So here’s our last weekend of January, out of the Hollywood dump and into mid-budget blockbuster territory. Surprisingly, this month has actually seen some solid business from its titles, with Escape Room overperforming, The Upside flipping the script on all expectations, and Dragon Ball Super: Broly coming out swinging, so my hope is that this trend continues with this coming weekend’s releases, The Kid Who Would Be King and Serenity. Now, realistically, Serenity has little chance of overperforming, but I do genuinely think that Kid can possibly breakout. Outside of those titles, we’ll be watching to see whether Glass holds well or has the bottom fall out from under it as well as whether Broly can buck the anime feature trend and hold well. Of course, the one thing that we can’t fully predict is how the Oscar nominees, newly minted and waiting just outside the top ten, will perform but there is a distinct possibility that at least one (namely Bohemian Rhapsody) will jump in.
First place is highly unlikely to go to anything but Glass which is looking at any gross between $15-$20 million. What this is going to come down to is whether or not audiences rally behind the film. Glass undeniably underperformed last weekend and has severely mixed reviews which will likely keep audiences away at first glance. I do feel, however, that there is still a curiosity factor in play given the intense debates audiences are having online about the ending; if Shyamalan supporters can convince people to go, that will certainly help. Most pundits are predicting the film to drop near 60%, however, I am going to predict that it falls around 50%. I made the observation last week that Unbreakable‘s, Split‘s, and now Glass‘ openings were all within range of one another (particularly when adjusted for inflation) and when you take into consideration the fact that Glass‘ “B” Cinemascore falls between Unbreakable‘s “C” and Split‘s “B+”, it would make sense for its second weekend drop to fall between Unbreakable‘s 52.4% and Split‘s 35%. A 50% drop wouldn’t be amazing for Glass, but it would certainly keep it afloat for a bit longer.
Second place looks to go to The Upside with a drop of 30% for a gross of $10.5 million, but it may face some competition from Fox’s The Kid Who Would Be King. Directed by Joe Cornish, of Attack the Block fame (he was also one of the writers of the original Ant-Man), Kid King is a modern update of the legend of King Arthur starring Louis Ashbourne Serkis, son of the king of motion-capture, Andy Serkis. I must say, I am looking forward to this film, thanks in large part to the young Serkis whom I was delighted to become acquainted with thanks to an underseen movie called Mowgli. Directed by his father, young Serkis played Bhoot in this Jungle Book adaptation, a young albino wolf and friend of the titular Mowgli. He really surprised me with his capability as an actor, adding fun and warmth to the picture while also managing to tackle some more emotional scenes very effectively which did a lot to sell a powerful twist later in the film. He was a real standout (see my review here) and his inclusion in Kid King makes the film worth the price of admission in my book. Of course, many didn’t see Mowgli, so that incentive is lacking for most moviegoing audiences.
That said, Kid King does have an ace up its shelve in the form of surprisingly strong reviews. They shouldn’t be all that surprising given Joe Cornish’s pedigree (in the eight years since its release, Attack the Block has not only come to be regarded as satirical near-masterpiece of sci-fi comedy but also helped launch John Boyega’s career by getting him into Star Wars) but I have to admit that the film’s first trailer struck me as a bit dull, cheap, and lazy. However, it did also strike me as family friendly, and with strong reviews, Kid could become a surprise hit at the tail end of January. As for now, I’m predicting a $10 million debut, but don’t be surprised to see it jump up significantly if the word-of-mouth is strong enough.
In fourth through sixth place, we’re looking at potentially another tight race between Serenity, Spider-Verse, and Aquaman, respectively. Wait, wait, wait, don’t click away and call me a hack just yet. Yes, I just said that I believe that Serenity will potentially be debuting in the top five. This might sound like the ravings of someone in an insane asylum to anyone with eyes given that there has been very little advertising for the film and the only main trailer that has been released makes the film out to be a complicated mess with its head stuck up its own rear. My argument is also not helped by the fact that Serenity is currently sitting at a 20% on Rotten Tomatoes along with a 39 on Metacritic. However, Serenity is being fronted by Matthew McConaughey, whose box office track record (while admittedly bad) suggest that he can rise above some bad projections. Serenity is being projected to open at around $5 million, but the last few movies which put McConaughey front and center mostly opened around $7-$8 million, those being his Oscar bait-y effort, White Boy Rick, from last year ($8.8 million) as well as The Free State of Jones ($7.5 million). He did have Gold which flopped with a $3.4 million opening, but that was a Weinstein Company title that came out right as the distributor began to fall into bankruptcy. Make no mistake, a $7 million opening for Serenity is still a bad opening by all accounts; but it would put the film above Spider-Verse and Aquaman, two significantly better-reviewed films which are each looking to make around $6.3 million and $6.1 million (respectively), and would actually be something of a win for newbie distributor Avrion Pictures. Then again, I could be totally off.
