The summer movie season continued with another movie opening lower than originally predicted, as once sure-thing franchises continue to not deliver as expected.
This Past Weekend
The big new release of the weekend was the 10th installment in one of Universal’s most profitable franchises with Fast X, as always, starring Vin Diesel, and the rest of the ensemble “family,” including the likes of John Cena, Jason Statham, and Charlize Theron. This time around, they were joined by Jason Momoa as the movie’s primary villain, Dante Reyes, and Oscar-winner Brie Larson as an individual who is more of a grey area. Long-time director Justin Lin vacated that role once again, to be replaced by Louis Letterier (Now You See Me, The Incredible Hulk).
The movie came into the weekend with mixed negative reviews, but a solid theatrical presence in 4,406 theaters, presumably snagging most, if not all, the premiums screens from Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3. After making $7.5 million in Thursday previews that began in the afternoon, Fast X made $28 million its opening day, which paved the way for an estimated $67.4 million weekend. That is below the $70 million opening for 2021’s F9 and actually the lowest opening for the franchise – other than 2019’s Hobbs and Shaw spin-off – since Diesel returned for 2009’s Fast & Furious.
Fast X received a “B+” CinemaScore, which was the same as F9 but it’s also the same rating for the original The Fast and the Furious in 2001. All other installments of the franchise have scored an “A-” or higher, so we’ll have to see how well Diesel’s latest fares over Memorial Day weekend against many new releases. (See below for the rundown.)
Internationally, Fast X continues to be a huge boon for Universal, bringing in $251.4 million overseas since opening earlier this week in 84 markets (across 80,000 plus screens). In less than a week, the latest installment has brought in $318.9 million globally, with $22 million of that coming from IMAX screens.
The conclusion of James Gunn’s outer space trilogy, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3, continues to do decently post-opening, presumably due to strong word-of-mouth and repeat viewings, as it took second place with roughly $32 million this weekend, down 48 percent with $266.5 million grossed domestically. It added another $48.8 million internationally over the weekend to bring its overseas total to $392.6 million and global total to $659.1 million. China has helped greatly with the $72.3 million it has delivered for Disney, although Fast X opened with $78.3 million this past weekend.
Universal already has a mega-blockbuster on its slate for the year with The Super Mario Bros. Movie, which inches closer to a $550 million domestic total with its third place showing of $9.8 million (down 25 percent). It has already passed Jon Favreau’s 2019 The Lion King remake to become the 14th highest grossing domestic movie ever. It added another $17.1 million overseas this weekend to bring its global total to $1.248 billion, with Mexico scoring the most for an international territory with $83.9 million.
Focus Features’ ensemble comedy sequel, Book Club: The Next Chapter, didn’t do that well last weekend, despite it being Mothers Day, but without that to boost Sunday, it dropped 55 percent in its second weekend to fourth place with $3 million. It has only made $13.1 million in its first ten days, less than the opening for the original movie. Doing better was Warner Bros. and New Line’s remake of the Sam Raimi horror classic, Evil Dead Rise, which added another $2.4 million in 2,173 theaters this weekend, down 36 percent to bring its domestic total to $64.1 million. Not bad for a movie planned for streaming on HBO Max.
Both of Lionsgate’s other releases, John Wick: Chapter 4 and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, wound up with $1.3 million this weekend, although John Wick came out ahead to take sixth place. (Also, check out Danielle Solzman’s fantastic interview with writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig!)
Robert Rodriguez’s sci-fi thriller, Hypnotic, starring Ben Affleck, tanked in its second weekend, dropping 67 percent to eighth place with $825,000, having made just over $4 million so far.
With the entry point into the top 10 so low, it allowed IFC Films’ Blackberry to make a rare 2nd weekend jump into the top 10 with $525,000 (up 7 percent from its opening weekend). (UPDATE: Apparently, this number includes Canadian box office, which is through a different distributor.)
As far as other new limited releases, Magnolia Pictures released Paul Schrader’s drama, Master Gardener, starring Joel Edgerton and Sigourney Weaver, into 220 theaters where it grossed an estimated $269,000, averaging $1,223 per theater.
Zachary Wigon’s two-hander Sanctuary, starring Margaret Qualley and Christopher Abbott, was released by NEON into five theaters in New York and L.A., where it made $65,000 or $13,000 per theater. NEON will probably expand it into more cities this coming Friday. (Look for my interview with Wigon to post shortly.)
Somehow, I botched up the timing of this section of last week’s “Box Office Breakdown” because I ran what I should have run this week, and completely missed the weekend in which Universal’s remake of Stephen King’s Firestarter bombed with just $3.8 million. Oh, well. We’ll get back on the proper schedule next Sunday.
It’s Memorial Day weekend, the first four-day weekend since Easter, and historically, one of the best weekends to release a movie as theaters tend to be jam packed with folks looking for something to do as the temperature increases.
Into that market comes Disney’s The Little Mermaid, an adaptation of the beloved animated musical feature from 1989, which won two Oscars, including one for its Original Score and Song, both by Alan Menken (lyrics by the late Howard Ashman). The movie wasn’t a huge blockbuster hit on first release, grossing just $79.2 million domestically and $110.7 million overseas. It opened with just $6 million in less than 1,000 theaters, but when it was rereleased in 1997, it added another $109.9 million, showing that the movie had built up quite a bonafide fanbase due to home entertainment.
