Weekend Predictions (July 27-July 29) Mission Impossible-Fallout Cruising toward a Franchise-Topping Opening Weekend!

Thursday Night Preview Gross update:

Mission Impossible-Fallout brought i a very impressive $6 million from thursday night preview screenings. This is $2 million ahead of the preview gross brought in Rogue Nation, which ended up debuting to $55 million, so an opening weekend gross of at least $60 million is all but guaranteed, and the film is still on track for a $65+ million debut.

Teen Titans GO! To The Movies brought in $1 million from its previews, which compares well to other recent animated offerings The Emoji Movie and Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, which each grossed between $600k-$900k which led into opening weekend grosses north of $20 million. However, I can’t help but feel that this number a bit muted, and I feel that it may end up opening on the lower end of projections. What will be a boost for the film is actually a mid-credits sequence that fans are getting very excited about. I’m gotten wind of what it entails, and while I will not spoil it, I can say that fans of the original Teen Titans animated series will be pleased. Pay attention to the daily grosses as they will indicate how this post credits scene will is affecting word of mouth.

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After a weekend full of sequels during the past week, another franchise looks to add its latest installment to the mix! Yes, Mission Impossible-Fallout is dropping into theaters this weekend, with preview screenings having occurred late last night (this post will be updated with them later), and is currently tracking to deliver a gross in the range of $55-$65 million over the three day weekend. Now, the casual box office enthusiast would be likely to see that number think it a rather paltry opening for what is generally considered to be a high-performing blockbuster franchise. However, the sixth entry in the franchise is actually looking to deliver the biggest opening weekend for the franchise yet, proving once again that the box office is very much a marathon rather than a sprint.

Despite what would seem like a much smaller opening than a typical blockbuster (just look at Infinity War, Fallen Kingdom, and even Incredibles 2 for comparison), the Mission Impossible series has managed to gross hundreds of millions of dollars with every single entry, each having made at least about $400 million at the worldwide box office (MI:3 admittedly did not pass this box office benchmark, but was only $3 million away with a gross of $397 million) and the highest grossing film in the franchise having grossed $694 million, that being Ghost Protocol. In my last post, I discussed how true movie stars-those who put butts in seats-are fewer and far between nowadays, with only three stars standing out: Denzel Washington (having proved himself last weekend with the surprise overperformance of The Equalizer 2), Leonardo DiCaprio, and our favorite IMF agent, Tom Cruise. Indeed, all three are name-talents who have proven themselves capable of opening a film well, though Cruise is an interesting case. While he sometimes may not deliver huge numbers on opening weekend, his movies tend to have (ironically) great legs. The Mission Impossible franchise is the perfect example of this, with every film (except for the third) having delivered a domestic gross with at least a x3.5 multiple from its opening weekend. This indicates very strong word-of-mouth, a testament to Cruise’ star power, which has propelled each film to astounding box office heights despite relatively smaller openings. This also goes for the international gross of each film, usually accounting for at least 60% of the worldwide gross, another testament to Cruise’s star power worldwide.

While Cruise is definitely is a draw, there is also a lot to be said for the quality of the franchise as a whole, and the fact that this level of quality has been maintained through five movies despite the revolving door of directors that have helmed each individual installment. At their worst, the films have have been praised for their level of fun and sheer spectacle (even it if it is at the expense of cohesive storytelling) while at their best they have received critical acclaim for their intricate plotting, the death-defying stunt work of Cruise, and the unique artistic vision of each of the franchise’s directors, be it the Hitchcockian tension and psychological thrills of Brian De Palma in MI:1, the operatic spectacle of John Woo in MI:2, the grounded realism and reverential (yet assuredly self-aware) tone of J.J. Abrams in MI:3, Brad Bird’s visual ingenuity a cartoon-ish sensibility for Ghost Protocol, and most recently, the lean, script-focused direction of Oscar-winner Christopher McQuarrie, featuring taut plot construction, sharply defined characters, and an Old-Hollywood ornamentation. Fallout is unique in the amongst the Mission Impossible films as it is the first film in which a director is returning to helm another entry, that being Christopher McQuarrie of The Usual Suspects fame. While the average moviegoer may not be immediately aware of this, I feel that McQuarrie’s return may be fueling the potential franchise opening weekend high.

Rogue Nation, the previous entry and last film to be helmed by McQuarrie, grossed $195 million domestically and $682 million worldwide, and managed to become to most critically lauded film in the franchise, with specific praise going toward the leveling up of the stunt work, balance of action and story, and the cast, particularly the inclusion of Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust who became the breakout character (and performer) of the film. With the decision to bring her back, McQuarrie creates the sense that this a direct sequel to Rogue Nation, while still remaining fresh with the addition of Henry “Superman” Cavil and Vanessa Kirby (fresh off her Emmy-nomiated tenure as Princess Margaret on Netflix’s The Crown) to the cast which boost the international appeal of the film. All these factors combined with the reviews, which dropped early this week, to cement the idea that the franchise will have its biggest opening. The reviews are nearly unanimous in their praise of the film with some even labeling it one of the “best action films ever made”. At the moment, most pundits see it opening with at least $60 million, but given the buzz from this week, $65+ million looks more likely. Thursday night preview grosses will be able to paint a more concrete picture but overall there is absolutely no doubt the film will manage to take the number one spot this weekend.

