Welcome back to the Beat’s weekly Box Office Preview!
The summer bloodbath continued last weekend, and there’s nothing to say that whatever is going on with moviegoers this summer won’t continue this weekend with two more sequels, neither of them with much direct continuation from earlier movies. The only good thing to say about this coming weekend is that it’s Father’s Day on Sunday, and anyone who doesn’t feel like buying Dad a tie might take them out to one of the movies below.
MEN IN BLACK INTERNATIONAL (Sony)
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Liam Neeson, Kumail Nanjiani, Emma Thompson, Rebecca Ferguson, Rafe Spall
Directed By: F. Gary Gray (The Fate of the Furious, Straight Outta Comptonand more)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
What do you do if you’re a studio with only a handful of potential franchises, but one of them no longer has either of its leading man? That’s the problem that Sony was facing when they realized that Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones were either too busy or not interested to make another Men in Black movie.
Instead, Sony found a way to reboot the franchise, adding a few new actors as well as bringing back at least one character from a previous MiB movie in hopes the franchise can be revived. It’s definitely an interesting tactic by Sony is taking by reuniting Thor: Ragnarokstars Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson as the new agents of MiB.
So far, very few actors have been able to convert their success in Marvel movies into success with other offerings, other than maybe Robert Downey Jr.,whose popularity as Iron Man helped Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies do well but didn’t help his drama The Judge.
Hemsworth has been in quite a number of non-MCU movies since being cast as Thor, including Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woodsin 2012, which did much better than his more recent effort, Bad Times at the El Royale (featuring Hemsworth in a rare villainous turn). The only non-MUCH movie of Hemsworth’s that could be considered a hit is 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman, which grossed $155.3 million domestically, but that had quite a bit of help from its female stars, Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron. Hemsworth had an even smaller but funnier role in Paul Feig’s 2016 Ghostbusters, which also grossed more than $100 million, but that can’t really be credited to Hemsworth. Hemsworth’s two movies with Ron Howard – Rush and In the Heart of the Sea– only made around $25 million each.
Thompson is much newer to the world of movies, but she did star in MGM and New Line’s hit Rocky spin-offs, 2015’s Creed and last year’s sequel Creed II, both which made over $100 million dollar. She also was amazing in Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You, an indie picked up at Sundance that made $17 million.
But that’s not all, as MiBI also has Liam Neeson and brings back Emma Thompson, two actors that might appeal to older audiences but also have a much stronger presence for movie fans. Neeson’s Taken movies helped raise his status and Thompson with a variety of projects (including Mindy Kaling’s Late Night– see below). The movie also features Silicon Valley’s Kumail Nanjiani voicing an alien, which may appeal to the younger set that might be able to convince their parents to get them into a PG-13 movie.
The real selling point will be the “Men in Black” namebrand, as the three movies released between 1997 and 2012 have grossed $620 million domestically and $1.6 billion worldwide. Except that was with Will Smith, who was able to bring people back to MiB 3despite the ten-year gap since the previous movie. Men in Black Internationalhas to contend with a 7-year wait since Smith’s last movie plus the fact Smith is no longer involved.
Early reviews for the movie are not good either, so that certainly won’t help matters.
Earlier in the summer, I was thinking Men in Black International was guaranteed for a $40 million plus opening, but seeing how bad the box office has been the last few weeks, I’m decreasing my expectations and thinking it will end up in first place but with just under $40 million.
It’s likely to lose some of its potential older male audience to…
SHAFT (New Line)
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Jessie T. Usher, Richard Roundtree, Regina Hall, Alexandra Shipp
Directed By: Tim Story (Ride Along, Think Like a Man, Fantastic Four)
MPAA Rating: R
The weekend’s other sequel is another reboot of sorts, as it’s intended to introduce younger blood to a franchise with roots stretching all the way back to the 1971 Shaft, starring Richard Roundtree.
Roundtree established himself as one of the first African-American action hero with that movie and its two sequels before Shaft was retired for a while. In 2000, directorJohn Singletonand actor Samuel L. Jackson(still hot from a number of movies including M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakableand Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction) teamed for a new Shaft that did decently with $21.7 million opening and $70.3 million total. The duo are now joined by young Jessie T. Usher as “John Shaft, Jr.” aka “J.J.” a CIA analyst who turns to his father for help busting up a drug ring.
