Box Office Preview  — It’s GODZILLA vs. Elton John’s ROCKETMAN Battling For Supremacy!

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Welcome back to the Beat’s weekly Box Office Preview!
I’m just going to say it right now – this weekend is gonna be a BEAST and next week will be about the same. That’s because you have two, even three, wide releases that can do big business among a specific audience, basically splitting up moviegoers but also each bringing in very targeted fanbases. A couple of the movies could bring in more than one or two demos, but there’s a lot of options, plus there’s still last week’s Aladdin, which did better than expected over the holiday weekend.
Listen, we live in a world where a single movie can make $350 million over a single three-day weekend, so surely, four movies can make $180 million between them, right?

GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS (Warner Bros./Legendary)

Godzilla
Warner Bros.

Cast: Millie Bobby Brown, Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, O’Shea Jackson Jr, Ken Watanabe, Zhang Ziyi, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, Anthony Ramos, Aisha Hinds, CCH Pounder
Directed By: Mike Dougherty (Trick ‘r Treat, Krampus)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Clearly the biggest of the three new movies — partially because it’s getting the widest release into over 4,000 theaters but also because it’s the sequel to a $500 million blockbuster – is the latest in Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla-Kong shared universe.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters is indeed the direct sequel to 2014’s Godzilla, which opened with $93.2 million and made $200.7 million in North America alone, showing that the famed giant lizard introduced in Toho Studios’ 1954 Godzilla was still a strong draw for giant monster fans. It also seemed to get past the stink of the Roland Emmerich Godzilla movie from 1998, which was a memorable dog of a movie that still grossed $136 million and ended up in the top 10 for that year. (You have to remember that everything from higher ticket prices to there being more theaters these days makes it somewhat easier to hit that amount.)
Taking over the directing reins is Michael Dougherty, screenwriter of films like Bryan Singer’s X2 and Superman Returns, whose biggest movie to date was 2015’s holiday horror film Krampus, which made $42.7 million on a $15 million budget.
A few of the cast from 2014’s Godzilla are back, most notably Ken Watanabe, who has become a bit of a good luck charm for Warner Bros. but also Sally Hawkins. The cast is joined by a family played by Kyle Chandler from Super 8, Millie Bobby Brown from Stranger Things(in her first major movie role) and Vera Farmiga from the highly successful The Conjuring series. Others joining the cast are O’Shea Jackson Jr. (aka Ice Cube Jr last seen with Seth Rogen in Long Shot), Bradley Whitford of Get Out, Anthony Ramos from A Star Is Born and even Chinese superstar Zhang Ziyi. (You have to remember that Legendary has a big financial backer in China, which means their movies will have some Chinese presence, although that’s mainly been Bingbing Li and Tiang Ji in past films.)
That’s a pretty decent cast but other than Farmiga, there really isn’t any historical data to prove any of them can bring people into theaters, even with the popularity of Brown’s Netflix show. It doesn’t really matter because the star of this movie is Godzilla and the other giant monsters that turn up in this one, including King Ghidorah (aka Monster X/Zero), Rodan and Mothra, all popular favorites from years of movies. None of those latter three monsters have appeared in an American movie or even in an original Japanese non-animated movie in many years. Legendary knows that fans are excited about Godzilla fighting these other monsters since they’ve been teasing those three all the way back to Comic-Con in 2005, as well as a tease at the end of 2017’s Kong: Skull Island, which generally made less than Godzillaa few years earlier.
Granted, it’s been five years since the previous Godzilla movie, and that wasn’t received particularly well, mainly since Godzilla didn’t appear as much in the movie as people would like. The fact that it barely made 2X its opening weekend in total domestically is telling, although it did receive a “B+” CinemaScore. So far, reviews for Godzilla: King of the Monsters seem mixed, at best. You can read The Beat Entertainment Editor Hannah Lodge’s review here.
What’s interesting is that despite its PG-13 rating, this movie is appealing to younger boys who are just as attracted to Godzilla now as their fathers would have been to Godzilla when they were kids. (If you’re a certain age, you’ll remember seeing Godzilla movies on Saturday morning on television). There’s an aspect of the new Godzilla movies that are in the vein of the Jurassic World movies, and those have been doing gangbuster business.
This might be a tough one to call, because I don’t think it will open as well as the 2014 Godzilla, but I also don’t think it will completely bomb (as tracking seems to suggest).  We probably should see Godzilla, King of the Monsters opening somewhere in the $75 million range this weekend — which is lower than I predicted in April — and we can’t completely discount that it might lose some business to the other new movies. If this can match the $200 million domestic gross of the 2015 movie, it should be seen as a success, although Godzilla vs. Kong is already scheduled for the summer of 2020, regardless of how well this movie does.
My Interview with Director Mike Dougherty

ROCKETMAN (Paramount)

