The drought is finally over!!! After two weeks of the same old same old, we officially have a new major release to welcome the outpouring of Christmas programming for the rest of the month. Out with the old and in the new, this weekend sees the release of Spider-Man: Into the SpiderVerse from Sony, hoping to capitalize on the success of Venom as they build up their Spider-Man brand (SpiderVerse does admittedly have a cool ring to it), as well as Clint Eastwood’s The Mule and Mortal Engines, presented by The Lord of the Rings‘ Peter Jackson. The specialty market also looks to ramp up this weekend with the releases of Capernaum, the Oscar-friendly Lebanese drama about a young boy who sues his parents for neglect, Lars von Trier’s new provocation, the serial killer drama The House that Jack Built, and Barry Jenkins’ highly anticipated adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel, If Beale Street Could Talk. These films look to shake up the box office in a big way as we get closer and closer to Christmas!
Spider-Man: Into the SpiderVerse is going to take the top spot this weekend. Industry pundits are estimating an opening between $30-$45 million, though some are more conservative in saying that the range is more so around $30-$35 million. Reviews are very strong for the film, calling it “the next step in animation” and emphasizing its mass appeal. The film has a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 87 on Metacritic, with this critical support is also bolstered by its Golden Globe nomination for Best Animated Feature as well as it winning Best Animated Feature from several different critics groups, most notably the New York Film Critics Circle (oldest film critics group in the country) and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. The film also boasts some strong appeal across a variety of demographics thanks to its Afro-Latino lead in Miles Morales. This all makes me wonder why the tracking is in the $30 million range. Perhaps it is the industry underestimating so that it can get big headlines come next week, but there is the possibility that people are genuinely unaware of the film. A Cinemascore will assist in perfecting projections, but I personally think that there is some fight in this film. I predict a $40 million opening at least; a prediction that seems pretty viable given the film’s Thursday night preview gross. SpiderVerse managed a gross of $3.5 million last night, which correlates well with recent animated offerings like that of Ralph Breaks the Internet (grossing $3.8 million), The Lego Batman Movie ($2.2 million), and Big Hero 6 ($1.4 million) which each opened around the mid-$50 millions (Big Hero 6 also went on to win an Oscar, so that also is a nifty comparison for SpiderVerse).
The Mule is a late entry Oscar contender from Clint Eastwood, who is starring in and directing the film, and it is likely to end up in second place. Projections are in the mid-teens, but I have trouble believing that the movie will do that well. Eastwood’s last few wannabee contenders all debuted in the $10-$13 million range. The star-studded cast, including Bradley Cooper (coming off A Star is Born) and Michael Peña (who is always a delight to see in a film, and has mass fan appeal thanks to the Ant-Man films) will help boost appeal, but I can only really see the film grossing around $13 million at best. Perhaps it will surprise me, but with such a late release and no real buzz behind it, I think this one will fade quickly though it is to the film’s credit (and that of Warner Bros. positioning of the film right after a two-week drought of new films) that it will be able to debut at number two despite its lack of family appeal.
In third place, The Grinch is officially looking to overtake Ralph Breaks the Internet in terms of its placement in the top ten. The film has so far capitalized on the Christmas season very well and is looking at a drop of only around 25%, if not less. That would make for a gross of around $11.2 million, bringing its domestic gross to nearly $240 million. Worldwide, the film has grossed $330 million so far, and will potentially be outgrossing The Lorax this weekend, which would make it the highest grossing Dr. Suess movie of all time. With grosses like these, The Grinch will actually make for a strong competitor against SpiderVerse this weekend given its family appeal. The film also has support from the clear good word of mouth that it is getting weekend-to-weekend and will be able to draw some audiences away from the admittedly edgier looking SpiderVerse film that families may feel reluctant to spend money on.
Mortal Engines is the last new wide release of the weekend and is looking at a gross of around $8-$13 million. Universal has actually not advertised this film very much, which is odd given that it comes from the creative team behind The Lord of the Rings, something that one would think carries some cultural caché. However, the reviews have trickled in and given that they aren’t very good (its Rotten Tomatoes score is currently sitting at 30% while Metacritic has pegged it at 45, indicating mixed reviews at best), I can see why one would potentially want to hide the film. Mortal Engines has about a $100 million budget, and an opening in the range projected will not bode well. However, I would expect that if a studio was going to put that much money into a potential franchise, to begin with, that they would try to do a lot of advertising for it in order to make as much money as possible before it collapses in on itself. Why Universal tried to hide the film is a mystery, both creatively and business-wise. I think the high-budget spectacle will draw in at least $10 million worth of viewers (putting it in fourth place), but it is safe to say that the film is DOA.
