Weekend Predictions (Oct 19-Oct 21) Halloween is Here, and Looking to DOMINATE!!

As if the slate of spook movies we’ve been seeing for the past few weeks hadn’t tipped you off, we are thoroughly entrenched in the Halloween moviegoing season, and what better way to celebrate than with the return of an old favorite, Halloween! Yes, the reboot of this classic horror franchise was announced last year, with the added bonus of having Jamie Lee Curtis returning to the role of Laurie Strode, and while some were put off by the announcement that the film would be directed by Pineapple Express director, David Gordon Green (who would also be writing the film alongside Danny McBride), many fears were assuaged with the announcement that the film would be shepherded by Blumhouse Pictures for Universal, with horror-virtuoso Jason Blum directly producing the film. A few trailer releases, one Comic-Con, and a premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival later, and the buzz for the film has generated sky-high projections, which themselves could potentially be outperformed as Halloween looks to top the weekend. Outside of that, A Star is Born and Venom look to continue to have solid holds while the rest of the top ten looks to have a pretty large shift as The Hate U Give looks to go fully wide.

Likely to win the weekend is that of Halloween. The eleventh installment in the Michael Myers-centered franchise (technically the tenth given that Halloween III: Season of the Witch does not fit into the continuity of the other films) serves as a near-total retcon of the franchise; the film serves as a direct sequel to the original, taking place 40 years later as Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis, who returns to the role for the fourth time) looks to finish what was started and kill Michael Myers once and for all. Halloween is opening this weekend to get out ahead of the upcoming onslaught of Christmas-themed films and Oscar contenders that are looking to debut in November. By opening a week before the final weekend of October, the film will have a solid stretch of time in order to rake in the dough. That said, this new film looks all but guaranteed to be a massive hit. After audiences responded well to the first trailer (as well as the second), Universal made the smart decision of taking the film to TIFF and debuting it during the Midnight Madness section of the film festival. Premiering to very strong reviews, projections began to come in at around $60+ million, and to my surprise, have only been growing since. Currently, projections for Halloween are pegging the film with an opening weekend somewhere between $65-$70 million, with several outlets actually expecting the film to climb even higher. Combined with projections for a global opening weekend of $100 million, this mere $10 million budgeted feature is looking to do bafo business no matter what happens. While I would originally have thought that these estimates might to be too high for the film, looking at the release schedule not only clued me into the shrewdness of the film’s positioning but also showed that the film has absolutely no competition. With regards to holdovers, the only films that seemed to possibly pose a threat were Venom and A Star is Born. However, both films not only have been playing for two weeks but also cater to different audiences that Halloween (the same can be said of the vast majority of the films in the top ten). Aside from those two titles, every other new release this weekend is a specialty offering and thus poses no threat. I predict that Halloween will make at least $65 million, the biggest opening for the franchise ever, though, with Thursday night preview grosses coming in at an estimated $10 million$70 million this weekend is looking even more likely.

After Halloween, we will only be finding holdovers for the weekend. In second and third place, expect to find A Star is Born and Venom once again, neck and neck. That said, the race is starting to not be as close as one might expect. It has been well-known for some time that Venom was going to burn out quickly relative to A Star is Born, which itself was looking to play a long game. A Star is Born is currently getting its wish, though it need not worry about anything now having passed $100 million in its domestic gross (always a milestone for any film); anything more that it grosses is going to be icing on the cake. Currently, the film is up to $156 million worldwide and looking to likely pass $170 million this weekend. I am anticipating a drop of 35% for a gross around $18.5 million, though it is possible that the film could gross around $20 million with the level of good word-of-mouth that it has.

Venom looks to come in third with a drop between 50-55% for a gross around $17 million. Personally, I think that the film will hold closer to 50% but Venom is undeniably frontloaded. That said, like A Star is Born, there is really little for Venom to worry about as it already has surpassed almost all expectations. Domestically, the film has racked up $150 million so far, with a running global tally of $378 million; it is distinctly possible that the film will broach $400 million by the end of the weekend. This is coupled with the news that Venom also just received a Chinese release date, meaning it will have a very large influx of cash coming in quite soon. So far, reports are comparing the film’s performance to that of Logan which ended up grossing $619 million. If Venom can get anywhere near that gross, Sony will have a field day.

Rounding out the top five, we are likely to find last weekend’s new releases, which each hope to recoup lost ground given their underwhelming openings. The least underwhelming of the two was that of Goosebumps 2, though what mitigates how much it underwhelmed is it savvy $35 million budget. More than likely, given the family-friendly and seasonally appropriate nature of the film, Goosebumps 2 will probably hold well going into the weekend. I am predicting a drop between 35-40% for a gross between $9-$10 million which would bring the film to near $30 million domestically. However, this is one of the only films that could potentially be affected by Halloween. While Goosebumps 2 definitely doesn’t share an audience with the R-rated slasher flick, many might be in the mood for a true “horror” film going experience rather than a “spooky” outing like that of Goosebumps (the same could be said of The House with a Clock in its Walls). Overall, expect Goosebumps to fade pretty quickly having not given itself enough of a window to breathe.

