Welcome back to the Beat’s weekly Box Office Preview!
It’s Mother’s Day weekend, which means that Sunday will be a big day for family films and films which kids and Dads can go see with their Moms, wives or partners.
Into the weekend comes four new movies but only one with any sort of actual chance at dethroning the box office domination of Marvel’sAvengers: Endgame. That movie is…

POKÉMON: DETECTIVE PIKACHU (Warner Bros.)

Pokémon
Warner Bros.

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Bill Nighy, Ken Watanabe, Suki Waterhouse, Rita Ora
Directed By: Rob Letterman (Monsters vs. Aliens, Goosebumps, Gulliver’s Travels and more)
MPAA Rating: PG
The big movie this weekend is Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures’ attempt to revive the Pokemon movie franchise, this time through a live action movie based on the “Detective Pikachu” video game for the Nintendo 3DS which was released fairly recently.
Unlike the animated feature films released between 1999 and 2003 – with diminishing returns with each one – this is a live action CG hybrid and part of the draw (besides the undying popularity of Pokemon) is that it features the voice of Deadpool’s Ryan Reynolds as Pikachu. It’s a fairly high concept to have an actor mostly known for his snarky R-rated humor voicing an adorably fluffy 3D Pikachu, but it actually kind of works. Unlike some of Reynolds’ other non-Deadpool roles, this one definitely seems to work with his (notably toned-down) humor to bring something more to the character.
It also stars Justice Smith from last year’s hit Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Kathryn Newton from Big Little Lies, and a few more prolific movie actors like Bill Nighy and Ken Watanabe (who also has a role in Legendary’s upcoming Godzilla sequel). But the big draw will be Reynolds, at least for parents forced to take their kids to see this – for the kids, it will be seeing their beloved Pokémon in a new way.
I’m not going to go into the entire history of Pokémon, because it’s a franchise that goes back to 1995 and includes video games, an equally popular card game, a long-running cartoon series and most recently, the addictive “Pokémon Go” game for smartphones. (I am deeply embarrassed that I know quite a few adults who play this game.) What that 24 years of history comes down to is two or three generations of kids that love the creatures in any form they might come in… plus the younger kids that were into Pokémon back in the ‘90s might be parents now. In fact, I can’t think of another video game franchise as strong a draw as a movie then this one because it has such a wide scope and range of potential audiences.
Expect Detective Pikachu to get a nice bump Sunday as kids want to share the Pokémon experience with their mothers. It also shouldn’t have too many worries next week against any of the new movies is likely to keep doing serious business throughout the month through word-of-mouth. Expect it to just narrowly edge out Endgame for #1 with $65 to 70 million, but it will be close.
In the meantime, check out my interview with director Rob Letterman and EIC Heidi MacDonald’s review.

THE HUSTLE (U.A. Releasing)

The Hustle
U.A. Releasing

Cast: Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Tim Blake Nelson, Ingrid Oliver, Francisco Labbe
Directed By: Chris Addison (directorial debut of director of “Veep” and a few other shows)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Adding rather awkward counter-programming geared towards women who don’t like adorable Pokémon is this remake of the Frank Oz comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, a movie about conmen which has received a gender change to now be about conwomen. (See how these things work?)
This is actually the second movie of the year for both Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson. Hathaway had the thriller Serenitywith Matthew McConaughey, which has absolutely no relation to Joss Whedon’s sci-fi movie o the same name, out in January. It made less than $10 million. At least Wilson’s rom-com Isn’t it Romanticwas conveniently released over Valentine’s Day and that made $14.2 million opening weekend and nearly $50 million total. That was about where Wilson’s previous rom-com How to Be Single ended up, but clearly she’s become more of a draw thanks to her appearances in the Pitch Perfect movie.
I could go over the entire history of gender change comedies that would include everything from Paul Feig’s Ghostbustersto the Taraji P. Henson revamp What Men Want earlier this year. Sometimes, they do well, sometimes not, but there’s no denying that, regardless of any changes, this is still a remake.
Fortunately, The Hustle looks funny and there may be some younger women who have outgrown their Pokemon obsession, but I highly doubt that reviews are going to be favorable. This may be why it’s not screening for critics before Wednesday night, right after Poms(see below), in fact.
The hope is that the Mother’s Day Sunday will make it a choice for younger mothers maybe to go with fellow mothers rather than husbands or kids, but this still feels like it will struggle to make $10 or 11 million this weekend.

