The end of summer is a bit of an odd time. While most people consider summer to be over when the kids go back to school, school starts at different times all around the country. As a result, in the twilight of the season, studios seem to toss out odd-ball fare in the hopes that it may find itself some kind of audience. As a result of nothing big coming out around this time, Crazy Rich Asians looks to dominate the weekend once more. Having posted a strong opener this past weekend, as well as topped the week in terms of daily grosses, Crazy Rich Asians is heading into the weekend with few obstacles in its way. Some films are looking to make a dent, those being the long-gestating The Happytime Murders from STX Entertainment and Global Road’s A.X.L., but neither of them look to be nearly as structurally sound. In so, Crazy Rich Asians looks to have another win for both itself and Asian representation as a whole, especially given the serendipitous release of the John Cho-led thriller Searching this weekend in limited release.
At the top of the weekend, expect to find Crazy Rich Asians sporting a more than solid 2nd-weekend drop. As we saw last weekend, the film had a strong opening of $26 million in the 3-day (once the actuals came in) and an overall weekend gross $35 million in the 5-day Wednesday-Sunday window. While this opening did not necessarily, blow the lid off the box office, it certainly was worth talking about, as the film’s 3-day debut was on the high end of expectations and the 5-day gross was a genuine overperformance. The buzz around this opening was only amplified by the fact that Crazy Rich Asians managed to not only top the weekend but also front-lined a weekend where the top three films at the weekend box office all featured Asian actors in principal roles both in front of and behind the camera, the others being The Meg and Mile 22. The flurry of coverage surrounding this historic (yes, it was historic) weekend whipped not only people in the industry but also the general movie-going audience into a frenzy which has no doubt translated into strong box office for the film over the course of this week. All things considered, I would be genuinely surprised to see the film with a large drop this coming weekend. Clearly, general audiences are recognizing Crazy Rich Asians release as something special and who wouldn’t want to be part of something special?
So, how exactly will Crazy Rich Asians perform this weekend? Last weekend, predicting its opening proved to be surprisingly difficult given that there aren’t many films like it. I did make the comparison between Crazy Rich Asians and Girls Trip from last year, and given how Crazy Rich Asians managed to perform this past weekend, I feel even more confident with that comparison. Featuring not only a predominately non-white cast but also being a comedy and sporting a similar level of production value and visual dazzle, Girls Trip‘s box office performance is certainly one that Crazy Rich Asians would do best to copy (if not improve upon). Opening with $31 million in its debut weekend (besting Crazy Rich Asians in the 3-day window, but being excited by it in the 5-day), Girls Trip has a similar level of critical praise which led it to post an excellent 37% drop in its second weekend. Conservatively, I went into my predictions with hypothesizing that Crazy Rich Asians would post a 40% percent drop (still very strong) for a weekend gross of approximately $16 million. My conservative estimates usually see well-regarded movies (or at least crowd pleasers) dropping more so around 45% in their second weekends, but the level buzz surrounding Crazy Rich Asians leads me to believe that it will do even better. Clearly I am not the only one who thinks so as most of the industry trades seem to be predicting a drop around 30% if not lower, the boldest predictions expecting the film to perform more so along the lines of 2011’s The Help, which opened with a nearly identical 3-day weekend gross but was so well received that it only saw a drop of 23% for a gross of $20 million in its second weekend. I will not be so bold as to predict a drop less than 30%, however, the predictions of the trades lead me to believe that Crazy Rich Asians will be seeing a drop between 35-40%, potentially closer to 35% for a gross of approximately $17 million, which would be absolutely fantastic for the film overall. Warner Bros. already has announced that a sequel is in active development and I would bet that if the film can manage a drop near 35% that the sequel will be official green-lit. The film will also likely begin to roll out more internationally, so expect its worldwide gross to get a very strong boost.
In second place, we have a potential showdown between The Meg and new release The Happytime Murders. However, this isn’t going to be a showdown for any good reason. Going into the weekend, forecasts for the film’s performance were pegging it with an opening between $13-$15 million. However, that was before the reviews came in, which don’t bode well for the film’s prospects. Having been in development for over a decade with the Jim Henson Company, and being spearheaded by Brian Henson (son of the legendary Jim Henson), the film actually looks genuinely interesting and inventive on paper; A Who Framed RogerRabbit?-type R-rated comedy about a human cop and a puppet detective searching for a murderer in a world occupied by humans and puppets. Featuring a starring turn by Melissa McCarthy (who also looks very well cast on paper), the inventiveness of the premise is certainly not lost on critics who have unanimously praised the film for its conceptual originality. However, that seems to be just about the only thing that people like about this movie. Currently, the film sports a 22% on Rotten Tomatoes and a terrible score of 29 on Metacritic, with critics not only calling the film “poorly executed” and “a waste of a good idea” but also, to my shock, “surprisingly toothless”. I saw the red-band trailer come online earlier in the summer and was absolutely shocked at, not necessarily the depravity of the film (it’s puppets doing R-rated things, so you can’t exactly help but chuckle), but rather the sheer classlessness of what was on display. With the trailer culminating with a gag involving silly-string (I will leave it at that), I was shocked at how a film made with the legacy of Jim Henson attached to it would be willing to stoop even lower than the lowest common denominator, but now to hear that the film isn’t even willing to stick to its guns in that department is almost even more upsetting.