Rocketman
Paramount Pictures

Cast: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard, Gemma Jones, Steven MacKintosh, Tom Bennett, Matthew Illesley
Directed By: Dexter Fletcher (Eddie the Eagle)
MPAA Rating: R
Next up is a movie musical to some – like Godzilla fans – will see as a non-player, but wait… this is not only a jukebox musical but it’s also a biopic about the life of Elton John, a pop superstar and gay icon who has been garnering fans for almost five decades now.
Rocketman is coming out at a great time when musicals continue to thrive, going by last year’s Bohemian Rhapsodyand A Star Is Born, both of which grossed around $215 million domestically and were major players at the Oscars.
Produced by Matthew Vaughn and his company MARV, the film reunites Kingsman star Taron Egerton with his Eddie the Eagle director Dexter Fletcher (who ghost-directed Bohemian Rhapsody after Bryan Singer was fired… but we won’t get back into that).
This movie is gonna be a great test for Egerton as a leading man because even with the Kingsman movies, he always had Colin Firth and other better-known actors. Even Eddie the Eagle (also produced by Vaughn) had help from Hugh Jackman, and that made less than $16 million. In this case, Egerton has some strong support from the likes of Jamie Bell, Richard Madden from Game of Thrones, and Bryce Dallas Howard from Jurassic World, although he really is front and center. Whether the movie works or not will all depend on whether he’s credible as John, and believe it or not, he actually does most of the singing himself.
You have to remember that Elton John was one of the best-selling artists of the ‘70s, so there will be a lot of fans of his in their 60s that will be as interested in the younger crowds interested in learning more about this fascinating singer/songwriter.
Some might take issue with the depiction of gay sex in the movie (which got the movie an R-rating, even though it’s not particularly graphic), but the audience for Elton John will likely be the audience that doesn’t care so much about that sort of thing, since they’re in it for the music. One can probably expect the movie to do much better in bigger cities than in some of the rural areas in the South and Midwest regardless.
The raves the movie has gotten out of the Cannes Film Festival and since then (with advance Fandango previews) will definitely intrigue audiences in the same way as Bohemian Rhapsody did, although the competition might keep it from opening that big. The film’s R-rating and the number of other choices will probably keep it from opening with $50 million,  putting it somewhere in the mid-$30 millions or higher.

MA (Universal)

Ma
Universal Pictures

Cast: Octavia Spencer, Diana Silvers, Juliette Lewis, McKaley Miller, Corey Fogelmanis, Gianni Paolo
Directed By: Tate Taylor (The Help, Girl on the Train, Get on Up)
MPAA Rating: R
This week’s other major counter-programming is a movie that could be a strong draw for the older teen and 20-something audience, maybe even more than the above two movies. Ma is a horror-thriller that showcases the talents of Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, teaming her with Jason Blum’s Blumhouse, who already has two 2019 hits under its belt with Jordan Peele’s Usand M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass.
If you remember, back in March, I wrote about the resurging popularity of psychological thrillers, so it’s a good time for this movie which teams the Oscar-winning Spencer with long-time friend and The Help director Tate Taylor to tackle a high concept thriller. In it, Spencer plays a woman who offers a group of teens the use of her basement as a place for a little underage drinking.
Besides Spencer, the movie also stars Diana Silvers, who appeared in M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass. Taylor also gets bonus points for casting Juliette Lewis, who began her own career as a young actor in the psychological thriller Cape Fear opposite Robert De Niro.
While there could be quite a large male African-America audience for Godzilla, there’s a good chance Spencer could help bring in younger AA women who don’t have nearly as many options for movies. Heck, Spencer might still have enough fans fromThe Helpthat the film brings in older women who aren’t necessarily Elton John fans.
Universal has done a pretty amazing job marketing the movie with trailers and commercials that just get crazier and crazier, which is in line with movies like Usand last year’s Hereditary in terms of getting audiences interested. At the time of this writing, there are no reviews for Ma, and there won’t be any until after this preview goes live, so I might have to add something later.
I don’t expect a huge breakout for Ma, but I do expect it to open with more than $20 million because the marketing has probably gotten a lot of people curious about what to expect.  I’m not sure that audiences will care enough to keep it from being a one-weekend wonder, but I can see this making $40 to 50 million domestically.
Look for my interview with Tate Taylor later this week.
As mentioned, this is definitely going to be an interesting weekend because while Godzilla, King of the Monsters could easily win the weekend, it will be interesting to see if Rocketman can surpass the second weekend of Disney’s Aladdin, which has no direct family competition and has been very well received by audiences. The thriller Ma should also do well among audiences who may not be as interested in the other two movies.

This Week’s Box Office Predictions:

  1. Godzilla, King of the Monsters (Warner Bros.) -$76.5 million N/A
  2. Aladdin (Walt Disney Pictures) – $41.5 million -55%
  3. Rocketman (Paramount) – $37.5 million N/A
  4. Ma (Lionsgate) – $23.5 million N/A
  5. John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum (Lionsgate) – $11 million -55
  6. Avengers: Endgame  (Marvel / Disney) – $8.2 million -52%
  7. Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (Warner Bros.) – $6.1 million -54%
  8. Booksmart (U.A. Releasing) – $4.1 million -40%
  9. Brightburn (Sony/Screen Gems) – $3.5 million -55%
  10. A Dog’s Journey (Universal) – $2.5 million -40%

It’s another week without too many limited releases, although French-Canadian auteur Denys Arcand has a new film called The Fall of the American Empire(Sony Pictures Classics) opening in New York and L.A. this Friday. This one is actually a crime-drama, of sorts, a bit of a fable about a courier who comes into a ton of money.
Next week, June kicks off with another doozy of a weekend as Universal’s The Secret Life of Pets 2 takes on Fox’s Dark Phoenix.

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