An empty weekend sets the stage for a solid run for Scream and even a potential #1 repeat. Meanwhile, the mythical (literally and figuratively) The King’s Daughter finally debuts!!
It’s been said many times before that January is the unofficial/official dump month of Hollywood; the month where movies destined to be flops and critical follies go to languish amongst Christmas holdovers. I personally subscribe to the idea that January can be an event month if you program it right (Lord knows, if you were to open a Marvel movie in January it would be a big deal and rake the Christmas holdovers across the coals). However, it’s weekends like this one that tend to prove that old mindset right. After last weekend’s success of the new Scream movie, that fifth-quel has a distinct chance (though not a guarantee) of taking a victory lap this weekend at the top of the box office as No Way Home winds down (I say that lightly) and absolutely no big contenders enter the fray.
Of course, just because I say that no “big” contenders are entering doesn’t mean that there are no new entries this weekend. In fact, we actually have two new wide releases! The King’s Daughter and Redeeming Love! What!? You’ve never heard of them? I’m not surprised. Frankly, these two entries have been so heavily buried under post-production and distribution trouble (in the case of the former) and just a genuine lack of awareness or interest (that goes for both of them) that I am pretty sure most of the country doesn’t even know they are releasing. Even on their best days, I can’t imagine either of these films doing any better than $5 million on opening weekend which, as I’ll elaborate on later, would be a genuine accomplishment in and of itself. So yes, this weekend is really going to be all about Scream and Spider-Man: No Way Home, the really interesting box office battle that you never knew you wanted to see.
As far as who is going to come in first place, it’s honestly a bit of a toss-up. Conventional wisdom would say No Way Home by default, 1) because its a Marvel movie, 2) because it has incredible box office momentum (it’s already the 8th highest-grossing film of all time worldwide, and the 4th highest-grossing domestically), and 3) because it’s a Christmas holdover playing in an incredibly dry January with little competition to get in its way. That said, this is going to be its sixth weekend at the box office, and while its weekend to weekend holds have been stellar, if it holds the way it should (around a 30% drop), it will likely turn out with $14 million this weekend, a gross that opens it up to be usurped. I did say “little competition”, not “no competition”, and the fact remains that another film did manage to take advantage of the January vacuum and carve out (haha) a space for itself: Scream.
The fourth sequel in the fondly-regarded horror franchise, coming 11 years after the last entry, managed to beat expectations, and conventional wisdom, to take in $30 million last weekend in the 3-Day frame, and $33.8 million across the entire 4-Day MLK weekend. Even more surprising, and adding credence to this discussion, is that Scream has actually already overtaken No Way Home in one regard, that being that it topped the Spider-Man sequel in terms of weekly grosses this week, stealing the number one spot. This suggests, at the very least, that Scream will provide genuine competition for No Way Home (it already beat it in terms of Thursday night grosses as well, $1.4 million to $1.3 million). The question now is, will it?
That answer, as per usual, is a bit more complicated. The fact of the matter is that horror films (sequels or otherwise) generally tend to have big drops in their second weekends. Unless it’s Get Out, horror films tend to, at best, hold somewhere in the mid-to-low 50s or, more frequently, have a drop in the 60s and lower. It’s a convention that is generally accepted given that horror films tend to rely on the surprise of scares and killer reveal to fuel their box office grosses and those secrets usually get revealed pretty quickly after the first weekend. By their very nature, even low-budget horror films are “events” that generally demand to be seen on opening weekend, so Scream (with its surprise twists and turns) is put at a disadvantage in that regard.
Something that actually does help it though, I would think, would be its reviews, which are solid and even quite complementary. Its rotten tomatoes score sits at 76% (certified fresh) and overall the dialogue around the film has been positive, with many critics and moviegoers expressing just how much fun the movie is. Given how little regard was paid to the film in the lead-up to release, I think that the surprise of good reviews and a good box office headline last weekend could easily translate into a better-than-average hold. Still, we do have history to take into consideration. Looking at past Scream films, excluding the 1996 original which, shockingly, came out in DECEMBER of all months, and benefited from the Christmas rush (and just great reviews in general), growing its audience exponentially over the course of a 31 week run at the box office (That is insane! The movie was in theaters the next July!), we see a relatively similar pattern emerge amongst the sequels with them seeing a drop around 55-60% in their second weekend. Scream 4 had the biggest drop, 62% off of an $18.7 million opening, though that was owed largely to the fact that Scream 3 was critically maligned and Scream 4 coming out about a decade after that (it has the worst legs of the franchise to date, grossing barely over twice its opening weekend domestically) so it can be assumed that Scream (2022) will not likely suffer that same fate. A more realistic expectation seems to be that it drops closer to Scream 2 and Scream 3‘s 58% and 53%, respectively.
