Weekend Predictions (Nov 30-Dec 2): A Big November Catch-Up as Things Grind to a Halt!

After eating loads of Thanksgiving Turkey, it seems as though the tryptophan has yet to be purged from everyone’s systems as even business at the box office is slowing to a complete halt. Yes, there is a single new wide-release this weekend, the Shay Mitchell-fronted The Possession of Hannah Grace which is going semi-wide with 1,700 theaters, but other than that there looks to be nothing coming in that could dramatically shake up the box office. In fact, we aren’t getting a single new wide-release until the week of December 12 when the madness begins as Once Upon Deadpool premieres, quickly followed by Spider-Man: Into The SpiderVerse and The Mortal Engines, followed soon after by Mary Poppins Returns and Aquaman. In other words, its gonna be slim-pickings for the next two weeks so it might be time to catch up on any movies you may have missed out on this month. Here’s the low-down:

Coming off of the five day Thanksgiving weekend (Wednesday-Sunday), we saw the biggest Thanksgiving Weekend overall gross in history thanks to the surprisingly strong debuts of Ralph Breaks the Internet and Creed II. The Wreck-it-Ralph sequel brought in a whopping $84 million in the 5-day window and a solid $56 million over the regular 3-day weekend, while Creed II seriously surprised by pulling in $56 million over the 5-day and $35 million over the 3-day, making for the highest opening weekend of any movie in the Rocky franchise via both numbers. Both films were well-received but it would be almost unjust to not acknowledge the part played by the films’ positioning (the thanks goes to their studios in that case) for the Thanksgiving Weekend. In this frame, we have large family groups, all in town on vacation, all feeling a little lazy after a large Thanksgiving, and all looking for some good-spirited family entertainment. Sure enough, both films played to wide audiences demographically (Creed II, in particular, saw a very balanced audience that was 38% Caucasian, 27% Hispanic, 24% African-American, and 9% Asian), and their feel-good nature made them the top choices to see that weekend.

Now, where does that leave these two apparent Titans standing this weekend? Well, first off, given the lack of a major new wide-release, the two will most definitely maintain their spots at numbers one and two (for Ralph Breaks the Internet and Creed II, respectively). As for their drops, it’s a bit harder to pinpoint. As I mentioned above, both films were well-received, each sporting a Rotten Tomatoes score in the 80%‘s with a Metacritic score of 71 for Ralph and 67 for Creed II. Both also received solid Cinemascores, “A-” for Ralph and flat out “A” for Creed II, so we know that audience engagement is high. With regards to Ralph, I think the film will have little trouble holding around 40%. The first Wreck-it-Ralph actually managed a surprisingly impressive hold of 32.7% in its second weekend of release, which was actually pretty close to the Thanksgiving Weekend. I’m going a little more conservative with my predictions since Ralph Breaks the Internet opened at Thanksgiving and thus will see a slightly larger drop off as a result of simply a smaller volume of people going to the movies, but the film has already engendered such strong goodwill from audiences that it will likely be very hard to resist. The first Wreck-it-Ralph also has a very strong fanbase (many people actually like to say it is one of Disney’s most underrated films, a statement with which I highly agree) that has grown in numbers thanks, ironically given the themes of Ralph Breaks the Internet, to streaming platforms, so I would expect this to translate well into a strong hold of 40% this coming weekend for a gross of around $33.7 million, in first place.

