It is no secret that this past decade has been defined (to a degree) the abundance of comic book superhero films. Kicking off in stride with Iron Man in 2008, the imagery, archetypes, and mythology of superheroes has permeated pop culture and shaped it to such an incredible degree that even major movie studios now make business decisions based on how well they can maneuver within that genre space. This intense fascination with superheroes is, in some ways, what made the release of M. Night Shyamalan Split in January of 2017 such a big deal. Shyamalan, coming off of a long line of critical and financial flops (you know the ones) was on a bit of an uptick after the release of his micro-budget success The Visit (produced by mini-budget king, Blumhouse Productions), so his follow up, Split, garnered a surprising amount of buzz bolstered by (even more surprisingly) strong reviews. But the real kicker, what truly took Split over the edge, was the revelation that it was a backdoor sequel to Unbreakable, Shyamalan’s original send-up of the comic book superhero genre.
Yes, years before such properties were even considered financially viable by studios, M. Night Shyamalan wrote and directed superhero film that was stripped down to the bare essentials and took a grounded approach to ask the question, “What if Superman didn’t know that he was a Superman?”. Garnering mixed reactions upon its original release in 2000, Unbreakable has gone on to receive a major critical reappraisal in the two decades since, becoming acclaimed for its reworking of genre tropes, writing, and direction, with some even coming to consider it Shyamalan’s greatest film (even greater than The Sixth Sense). Its presence in the comic book movie canon has been further dissected given the explosion of the superhero genre in the past decade and has led to major anticipation for Glass, the third film in what has become a trilogy alongside Unbreakable and Split, which is making its debut this weekend; the only new wide-release in a sea of holdovers and solid competition like that of The Upside, Aquaman, and even Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Following the trajectory set by Split, Glass catches up with Unbreakable protagonist David Dunn (played by Bruce Willis), who seems to have become a full-fledged vigilante, as he goes after the villainous Horde (Split break-out, James McAvoy) only to be captured and placed in a mental institution alongside the Horde, the alter ego of Kevin Wendell Crumb, where they come into contact with Dunn’s original foe, Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), the eponymous Mr. Glass. Needless to say, drama ensues. Given the green light in the wake of Split‘s immense success at the box office two years ago (grossing $278 million on a budget of merely $9 million), Glass is in a very interesting spot production-wise as it utilizes IP’s from two opposing studios. When he first broke out with The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan was a member of the Disney family with The Sixth Sense being distributed by the then-active Disney label, Touchstone Pictures, through which Shyamalan would go on to make several more off his films before his infamous downturn. Given that Unbreakable was produced by Touchstone, Disney thereby owes the rights to its characters, which made the appearance of David Dunn at the very end of Split (a Blumhouse Production from Universal Pictures) a major surprise as Disney had to give the OK to another studio to use their characters (clearly Disney didn’t think Split would be a huge hit). As a result, Glass, while not a full-blown co-production between the two major studios, is seeing its domestic release handled by Universal while Disney distributes the film internationally. With the success of Split still pretty fresh in people’s minds, the lack of major competition this extended MLK weekend, and the backing of two major studios, it looks as though Glass is destined for box office glory. Of course, however, this is a Shyamalan movie, so there is always a chance that things may not go as well as expected.
Despite making quite a splash with its green-lighting as well as its trailers, Glass has the immense potential to disappoint. Yes, despite all the goodwill generated by the film in the lead up to its release, the reviews that have come about are not very positive, instead being thoroughly mixed. The film carries a 37% on Rotten Tomatoes as well as an even more telling 45 on Metacritic, indicating that the response to this film indeed heavily mixed across the board. Overall, reviewers seem to praise the cast, particularly the main trio of Willis, McAvoy, and Jackson, as well as the strength of the first half of the movie. That said, many also criticize the ending (Of a Shyamalan movie? Who’da thought?) and the series of twists in the finale which seem to invalidate much of what came before, creating a sense of, at best, confusion on how to feel about the overall movie, and at worst, genuine disappointment. It seems as though once again, Shyamalan is going to be tripped up by a twist. However, the goodwill generated by Split does seem as though it can act as a bit of a shield. It should be noted that fan interest in the film is still strong, with many fans shrugging off bad reviews as typical of a Shyamalan movie while still asserting that they are going to see it no matter what (an understandable mindset as the film does completes a trilogy).