In seventh, ninth, and tenth place, A Dog’s Way Home, Mary Poppins Returns, and Escape Room are all looking at solid holds between 35-45%, but the real focus of the bottom of the top ten is Dragon Ball Super: Broly. Last weekend was a big deal for the film, its distributor, and anime film’s in general as Broly ended up having the third biggest opening of all time for an anime film in the US (as for how they did it, which is quite fascinating, see last weekend’s breakdown here). Having already grossed $91 million worldwide, the real question now is how well is the film going to hold? This question is extremely complicated and, unfortunately, the outcomes do not look great. Anime, outside of healthy-sized fandom, has never really had much mainstream appeal in the West. Some may call this blasphemy, but the proof is in the numbers as when you take a look at the domestic grosses of anime film’s in the United States, not a single one has ever been able to make it to the $100 million mark (an important marker for any film in terms of mainstream appeal). The reasons for this are vast and varied, ranging from issues with dubbing to the clash of anime and American animation styling sensibilities to the simply a lack of familiarity with certain anime narratives and tropes. That said, I do think that the main reason for the disconnect is the maturity of the material. In America, a common misconception is that animation is meant to be more child-oriented so the more adult-centric storylines of anime programs and films may be a turn off for viewers, particularly parents. I know that I was encouraged to stay away from the Dragon Ball franchise as a child given the violence, and any major anime fan can tell you all about their frustrations with gay-erasure in the American dub of the popular anime, Sailor Moon.
I believe it is this disconnect that has lead to anime films having their history of being extremely unsuccessful in the US. While there have been some successes, namely with the Pokemon franchise which released its first film to relatively strong box office, this is very much an exception to the rule. While Pokemon would be a great candidate for success given its immense popularity in the US as a merchandising brand, other brands that have seen similar popularity, like Yu-Gi-Oh and Digimon, saw their films flop hard when they hit the box office; even Pokemon‘s follow up films have continuously failed to live up to the strength of the original (Pokemon: The First Movie) with significantly diminishing returns for every new installment until they fully migrated over to home entertainment releases. The fact is that the pattern is always the same: The film is released to, at best, a so-so opening, and at worst, a flat-out terrible one, before seeing a massive drop in its second weekend ranging between 60-70% (though it’s usually between 65-70%, if not more). Because of this, only Pokemon: The First Movie and Pokemon 2000 (the second movie) have made over $20 million domestically up till now with the pattern of performance showing that the films only draw in hardcore fans upfront and have extremely little appeal elsewhere.
The only films that don’t follow this box office pattern are those of famed anime director Hayao Miyazaki, the crown jewel of Studio Ghibli and director of critically acclaimed fare the likes of Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and Princess Mononoke. Miyazaki’s work has often struck a chord with many in America (myself included) for its sweetness, emotional storytelling, and the timeless quality of his animation; so much so that Spirited Away ended up becoming the first anime film to ever win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Still though, while incredibly successful in terms of their acclaim and worldwide grosses, Miyazaki’s film continually fail to galvanize the domestic box office. While they buck the trend of massive second-weekend drops, usually holding well with drops between 30-40%, The Secret World of Arrietty is Miyazaki’s highest grossing film in the US with a domestic gross of only $19.2 million. Interestingly, part of the reason that Miyazaki’s films don’t perform as well in the US is due to the fact that they typically are positioned as limited releases hoping for award’s contention, thus opening typically in under 1,000 theaters (usually in 20-30). In the wake of anime films post Pokemon becoming less and less popular, very limited releases have actually become the norm, usually releasing non-Miyazaki movies through Fathom Events in few theaters for just a few weeks.
What does this have to do with Dragon Ball Super: Broly? Well, it is all these factors that make it extremely difficult to predict where the film is going to land in terms of its weekend drop and gross. On one hand, the impressiveness of its opening clearly denotes Broly as an event film in line with the original Pokemon movies. However, it’s unique release as hybrid fusion of both normal theatrical releases and a Fathom-style limited events might actually make it a little more in line with a Miyazaki movie; a comparison only aided by the fact that Broly has good reviews, as opposed to most action-heavy and merchandising brand films like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh which tend to receive terrible reviews. It’s also unclear if any of the limited engagements across America for the film have ended, because that would certainly eat into its weekend gross. Because of this factor, in particular, I’m inclined to believe that Broly will fall around 65%. However, it will likely drop no more than that given the immense popularity of the film (relatively speaking). This week, it joined Pokemon: The First Movie and Pokemon 2000 as the only three anime films to gross over $20 million in the US, so an even better hold is in the cards if its momentum is strong. Either way, Broly is inching closer to grossing over $100 million worldwide, which would be a standout achievement overall.
As for the rest of the box office, all eyes are on our newly minted Oscar nominees as several of them expand back into over 1,000 theaters to take advantage of their hype. Bohemian Rhapsody, A Star is Born, Green Book, The Favourite, Vice, and BlacKKKlansman are all returning to wide release with a vengeance so as to soak up as much cash as possible before Oscar night. Green Book, in particular, is massively ramping up its theater count by 1,514 and thereby expanding into a grand total of 2,426 theaters. Because of this, many pundits are saying that it could pop into the top ten at the expense of another feature and I do agree that that is a distinct possibility. My eyes, however, are set on Bohemian Rhapsody, which has seen major gains with every new major award and nomination it has received, all while flirting with the top ten. With a Best Picture nomination under its belt, I’m completely expecting Bohemian Rhapsody to leap into the top ten line up somewhere, thereby knocking out Escape Room. If Green Book or A Star is Born (or even Vice, which really needs it because the film continues to leak money despite its major nominations) can also leap in as well, that will be the end of Mary Poppins Returns tenure in the top ten as well.