As for Creed II, that situation is slightly more complex. Yes, while Creed II was well-received, and posted the Rocky franchise’s strongest opening, just how well it was received is up for debate. While it seems that few can honestly say that they did not enjoy this newest installment of the franchise, as a follow-up to the surprise critical and commercial hit that was Ryan Coogler’s Creed, there seems to be a consensus amongst critics that Creed II makes for a bit of a step-down. Indeed, the original Creed did come out of nowhere and packed quite a punch (pun intended). Directed by Ryan Coogler, who was a fan of the original Rocky films and actually sought out Silvester Stallone to convince him to allow Coogler to write and direct another film, the film cleverly and successfully was able to draw on the original Rocky mythos and shift the focus to a modern day setting with a new protagonist in Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis Creed. The film was acclaimed for its reinvigoration of the franchise, its performances (with Stallone receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor), and particularly the direction of Coogler. This paved the way for a surprising financial success (the film grossed over $100 million stateside despite being the first Rocky film in nearly a decade) which no doubt got Coogler a job directing Black Panther (now the third highest grossing film of all time domestically and the ninth highest grossing film of all time worldwide). However, despite all this success, Coogler did not return for this next installment. There is some speculation that he may have walked off the project due to some less than pleasant treatment from the industry as well as the fallout of Stallone’s infamous Golden Globes speech where he forgot to thank Coogler for directing and writing the film which put him in the Oscar race again for the first time 39 years, but this all remains unconfirmed. Whatever the case may be, Creed II ended up being helped by indie director Steve Caple Jr. while Sylvester Stallone returned to write the sequel with no input from Coogler. Overall, the critical consensus states that while the film is indeed a good movie, it simply is not as well helmed, from neither a writing nor a directing standpoint, as Coogler’s original Creed and instead falls back on the more conventional Rocky formula.

Now, we know what the critics think, but what of the audience? Well, if this weekend is any indication, they don’t seem to think too much of the difference between this installment and the last. In fact, many seem to find this film to be even better than the first, demonstrated not only by the film’s more enlarged opening weekend but also by social media reactions. Of course, the larger opening could easily be chalked up to the surprise success of the first installment, which left many people craving more; people who would then be likely to show up for this new installment’s opening weekend. Cinemascores seem to suggest that audiences love this new Creed movie as much as the first as it scored the same “A” Cinemascore (a better score than Ralph Breaks the Internet, interestingly), so it is not unreasonable to suggest that Creed II will hold well. The original Creed, to my surprise, actually dropped 49.4% in its second weekend, a shockingly large drop given the stellar reviews it had (95% on Rotten Tomatoes and 82 on Metacritic). Once again, the greater appetite of moviegoers this time around will likely prevent a drop of that magnitude, but it will depend completely on whether or not audiences really enjoy the film, as opposed to it just being a great Thanksgiving movie, as to whether or not it will manage a stellar hold. I think it is safe to assume a drop of 45% for a weekend gross of $19.5 million in second place, but should the film not really catch on, don’t be surprised to find it dropping around 50instead.

Outside of these two potential juggernauts, weekend to weekend holds should return to normal size after being supercharged by the Thanksgiving audience. That said, a lot of films look to hold quite nicely anyway. Starting off with The Grinch in third place, it seems as though Illumination Entertainment (the company behind Minions and the Despicable Me franchise) can truly do no wrong, at least box office wise. Yes, while the company’s critical reputation has been rolling downhill (like a snowball, haha, because its The Grinch, and Christmas, and…never mind…), they continue to be able to draw in the masses quite effectively. Combined with their undeniably impressive ability to make richly colored and well-animated movies for surprisingly cheap (as of yet, Illumination has only ever made one movie for $80 million, with all of their other films costing less than that whereas most theatrically released animated films usual have budgets of at least $110 million), the animation studio is flush with cash, and The Grinch is only adding to this.

Given Illumination’s good relationship with Dr. Suess’ widow as well as the success of The Lorax film from six years back, it should come as no shock that Illumination would eventually tackle a Grinch adaptation. This new iteration of the story, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular Grinch’s voice, has not necessarily been well received by critics; not that they dislike the film so much as find it thoroughly lukewarm and blandIndeed, it would’ve seemed at first as though audiences were not responding well to the film either as, despite opening in the number one spot on the weekend of November 9th, the film repped only the sixth highest opening for a film from Illumination Entertainment (out of eight films). However, vocal doubters have had to eat some humble pie as The Grinch has so far been able to hold very well. It was quite the gamble to open a Christmas themed film before Thanksgiving (which itself is actually a prime destination for Christmas movies to open in) and this may have contributed to the smaller sized opening, but sure enough, the family-oriented nature of the movie has made it a prime choice for moviegoers over the course of the month. The Grinch held quite nicely with a 42.9% drop in its second weekend, only to shock and amaze with a phenomenal 21.2% drop over the Thanksgiving weekend last week, bringing its domestic box office gross to $183 million while its total sits at strong $219 million worldwide; and it still has all of December to go!! As for this coming weekend, expect a hold around 45%, if not lower, for a total weekend gross of around $16.7 million.