It’s now 19 years since the last Shaft movie, and we all know how risky it is to wait too long to release a sequel to a popular movie. Except in this case, Samuel L. Jackson is even a bigger and more popular star than he was in 2000 thanks to his turn as Nick Fury in the Marvel Studios movies. (Unlike Hemsworth/Thompson, Jackson was already a big star and a box office draw before joining the MCU.)
Earlier this year, Jackson co-starred in Marvel’s Captain Marvel along with Brie Larson’s title character, which is currently the second biggest movie of the year. Even earlier in the year, he co-starred in M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass, the sequel to Unbreakable, which also made more than $100 million. When you go back to 2017, we see Jackson starring in the surprise hit The Hitman’s Bodyguard (teamed with Deadpool’s Ryan Reynolds) and appearing in Kong: Skull Island, adding to the impressive number of franchises of which Jackson has been a part. (And that’s even before you consider his astounding work with Quentin Tarantino.)
There’s no question that Samuel L. Jackson is the big draw of the movie with able assistance from Regina Hall, who starred in the hit comedy Girls Tripand last year, appeared in the indie Support the Girls(for which she received a New York Film Critics award for her performance) and the Fox drama The Hate U Give. Roundtree also has a bigger role in this movie than he did in the 2000 one, so that should help generate interest among older males, as well.
Shaft is directed by Tim Story, who has helmed his fair share of hit comedies and action movies, including two Ride Along movies and two Think Like a Man movies. This Shaft is more of an action-comedy than a crime thriller, playing upon the differences between Jackson and his son. Being a comedy should help bring in some of the moviegoers who weren’t already Shaft fans, as this is a legitimate reboot with potential for more movies.
Despite the 19 years that has passed, the “Shaft” name as well as Jackson’s return as the character should help the new Shaftmake somewhere between $20 and 24 million this weekend, although I’m guessing that reviews are going to be brutal.
LATE NIGHT (Amazon Studios)
Cast: Mindy Kaling, Emma Thompson, John Lithgow, Hugh Dancy, Reid Scott, Dennis O’Hare, Luke Slattery, Ike Barinholtz, Amy Ryan
Directed By: Nisha Ganatra (Chutney Popcorn and lots and lots of television including Transparent, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and more.)
MPAA Rating: R
What should prove to be a brilliant bit of counter-programming is Amazon’s decision to expand Mindy Kaling’s Sundance fave comedy Late Night nationwide this weekend. It’s a movie which might very well put Emma Thompson back in the Oscar race. There really aren’t that many movies in theaters for older women, especially with Poms making a hasty exit after Mother’s Day.
There’s not a ton of comparisons for the movie, although Kaling’s movie appearances include two prominent 2018 films, Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time and Warner Bros’ Ocean’s 8. Before that, she was mainly doing animated voicework (including the Oscar-winning Pixar movie Inside Out), and she appeared in the Ashton Kutcher-Natalie Portman rom-com No Strings Attached.
Obviously, Emma Thompson and supporting actor John Lithgow have far more experience in movies, but they also have appeared in a mixed bag of smaller indies and studio movies.
Maybe the best comparison for Late Night is last year’s Kumhail Nanjiani dramedy The Big Sick, which was hailed at Sundance in a similar way, bought by Amazon Studios but then given a slower release in June to end up with $42.9 million. Its biggest weekend was four weeks into its release when it made $7.6 million in 2,597 theaters. Amazon has been promising a quicker roll-out for Late Night, which may not be enough to build word-of-mouth the way The Big Sick did, but they’re similarly personal projects.
Late Night has received rave reviews since playing at Sundance, and last week, it opened in four New York and L.A. theaters where it averaged $62,414, the best per-theater average this year after Avengers: Endgame, which averaged more than that in 4,658 more theaters.
Amazon has done a good job marketing and promoting the movie even with the number of ads on its affiliate sites like IMDB, and this could very well be a first choice for many women, making it a good “girls’ night out” movie. As of this writing, I don’t have an exact theater count for the expansion, which makes it tough to call, but if it’s in 2,200 theaters or so, it should be able to bring in somewhere between $6 and 8 million.
