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

Woohoo! It’s the last month of summer and things are starting to get FUN as we get one more big tentpole movie and then a lot of smaller movies trying to make a mark in the slowest month of summer leading into kids returning to school.

FAST AND FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS AND SHAW (Universal)

Hobbs and Shaw
Universal Pictures

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Vanessa Kirby, Idris Elba, Eddie Marsdan, Cliff Curtis, Roman Reigns, Helen Mirren, Eisa Gonzalez
Directed By: David Leitch (Deadpool 2, Atomic Blonde, John Wick)
MPAA Rating: PG-13

If the first weekend of summer’s last month  where there can still be a major hit, as we saw with Guardians of the Galaxy and Suicide Squad, so what better way to kick off August than with the latest installment of Universal’s lucrative Fast and Furious franchise, and a spin-off no less?

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Yes, someone ingenious realized how great Dwayne Johnson and Jason Stathamwere when their F&F characters Lucas Hobbs and Deckard Shaw were fighting in the last couple movies and decided to make a buddy action-comedy where they had to team-up… against Idris Elba! If that didn’t sound good enough on paper, they also managed to get The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby, who was so amazing in last year’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout, to play a kick-ass role as Shaw’s sister.

The movie is directed by David Leitch, who had a huge hit with Deadpool 2last year, following his smaller action films Atomic Blonde and the first John Wick movie. A former stuntman, Leitch has built a reputation on his action scenes and that’s not something that’s skimped on in a “Fast and Furious” movie.

There’s a lot to love about this movie, which I will expand upon in my review, but it might not be the sure-fire slam dunk that the Fast and Furious movies tend to be. Part of that is determined by whether Johnson and Statham can hold their own in a Fast and Furious movie that doesn’t include some of the key elements (like Vin Diesel, like racing cars).

For comparisons, I’m going to call this timeline “Dwayne Johnson vs. Jason Statham”…

8/10/18
The Meg (This is the biggest movie with Statham as the lead, showing a bump from his appearances as Deckard Shaw… plus giant sharks!)
Opening: $45.4 million
Total Domestic: $145.4 million

7/13/18
Skyscraper (Despite a plum summer release, this one does even worse than Rampage.)
Opening: $24.9 million
Total Domestic: $68.4 million

4/13/18
Rampage (after the success of the F&F movies and 2017’s Jumanji, it seemed like Johnson could do no wrong, leading to two disappointing showings.)
Opening: $35.7 million
Total Domestic: $101 million

4/14/17
The Fate of the Furious (Johnson’s fourth movie, Statham’s second full movie but with a key Hobbs and Shaw team that paved the way for this spin-off)
Opening: $98.7 million
Total Domestic: $226 million

6/17/16
Central Intelligence (Johnson action-comedy that teams him with Kevin Hart)
Opening: $35.5 million
Total Domestic: $127.4 million

4/13/15
Furious 7 (Johnson’s third movie and Statham joins after a cameo in tag of 6, and this becomes the biggest movie of the franchise as Paul Walker’s final film.)
Opening: $147.2 million
Total Domestic: $353 million

8/15/14
Expendables 3 (Third installment shows definite wear and loss of interest)
Opening: $15.9 million
Total Domestic: $39.3 million

5/24/13
Fast and Furious 6 (first and only FF movie to open over Memorial Day weekend)
Opening: $97.4 million
Total Domestic: $238.7 million

8/7/12
The Expendables 2 (Schwarzenegger joins the mix and still successful)
Opening: $28.6 million
Total Domestic: $85 million

4/29/11
Fast Five (Johnson joins franchise as Hobbs
Opening: $86.2 million
Total Domestic: $209.8 million

8/30/10
The Expendables (Statham part of the action-ensemble)
Opening: $34.8 million
Total Domestic: $103 million

It certainly looks like Statham has done better with his own solo movies following his “F&F” stint, but he also had the benefits of a giant shark co-star in The Meg, which apparently was more interesting to moviegoers than Johnson’s albino ape co-star in Rampage.  The “F&F” series pretty much peaked with Furious 7, Statham’s first full movie, but it continued to at least open with $95 million in its follow-up, and it certainly seems like an opening in the $85 to 100 million is standard for the franchise.

A big difference here is that Hobbs and Shaw is indeed a spin-off, though wisely, Universal kept the words “Fast and the Furious” in the title, because it might not be clear even to those who’ve seen the other movies who “Hobbs” and “Shaw” are otherwise. (I hate to denigrate any group of movie lovers, but you’d be surprised how much  difference a good title makes, and “Fast and Furious” has name brand value.)

Also, don’t discount what Idris Elba and even Vanessa Kirby bring to the mix, as they each have their own fanbases who might see the movie for them. Elba can probably attract more African-American viewers, while Shaw has prestige credibility from her work on Netflix’s The Crown. The cast also includes Helen MirrenEddie Marsan and Cliff Curtis, who give the film a little more dramatic credibility, while Johnson’s cousin and WWE superstar Roman Reigns also appears in the movie, allowing for WWE tie-ins.

