress Reese Witherspoon won an Oscar. (Hey, Hugh Jackman probably should have gotten some more acknowledgment for playing Wolverine, but I guess we’ll have to settle for Joker’s Joaquin Phoenix at next year’s Oscars.)

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Ford v Ferrari tells a pretty astonishing racing story about the feud between America’s Ford corporation and the Ferrari company in Italy, the latter who was dominant in the world of racing and sportscars for years. That feud comes to a head at the Le Mans 24-hour race in 1963 when racecar driver Ken Miles drove a Ford sportscar he designed with Caroll Shelby to… well, I won’t say what happens, so it won’t spoil the movie for you.

Miles is played by Oscar-winner Christian Bale in another fantastic transformative role while Shelby is played Matt Damon, and anyone who has seen the movie has been blown away by how great these veteran actors are together on screen. The cast is rounded out by Tracy Letts, Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe from Outlander as Miles’ wife and Noah Jupe (from Shia Labeouf’s Honey Boy, which opened last week) as his son, plus Josh Lucas. Yes, there’s a lot of white men in this movie, almost as many as in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, and that’s only an issue, because this seems to be another movie that clearly isn’t reading the room and an environment where moviegoers are really wanting to start to see themselves on screen.

That be as it may, the two leads are going to do a lot to get audiences interested, Damon having his biggest hit in 2015 with The Martian, as well as being part of a few successful franchise like the “Jason Bourne” movies, the biggest one being 2007’sThe Bourne Ultimatum, which also topped $200 million domestically, and the Ocean’s movies. Damon also played a major role in Scorsese’s Oscar Best Picture The Departedand the Coens’ True Grit, and had a cameo in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. Damon has taken some time off after having a particularly bad year in 2017 with The Great Wall, Suburbiconand Downsizing, though he’s still a particularly likeable actor and definitely an A-lister.

Although not quite as warm and cuddly as Damon, Bale has similar popularity, his last movie Vicemaking about $47 million and getting him another Oscar nomination, but his career has been all over the place since playing Batman in Nolan’s “Dark Knight” movies, which made over $2 billion globally. Bale’s movies with director Scott Cooper, the Western Hostiles and the crime-drama Out of the Furnace, didn’t really break out big-time. (Oddly, Bale’s previous Western 3:10 to Yuma was with Ford v Ferrari director James Mangold, and that made about $53 million.)

Mangold has also had considerable success at the box office, particularly working with Fox.Walk the Line, his Johnny Cash biopic, opened with $22.3 million this same weekend in 2005 and went on to gross $119.5 million. He followed that with the Western 3:10 to Yuma, which made about half that amount, and his Tom Cruise-Cameron Diaz action film Knight and Day (again for Fox) opened with just $20 million but grossed $258.7 million worldwide. Mangold followed that with the two Wolverine movies, The Wolverine and Logan, the latter being R-rated and doing significantly better than the former, even being nominated for an Oscar for its screenplay.

Ford v Ferrari debuted in September’s festival season, playing at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals where it received muted praise, maybe because it was competing against other movies with stronger buzz like Joker and others. As of now, it’s 91% on Rotten Tomatoes with more reviews to come, and we’ll have to see how the movie plays out as more reviews come in, but it’s in pretty good shape to get some awards attention but maybe not until December or January. Regardless, this is definitely the type of “Rah, rah, USA!” movie that should appeal to audiences in the “flyover states” rather than just the big cities.

Even though there’s very little that Ford v Ferrari can do to attract women, even the ones who are fans of the two actors, maybe some of the guys who aren’t necessarily being represented will still be into the speed racing action. There’s another popular racing franchise you may have heard of called the “Fast and Furious,” which has generally done well. Of course, a need for speed didn’t necessarily help Ron Howard’s Rush, a similar movie about a racing rivalry, which made about $26.9 million domestically with a release closer to its TIFF debut. It platformed in five theaters and then expanded to 2,297 theaters where it made about $10 million. We have to imagine that Bale and Damon are stronger draws than Chris Hemsworth from Rush, going by the lack of success for his non-Thor movies. It also didn’t help Disney’s actual Need for Speed racing movie (based on the video game), which made only $43 million in North America.

Those box office bummers aside, Ford v Ferrari should be a winner with audiences, and it’s a shame it’s opening in a November box office that has been notably sluggish, maybe due to the introduction of two major streaming services? Only time will tell, but Ford v Ferrari should be good for $30 million or slightly more as guys who haven’t been as interested in other recent movie offerings might give this one a look based on the raves.

