This is it! This is the weekend! This is the moment that Aquaman looks to OFFICIALLY cross the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office!! Woohooo!! It’s always exciting when a movie can accomplish this feat. I can hear the groans of many as I say this, with many potentially saying “its a dumb movie”, “its just a movie”, “why should anyone care?”, “why should we glorify Hollywood?”, and of course “doesn’t this happen all the time now?”. It’s true, movies manage to gross over $1 billion worldwide much more frequently these days with now 36 films (soon to be 37) in history accomplishing this feat and 29 of those 36 films having done it in this decade alone. But to make $1 billion worldwide, to me, is an accomplishment because what that means is that a film resonates in some way with people all across the globe. It doesn’t have to be a deep resonance, it could just be plain old fun, but the idea that people across the world are united by just the plain old fun that they are having while watching a movie is really moving when you stop to think about it. As for the rest of the weekend, the Mary Poppins Returns/Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse/Bumblebee gridlock is soon to be demolished as four new wide releases jump into the fray. A Dog’s Way Home hopes to recapture the hearts of those who loved A Dog’s Purpose, The Upside hopes it can recapture the magic of its French originator, Replicas looks to make some kind of dent, and On the Basis of Sex hope to catapult itself into box office glory as it completes its successful limited run and goes wide. If Beale Street Could Talk also will be going wide while Lionsgate’s Hispanic label, Pantelion, also debuts Perfect Strangers in limted release.
Taking first place for the fourth weekend in a row, who else could it be other than Aquaman? Looking at a likely drop of around 45%, the DCEU film is looking to gross about $17 million. This would push its domestic haul past $280 million. Of course, the real story regarding Aquaman is surrounding its international grosses, which currently stand at $702 million, making for a worldwide gross of $971 million. This means that the film only needs to gross about $12 million outside the US to breach $1 billion. Given that the film managed to gross $58 million internationally last weekend, a billion dollar gross is basically guaranteed. All I can say is congratulations to Warner Bros. Their packaging of the talent and their fantastic positioning of the film (Christmas weekend did wonders for DC) has truly done a lot to turn the tide pf the DCEU away from the financial meltdown that was Justice League.
In second place, we are likely to find a very refreshing change of pace as Mary Poppins Returns gives way to a tight race between The Upside and A Dog’s Way Home. Of the two, the most interesting watch is going to be that of The Upside given the winding path it took to get to the screen. A remake of the acclaimed French film The Intouchables, the highest grossing foreign language film of all time at the worldwide box office, the film told the story of a black man (originally played by Omar Sy in a role that made him the first black actor to ever win a Cesar Award, the French equivalent of an Oscar) who is hired to take care of a white man who is also a paraplegic. It was originally optioned by the Weinstein Company in 2014 and was in development for three years before officially filming in 2017 with Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston in the lead roles. The film screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2017 and was scheduled for release that year but the Harvey Weinstein scandal made things come to a halt pretty quick. The film was pulled from the schedule before being outright shelved in the aftermath of Weinstein’s sexual assault allegations and lawsuits which resulted in the already floundering Weinstein Company going bankrupt. After languishing for a year, the remnants of the Weinstein Company have now pulled themselves back together to form Lantern Entertainment and are now partnering with STX Entertainment (my old pals!) to release the film this weekend.
As for the film’s potential opening weekend gross, it’s not necessarily in the best spot. As mentioned above, this film was originally supposed to come from the Weinstein Company (and it was indeed produced by them) and that association undoubtedly leaves a bit of stink on this film. On that note, the filmmakers may have been able to successfully circumvent this given how the release has come together. With Harvey Weinstein now on trial and the Weinstein Company having regrouped under a different name, the association is certainly lessened. There’s also the partnership with STX, who, to their credit, seem to be handling the vast majority of the marketing for the film so that it seems even further away from Weinstein himself. Of course, this is still STX, the company with whom I have a major love/hate relationship with thanks to their seeming lack of motivation to launch a film properly. To their credit, they have put out a solid effort on the marketing front, plastering advertisements all over social media that emphasize the feel-good nature of the film. However, I have seen no press for the film and nothing involving the actors which leads me to believe that STX might be treating the film like an afterthought, a quick release just to make some money in a dead movie month. Then, of course, there are the reviews which are not helping The Upside in the slightest. It currently sits at a 36% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 44 on Metacritic, with reviews criticizing the film for not taking advantage of Cranston and Hart’s chemistry while completely failing to update the film or add anything meaningful to the original story. All of this leads me to believe that it is going to have an extremely hard time at the box office this weekend, especially given the wealth of better options.