With the Thursday night preview grosses coming in at around $950,000, some of the trades believe that the film will debut within the range that’s expected as this preview gross is higher than Melissa McCarthy’s last film, Life of the Party (which grossed $700,000 on a Thursday before debuting to $17 million, albeit with better reviews), but smaller than the $1.6 million brought in by Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates-which many believe to be a solid comparison-which saw an opening of $16 million. However, the reviews for the film lead me to believe that The Happytime Murders might actually not be able to gross within the range of $13-$15 million, and actually may come up short with $12 million instead (if not lower). The only real positive I see for the movie is that it is a post-summer release. As a result, children are either in school or headed back, so The Happytime Murders might be able to find an audience in the adult crowd. However, the real obstacle for the film is The Meg, which looks to drop 45-50% for a gross between $11-$12 million. Having already carved out a space for itself in the past two weeks as the fun, ridiculous, more adult-skewing (not R-rated, but appealing to a bit of an older crowd) film of the late summer season, The Meg is already occupying the space that The Happytime Murders is looking to fit itself into. I predict that The Happytime Murders will likely win the number two spot for the weekend, even if solely on the basis of sheer novelty, with a gross between $12-$13 million. However, expect The Meg to put up quite a fight and potentially snag second place if the word-of-mouth on The Happytime Murders is really that bad.
For the most part, expect the rest of the weekend to consist primarily of holdovers. Mile 22 will likely place fourth after The Meg with around a 50% drop for a gross of about $7 million. If the film drops only in the 40%‘s, this might signal a stronger audience response which would bolster the chances that STX will green-light the sequel they wish for, but I don’t expect this to be the case with there having been little to no conversation surrounding the picture post-release. Expect Mission Impossible-Fallout to fare much better with a 45% drop and a gross of $6 million, landing in fifth place as it prepares for a Chinese release this coming week.
Alpha and Christopher Robin will likely find themselves competing in the same space as Alpha surprised last weekend by tapping into the family audience at the last second and saw an inflated weekend gross of over $10 million, outperforming projections which had it coming in with a $6 million gross at best. Both will have to contend, however, with many children going back to school, which could eat into their grosses. I originally saw Christopher Robin holding better given that it had established an audience, but when taking the back-to-school season into consideration, I expect both pictures to drop around 45%. They could each hold better, but look for Alpha to gross about $5.6 million in sixth place and for Christopher Robin to gross about $5 million in seventh.
At the bottom of the top ten, I expect BlacKKKlansman to hold around 35% given the awards season buzz on it, putting it in eighth place. Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation will likely see its biggest drop given the end of (funny enough) summer vacation, but with such good word-of-mouth, I can’t see it dropping more than 40%. At best, it could see a gross of about $2.4 million but will likely not gross less than $2.2 million in ninth place. No matter what, it will undoubtedly come out ahead of Slender Man which is looking at another potential drop near 60% for a weekend gross of $2 million before flat out toppling out of the top ten. This weekend’s other new major release, Global Road’s A.X.L., hopes to possibly edge out Slender Man if said film drops even more than expected, but given Global Road’s track record of failing to open films as of late, I doubt that it will be able to muster anything past its expected $2 million debut.
Last, but certainly not least, the specialty market will see the release of Bleecker Street’s Papillon, a remake of 1973 film starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman, starring Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek this time around. Don’t expect it make much of an impact as its reviews are middling and its theater count is too large and will likely dilute the impact it would’ve had in a smaller limited release. The real story of the indie film market this weekend is that of Searching, the John Cho-led thriller about a man desperately searching for his daughter. Filmed in a similar fashion to the Unfriended films, which makes the film look as though it is taking place entirely on a computer screen, Searching has received critical acclaim for its more inventive use of the format (making use of a much wider range of technologies, be it phones, Facebook, Skype, etc…) as well as the depth of characterization and acting. John Cho himself is receiving heaps of praise for performance as the desperate father in question, which is garnering the film lots of buzz given the close proximity of its release to that of Crazy Rich Asians, furthering Asian representation not just in the mainstream, but also in the specialty (more awards-friendly) market where one is more likely to see Asians in a wider variety of lead roles as well as in a wider variety of film genres in general. While I personally feel that the film is too commercial for a major Oscar push across multiple categories, I would not be surprised to see John Cho be pushed for a Leading Actor nomination when the time comes, should the film do well. Searching is opening in nine theaters (likely across New York and Los Angeles) and is expected to post a strong per-theater-average.
(Box Office data taken from BoxOfficeMojo.com, BoxOfficePro.com, and Deadline.com)