Outside of Mission Impossible, no other movie looks to come close to it in terms of weekend gross. As a result, last weekend’s new offerings, The Equalizer 2 and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, will be battling for second place. Likely, this will go to Mamma Mia 2, which enjoyed a solid debut last weekend and has enjoyed good word-of-mouth as indicated by the fact that it has led the week in terms of daily grosses. The film is also bolstered by its soundtrack, which will likely fuel the film and allow it to have a strong hold this coming weekend. It also helps that Mamma Mia as a brand has a fan base that is very distinct from that of Mission Impossible, Mamma Mia being predominately female and slightly older (though not by much) than the crowd that will likely turn out for Fallout, so a gross around $18-$20 million (representing a drop between 41-45%) is to be expected. On the other hand, The Equalizer 2 finds itself in the precarious position of sharing a surprising amount of its audience with Fallout. While Fallout may not boast an R-rating, it and Equalizer both have stylish action (Equalizer more so that Mission Impossible, whose style, in turn, is defined more via production value), roots in a television series, and a bankable star in the lead. However, the profile of Mission Impossible, both as a film series (given how many installments there have been) and even as a television series, is infinitely higher and likely to pull many moviegoers away from The Equalizer 2. Pundits seem to be predicting that the film will drop off about 55% for a gross of about $16 million. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see (and I actually predict) the film hold better for a potential gross of $17-$18 million, especially given the fact that despite worse reviews compared to the original, The Equalizer 2 still managed to open better than the first and best Mamma Mia 2, last weekend’s frontrunner, based on Denzel Washington’s star power. It looks to all come down to star power, Washington versus Cruise, but don’t be surprised if the Equalizer manages a hold in the low 50%‘s, landing in third place beneath Mamma Mia 2 in second.

The wildcard of the weekend looks to be Teen Titans Go! To The Movies as there doesn’t seem to be that much of a clear read on the film. A film adaptation of the relatively new animated series, Teen Titans Go! To The Movies is looking to capitalize on the popularity it has garnered as a show running on Cartoon Network. What makes the film such a wildcard is the fact that the projected range for its opening weekend gross is very large, around $15-$23 million. On one hand, the reviews for the film, following its presentation at Comic-Con, were very strong out of the gate, brandishing a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. With the film now looking to settle in the 80%’s, the film could conceivably break into the low-$20 million range, especially given that two more recent offerings from Warner Animation Group, Storks and The LEGO Ninjago Movie, both opened north of $20 million (The LEGO Batman Movie is also recent a recent offering from Warner Animation, but boasts Batman-branding which puts it very much in a league of its own). The LEGO Ninjago Movie is actually an excellent comparison for Teen Titans Go! given the fact that the film also originated as a Cartoon Network TV series, and will likely serve as a great touchpoint to compare the film’s performance going forward. On the other hand, the Teen Titans Go! movie, based on the trailer, looks to be heavily steeped in comic book and DC film lore by way of meta-comedy and as a result might just be too “inside baseball” for the average moviegoer and non-comic book reader to fully appreciate which would hamper word-of-mouth. The film will also have to compete with Hotel Transylvania 3 for the attention of the family audience and given said films strong performance, it could easily eat into Teen Titans GO! To The Movies’ box office. While I am hesitant to predict that the film will make it into the $20 million range, the film’s popularity with younger audiences is very strong, and I believe it will land at least around $17 million, if not climb higher. It will be interesting to see if it can indeed climb any higher, given that if it can, Teen Titans GO! To The Movies could potentially knock out The Equalizer 2 and take third place for the weekend.

Rounding out the top five, Hotel Transylvania 3 will likely manage another strong hold around 45% or lower for a weekend gross between $12 and $13 million, while the rest of the box office will likely remain mostly the same as the previous weeks. If Ant-Man & The Wasp continues on its Solo-like trajectory, a drop around 35% is to be expected for a gross of approximately $10 million in sixth place. Incredibles 2 and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom will reunite after having had Skyscraper come between them last week. Both will likely sport drops in the 30%‘s translating to grosses between $7-$8 million with Incredibles 2 taking the seventh place spot and Fallen Kingdom taking eighth. Skyscraper is likely to see another bigger drop in the 50%‘s for a gross of $5.5 million given the more negative word of mouth surrounding the film, and The First Purge will make its last stop in the top ten before dropping out of tenth place next week.

Both Unfriended: Dark Web and Sorry to Bother You will be dropping out of the top ten for this weekend. After the more lackluster reception of Unfriended commercially. Expect it to fall between 50-60%, if not more, which is typical for a horror film. Sorry to Bother You will likely hold much better given not only thanks to its more favorable critical reception but also the fact that Annapurna will continue to expand its release into more theaters. Expect a possible drop similar to last week, around 30-35% for a gross between $1.5-$2 million placing it outside the top ten. In the specialty market, there look to be no major releases, although new release Puzzle is getting a surprising amount of attention for actress Kelly Macdonald’s performance. Given that its distributor, Sony Pictures Classics, has a solid track record with awards season, keep an eye out for the film as it be the potential start of a small oscar campaign for the typically underrated Macdonald if the movie can score a solid per-theater-average gross (may in the $30,000‘s if it is lucky).

(Box Office Data taken from BoxOfficeMojo.com, Deadline.com, and Box Office Pro)

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