So where does this leave Glass‘ box office? The earliest tracking reports saw the film opening to $75 million over the course of the 4-day weekend (given the MLK holiday) and while the bad reviews have certainly softened those predictions, it hasn’t been by much. Currently, the projections are looking more in $50-$60 million range for the 4-day frame, with the 3-day frame looking to be around $40-50 million. The fact is that no matter what, Glass is poised for massive success. Being a Blumhouse production, it is frugally budgeted at around $20 million, so a 4-day gross of around $50 million or more would be fantastic for this low-key superhero film. The film is also helped immensely by the fact that audiences are fully aware of the picture. Once again, the goodwill generated by Split has led many to fervently anticipate the release of Glass, so much so that Universal was able to reserve a spot for the film in last year’s comic con line-up amongst way bigger budgeted pictures. The bad reviews also, paradoxically, are helpful to the film as well in a way, as they do pose the question of whether or not the film is as bad as reviewers are saying, especially given the strength of Split and Unbreakable. For all this, I would argue that Glass will at least break $45 million in the 3-day frame and $60 million in the 4-day. There is a chance that bad word-of-mouth could spread over the course of the four days, but the interest in the film is so high, at least out of the gate, that Glass can probably manage. No matter what, however, expect the film to come out on top in first place this weekend.
If you couldn’t tell from the last five paragraphs, Glass is very much the big story of this weekend. Given that it is very much in its own lane, and that it is literally the only new release of the weekend, it stands apart from the other films in the line-up. All the other holdovers are looking primarily to compete with either each other or themselves to stand out. The likely contender for second place looks to be The Upside, which has capitalized on its momentum out of the gate and has seen strong daily grosses over the course of the week as it has topped the charts every day so far. The only thing really standing it is way are the reviews, which haven’t been great and could potentially signal a second-weekend downturn. That said, based on day to day grosses, it looks as though The Upside will be just fine. I’m predicting a solid hold of 40% for a gross of $12 million in second place, though it could potentially hold even better.
In third and fourth place, we are looking to find the only two films that could conceivably pose a threat to Glass (though I highly doubt it), Aquaman and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, respectively. Given that they are both comic book properties, they do share some audience appeal with Glass. However, Glass stands apart due to it being of a very different flavor than that of these two December offerings. Being a sequel to Unbreakable and Split, Glass, while still overtly a superhero movie, plays more like a psychological thriller in line with Shyamalan’s other work. The more stripped down trappings of the film allow it to distinguish itself from the eye-popping spectacle of Aquaman and Spider-Verse and will likely attract a more adult crowd as a result. If anything, Glass would actually be likely to pull audience members away from the other two given its uniqueness. Aquaman and Spider-Verse are also highly unlikely to even compete with one another given that they’ve each been out since December and thus have already carved out audiences for themselves. I’m expecting Aquaman to come in third with a gross of $10.4 million, making for a drop of 40%, while Spider-Verse continues to use its Golden Globes momentum to pull out a 30% hold for a gross of $6.3 million in fourth.
In fifth place, A Dog’s Way Home looks to tumble down to $5.6 million having not been able to amass the kind of love that A Dog’s Purpose did, while On the Basis of Sex is poised for a much stronger hold of around 30% for a gross of $4.2 million in sixth place, just pushing the film past $15 million domestically. In seventh through ninth place, Mary Poppins Returns and Bumblebee will continue to cannibalize each other as they continue to be gridlocked, this time with Escape Room sandwiched between them. Mary Poppins is likely to drop around 45% as it continues to readily lose momentum, grossing $4.1 million in seventh place. Escape Room, having done its job and made a tidy profit, will likely fall around 55% for a gross of $4 million in eighth place. Meanwhile, Bumblebee is likely to fall 45% for a gross of $3.9 million in ninth place. Rounding out the top ten, The Mule is likely to only fall 35% for a gross of $3.6 million, potentially pushing past $100 million domestically once the weekday grosses are factored in.
As for the specialty market, there are barely any new films of note opening; the only interesting release here is Adult Life Skills which was made and released in the UK nearly three years ago. In actuality, the focus will likely be on any major awards contenders that are currently residing outside the top ten to see if they continue to gain momentum as Oscar nominations get closer and closer. I am particularly curious to see if The Wife can do any solid business as its profile grows off of Glenn Close’s new Golden Globe win as well as her recent win at the Critics Choice Awards for Best Actress. If Beale Street Could Talk will also be an object of my focus as I believe that it will likely continue to expand its theater count.