CHARLIE’S ANGELS (Sony)

Charlie's Angels
Sony Pictures

Cast: Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Sam Claflin, Monique StaTeena, Djimon Hounsou, Patrick Stewart
Directed By: Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect 2)
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Let’s get into some counter-programming and this PG-13 action-comedy directed by Elizabeth Banks, who had a substantial hit with her feature directorial debut Pitch Perfect 2. For Charlies Angels, Banks wrote AND directed AND stars as Bosley, and if you don’t know who Bosley is, then you’re probably too young to have watched the hit TV series Charlie’s Angels in the ‘70s, and maybe even too young to have seen the early ‘00s reboot and its sequel.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, Charlie’s Angels are a group of security agents who work for the mysterious Charles Townsend, essentially a voice on a P.A. system that sends them on their international assignments. It was a very popular show in the ‘70s, helping to turns the likes of Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson, Jaclyn Smith, Cheryll Ladd and other women into global sensations.

Banks has a pretty amazing cast for her take on the concept, first and foremost with Kristen Stewart, star of “The Twilight Saga,” who has been quietly doing smaller indie films in recent years. In fact, Stewart hasn’t had a movie gross more than $45 million worldwide since The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2seven years ago! That officially makes Charlie’s Angels her official return to the world of studio franchises. Will the Twilight fans who have barely seen her other films, even Woody Allen’s Café Society, want to see her in this kind of role? (Stewart also has the film Seberg coming out later this year, which is shooting to get her some awards attention.)

Stewart is joined by Naomi Scott, who was one of the breakout stars of Disney’s Aladdin this past summer, and with over $350 million in its coffers, and before that, Scott was in the 2017 movie remake Power Rangers, playing the Pink Ranger, and she even had a role in Ridley Scott’s The Martian. Scott is definitely an actor on the rise.  The cast also includes Ella Balinska from Casualty; hunky Noah Centineo from Netflix’s To All The Boys I Loved Before, who just won a People’s Choice Award this past weekend for “Favorite Comedy Movie Star”… over Adam Sandler; former hot hunk Sam Claflin; Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou and Jonathan Tucker (Westworld). There are also a couple cameos including Hailee Steinfeld, the Oscar-nominated star of the Coen Brothers’ True Grit when she was younger but now a bonafide film star with the success of 2018’s Bumblebee PLUS the fact she’s also playing Kate Bishop in the upcoming Hawkeye series.

There already have been a couple Charlie’s Angels movies in the early ‘00s directed by McG, which you might have heard of. Those one starred Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu, all super-hot at the time, and the first one opened with $40.1 million in November 2000 and grossed $125.3 million domestic and $259.7 million worldwide. Its inevitable sequel in 2003 opened slightly lower with $37.6 million and ended up slightly lower across the board. One would expect that sort of success could translate pretty well to modern day with higher ticket prices, except that the last time “Charlie’s Angels” was rebooted for television in 2011, it was cancelled after just seven episodes.

There’s definitely a nostalgia factor in play for Charlie’s Angels, but that would only work for women and men in their 40s, who may have enjoyed the original TV show, and they probably won’t have much interest in this younger cast in the slightest. In other words, this is a pretty daring risk for Sony Pictures, coming in a year when other such risks (anyone remember Men in Black International?) have not paid off. (Then again, they did release one of Quentin Tarantino’s biggest hits ever, they have Greta Gerwig’s upcoming Little Women and have managed to make another deal for a third Spider-Man movie with Marvel Studios, so maybe there’s hope for Sony yet?)

Maybe I’m hanging around in the wrong circles, but I just haven’t heard a lot of buzz for this movie, maybe because there have been too many attempts to revive “Charlie’s Angels” both in movies and television. There’s also the strong possibility that this movie will be hit harder by the launch of Disney+ if its intended target audience of women choose to stay home and binge watch all the content that will be at their fingertips. Even so, reviews have been pretty good so far, but it’s still early.

Earlier in the year, I might have been more bullish on Charlie’s Angels, but right now, I think it will make somewhere in the low-to-mid $20 millions. If reviews end up being better than expected, maybe it will be on the higher side, but I have a feeling most people already know whether they want to see this movie or not, and this one will mostly be limited to Kristen Stewart fans.

THE GOOD LIAR (New Line/Warner Bros.)

The Good Liar
Warner Bros.

