Weekend Predictions (Mar 1-Mar 3) How to Train Your Dragon looks to Lead a Slow Weekend as Medea takes her Final Bow!!!

To my surprise, we’re actually potentially looking at a ton of big drops for movies this weekend. Admittedly, I may be overstating, however, when I look at my predictions I see that I have four movies falling at least 50% this weekend and all but one holdover dropping at least in the 40%s. There is some new blood entering the fold with the ever-reliable Medea franchise (supposedly on its last legs) as well a “sorta-kinda-maybe-not really-prestige-ish” thriller in the form of Greta. We also will be keeping a close eye on several Oscar winners, particularly Green Book, to see if they get a boost from their wins last weekend.

More than likely to come in first is that of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, which is coming off not only a stellar opening weekend but also a very strong run this past week with not a single daily gross falling below $2 million. What this tells me that there is still a very large amount of goodwill between this franchise and audiences, and as I discussed in my last post, clearly Universal releasing the film internationally first has created a massive amount of momentum at the multiplex. Now, I had first thought there to be some cause for concern with the film’s performance as I researching the performance of the previous installments. In terms of domestic performance, the original How to Train Your Dragon reigns supreme (for now) with a domestic gross of $217 million. The second film, which is generally considered to be on par with the first film in terms of critical acclaim (I, for one, actually prefer it), may have performed well overall with a worldwide gross of $621 million to the first’s $494 million, but was notably $40 million behind the first film domestically with a gross of $177 million. This lower performance for the second film is further reinforced by the fact that the second film dropped 50% in its second weekend, as opposed to the first will held with a remarkable 33.7%.

These factors put me at a bit of a crossroads with regard to how this third installment will perform this weekend. However, a little more digging has made me quite optimistic. Looking back at the second weekends for both How to Train Your Dragon 1 & 2, it becomes clear by their respective top ten lineups that How to Train Your Dragon 2 was in a much more competitive situation than that of the former. While the first How to Train Your Dragon had little to compete with it given the fact that movies like Clash of the Titans and The Last Song didn’t share much an audience with the warm-hearted family film based on genre and appeal to differing age groups (not to mention that How to Train Your Dragon had much stronger reviews). Meanwhile, How to Train Your Dragon 2, while by no means a weak performer, was moved from the original’s February release frame (like that of this most recent entry) to a much more competitive summer frame in late June. As a result, How to Train Your Dragon 2 had to square off with some stronger box office performers like that of Think Like a Man Too, 22 Jump Street, Maleficent, The Fault in Our Stars, and even X-Men: Days of Future Past. The last three films also all had strong holds over the course of that weekend, with Maleficent, in particular, likely drawing away audiences from How to Train Your Dragon 2 with the similar appeal of a family-friendly fantasy-adventure film, plus a big-name star leading the film in the form of Angelina Jolie. There is even a case to be made that The Fault in Our Stars, which appealed to an age demographic that grown up from seeing the first How to Train Your Dragon, and X-Men: Days of Future Past, given its genre film appeal, could have diluted the box office as well.

Thankfully for How to Train Your Dragon 3, the conditions that this film will be entering are much more akin to that of the first film. Having returned to the series’ original release frame in February, there is little major competition for the film to directly go up against. The Lego Movie 2, its biggest potential threat, is not performing as well as Warner Bros. hoped, and the only major new release this weekend is A Medea Family Funeral, whose target audience is predominately older and black. I mentioned for last weekend that How to Train Your Dragon skewed notably white in its demographic breakdown, so the potential cross between the films respective audiences is minimal at best. How to Train Your Dragon 3 also appealed equally across all major age demographics, so the older-skewing Tyler Perry movie once again looks to pose little threat (funny enough, the first How to Train Your Dragon also went up against a Tyler Perry movie in its second weekend and had a strong hold, validating my theory). Pundits seem to be predicting a drop around 40% which is not unreasonable, however, I am a bit bolder with this film and predict a 35% for a gross of around $35 million.

On the subject of A Medea Family Funeral, this films looks to be coming in second place this weekend, though, unlike How to Train Your Dragon 3, I am having trouble predicting how it will perform. Now, generally speaking, Tyler Perry movies always perform well. They are made for low budgets and in a short period of time and are frequently able to gross quite a bit thanks to how they are directly aimed at audiences that predominately black, skew older, and, I would argue, also skew more female. His films frequently revolve around stories about black women, family relations, marriage, the community, and tend to be comedic while also having a faith-based root to them. This direct appeal to such a specific audience is what powers Perry’s movies to the heights of success they achieve. While not very critically successful, not a single one of Tyler Perry’s films has ever received a Cinemascore lower than “A-” and, particularly with Medea, most have gone on to be solid box office successes.

