Box Office Preview – Buddy comedy STUBER and horror flick CRAWL won’t cause much concern for SPIDER-MAN

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

After a decent 4thof July weekend, we get another slower weekend with two movies that might struggle to have much impact against the stronger releases, Spider-Man: Far from Home and Toy Story 4in their second and third weekends respectively.

STUBER (20thCentury Fox)

20th Century Fox

Cast: Dave Bautista, Kumail Nanjiani, Betty Gilpin, Natalie Morales, Iko Uwais, Mira Sorvino
Directed By: Michael Dowse (Goon, What If, It’s All Gone Pete Tong)
MPAA Rating: R

Although there aren’t any big releases this weekend, the one with the best chance at bringing in business is this high-concept action comedy pairing Guardians of the Galaxy’s and former WWE superstar Dave Bautista with Pakistani comic Kumail Nanjiani from HBO’s Silicon Valley and the indie hit The Big Sick.

The general premise of Stuber has Bautista playing an L.A.P.D. on the case of avenging his murdered partner who gets a lead on the same day that he has to get eye surgery. Unable to drive, he calls upon the Uber app to get him somewhere and Nanjiani’s “Stu” is the unfortunate driver who ends up caught in the case.

Other than his Marvel movies playing Drax from the Guardians of the Galaxy, Bautista’s movie output has been fairly erratic, from a villainous role in 2015’s James Bond movie Spectre to smaller movies like last year’s crime-thriller Hotel Artemis. Bautista’s most recent role in the Chinese martial arts film Master Z: Ip Man Legacy is likely to have only been seen by a small niche group of martial arts fans, although Stuber also shows off Bautista’s fighting skills.

Stuber also stars Betty Gilpin from G.L.O.W., up and comer Natalie Morales and Indonesian martial artist Iko Uwais, best known for The Raid movies but whom also appeared in Mark Wahlberg’s Mile 22 from last summer

The action buddy comedy i.e pairing two incompatible character for comedy purposes is a fairly reliable movie genre that’s led to a number of blockbuster hits, especially if you consider the likes of the Will Smith Men in Black movies in that category. More recently, Kevin Hart has starred in a number of successful ones like Central Intelligence (with Dwayne Johnson), two Ride Alongs(with Ice Cube), The Wedding Ringer with Josh Gad and Get Hard with Will Ferrell. Oh, yeah, and Night School with Tiffany Haddish.  Hart is basically the buddy comedy king. Unfortunately, he’s not in this movie…

Granted, neither Bautista nor Nanjiani are quite as tried and true as box office stars as most of the people mentioned above, so Stuber is a bit of a risky experiment by Fox (and Disney) who believe that the right concept, an original one no less, and right marketing can convince audiences to go see a movie with a relatively silly title and cast. What should help the movie greatly is that Bautista and Nanjiani have been hot on the talk show trail together in the past week, pushing the chemistry that’s the main driving force (sorry for that bad pun) of the movie.

Reviews so far have generally been dismal even though Fox was confident enough to give the movie early previews a few weeks back and has been holding lots of preview and promo screenings hoping to get the high school and college-age kids talking about it.

A high concept action-comedy like this can do well in the summer where there’s very little to do for those on break from school, and an R-Rated comedy geared towards young men should be able to bring in $13 to 16 million with relative ease, especially with the only new competition being a questionable horror movie (see below).

CRAWL (Paramount)

Paramount Pictures

Cast: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Ross Anderson, Anson Boon, George Boon,
Directed By: Alexandre Aja (Haute Tension, The Hills Have Eyes, Piranha 3D,Mirrors, Horns)
MPAA Rating: R

Another one of the summer’s odder releases, but also, like Stuber, one of the few original movies not a sequel, remake or based on preexisting material is another horror film, this one pairing legendary horror icon Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead) with a newer horror filmmaker, French master Alexandre Aja, who has directed an interesting array of remakes and original horror ideas.