Granted, this is the first Fast and Furious movie to open so late in the summer after dominating April for three of the last four movies. It’s kind of interesting since the franchise began by releasing the first three movies in June but on its return, it started the tradition of summer starting earlier the summer, something Marvel Studios has capitalized on with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and then the last two Avengers movies.

Although there’s some logic to presume Hobbs and Shaw might get hit by this summer’s sequelitis, many audiences are looking for reasons to get out of the summer heat at this point, and the popularity of these movies should allow it to fare decently, probably in the $80 to 83 million range opening weekend. Should be good for $200 million or more domestically, as well.

HOBBS AND SHAW Review (Later today!)

Interview with Hobbs and Shaw writer/producer Chris Morgan

Interview with Roman Reigns (Later this week!)

THE FAREWELL (A24)

the Farewell
A24

Cast: Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Jim Liu, Shuzhen Zhao, Gil Perez-Abraham, Han Chen,
Written and Directed By: Lulu Wang (Posthumous)
MPAA Rating: PG

One of the nice surprises out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival – which I didn’t attend, mind you – was this family drama from Lulu Wang that got everyone talking, particularly about the dramatic performance from actor/rapper Awkwafina, who had such a fantastic 2018 between her appearance in Ocean’s 8 and her even bigger breakout in Crazy Rich Asians.

The Farewell is a drama about a young New York woman who travels to China with her family for a wedding, but really, it’s a chance for them to spend time with her grandmother one last time because she’s dying of cancer… though no one in the family wants to tell her that fact. The movie is funny and poignant and just so different from everything else out there.

It’s also been doing gangbusters in limited release, opening in just four theaters two weeks ago, but scoring the biggest per-theater average of the year – even better than that of Avengers: Endgame!It has grossed an astounding $3.7 million while playing in less than 135 theaters, and one expects that word-of-mouth has helped it in the areas where it’s already playing, hopefully enough for this expansion.

It’s really going to be interesting to see how this plays with mainstream America, because it’s way more Chinese than Crazy Rich Asians, mostly starring Chinese actors and being in Chinese. It’s definitely not as obvious and easy a mainstream hit as that movie, but word-of-mouth has been strong, it has a PG rating, which is super-rare for an indie movie, and maybe those things can help carry it further into the top 10 with $5 or 6 million this weekend*. (Of course, this will depend on how many theaters The Farewell expands into, and we don’t have that number as of yet.)

Hobbs and Shawwill take the #1 spot with ease while The Farewell will continue to make its presence known, probably with a movie closer to the middle of the top 10. We’ll have to see how it fares after the rest of the country has a chance to see it. Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… should take a big hit in its second weekend but will still be in third place. Also, it’s good to note that this is the type of weekend where the entry point into the top 10 is so slow that maybe some other movie can take advantage of that, although I’m not sure what movie might fit there.

This Week’s Box Office Predictions:

  1. Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw (Universal) – $81.3 million N/A
  2. The Lion King (Walt Disney) – $38.3 million -50%
  3. Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (Sony) – $18.4 million -55%
  4. Spider-Man: Far from Home (Sony) – $6.8 million -47%
  5. Toy Story 4 (Disney/Pixar) – $6.7 million -35%
  6. The Farewell (A24) – $2.8 million +84% (down $2.7 million)*
  7. Crawl (Paramount) – $2.2 million -45%
  8. Aladdin (Walt Disney Pictures) – $2.2 million -28%
  9. Yesterday (Universal) – $1.8 million -40%
  10. Annabelle Comes Home (New Line/WB)- $850,000 -45%

*UPDATE: Bah, that’s what I get for making a prediction without knowing an actual theater count. A24 is only opening The Farewell in a little over 400 theaters vs. the 1,500 I had guesstimated earlier in the week. Because of this, I have to lower my prediction by nearly half!

Some really good limited releases of note this week, including two that played Sundance:  Julius Onah’s Luce is a drama set around a high school, starring Kelvin Harrison Jr. as the title character, an all-star student whose teacher (Octavia Spencer) finds something culpatory in his locker and has to convince Luce’s parents (Naomi Watts, Tim Roth) that he’s not the perfect kid they’ve assumed.  Also, Jennifer Kent’s follow-up to the popular horror film The Babadook is the Australian-set revenge Western The Nightingale, starring Aisling Francisoci as a woman whose husband and baby daughter are killed, sending her on a quest for vengeance with an indigenous tracker (Baykali Ganambarr).

Next week, we’re back to four or five wide releases, and I’m so not looking to all that extra writing that I don’t even feel like listing them, although one of them is Dora and the Lost City of Gold, which will probably do the best of all of them.

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