Weekend Predictions (Aug 3-Aug 5) Three New Titles Look to Combat Unoriginality at the Box Office while Christopher Robin Goes toe-to-toe With Tom Cruise!!

This weekend will see the box office get a needed, if admittedly small, shot in the arm as a few new original films enter the multiplex this weekend. The title of “original” is something of a stretch as only newcomer The Spy Who Dumped Me is a truly original story (despite the highly referential, yet clever title) while Disney’s newest “live-action-adaptation-of-one-their-animated-properties” movie, Christopher Robin, is based on existing work. Christopher Robin does, however, tell a new story with said characters which will likely be a breath of fresh air for moviegoers after two weeks of wall-to-wall sequels (all Hook comparisons aside). These two films, as well as Fox’s Darkest Minds, are looking to potentially shake up the roster of the top ten in a surprisingly large way.

Two films look to be jockeying for the number one spot this weekend, those being newcomer Christopher Robin and holdover Mission Impossible-Fallout. Fallout has been performing quite well over the course of the week, having grossed $83 million domestically up to this point and looking to take the number one spot in terms of weekly gross. The best comparisons to make for analyzing the film’s performance would be to other Mission Impossible films, however, this proves to be surprisingly difficult as both MI:1 and MI:2 opened on Wednesdays instead of Fridays, giving them a massive head start on Fallout in terms of daily box office gross, and Ghost Protocol opened not only on a Thursday but also in limited release before expanding and beefing up its box office momentum in the process. As a result, the best comparisons for Fallout come from MI:3 and Rogue Nation (Rogue Nation in particular given that it is from the same director and features, largely, the same cast) and by these comparisons, Fallout is performing beautifully, tracking ahead of MI:3 by $26 million and ahead of Rogue Nation by $9 million. Given the fact that both of these films only dropped around 48% each in their second weekends, I am expecting Fallout to do the same, if not better. Given the fact that this installment of the franchise is being held in such high esteem by critics (its the most lauded of Mission Impossible movies) and by fans, as indicated by the weekday box office, the likelihood of it holding better than 48% is actually very likely. Conservatively, I see the film sporting at least a 45% hold for a gross of around $33.8 million, which would lead it to take the top spot.

Now, the main caveat in Mission Impossible‘s box office plan is a little movie called Christopher Robin. Not to be confused with last year’s Goodbye Christopher Robin, a biographical tale about Winnie the Pooh creator A.A. Milne, Disney’s Christopher Robin is a live-action continuation of the Disney animated classic The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Picking up with an adult Christopher Robin living in London with a family of his own, the story follows him as he reunites with his childhood playmates (brought to life through CGI) and learns to focus on the important things in life. The film has been advertised moderately, heavily emphasizing the family aspects, and looks as though it is hoping to cash in on the summer child audience right before school starts. Pundits are predicting an opening slightly north of $30 million, and at the moment, the film looks to be on track for just that. It’s Thursday night preview gross came in at $1.5 million, which the trades were quick to point out is higher than the last live-action fantasy film Disney put out, that being Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time which grossed $1.3 million in Thursday night previews before opening to $33 million. This would suggest that Christopher Robin is all but guaranteed open north of $30 million and will likely open with $33+ million. Now, I originally thought that this might be an overestimate. Reviews for the film have come in and while they are certainly not negative, they are rather middling. Many critics seem to be essentially blowing off the film, calling it “fine” and a “sweet adventure” that is specifically aimed at children and family audiences. The result is a 63% on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 54 on Metacritic, both not bad, but rather lukewarm. This would lead me to believe that the opening would settle more around $30 million without going higher.