THE DEAD DON’T DIE (Focus Features)
Cast: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny, Selena Gomez, Danny Glover, Cale Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Steve Buscemi
Directed By: Jim Jarmusch (Only Lovers Left Alive, Broken Flowersand many, many more)
MPAA Rating: R
One of the odder entries this weekend is the first zombie movie from New York auteur Jim Jarmusch, who is best known among a select group of cinephiles for his quirky and original indie films, as well as his amazing ensemble of regular actors. Jarmusch is a bit like Wes Anderson if Anderson wasn’t able to have a single box office hit, because Jarmusch is more of an artist, as well as an acquired taste.
The Dead Don’t Dieis a little bit of a departure for Jarmusch, because it’s a full-on zombie movie but one that features a trio of actors he has worked with before in some of his more recent films – Adam Driver, Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton. All three of these actors have been making a mark with movies fans, and that should be the case here as well.
Murray also starred in Jarmusch’s biggest box office hit, 2005’s Broken Flowers, coming off the success of Murray’s appearance in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. Since then, Murray has been doing scattered projects, many of them being films by Wes Anderson in fact. Murray supplied his voice for Disney’s hit The Jungle Bookin 2016, but he also had a minor hit with 2014’s St. Vincent.
Driver is best known as the face (mask?) of Kylo Ren in the most recent Star Wars trilogy, but he also starred on HBO’s Girlsand is a popular character actor for a variety of directors. In fact, Driver starred in Jarmusch’s last movie, 2016’sPaterson, which only made about $2.1 million – about normal for a Jarmusch film.
Swinton recently appeared in Avengers: Endgame, reprising her role as the Ancient One from Marvel Studios’ 2016 Doctor Strange movie. She previously appeared in Jarmusch’s vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive, but she’s also worked regularly with Wes Anderson, Bong Joon-ho and Luca Guadagnino, the latter two in genre films that have helped them crossover from the arthouse crowd.
The rest of the cast is a mixed bag including Selena Gomez, Danny Glover and another Jarmusch vet, Steve Buscemi.
Focus is releasing Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die into 550 theaters, which is actually more theaters than any Jarmusch has ever played in before, so they’re definitely taking a gamble on the zombie and Murray fans checking this out. I think this plan might work, but while The Dead Don’t Dieshould be able to make $2 to 3 million, I’m not sure that will be enough to break into the top 10.
At least three of the four movies above are good Father’s Day options, but then so are any of the movies currently playing in theaters including ones that have already bombed like Godzillaand Dark Phoenix. We’ll see if the Hallmark holiday has any impact on moviegoing or we see another bad weekend where no one is interested in what’s being offered in theaters.
This Week’s Box Office Predictions:
- Men in Black International (Sony) – $38.7 million N/A
- The Secret Life of Pets 2 (Universal) – $25.7 million -45%
- Shaft (New Line) – $22.5 million N/A
- Aladdin (Walt Disney Pictures) – $15 million -39%
- Dark Phoenix (20thCentury Fox) – $13.8 million -58%
- Rocketman (Paramount) – $8.3 million -40%
- Godzilla, King of the Monsters (Warner Bros.) -$6.5 million -58%
- Late Night (Amazon Studios) – $5.5 million +2,967% (down $1.5 million)*
- John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum (Lionsgate) – $4.1 million -45%
- Ma (Lionsgate) – $3.5 million -55% (down .2 million)
— The Dead Don’t Die (Focus Features) – $2.5 million N/A
*UPDATE: Couple changes from Wednesday, most notably that Late Night probably won’t be expanding into more than 2,000 theaters this weekend so I’ve modified my weekend prediction accordingly. Both Godzilla and Ma are losing a LOT of theaters in their respective third weekends, significantly more than Rocketman, but it’s probably going to be another disappointing weekend for all.
There aren’t too many limited releases this week, although Jake Scott’s drama American Woman (Roadside Attractions) stars Sienna Miller as a mother whose daughter goes missing. A little harder to find might be the rom-com Plus One (RLJEfilms), starring Jack Quaid and Maya Erskine, which was one of the breakouts at the recent Tribeca Film Festival.
Next week, Disney returns to the movie that kicked off Pixar’s animation domination with the return of Woody and Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story 4, while the villainous Chucky doll also returns for the Child’s Play remake.
Edward Douglas has been writing about movies and other forms of entertainment for over 25 years, so he’s probably older than you.