Welcome back to the Beat’s weekly Box Office Preview!
After a fun horse race last weekend where Avengers: Endgame remained #1, we see the release of three more movies, one generally stronger than the other two.
JOHN WICK CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM (Lionsgate)
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Mark Dacascos, Lance Reddick, Asia Kate Dillon, Anjelica Huston, Said Taghmaoui
Directed By: Chad Stahelski (John Wick, John Wick: Chapter 2)
MPAA Rating: R
The summer’s second major sequel is actually the third chapter (in case you can’t tell from the title) in the surprise underdog franchise from actor Keanu Reeves, which helped kick off the directing careers of two former stuntmen, Chad Stahelski and David Leitch. Stahelski had actually been Keanu’s stunt-double on The Matrix films, but before that, he began his career when his friend Brandon Lee was accidentally shot on the set of The Crow, so Stahelski filled in. Leitch also came from that world but after co-directing the first John Wick, he moved onto other things, including directing last year’s Deadpool 2. (Leitch also has the upcoming Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw.)
When John Wick opened in October 2014, it was seen as a bit of an underdog against the slew of horror movies that usually come out that month. Its $14.4 million opening – taking second place to Ouija– wasn’t seen as being that fantastic. It cost only $20 million to make, and word-of-mouth helped it make $43 million domestically (and about the same overseas), warranting a sequel. The Stahleski-directed Chapter 2 opened in Feb. 2017 to $30.4 million, about 71% of the first movie’s entire take, and it grossed significantly more both domestically and overseas, guaranteeing a third movie.
The success of the first two movies warranted Lionsgate to release Chapter 3, which includes Reeves and returning cast Ian McShane and Laurence Fishburne (who previously starred with Reeves in The Matrix Trilogy). The big get for the threequel is Halle Berry, who hasn’t been doing much in recent years, although she did appear in Matthew Vaughn’s 2017 action sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle. There was a while when Berry was going to be a huge A-list star, but she’s generally been laying low, which makes her appearance in John Wick rather special. (She also has two awesome German Shephards in tow for dog lovers.) Berry’s presence could actually help the movie bring in more urban audiences than it might have just with Reeves.
While John Wick Chapter 3 isn’t reinventing the wheel, it is offering a wheel that continues to deliver to its fans. There’s probably now been a long enough gap from Endgame that a new movie could potentially bring out the dudes. Having solid advance reviews certainly will help, because so many people are used to studios rolling out disappointing sequels during the summer.
I definitely think the interest in this third chapter is high enough that Chapter 3 will open greater than Chapter 2, maybe even close to $40 million, although its R-rating does hinder its overall draw a little (despite the success of the R-rated Matrixtrilogy). Word-of-mouth should also be solid enough to get some repeat business through Memorial Day, so it should be the first in the series to make $100 million or more domestically. And yes, it will be #1 this weekend, too.
A DOG’S JOURNEY (Universal)
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Abby Ryder Fortson, Betty Gilpin, Josh Gad (voice), Marg Helgenberger
Directed By: Gail Mancuso (Roseanne, Modern Family and more television.)
MPAA Rating: PG
The second sequel of the weekend is this family-friendly dog movie adapted from the book series by W. Bruce Cameron, following 2017’s A Dog’s Purpose, which made $64.5 million, opening a few weeks before John Wick: Chapter 2. This time, the two dog movies are competing, and at least in this case, there’s none of the controversy that surrounded the first movie
Dennis Quaid is back, his second movie of the summer after the psychological thriller The Intruder, but the only one else returning is Josh Gad, providing the voice of the dog Bailey. The movie is the feature film directorial debut of long-time TV director Gail Mancuso.
Universal has wisely released this in the early summer when there isn’t a ton of big family films. Since last week’s Pokemonmovie didn’t open as well as expected, maybe that won’t put as much of a damper on Journey’s journey as expected. This is also a movie that’s fairly review-proof since it’s all about the adorable dogs and the dog-lovers of various ages that will want to see it. (So far, A Dog’s Journeyhas managed to avoid the controversy surrounding A Dog’s Purposewith some questionable techniques used to get dogs to perform.)