However, there is actually a very strong comparison to be made here with another live-action update to an older classic featuring CGI animals, that being this year’s surprise hit Peter Rabbit. Indeed, the movies are remarkably similar in that they both feature updates and extensions to the original children’s classics, humans interacting with CGI animals for comedic effect, and (this is key) nearly identical critical reception, with Peter Rabbit sporting the exact same Rotten Tomatoes score as Christopher Robin and a Metacritc score that’s only slightly off (51 to 54). Yet, despite rather middling reviews, this filmic update to the famous Beatrix Potter stories actually managed to overperform on opening weekend with a gross of $25 million and saw incredible holds weekend to weekend, ending its worldwide run with an astonishing $350 million on a $50 million budget. With all this, I feel that Christopher Robin might actually reach $33 million if not go higher, powered primarily by family appeal (the audience reaction to the movie so far seems promising, with many calling it “heartwarming”) and the strength of the Disney brand. This, of course, puts it into direct conflict with Fallout for the number one spot. It is difficult to tell which will pull ahead, especially given that the movies really don’t share a core audience, with Mission Impossible, as proven by its demographics last weekend, appealing to a much older audience than Christopher Robin is likely to appeal to. In that case, it could very easily come down to the size of said target audiences, in which case Christopher Robin would win out by a landslide (children always come with parents). That said, Mission Impossible-Fallout has the benefit of having come out last weekend, thus having already established an audience, and an audience that loves the movie at that. The word of mouth on the film is very strong with critics and audiences and could easily fuel more people to see it this weekend instead of taking a chance on the new Disney film with middling reviews (while audience word-of-mouth is good coming out of preview screenings last night, whether or not it takes hold depends on those who see it today). This, combined with potential Disney-oversaturation (Infinity War, then Ant-Man and the Wasp, then Christopher Robin all in one summer), may hurt the Pooh feature out of the gate, ceding the victory to Fallout. I tentatively predict that Fallout will best Christopher Robin for the number one spot this weekend, even if Christopher Robin overperforms, because, in the end, one can never count out Tom Cruise’s ability to run box office marathons. That said, pay close attention because this is likely to be a photo-finish between the two.

Now, while the fate of the number one spot in the box office top ten looks a bit uncertain, I can say with absolute certainty that Lionsgate’s The Spy Who Dumped Me will be taking third place. A globe-trotting action-comedy starring Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon, the story follows two best friends who get wrapped up in international espionage antics when one discovers that her ex-boyfriend was a CIA operative. With a fun, high concept premise, the film looks to be a breath of fresh air in this summer movie landscape, and, thanks to its comedic tone and the presence of two female comedians in the lead, will likely not have to compete with Mission Impossible for the same spy movie-fan audience. That said, the films projections are looking a bit low. Pundits are projecting the film to open in the range of $10-$15 million, with most pegging the film to open at about $13 million. The reason this looks a bit low is because Kunis has been shown to be able to pull in a bigger audience, especially as of late with her turns in the Bad Moms franchise where she has shown herself to be quite the gifted comedian. Even though both Bad Moms films received mixed to negative reviews, even A Bad Moms Christmas managed opened to $16 million this past December. The Spy Who Dumped Me is not fairing much better critically (sporting a 36% on Rotten Tomatoes, though an okay 51 on Metacritic), but in the past Kunis has shown a lot of fan appeal despite less-than-great reviews for her movies (she herself is usually singled out for praise) which makes the $13 million confounding.

Admittedly, the advertising for the film has been rather moderate, amping up only last week to prep for the release, which may be resulting in this opening gross as the film may simply not be on the audience radar. That said, there is the potential reasoning that Kate McKinnon could be bringing the movie down. “BLASPHEMY!!”, someone is likely yelling at the mere mention of anything possibly negative about Kate McKinnon, and it must be said that this is not a comment on her ability as an actress. In fact, in reviews for The Spy Who Dumbed Me, it is McKinnon who is being singled out as the MVP of the film, with critics calling her “compulsively watchable”, as is actually the norm for movies in which she starts in (typically as the odd, but lovable friend). The all-female Ghostbusters remake (for which she was listed by Indiewire as having one of the Best Supporting Performances of the Year), Rough Night, and now The Spy Who Dumped Me all have proven to be great showcases for McKinnon’s talents. However, what all these films also have in common is the fact that they all underperformed financially. Ghostbusters opened well, owing to the strength of the brand, but then quickly fell off of the map while Rough Night completely failed to register at the box office. All this may point to McKinnon simply not picking great projects. While she is able to elevate the material she is given, the overall films that she stars in simply don’t seem to connect with audiences, the material seeming simply too outlandish or badly executed. I happened to catch another film of hers not long ago, the Netflix cancer dramedy Irreplaceable You, which similarly suffered from the uneven, and at times off-putting, handling of a genuinely intriguing high concept premise, and this seems to further confirm my theory. Unfortunately, while McKinnon is undeniably likable, her presence in a film seems to indicate to audiences that it might be just too weird (that assumption being backed up by the reviews for said films). It’s a shame because The Spy Who Dumped Me does look like a lot of fun and is an original idea which audiences seem to be craving. Perhaps the film will catch on over the weekend and be able to gross more than projected, but for now, expect it to settle with $13 million in third place.