Ralph rounds out the top five, performing modestly and in toe with Moana. However, the film is really slowing down domestically, looking at a 30% drop this weekend for gross around $9.7 million. I think the film actually will have trouble making it past the $200 million mark domestically and while that will not spell disaster for the production, it’s not doing amazing in foreign markets to balance it out. I’m sure the film will make back its budget in theaters, but profits will be coming from streaming and I don’t expect to see any more Wreck-it-Ralph films any time soon.
The bottom five looks to be filled with solid to strong holds. The feel-good, old-school Rocky angle of Creed II looks to help it play healthily through the weekend with only a max 45% drop and a gross of $5.4 million. Creed II will definitely pass the $100 million mark by the weekend and will have done soon in just four weekends as opposed the original Creed‘s six. The film also looks to be performing slightly better internationally than the first, which is a good sign. Overall, Creed II is proving to be a solid hit for MGM.
Instant Family will likely continue its hot streak of fantastic holds. Boosted by the familial atmosphere of the Christmas season, I’m just gonna go for it and predict that the film sees a drop of only 20% for a gross of $4.5 million. I could be off, but I feel that the film is really proving itself as it goes forward thanks to the great position of its release date. The film is up to $56 million domestically and thus should push past $60 million by the end of the weekend. More internationally territories are still to come.
Bohemian Rhapsody celebrated a major milestone this week as it passed $600 million dollars at the worldwide box office. This makes it the highest grossing musical biopic of all time worldwide, a feat that film already accomplished domestically after surpassing Straight Outta Compton with $164 million, so the worldwide number one win only further cements the film’s status. Currently, the film is up to $175 million domestically and is looking to drop only 30% for a gross of $4.2 million this weekend.
Rounding out the top ten, we find Fantastic Beasts looking to hold well once again with only a 45% drop and a gross of $3.8 million in ninth place, as well as Green Book which looks to fall only 20% for a gross of about $3.1 million in tenth. As for the top ten, one should also be keeping an eye out for Once Upon a Deadpool, the PG-13 recut of Deadpool 2 that is being released for families over this Christmas. The film debuted modestly this past Wednesday, but could potentially lure in a solid enough crowd over the weekend to pop into the top ten. In the specialty market, we’ll be seeing the expansion The Favourite into 439 theaters, which will potentially help it jump into the top ten (finally). Vox Lux also bumps into 325 theaters-up from six-but it will likely flounder due to its lukewarm debut last weekend. Capernaum, the Lebanese submission to the Oscars for Best Foreign Film (directed by Nadine Labaki), debuts in three theaters and has been receiving loads of acclaim for months now, culminating in Globe nomination last week; expect it to do well. The specialty market will also see the release of the newest Lars von Trier movie, The House that Jack Built starring Jack Dillon, Uma Thurman, and Riley Keough, but the high negative response to the film from Cannes last May leads me to believe that it will not make a dent (the film also debuts in 33 theaters, so clearly the distributors are hanging the film out to dry).
The real story of this weekend, however, is that of If Beale Street Could Talk. Director Barry Jenkins’ follow up to his Best Picture-winning Moonlight debuts in four theaters this weekend (Perfect!) and tells the story of a young, pregnant, black woman who fights to free her fiance from prison after he is sentenced for a crime he did not commit. Based on the novel by James Baldwin, the film has been highly anticipated for some time and debuted to critical acclaim at the Toronto International Film Festival. Critics have praised the performances, particularly that of Regina King (who is a frontrunner for Best Supporting Actress), the direction, the cinematography, the period detail, and how the film makes respectful updates and revisions to the novel’s original story. Many have compared the film to Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love, a film which is widely regarded as one of the best films of the 2000s (and all-time for that matter). What really piques my interest, however, is that the film is feeling a bit light this awards season; contending in major categories, but ultimately looking to come up short. Most notably, the film was completely ignored by the Screen Actors Guild Awards, a very important pit stop on the way to Oscar, not even nominating Regina King despite the guild’s propensity for rewarding older actors with long spanning careers. This shutout is also quite strange given that Moonlight managed to make quite a splash there two years prior with an Ensemble Cast nomination and a win in the Supporting Actor Category for Mahershala Ali. I think Beale Street is looking at a very strong potential per-theater-average, one it actually really needs to get in order to reassert itself as a major contender in this race.