I’m expecting A Dog’s Journey to end up somewhere in the mid-to-high teens this weekend, which will put it behind John Wick as well as two of the bigger returning movies, but it should be able to make $40 to 50 million before being slaughtered by other family films. (I just want Screen Junkies to call the movie “Groundhog Dog” in its inevitable Honest Trailer.)
THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR (Warner Bros. / MGM)
Cast: Yara Shahidi, Charles Melton, John Leguizamo, Faith Logan, Gbenka Akinnage, Keong Sim, Jake Choi, Cathy Shim, Anais Lee
Directed By: Ry Russo-Young (Before I Fall, Nobody Walks, You Don’t Miss Me)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Based on the 2007 young-adult novel by Nicola Yoon, her second well-received novel, this week’s actual underdog, oddly, is the one without a dog in it. This young person’s romantic drama is the second YA adaptation by filmmaker Ry Russo-Young following 2017’s high-concept Before I Fall, which the defunct Open Road Films opened in March 2017 to a dismal $12.2 million.
The movie stars Yara Shahidi from the hit shows black-ish and grown-ish as Natasha Kingsley, the daughter of Jamaican immigrations who are about to be deported when she meets the charming Korean-American Daniel Bae (Charles Melton from Riverdale), and the two of them spend a day falling in love. You want diversity in the movies you see? Well, then The Sun Is Also a Star has that in spades with a cast almost made up solely of actors of color, including a small part for John Leguizamo.
I honestly don’t know much about Yoon’s novel or the audience that read it, but YA movies in general have seen a quick decline following the hits Twilightand The Hunger Games. Those successful blockbusters spurned many a studio to jump on board other YA-targetted books with a few doing well, like A Fault in Our Stars, but many more failing to find a mark. The last attempt was Aviron’s After, which ended up making about as much as Before I Fall. In other words, it will probably be a long time before we see another hit YA franchise.
I’m not expecting this movie to make much of a wave just because its potential is basically limited to teen girls, and I doubt too many will pick this movie over other options. It probably will end up in fifth place with between $6 and 8 million.
This Week’s Box Office Predictions:
- John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum (Lionsgate) – $40 million N/A (Up $3.5 million)*
- Avengers: Endgame (Marvel / Disney) – $29.5 million -53%
- Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (Warner Bros.) – $26 million -52%
- A Dog’s Journey (Universal) – $17.4 million N/A
- The Sun is Also a Star(Warner Bros./MGM) – $7.1 million N/A
- The Hustle(U.A. Releasing) – $6.2 million -52%
- Long Shot (Lionsgate) – $4 million -38%
- The Intruder (Screen Gems) – $4 million -45%
- Poms (STXreleasing) – $3.2 million -40%
- UglyDolls (STXfilms) – $2 million -52%
- UPDATE: I decided to up my prediction a little, as there definitely seems to be a lot of advance buzz for the latest John Wick. I’ve seen much higher predictions but I do think the Game of Thrones finale on Sunday will cut this one’s weekend off quite drastically.
In limited release this weekend, A24 releases Joanna Hogg’s British indie The Souvenir, a well-liked film out of Sundance, starring Honor Swinton Byrne, who is indeed the daughter of Tilda Swinton (who is alos in the movie). There’s also the Swedish sci-fi thriller Aniarafrom Magnet Releasing and Ed Zwick’s real-life drama Trial By Fire(Roadside Attractions), starring Jack O’Connell (300: Rise of an Empire) and Laura Dern.
Next week, it’s Memorial Day weekend and Big Willie Smith will grant three wishes in Disney’s live action Aladdin, Olivia Wilde will make her directorial debut with the comedy Book Smart(UA Releasing) and superheroes get very dark in Screen Gems’ Brightburn.
Edward Douglas has been writing about movies and other forms of entertainment for over 25 years, so he’s probably older than you.