Higher. Further. Faster. All adjectives that Hollywood hopes to use when describing the box office this weekend as Captain Marvel flies into theaters to give multiplexes a shot in the arm. Yes, after two months of low-energy releases and underwhelming runs from movies (aside from Oscar contenders and How to Train Your Dragon), Captain Marvel is poised to deliver a relatively gargantuan opening and hopefully reignite business at the box office which has been very low-key since the Christmas frame and since Aquaman died down. Clearly, all of Hollywood is hoping for this since no studio has offered up a challenger to Captain Marvel this weekend, not as a direct competitor or even as counterprogramming. The only challengers to the film this weekend are holdovers (which are unlikely to dent the film) with the only new major release being Gloria Bell in the specialty market.
Looking at the overall top ten, it would be genuinely impossible for anything but Captain Marvel to come in first place this weekend. Given the pedigree and popularity of the MCU and the fact that this will be the last film before Avengers: Endgame, the interest surrounding Captain Marvel is very high. That’s all without even mentioning the fact that Captain Marvel is also the MCU’s first solely female-led feature. While Ant-Man & the Wasp had a female co-lead in the form of Evangeline Lily’s Hope Van Dyne (aka Wasp, who also shared the title of the film), Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers (aka Captain Marvel) is shouldering the responsibility of leading this Disney studio tentpole all on her own. Disney is keenly aware of this fact and is even playing it up in order to increase the film’s buzz. Much of the film’s distribution and marketing strategy has heavily leaned into the feminist themes and implications of Captain Marvel being the MCU’s first female-led feature, including releasing the film today, on International Women’s Day, casting of a notable feminist activist in the lead role, and even with their advertisements where they’ve used stylized copy to emphasize the presence of the word “her” in “hero” when referencing the film’s tagline, “What makes her a Hero?”. That said, despite the goodwill for Marvel and Disney, the response to this aggressively feminist bent on the marketing has been mixed. Some praise this aspect of the film as well-executed and in step with the times, while others deride the film for being exclusionary and putting down men. This has engendered quite a bit of negativity with some members of the public, and in a way, has caused some negativity to bubble up around the film’s release.
The negativity, however, is something that can easily be usurped by the reception of the actual film. If people like something, then little is going to stop them from seeing it. In order to predict how the film will do, we must ask how Captain Marvel is faring so far in terms of its reception. It is on that note that I get a bit worried for the feature. How is it being received? The short answer is, it’s doing okay. Overall, the film’s reviews are solid with it currently sporting an 81% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 65 on Metacritic. However, once you start reading the reviews, a pattern emerges that, if I was a Disney executive, I would find a bit concerning. The reviews for the film aren’t bad with many praising Larson’s performance, the funny screenplay, and strong action set pieces. However, there is a general dissatisfaction with the film across many of the reviews with regard to both the characterization of Captain Marvel and the direction. Almost unanimously, reviews point out the level of distance between the audience and out protagonist, how we are not allowed to get into her head and are prevented from empathizing with her as she goes on this journey of self-discovery. In fact, distance seems to be the main complaint about the film, with much of the action and story, while fun and thrilling at points, seeming to lack heart and come off as cold. Perhaps this is a byproduct of being the MCU’s 21st film, but critics seem to attribute the cold distance of the film to the directors falling back on the (at this point) extremely well-worn formula of an origin story Marvel movie. While there is a general enjoyment of the film, there is apparently no denying how much it relies on the established formula, almost as a crutch. Because of this, I am a bit unsure if Captain Marvel will have strong word of mouth.