Cast: Helen Mirren, Ian McKellen, Russell Tovey
Directed By: Bill Condon (Beauty and the Beast, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Parts 1 and 2, Dreamgirls, Gods and Monsters, Kinseyand more)
MPAA Rating: R

More counter-programming! The Good Liaris a psychological thriller from Bill Condon, who directed Disney’s live action Beauty and the Beastand the finale of The Twilight Saga. It’s an adaptation of Nichols Searle’s 2016 novel of the same name, but as we saw with the adaptation of The Goldfinch, which only made $5.3 million in a similar release, movies based on popular books aren’t always necessarily hit movies.

Like James Mangold above, Condon is a filmmaking vet with credits that all the way back to 1987, but it wasn’t until 11 years later when he started being taken more seriously. (Sorry, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh.) The Good Liar is Condon’s fourth movie with Sir Ian McKellen, having directed him to an Oscar nomination for 1998’s Gods and Monsters. Condon won his first Oscar for writing that screenplay – he was nominated a second time for writing the Oscar Best Picture Chicago, and then went on to direct Dreamgirls, which won two Oscars, including one for newcomer Jennifer Hudson.

Joining the duo for this one is yet another Oscar winner, Dame Helen Mirren, who has really shifted gears by appearing in the “Fast and the Furious” franchise, most recently with a cameo in Hobbs and Shaw. She’s also done a couple smaller movies with foreign filmmakers like Luc Besson’s Anna andThe Leisure Seeker. Mirren’s last big solo outing was the horror movie Winchester in 2019, which made about $25.1 million domestically. Other movies included Collateral Beauty ($31 million) and Eye in the Sky($18.7 million). 

The Good Liar is an interesting bit of counter-programming as a twisty Hitchcockian thriller that’s going to appeal more to older audiences due to the age of its two stars, and it might sway more towards women not interested in Ford v Ferrari, which will more towards older men, or Charlie’s Angels, which is targeting younger audiences.

Condon’s latest reminds me of two specific movies: Focus Features’ Greta, starring Isabelle Huppert, which opened this past March with $4.5 million in a similar number of theaters, and only made $10.5 million. It also has elements reminiscent of the 2018 Ben KingsleyOscar Isaac thriller Operation Finale, which made about $17.6 million in late summer 2018 after a $6 million opening in 1,818 theaters. Neither of those comparisons offer very strong hopes for The Good Liarto do much better.

While The Good Liar probably won’t make too much of an impact its opening weekend, it’s still probably good for between $4 and $7 million based on the two actors alone, basically putting it in the mélange of last week’s releases. Word-of-mouth should generally be pretty solid as well, so this could end up making $20 million or more as counter-programming and with a possible Thanksgiving bump.

Ford v Ferrari seems like the most obvious winner for the weekend but after the last couple weekends, I’m highly worried that the launch of Disney+ might keep people from going to theaters at ALL this weekend. I guess we’ll see.

This Week’s Box Office Predictions:

  1. Ford v Ferrari (20th Century Fox) – $32.5 million N/A
  2. Charlie’s Angels (Sony) – $23.2 million N/A
  3. Midway (Lionsgate) – $8.2 million -53%
  4. Playing with Fire (Paramount) – $7.5 million -42%
  5. The Good Liar (Warner Bros.) – $7 million N/A
  6. Doctor Sleep (Warner Bros.) – $6.6 million -53%
  7. Last Christmas (Universal) – $6.5 million -43%
  8. Joker (Warner Bros.) – $5.5 million -40%
  9. Terminator: Dark Fate (Paramount) – $4.9 million -55%
  10. Harriet (Focus Features) – $4.5 million -37%

Because it’s November, we continue to get some decent limited releases, including Scott Z Burns’ political thriller The Report (Amazon Studios), starring Adam Driver, Annette Bening and an astounding supporting cast as it looks into the Senate’s report on the CIA’s use of torture techniques on detainees after 9/11. Sadly, I haven’t had a chance to see Trey Edward Shults’ romantic drama Waves (A24), starring Kelvin Harrison, Jr. (from the excellent Luce) and Sterling K. Brown, but I’ve heard good things, and hope to see it sometime soon.  I also haven’t seen Mark Landsmann’s doc Scandalous: The Untold Story of the National Inquirer (Magnolia), though it sounds intriguing, and it will open in select cities. A couple animated films to look out for in limited release this weekend are Netflix’s I Lost My Body and GKIDS’s White Snake (opening in L.A. only).

Next week, the November box office is about to heat up with the animated sequel Frozen 2, as well as Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and Chadwick Boseman, the Black Panther himself, stars in the crime-thriller 21 Bridges from STXfilms.

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