The Medea franchise is a testament to the success of Perry’s brand in that this newest film will be the eleventh appearance of the character in film and the ninth film to revolve around her. What sets this film apart, however, is the fact that Perry has stated that he will be retiring the “Medea” character (whom he has been portraying for well over a decade now) after this film. As a result, I can imagine that there is a strong interest in this final installment as Perry will likely be pulling out all the stops. However, what is making its opening hard to predict is the fact that pundits are predicting a pretty wide range between $18-$27 million. Part of me can understand why the range is so broad, particularly given that Tyler Perry has been going through a lull with regard to his films as of late. As I said before, Perry’s movies are almost never financial flops given their low budgets, however, his last few entries have been relative underperformers compared to his older work. Generally, Perry’s films, particularly Medea films, have tended to open in the $20 million range, usually around $25 million. However, his last few films, including one of his Medea films, Boo 2!, have struggled to open above the $20 million. Perhaps this is why he is looking to retire Medea, as her commercial prospects seem to waning. That said, the event nature of this could allow the film to break through that $20 million threshold easily. If I had to guess, I would say that the film is likely to gross at least $22 million this weekend, if not more.

As for the rest of the weekend, the vast majority of the holdovers look to have pretty significant drops. Alita: Battle Angel looks to come in third place with a 55% drop to $5.5 million in its third weekend while The Lego Movie 2 is likely to fare a bit better with a 45% hold and a $5.2 million gross in fourth place. Fighting with My Family is almost impossible to predict given its nebulous nature. One can’t directly place it in the boxing film category given that, well, its not about boxing, but it also doesn’t fall in line with a typical sports biopic given that those films a stronger veneer of prestige about them while Fighting with My Family is much more commercial (being backed Dwayne Johnson and all). It has strong reviews so I could see it dropping 45%for a gross of $4.3 million in fifth place.

Outside the top five is where we are to find out Valentine’s Day holdovers, still hanging on for dear life. Isn’t it Romantic is likely to have another big drop of 50% to a gross of $3.5 million in sixth place, once again a victim of its Valentine’s Day theming. Seventh place, I predict, will be home to are last new major release of the weekend, Greta, though calling it a major release is something of a misnomer. Directed by Neil Jordan (director of The Crying Game) and starring Oscar nominee and famed French actress, Isabelle Huppert (dubbed by many as “the French Meryl Streep”), as well as Chloë Grace Moretz and Maika Monroe, the film is a twisty psyhological thriller about a young woman who befriends an older lady only to have the older lady become obsessed with her to deadly ends. Reviews for the film are generally positive with many critics calling it a fun, campy, well-executed B-movie thriller. However, this description is very much at odds with the film’s presentation as a prestige picture; having premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year and with such acclaimed talent attached. The advertising for the film, while suitably creepy, has also had a problem juggling tones, appearing quite over the top at times. I feel that this confusion as to what the film is trying to be will likely hamper its audience appeal. Projections are scarce of the film (that should tell you that Focus Features, its distributor, isn’t too confident), but a debut in the $3-$4 million range is likely given the fact that talents involved with the film are not known to be able to attract an audience (at least not in the US).

Rounding out the top ten, we are likely to find What Men Want (which I regrettably forgot to mention in my last post) in eighth place with $2.6 million, having simply not been able to catch on with audiences, while Happy Death Day 2U will take ninth with a gross of $2.4 million. As of now, I am predicting that tenth place will go to The Upside, however, there is a distinct possibility that Green Book, fresh off its Best Picture win, could find its way into the top ten. Projections range from $2 million to $5 million for its post-Oscar weekend gross but I personally believe it will likely settle around $3 million if it gets a bump. If it does indeed jump in, Green Book will take eighth place and push out The Upside. That said, The Upside has little to worry about as it crossed the $100 million mark this past week.

As for the specialty market, we’ll be looking to see if any other Oscar winners get a boost this weekend. Outside of that, the only specialty release is that of A24’s Climax from controversial director and professional provocateur, Gaspar Noé (director of Irreversible, Enter the Void, and Love). The film has garnered intense interest from cinephiles which could make for a high per-theater-average, but like all of Noé’s other films, don’t expect this one to have much mainstream appeal.

(Box Office data from Box Office Mojo, Deadline, and Box Office Pro)

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