POMS (STXfilms)

POMS
STXfilms

Cast: Diane Keaton, Pam Grier, Jacki Weaver, Rhea Perlman, Bruce McGill, Celia Weston, Charlie Tahan
Directed By: Zara Hayes (The Battle of the Sexes, Clothes to Die For)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Going even further below the radar is this high-concept ensemble comedy starring Diane Keaton and other actors where the median age is around 69 years old. Yes, kids, this is another movie in the vein of Last Vegas, Going in Style and 2017’s Just Getting Started, a comedy which is not expected to get much attention from anyone below 50. (Before you say “That’s ageist!” be aware that I am NOT below 50 myself.)
In the movie, Diane Keaton goes to a new retirement home and ends up starting a cheerleading squad, made up of similar women in their prime including greats like Pam Grier and Rhea Perlman and two-time Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook). The movie looked cute when STX presented it at CinemaCon last month but again, I don’t expect the younger crowd that frequents movies will have much interest in it.
Clearly, Keaton should be the main draw, as she is an acting legend who has been in many great films since the ‘70s including many from Woody Allen, plus The Godfathersequels. In recent years, she’s been a little less fussy, and every once in a while, it pays off like with last year’s Book Club, which opened the weekend AFTER Mother’s Day last year but still grossed $68 million. The last time Keaton was in a movie that came close to that amount – not including voicework, which she did for Finding Dory– was 2005’s The Family Stone.
If not for that CinemaCon presentation, I wouldn’t even know this movie existed since I really haven’t seen any commercials or trailers, but (despite my age), I’m not really the target audience. It’s mostly older women, and that includes mothers. Surely, STX hopes that the Mother’s Day Sunday will give the movie a bump, but I still don’t see it making more than $7 or 8 million i.e. fourth place at best.

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TOLKIEN (Fox Searchlight)

Tolkien
Fox Searchlight

Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins, Laura Donnelly, Derek Jacobi, Colm Meaney, Harry Gilby, Tom Glynn-Carney
Directed By: Dome Karukoski (Tom of Finland, The Grump and more)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Adding to the mix in a semi-wide release is Fox Searchlight’s Tolkien, a biopic about J.R.R. Tolkien, as played by Nicholas Hoult. There’s definitely going to be some interest in the life of the Lord of the Rings author from fans of the books and movies, although Tolkien’s family has already been railing their opposition against the film.
Nicholas Hoult has been having quite a career from his early days in the Nick Hornby adaptation About A Boy to being cast as Hank McCoy aka Beast for 2011’s reboot X-Men: First Class, a role he’ll replay in next month’s Dark Phoenix. In between, he had a great role in George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, recently picked in a critics poll as the top movie of the past decade.
Lily Collins is coming off her role in another biopic, of sorts, Joe Berlinger’s Ted Bundy movie Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, which just debuted on Netflix. She also starred in Warren Beatty’s Howard Hughes movie Rules Don’t Apply, and she’s starred in bigger movies (like Mirror Mirror), but I don’t think she can bring much to a film that focuses on Tolkien and the camaraderie with his schoolmates.
Reviews so far are mixed right down the center, which might make it a tough time to get attention, especially in New York and L.A. where it might compete directly with Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespeare movie All is True. Searchlight is releasing the movie into 1,300 theaters, which might be a bit too wide for a movie that generally would do better with a slower roll-out, but that wider release should help it break into the top 10 with around $3 million.
This weekend is gonna be a real horse race as the third week of Endgamereceives some real competition in Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, but I think the latter will benefit more from Mother’s Day being Sunday and will end up winning the weekend.

This Week’s Box Office Predictions:

  1. Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (Warner Bros.) – $68 million N/A
  2. Avengers: Endgame (Marvel / Disney) – $66 million -55%
  3. The Hustle(U.A. Releasing) – $11 million N/A
  4. Poms(STXreleasing) – $8 million N/A
  5. Long Shot (Lionsgate) – $5.5 million -43%
  6. The Intruder (Screen Gems) – $5.2 million -52%
  7. UglyDolls(STXfilms) – $4.3 million -50%
  8. Tolkien(Fox Searchlight) – $3.1 million N/A
  9. Captain Marvel (Marvel Studios/Disney) – $2.4 million -45%
  10. Breakthrough (20thCentury Fox) – $2.4 million -40%

Opening in limited release is Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespeare drama All Is True from Sony Pictures Classics – I’ll have an interview with the filmmaker/star later this week — IFC Films’ Charlie Says starring Mat “Doctor Who” Smith as Charles Manson and the Bollywood film Student of the Year 2 from FIP.
Next week, Keanu Reeves returns for John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, the Universal sequel A Dog’s Journeyplus the Y.A. romance The Sun Is Also a Star from Warner Bros.

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