Fifth place is likely to go to First Man and there are conflicting reports of how the film is looking to perform. After the underperformance last weekend, Universal was quick to counter by saying that they’d “always known that First Man was going to be a long game”. Unfortunately for them, First Man‘s $16 million opening really did them no favors, especially given that the film is saddled with a $60 million budget. Clearly, however, the film is held in high regard by the media as outlets are predicting it to hold around 35% and beat out Goosebumps 2 for fourth place this weekend. I, however, am finding this a little bit hard to believe. Out of the gate, the film’s soft opening was already an indicator of low audience interest, combined with the fact it doesn’t even have a seasonal factor going for it, First Man doesn’t look capable of making much of a dent. I am open to being pleasantly surprised, but for now, I will keep my expectations low with a weekend gross of $9.6 million.

Sixth place looks to bear some good news, with The Hate U Give capitalizing on its surprising momentum from last weekend as it goes fully wide. The Amandla Stenberg-fronted drama will be heading into 2,300 theaters this weekend, and projections are pegging the film with a $7-$9 million wide release opening gross. I would not go as far as to predict that it would be able to get as high as $9 million but I do believe that $7 million is completely within The Hate U Give‘s reach. The film is modestly budgeted at $23 million, and a gross of this magnitude would be a step in the right direction. This would also be a big boost to its Oscar campaign, showing that film is being embraced by audiences and is worth another look by Academy voters. Aside from Stenberg, actress Regina Hall (who plays Stenberg’s mother in the film) has also been singled out as having an awards-worthy performance. Hall was just nominated yesterday for a Gotham Award for Best Actress for her other noteworthy turn this year in Andrew Bujalski’s indie comedy Support the Girls; with this kind of awards momentum, she could be well on her way to an Oscar nomination this year, if she plays her cards right.

The rest of the top ten looks nearly the same as last week, sans The Nun which will be dropping out after a super strong domestic and foreign run. Smallfoot can likely look forward to another small drop of 35% for a gross of $5.9 million in seventh place, Night School is looking at a drop around 40% for a gross of around $4.2 million in eighth place, Bad Times at the El Royale is looking at a very large drop of 50% (especially given its meager opening) for a gross of $3.55 million in ninth place, while The House with a Clock in its Walls looks to round out the top ten with a drop of 45% for a gross of about $2.1 million. We’ll see if House with a Clock is at all affected by the release of Halloween, but the film itself is winding down and has done solid business throughout the month. Its last weekend in the top ten will be one well spent.

In the specialty market, we will continue to see awards season in full force as several big titles arrive on the scene. Chief among them is that of Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the comedic thriller directed my Diary of a Teenaged Girl director, Marielle Heller. Starring Melissa McCarthy as the infamous author, journalist, and literary forger Lee Israel, the film tells the story of how Israel, down on her luck with her career sputtering after the commercial and critical failure of her last book, resorted to stealing, forging, and illicitly selling letters from famed deceased writers. Having premiered at the Telluride Film Festival to critical acclaim, McCarthy has been labeled a contender in this year’s Best Actress race, and the film itself will likely see a strong per-theater-average this weekend (it opens in five theaters) based on this interest on its own. That’s not to mention that the screenplay and Richard E. Grant’s performance as Israel’s accomplice, Jack Hock, are also receiving Oscar buzz, so expect to see Can You Ever Forgive Me? top the weekend in terms of per-theater-averages. The film is from Fox Searchlight.

Aside from Can You Ever Forgive Me?, A24 is also stepping into the ring with Mid90’s, the feature film debut for actor-turned-director Jonah Hill. The film focuses on a young boy’s experience joining a group of skateboarders in L.A. during the, you guessed it, mid-90’s. The film features several critical darlings, the likes of Fantastic Beasts‘ Katherine Waterston and Manchester By The Sea‘s Lucas Hedges (also a big presence in the Oscar race this year for his performance in Boy Erased), but the real star is that of Sunny Suljic, whos name you may not recognize, but whose face you definitely will as he was just seen these past few weeks as one of the main actors in The House with a Clock in its Walls where I must say he did quite a good job with a surprisingly sophisticated role for film geared toward younger audiences. Despite this, Mid90’s looks to be a soft opener, despite the impressive backing of A24 as its distributor. The film did showcase at the New York Film Festival to strong reviews, so expect potentially solid grosses coming from New York as it rolls out into four theaters, and it could potentially see solid grosses from L.A. given the setting o the film. Overall, however, Mid-90’s feels a bit too small to make a big dent.

The final major limited releases this weekend look to be What They Had and The Old Man & the Gun, which is expanding into 600 theaters in the hopes that it can get close to the top ten (it actually has been building some momentum silently over the course of the past few weeks, though not incredibly so). The real sleeper contender is What They Had. Written and directed by Elizabeth Chomko and starring Hilary Swank, Michael Shannon, Blythe Danner, Robert Forster, and Taissa Farmiga, What They Had is an Alzheimer’s drama that premiered at Sundance and has been slowly making its way through the festival circuit and receiving strongly positive reviews, particularly for the performances (Danner, who plays the Alzheimer’s patient, Swank, and Forster in particular) and the screenplay’s deft balance of drama and comedy. While nothing is set in stone, the film has been labeled a dark horse Oscar contender in the past few months and looks to have the makings of a real crowdpleaser, showing potential for solid box office returns. While I do not expect a large per-theater-average from the picture, it is a film worth keeping an eye on.

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