In fourth place, however, things aren’t looking so spectacular. Yes, I’m talking about Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, a movie that I had a ton of problems with; and by the looks of things, I’m not the only one. Critics have raked this film across the coals, and if you think I am being a little harsh9 this is admittedly no Transformers film as it has a Rotten Tomatoes Score of 40%) just note that this is the only film in the Harry Potter/Wizarding World franchise to have a ROTTEN Rotten Tomatoes score. Yes, the list of grievances that critics have with this film could fill a whole page, and that does not bode well for Crimes of Grindelwald going forward. To be fair, the film is putting up something of a fight box office-wise. Despite repping the lowest opening weekend for any movie in the Wizarding World franchise, $62.1 million, on top of shouldering bad reviews, the film did manage to hold surprisingly well this past weekend; that is, given the atrocious circumstances it finds itself in. Over the course of the Thanksgiving weekend, the film (surprisingly) only saw a drop of 52.7%, which is completely average (arguably even healthy) for a blockbuster of this size. Looking at the grosses for the overall 5-day Thanksgiving weekend, the film did quite well actually, holding 31.9% in the 5-day frame with a gross of $42.3 million. Currently, the film stands at $121 million domestically, with much of its box office strength coming from overseas (particularly in the UK where Harry Potter films have always done very well) where the film currently stands at an international gross for $322 million for a worldwide haul of $443 million. However, despite this small reprieve, Crimes of Grindelwald is going to have to completely rely on the foreign market if it wants to get within striking distance of the first Fantastic Beasts $814 million gross, not an easy feat given that it will struggle to get a release in China since the government there does not approve of movies that showcase magic. The film is likely to drop 60% this coming weekend for a gross of $11.7 million and will be quick to peter out soon after.

Rounding out the top five, Bohemian Rhapsody looks to have another impressive hold of around 40% for a gross of $8.4 million, although the film is already so impressive that one has to wonder just how much there is in store. Despite mixed reviews from critics at the onset, the film managed to blow away everyone’s expectations with a $51 million opening weekend back at the beginning of the month. After showing that much strength out of the gate, the film continued its hot streak with a miraculous 38.9% hold in its second weekend and a 48.6% hold in its third, before showing its crowning achievement (haha, Queen puns…what is going on with me today?) as the film held with a mere 12.7% drop over the Thanksgiving weekend. No, you did not read that incorrectly, Bohemian Rhapsody managed the impossible and held with a drop of under 20% for a gross of $14 million last weekend; that wasn’t even in the 5-day frame either, in which Bohemian Rhapsody saw a weekend-to-weekend growth of +21.7% for a gross of $19.5 million, something which comes as less of a surprise when you realize that this past weekend was the anniversary of Freddie Mercury’s death. Toward the beginning of the year, I had speculated that A Star is Born (a film that has performed phenomenally in its own right) would be this year’s The Greatest Showman in terms of a magnificent performance at the box office. However, given the mixed reviews and media backlash surrounding the film’s production and the involvement of Bryan Singer, I believe that Bohemian Rhapsody should lay claim to that title as, despite all the negativity surrounding it, the film has touched the hearts of so many around the world and beat so many expectations. With a $484 million worldwide gross so far (on a mere $52 million budget mind you), expect Bohemian Rhapsody to continue to play well into this weekend, and even potentially pick up so awards nominations for Rami Malek, whose performance as Mercury as received unanimous critical acclaim.