In fourth, we’re likely to find Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again with $8-$9 million after a drop of likely around 45%, while in fifth place, I expect to find The Equalizer 2. However, fifth place could potentially be as hotly contested as first with the presence of Fox’s newest entry into the Dystopian YA film genre, The Darkest Minds. Of course, the potency of this contest looks to be only a fraction of that between Fallout and Christopher Robin given that both Equalizer and Darkest Minds look very unlikely to even broach the double digits with their grosses. Darkest Minds stars Amandla Stenberg (Rue from the Hunger Games film franchise) who has been carving out a niche for herself within the remains of the once highly profitable young adult film genre. She managed to open her last film, Everything, Everything with Nick Robinson, solidly from which it managed a nice little profit, and she is set to grace the silver screen once again this October in the highly anticipated film adaptation of the acclaimed novel The Hate U Give. However, she should consider finding a new genre soon as The Darkest Minds is looking to bomb. Projections for the film are wide, ranging from $5 million to $12 million depending on the trade making the projections. While it did make $550,000 in Thursday previews, which puts it ahead of The Fifth Wave‘s $475,000 before that film’s $10.3 million opening, the film is saddled with terrible reviews, many calling the film highly derivative, with some even labeling it a “discount X-Men movie”. Given this, I am more inclined to see it opening between $7-$8 million. Stenberg has a strong fanbase given her social activism, but I feel it is unlikely to help her here, especially as she faces up against Denzel Washington, whom, as we’ve seen before, has star power to spare. Indeed, I see The Equalizer 2 managing a gross closer to $8 million in fifth place while Darkest Minds debuts closer to $7 million in sixth.

The rest of the box office top ten will consist of holdovers. In seventh place, expect to find Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation with another strong hold between 45-50% (accounting for Christopher Robin‘s presence) for a gross of $6.6 million. In eighth place, expect to see Teen Titans GO! To The Movies drop around 50% for a gross around $5 million. Surprisingly, not one, not two, but three movies from last weekend will likely be dropping out of the top ten, those being Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (which recently past $400 million at the domestic box office for a worldwide gross of $1.24 billion), Skyscraper (earlier than expected), and The First Purge (right on time). This leaves Ant-Man and the Wasp and Incredibles 2 to take the ninth and tenth places, respectively. Ant-Man & Wasp looks to drop 45-50% (following the pattern set by Solo earlier this summer) for a gross of around $4.5 million, having just past $400 million worldwide and likely having just broken even (not including the advertising budget). Meanwhile, Incredibles 2 has already been profitable for quite a while, having just past the $1 billion mark this past Tuesday, and is looking to gross $4.5 million as well.

The specialty market, this weekend will see the release of A24’s teen comedy Never Goin’ Back (starring a post-The Fosters Maia Mitchell). All eyes will indeed be on A24, but instead for the wide release of Eighth Grade. Having had the best per-theater-average of the year in its limited release opening weekend, the film has built up a lot of buzz and the reviews have been extremely positive. Many pundits are pegging it at wide release opening gross of $3-4 million, but I would not be surprised to see it go higher, high enough to potentially make into the ninth or tenth spot this weekend, knocking out Ant-Man & Wasp or Incredibles 2. A24 is likely pushing for this as getting Eighth Grade anywhere into the top ten would be a massive boon to the Oscar campaign that they will be undoubtedly be putting on for the film. Expect a large push over the weekend on social media.

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

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