For this remake, the title character, Ariel, is played by newcomer Halle Bailey, who is surrounded by an interesting cast, including Melissa McCarthy in a rare theatrical release following her stint of Netflix releases, as well as Javier Bardem, Awkwafina, Daveed Diggs, and Jacob Tremblay, the latter three voicing beloved characters from the original movie.
Directed by Rob Marshall (Into the Woods, Mary Poppins Returns), The Little Mermaid follows a long line of theatrically-released live action adaptations of Disney classics, although in recent years, many of them have been going straight to the Disney+ streamer.
Even so, we can look at three quite successful entries in this attempt by Disney to play on the nostalgia millions of Americans (and those overseas, too) have for the majority of their animated classics. For instance, the Kenneth Branagh-directed Cinderella opened with $67.9 million in 2015 and made $201.1 million domestically and made another $341.2 million internationally.
In 2016, Jon Favreau directed a live action remake of The Jungle Book, which opened better with $103.3 million, then made $364 million domestically; in 2019, Favreau took on the more recent and hugely popular blockbuster The Lion King, which opened with $191.7 million and grossed $1.6 billion worldwide. (That’s probably what led Disney to greenlight the Barry Jenkins-helmed prequel movie currently in production.)
No less than Emma Watson from the Harry Potter movies starred in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast in 2017, and that was a huge global blockbuster, grossing $1.3 billion globally with a domestic opening of $174.7 million. (Incidentally, Disney already has a live action Lilo & Stitch movie in the works, and even DreamWorks Animation has gotten into the act with its planned How To Train Your Dragon live action feature. Looking at some of those numbers, can anyone blame them?)
Early reactions were generally decent and presumably reviews will be same, which certainly won’t hurt matters. Of course, there will be quite a bit of cynicism involved with this “reinvention” as well, and not just from critics.
The venerable Disney marketing behemoth has been on full display, with much of the talent from the movie doing the talk show rounds and building up excitement for the movie, which will be the likely choice for many audiences this weekend. Not only will The Little Mermaid be the first choice for young girls of all age ranges, one also can expect that adults, especially parents who remember the animated movie fondly, to be out with their own kids to see it.
Frankly, I’ll be surprised if The Little Mermaid opens with less than $140 to 150 million over the four-day holiday weekend, because there’s that much demand for another family-friendly film with so few other options. If it doesn’t open that well, it will have to face Sony’s Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse next weekend, potentially losing much of its younger audience.
Fast X and Guardians of the Galaxy should hold off any other newcomers from getting into the top three over the four-day holiday weekend with the latter probably making $22 million or more.
Then we have what literally seems to be the battle of the stand-up comedians with Sebastian Maniscalco‘s In About My Father, co-starring Robert De Niro, and The Machine, starring Bert Kreischer, released by Lionsgate and Sony Pictures, respectively.
Both of these movies are opening in just over 2,300 theaters, and in both cases, they presumably are based on true stories from their respective comics’ stand-up bits. Needless to say, both movies will rely heavily on each of the comics’ fan bases, and Maniscalco is likely to be the winner in this face-off, as theaters are surprisingly devoid of strong R-rated comedy, and the presence of Maniscalco and De Niro alone should help it bring in $8 to 11 million over the four-day weekend. (Maniscalco has appeared in many movies already this year, including a voice role in The Super Mario Bros. Movie and appearing in Ray Romano‘s directorial debut, Somewhere in Queens.)
While I certainly don’t want to throw shade at Sony Pictures every single week, The Machine, which co-stars Mark Hamill, seems to be another example of how the studio just seems to be throwing movies out into the wild with very little promotion, marketing or even reviews. Most critics and audiences will just assume it’s bad, and because of that, it’s likely to be the biggest clunker of the weekend, with just $4 to 5 million over the four-day weekend. And yet, that will still be enough to get into the Top 10.
Open Road Films is releasing Ric Roman Waugh’s political thriller, Kandahar, starring Gerard Butler, into an unknown number of theaters but likely in the 2,500 theaters region. The movie has Butler playing a CIA agent in Afghanistan, who must travel with a translator (Navid Negahban) through a dangerous region.
Butler’s previous film, Plane, co-starring Mike Colter (Luke Cage), opened in February with $10.3 million in 3,023 theaters. Although Butler’s previous teaming with Waugh for 2020’s Greenland ended up going straight to VOD (due to COVID, not quality), their previous excursion was the 2019 action movie, Angel Has Fallen, which grossed $69 million after a $21.4 million opening, although that was already part of a popular franchise.
Kandahar not only will be a great test for Butler’s star power and ability to bring audiences into theaters, but more importantly, Open Road’s attempt to maintain its status as a player after a significant number of clunkers. The four-day weekend should give the movie a boost, although it’s still likely to end up with around $7 to 8 million over the holiday. (Incidentally, we’ll have an interview with Waugh on Above the Line sometime this week.)
Indie filmmaker Nicole Holofcener returns with You Hurt My Feelings, a dramedy starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus that premiered at Sundance to generally great reviews. Still no word on a theater count from A24 and whether they might try to offer this as a wide release for counter-programming. Either way, make no mistake that A24 marketing will push the movie in hopes it will do even better than the last Holofcener collaboration with Louis-Dreyfus ten years ago for Enough Said (co-starring the late James Gandolfini), which grossed $17.5 million, released by Fox Searchlight.
Edward Douglas has been writing about the box office for 21 years at places like ComingSoon.net, The Tracking Board, and many others, but mostly under the banner of “The Weekend Warrior.” He’s also a film critic with bylines at Film Journal, The New York Daily News, Den of Geek, and more.