One such better option is looking to be A Dog’s Way Home. Based on the novel of the same name from W. Bruce Cameron (the author of another bestseller-turned-feature-adaptation, A Dog’s Purpose), A Dog’s Way Home has surprisingly better reviews than both The Upside and A Dog’s Purpose with a 68% on Rotten Tomatoes. Obviously, this film is not looking to be a major critical filmmaking achievement, but what it has that The Upside doesn’t is unabashed sweetness. Whereas reviews of The Upside describe it as “manipulative”, A Dog’s Way Home is being described as “sugary”, and that kind of descriptor tends to attract a much bigger audience than the former. What is getting the way of this film, however, is the fact that it hasn’t had much advertising nor does it have any major stars attached, at least not on screen. While Jurassic World star Bryce Dallas Howard does voice the eponymous dog’s inner monologue, none of the on-screen talent are known to have any major pull with audiences. For all the problems making The Upside‘s opening weekend an uphill battle, Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston in the lead roles at least give the film some star power to lean back on (even Nicole Kidman, who plays a supporting role in the film, is coming off of Aquaman and will be able to draw a few eyes). This is reflected in the films respective Thursday night preview grosses, with The Upside besting A Dog’s Way Home with $1.1 million to $535k. That said, I am still inclined to predict that A Dog’s Way Home will win the weekend. Both film’s are tracking toward $10+ million debuts, but one can’t forget that A Dog’s Purpose from two January’s ago was actually a bit of a January hit, opening to $18 million on the basis of pure, undying love for dogs by audiences. I feel that while the Upside will likely have a bigger Friday gross, A Dog’s Way Home might just be able to win out the weekend thanks to its unabashed sweetness generating good word-of-mouth (not to mention that its target audience is way bigger).
In fourth place, I am personally expecting to see Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, coming in with only a 30% drop for a gross of $9.1 million. The hope here is that Spider-Verse is able to get a deserved bump in its box office performance thanks to its miraculous Golden Globes win over last weekend. I say “miraculous” because when it comes to awards, Disney tends to dominate the animated feature conversation based on sheer presence and image alone, so it is really nice to see an animated film like Spider-Verse win major awards based on technical and storytelling merit rather than pedigree. Winning at the Golden Globes last weekend should give the film a pretty big boost given that outside of the Oscars, the Globes are the most widely recognized film awards in the world. A gross of $9 million would push the film past $145 million, which would be great as it would push the film closer to $150 million, a strong benchmark for this film given how long it has been out, the momentum it has, and the impediments it has had to overcome (and I totally think it can make it!). Internationally, I am not sure how the film will perform but the film is definitely helped by its Golden Globe in that case as well given that the Globes are given out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, giving the Award more clout in other countries. As I’ve said before, the film needs to get to $300 million to really be considered a success (in my opinion), and this award is going to go a long way toward achieving that goal.
Rounding out the top five is Mary Poppins Returns which I am predicting to fall 45% for a gross of $8.7 million. The trades are predicting a stronger hold than I, however, I am skeptical. Unlike Spider-Verse, Mary Poppins Returns left the Golden Globes empty-handed. Now, if you follow the awards race at all, you’ll know that this was an extremely likely outcoming as it was outmatched in nearly every one of its categories. Sure enough, Poppins lost Best Musical/Comedy to Green Book, Emily Blunt lost Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy to Olivia Colman in The Favourite, Lin-Manuel Miranda lost Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy to Christian Bale in Vice, and the film lost Best Original Score to First Man. All that said, the fact that it won nothing really drains the film’s momentum, particularly with regard to Original Score for which the film was the most likely to win. Even Blunt’s loss to Colman stings given just how many people were excited about Blunt’s performance, and the loss could potentially cost her an Oscar nomination in the end, something which the film overall might need in order to keep its momentum at the box office. To its credit, Poppins is up to $260 million worldwide, thus having broken even on its budget, but its momentum is certainly slowing, and this month could be its last chance to really make any money before blockbusters return in full force next month.
Outside the top five, expect Escape Room to come in sixth place with a drop around 55% and a gross of $8.2 million. The film’s fantastic debut last weekend has lead to strong business over the past week and will likely push the film past $30 million this coming weekend. This will make for a great little profit as the film quickly bows out of theaters in the wake of new releases. Bumblebee looks to take seventh place with $7.9 million, further falling behind Spider-Verse and Poppins. I also suspect that it could potentially face some stiff competition from A Dog’s Way Home as it tries to attract an audience. It just made it past $100 million domestically though, so it has that going for it. In eighth place, we are likely to find the new Keanu Reeves film, Replicas, in which Reeves creates clones of his family after his real family dies in a freak accident. Early tracking shows Replicas grossing $7 million in its debut though I suspect it will underperform. This film has been floating around for a while and I believe it has changed release dates several times. The fact that it is being rather unceremoniously dumped in January (there has been very little advertising) seems to back up this theory.
In ninth place, we find The Mule, which continues to move forward with rock-solid grosses weekend to weekend. All ready having grossed $85 million domestically, and only now just beginning to roll out globally, Warner Bros. has a major win on their hands with this film thanks in large part to extremely good positioning and reaching its target audience. It will likely be passing the century mark very soon as this weekend should push it to $91 million. Rounding out the top ten, we are likely to see On the Basis of Sex as it expands into wide release. It is looking to potentially gross around $5 million, but I could see it going higher given how well it has performed in limited release. Also, one should not underestimate the fact that Ruth Bader Ginsberg is a hot topic right now, especially given the news of her health complications. In the specialty market, only Perfect Strangers is debuting. Outside of this, however, we will also be seeing the wide release of If Beale Street Could Talk, which is popping into over 1,000 theaters and hoping to take advantage of its Golden Globe Award last weekend. However, I’m still thinking of the film as specialty release as it is looking to not be able to break into the top ten with only a $3.5 million projected gross. Perhaps it will surprise, but my hopes aren’t high.
(Box Office Data from Box Office Mojo, Deadline, and Box Office Pro)