So it is clear that Captain Marvel has a lot of factors swirling around its release and opening weekend performance. There are many things to take into consideration when trying to predict how it will open, which explains why, no matter where I look, every single projection is different. Some believe the film will just barely make it over $100 million, some predict $120-140 million, a few say it will have a minimum of $150 million, and a select few even believe that Captain Marvel could broach $190-$200 million by the end of the weekend. For clarity’s sake, I will say this, I do believe that Captain Marvel will indeed make at least $100 million by the end of the weekend. Given the sheer curiosity surrounding the film and the anticipation of learning how Captain Marvel will factor into Avengers: Endgame, I personally can’t see the film opening with anything less. It should be stated that $100 million would be a good opening for the film. Captain Marvel reportedly carries a budget of $152 million, so an opening of $100 million is a great place to start as a final domestic haul of $200-$250 million is within reach. Combined with a projected international opening gross of $200 million, which make for a worldwide debut of at least $300 million, which would allow the film to break even right off the bat. On top of all of this, despite a more muted than expected response to the film, I also think that Captain Marvel overall just makes a great case for being seen in theaters. It’s the only major studio blockbuster out right now, and it is supposed to tie-in to a major franchise that is set to be completed within the coming months. The film’s positioning makes it read like the peniultimate episode of a season of your favorite tv show, and for this reason, I personally would peg the film at a $120 million opening, though it could go higher if it catches on. Early March has, in the past few years, become a very strong blockbuster launching point, with films like The Hunger Games, Batman vs Superman, and Beauty & the Beast all opening in this frame to grosses no less than $150 million thanks to students being in school with no major holidays to distract audiences. For this reason, I am sure that Captain Marvel can open to $120 million at least, even if the word of mouth isn’t strong. Of course, if the word of mouth is stronger, I can definitely see Captain Marvel making at least $150 million. For now, however, I will keep my prediction conservative.
As for the rest of the top ten, expect okay holds across the board. With Captain Marvel inevitably about to suck all the air out of the room, no matter what its opening weekend gross is, one would expect that all the other films in the top ten would see major drops. However, almost every one of these films will have been playing for three weeks at this point, thus having pretty concretely established their audiences at this point. Meanwhile, the two youngest movies in the top ten, A Medea Family Funeral and Greta, have no shared audience with Captain Marvel and should remain relatively unaffected by its presence.
In second place, expect How to Train Your Dragon 3 to drop about 40% to a gross of $18 million. Currently, the film is surprisingly pacing behind How to Train Your Dragon 2, an unexpected development given that this latest installment has held better so far. Not to worry though, as the film undoubtedly be passing $100 million domestic this weekend, as well as likely $400 million worldwide, so How to Train Your Dragon 3 is still certainly in good financial shape. As for A Medea Family Funeral, this film is likely to drop 45% for a gross of $15.1 million in third place. Normally, this kind of film tends to have a much bigger drop off in its second weekend (usually in the 50% range) but I suspect Family Funeral will have stronger legs on the basis of it being the last Medea movie, thus any stragglers who didn’t turn up to the theater last weekend will be more likely to come out this weekend.
In fourth place, I expect The Lego Movie 2 to have another strong hold of 35% for a gross of $4.3 milllion while Alita: Battle Angel should be able to take fifth place with a $3.9 million gross off of a 45% drop. More interestingly though is the performance of Green Book in its second-weekend post-Oscar win. The film has had extremely strong holds for nearly every weekend of is 16-week run so far and I expect this to continue as more people discover the movie in the wake of its Best Picture win. I’m predicting a 30% drop for a $3.2 million gross in sixth place which would push the film past $80 million domestically, though perhaps its shockingly strong overseas performance will give it even more momentum and make for an even smaller drop this weekend. In seventh and eighth place, expect Isn’t it Romantic and Fighting With My Family to gross $2.7 million and $2.5 million respectively while Greta is very likely to suffer a major 50% drop (best case scenario) to $2.2 million. Finally, What Men Want will likely take tenth place with its last stop in the top ten at a gross of $1.4 million.
As for the specialty market, two films will see limited release, The Kid and Gloria Bell, though only Gloria Bell is likely to make an impression given that the former has had little to no advertising. Gloria Bell is actually quite an interesting film in that it presents a rare scenario in which a director revisits his own work. Directed by Sebastián Leilo, Gloria Bell is an English-language remake of the director’s critically acclaimed 2013 film Gloria. Starring Julianne Moore in the titular role which originally won Chilean actress, Paulina Garcia, the Best Actress prize at the Berlin Film Festival, the film tells the story for a free-spirited and recently divorced woman named Gloria who lives her life like there is no tomorrow, going dancing in clubs every night, discovering a new and complicated love, and experiencing all the joys and hardships life has to offer. The film already has a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 89 on Metacritic with critics praising the film for capturing the spirit of the origin as well as allowing Julianne Moore to run wild with the role with “glorious” results. Backed by A24, I expect an Oscar play for Julianne Moore down the line, so don’t be surprised to see the film with a high per-theater-average by weekend’s end.