Outside the top five, Instant Family may potentially be picking up steam as a family favorite. Despite a pretty lackluster opening weekend with a $14.5 million gross, the film rebounded in spectacular fashion over Thanksgiving with a drop of only 15.1% in the 3-day frame. Obviously capitalizing on the greater-than-normal volume of families going to the movies over Thanksgiving, this still bodes quite well for Instant Family. Despite many pundits writing off the film as another bland Mark Wahlberg comedy, the film surprised with more-than-solid reviews, boasting an 81% score on Rotten Tomatoes, and clearly managed to grab hold of an audience. While I highly doubt that the film will be able to make a profit while in theaters, given the small opening, I think it still has the potential to play very well through December before heading to streaming where it could potentially make a killing. I predict a drop around 45% for a gross of $6.7 million, and potentially even more if the film really connects.

As for really connecting, the rest of the films that are likely to pop into the top ten are not looking so lucky. Widows, which is likely to come in seventh place, also saw a lackluster debut two weeks ago, and although it managed a great hold in the 5-day frame, it simply has too much ground to make up. The film also is saddled with an R-rating which limits the audience it can play too. Featuring a cavalcade of stars, the likes of Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, Michelle Rodriguez, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluyaa, Robert Duvall, Jon Bernthal, Elizabeth Debecki, and the list goes on, this feature adaptation of a British crime drama miniseries has received very good reviews for its actors, style, and story which invigorates an intriguing heist narrative with a surprise socioeconomic class commentary. The film is supposed to be an Oscar vehicle for its stars and director, Steve McQueen of 12 Years a Slave fame, but its box office performance looks to stall its awards prospects. It will likely hold by 45% for a gross of $4.5 millionGreen Book, the new Peter Farrelly Oscar contender from Universal, also looks to be losing momentum in the Oscar race, as after a lackluster limited release in 25 theaters (when will studios learn?) it went wide to similarly lukewarm results. This film has little fanfare outside the awards community, however, it did just take home two awards from the National Board of Review (the first major award ceremony of the Oscar race), those being Best Film and Best Actor for Viggo Mortensen. Combined with its Toronto International Film Festival People’s Choice Award win, the film should still be able to coast into a Best Picture Oscar nomination with relative ease. Expect it to hold by 40% for a gross of $3.3 million.

Rounding out the top ten, we find Robin Hood and The Possession of Hannah Grace, two films that look highly unlikely to make an impact. Robin Hood is coming off of a seriously bad opening weekend and currently shouldering a dreadful 16% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus for the film has labeled it a bland, convoluted remake that no one asked for, and if its $9.1 million opening weekend (on a $100 million budget) is to be believed, clearly no one did. I’m expecting a minimum 65% drop for a gross of $3.2 million in ninth place. Meanwhile, with The Possession of Hannah Grace, Sony Screen Gems is hoping that Shay Mitchell will be able to make as good a use of her Pretty Little Liars fanbase as Lucy Hale did for Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare, which had a surprise overperformance upon its opening weekend. Sadly, this doesn’t look to be the case as the film is tracking toward a $3.2 million opening. Expect it to pop into tenth place, assuming it doesn’t underperform, in which case A Star is Born would likely take tenth place once more.

Outside of The Possession of Hannah Grace, the only big new release of the weekend is Ben is Back, a sleeper Oscar contender that is opening in limited release in about four theaters. Starring Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges (also currently in the Oscar race for Boy Erased) and directed by Hedges’ father, Oscar nominee Peter Hedges, the film tells the story of Ben (Hedges), who returns home to his mother Holly (Roberts) on Christmas Eve after being treated for addiction, but the story takes a drastic turn and Holly is forced to do everything in her power to save her family. Having first appeared on the festival circuit, one would not have expected the film to really make much of an impact given its relative lack of buzz; however, the film has received strongly positive reviews, particularly for the performances, and word from the awards community suggests some potential for nominations, particularly for Julia Roberts in Best Actress. While I am skeptical of the potential for the buzz on the film to turn into gold, it is certainly worth keeping an eye on this weekend to see if Roadside Attractions can manage a strong per-theater-average.

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