Crawl is the latter… but only if you haven’t seen any of the Lake Placid movies or the 1980 movie Alligator or have never watched any of the many cheesy movies produced by Syfy. It involves a Category 5 hurricane that leaves a young woman (Kaya Scodelario) trapped in a flooded house with alligators on the prowl inside it.

Crawl is Aja’s most high-profile horror movie in quite some time, probably going back to 2010’s Piranha 3D, another cheesy horror movie that opened with a measly $10 million in late summer 2010 and grossed $25 million total. His previous horror movie Mirrorsdid slightly better, but he’s probably still best known for his previous remake of The Hills Have Eyes that teamed him with the late Wes Craven in 2006, and that grossed $41.8 million after an opening of $15 million. Aja clearly has a fanbase in the horror genre but maybe not so much outside of it, and he certainly hasn’t capitalized on the horror boom over the past six or seven years. The idea of teaming him with Raimi, whose most recent horror movie Drag Me to Hell ended up in the same $42 million range doesn’t bode that well.

British actor Scodelario is probably best known from the Maze Runnerfilms and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, but honestly, I probably couldn’t pick her out of a police line-up.  She’s joined by veteran character actor Barry Pepper, who oddly, ALSO appeared in the Maze Runner movies. Although Pepper has appeared in the movies of many Oscar-nominated filmmakers like Clint Eastwood and the Coen Brothers and Spike Lee, I’m not sure how many regularly moviegoers even know who he is. With that in mind, Crawlis much like so many other horror movies where it’s more about the premise i.e. killer crocodiles than the cast.

Movies like Crawlhave potential to do well, going by the likes of 1997’s Anaconda, which opened with $16.6 million and made $66 million total. The sequel seven years later ended up with half that amount. Of course, there’s also those shark movies with last year’s The Megbeing a huge hit with $145 million, although Crawl is probably closer to 47 Meters Down, which ended up with $44.3 million after an $11 million summer opening.

Maybe it shouldn’t be too surprising that Paramount has decided not to screen Crawl in advance for film critics. Maybe they remember how much having all those great reviews helped last year’s WWII horror film Overload i.e. not at all.

This seems like the kind of movie that can appeal to younger moviegoers looking for a reason to get out of the summer heat, but they could just as likely go see the action-comedy Stuber, which has generally had a stronger marketing campaign. I can see Crawl bringing in $10 to 12 million this weekend but not much more, especially without a name star to sell it.

Spider-Man: Far from Home shouldn’t have much difficulty remaining #1 for a second weekend in a row, and we’ll just have to see if either of those new movies breakout and do bigger business than expected.

This Week’s Box Office Predictions:

  1. Spider-Man: Far from Home (Sony) – $43.5 million -53%
  2. Toy Story 4 (Disney/Pixar) – $19.3 million -43%
  3. Stuber (20thCentury Fox) – $15.6 million N/A
  4. Crawl (Paramount) – $11.4 million N/A
  5. Yesterday (Universal) – $6.2 million -38%
  6. Aladdin (Walt Disney Pictures) – $5 million -34%
  7. Annabelle Comes Home (New Line/WB) – $4.7 million -53%
  8. Midsommar (A24) – $3 million -57%
  9. The Secret Life of Pets 2 (Universal) – $2.8 million -40%
  10. 10. Men in Black International (Sony) – $1.9 million -48%

At least this is a good weekend for new limited release in select cities including Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, starring Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians), and Lynn Shelton’s Sword of Trust, starring Marc Maron and Jillian Bell. Both films are excellent, the former mostly being a drama while the latter is a comedy with dramatic moments. Also, Jesse Eisenberg stars in The Art of Self Defense (Bleecker Street), a movie that also combines genres, as sort of a dark comedic thriller. It’s in limited release this weekend but should expand fairly wide next week. If you’re into nature and saving the planet, you’ll want to check out Richard Ladkani‘s Sea of Shadows, released by National Geographic in select cities this weekend. It’s an amazing look at the fight to save an endangered species of whale in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez.

Next week: Disney’s The Lion King. To quote Metallica: “Nothing else matters.”