Looking more broadly at the current situation, a drop in the mid-50s looks more all the more likely. The last “big” movie to release in January was arguably 2019’s Glass, M. Night Shyamalan’s similarly years-later follow-up to his film Unbreakable (my personal favorite of his), itself a direct follow-up to his hyper-successful January release from 2018, Split. Glass was not as successful as Split, being not as well-reviewed and considered to be something of a letdown, but its box office performance was still quite respectable, owing heavily to its January release and relative lack of competition for the first three weeks of its run (interestingly enough, it was also up against a billion dollar-grossing comic book movie released at Christmas, Aquaman, which had petered out enough by its then sixth weekend to not pose too much of a threat). As a result, Glass dropped 53% in its second weekend and managed to retain the number 1 spot three weekends in a row. Another apt comparison in this regard (I feel) is that of The Hitman’s Bodyguard, which came out during summer 2017 (so that messes with the comparison slightly), but also faced no competition in an empty August and managed to hold on to the top spot three weekends in a row. What was its second-weekend drop? 52%. I’m sensing a pattern here…
Back to Scream, I’m convinced that it will pull out a hold somewhere in the mid-50s, given its complete lack of competition in the market outside of Spider-Man. A 55% percent drop (what I predict for it, given that No Way Home still has momentum), would bring it to a gross of $13.5 million, which would, sadly, not allow it to retain the #1 spot this weekend, ceding that title back to the reigning heavyweight Marvel film. That wouldn’t be a terrible thing (the film has already grossed $56 million worldwide, thus breaking even on its $24 million budget), but it would be nice if Scream could hold on tighter. I do think there is still a chance though, and while I might be predicting a second-place finish, it would not be all that surprising if Scream can muscle its way back to number one by holding like Scream 3, Glass, or The Hitman’s Bodyguard. Time will tell.
What is for certain though (at least by my prediction), is that Sing 2 will absolutely take third place this weekend. I went into detail about how well the animated sequel (to a really underrated original) is performing in my post about last weekend’s box office results (you can see that here) so I won’t go too far in-depth, but rest assured that Sing 2 is performing quite well by taking advantage of being the only really “kid-centric” film in the market right now. Thanks to Spider-Man and Scream catering generally to an older audience, Sing 2 has been able to move through these past few weeks unimpeded and will continue to do so this weekend. I’m expecting a 30% drop for a gross of $5.5 million.
Now comes the real question marks this weekend, The King’s Daughter and Redeeming Love, the two wide releases this January (first of several) that you’ve likely never heard of. In the case of The King’s Daughter, this is for an extremely specific reason, that being that this movie has been in post-production for, let me check my calendar, a whopping 8 YEARS!!!!! Yes, this adaptation of the 1997 novel The Moon and the Sun, starring Pierce Brosnan(!), Kaya Scodelario, her husband, Benjamin Walker, William Hurt(!), Fan Bingbing, and narrated by Julie Andrews(!!!) was shot in Australia back in 2014! Telling the story of the illegitimate daughter of King Louis XIV (played by Brosnan) who discovers a mermaid in the depths of his palace from whom King Louis plans to steal its lifeforce to grant himself immortality (yes, you did read that correctly), the film was originally set for a 2015 release by Paramount before abruptly being removed from the schedule because the “special effects still needed work”, never to return, until now! The film has been something of a legend amongst the IMDb community, constantly being pushed back year after year, and frequently not having a distributor anyway. Finally, the film seems to have secured a path forward through the most unlikely of distributors, newer indie label Gravitas Ventures. Carrying a reported $40 million budget (which must be understated based on the carrying costs and interest accrued on a feature that has been held for this long), this is probably the most expensive and “mainstream” (based on its cast) movie that Gravitas has ever released. Clearly, the small distribution firm sees this film as an opportunity to burst into the mainstream, in a similar way to Solistice Studios which made a splash by releasing the Russell Crowe vehicle Unhinged back in August of 2020, the first wide release of the pandemic. It should be noted that Solstice Studios is now currently facing potential bankruptcy and has just one film on their docket (I’m not saying that releasing this one movie is what caused all of Solstice’s problems, but it is worth noting to Gravitas as they proceed with this venture).
The other, barely registering wide release is that of Redeeming Love. Directed by reliable studio programmer director D.J. Caruso, director of Disturbia, Eagle Eye, and xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, this Universal flick is an adaptation of the 1991 romance novel by Francine Rivers which tracks the story of a young woman, orphaned as a child, who is sold into sex work during the California Gold Rush. The harsh experiences harden her heart toward men, the world, and her own self, but when a reverent farmer meets her, falls in love with her, and offers to marry her and take her away from her situation, she accepts. Through this relationship, the woman finds a love that she never thought possible, and slowly, her self-hatred melts away as she is redeemed by love and a newfound faith in God. I admittedly used a lot of commas to describe the plot of this movie, but that’s the gist of it. It sounds absolutely melodramatic and maudlin, but to be fair, it is based on a very popular romance novel so that’s to be expected. It’s highly unlikely, given that the two projects release patterns don’t line up, but I can’t help but wonder Universal saw Netflix developing the immense hit that would be Bridgerton (also based on a series of period romance novels) and decided to put their resources behind this project. It’s quite a surprising movie on two fronts, one being that by the very description of this film, a faith-based melodrama about a prostitute who needs to be saved by the love of a good man and God, audiences seem primed to hate it, and the other being that this film is very much the kind of movie that many people say doesn’t exist anymore, an adult (romantic) drama backed by a major studio and being given a wide theatrical release as opposed to going directly to a streaming service. To their credit, Universal has had one of the most consistent (if not the best) track records releasing and nurturing this kind of fare at the box office. Just look at Jordan Peele’s films which, while admittedly having a leg up on other movies due to their being horror films (which always have an audience), are still wildly unconventional and based on original ideas, two factors which, normally, don’t drive people to the box office yet have made for extraordinarily successful features that have established Director Jordan Peele as a name brand in and of itself. Still, I don’t really have faith (the irony) in this film to succeed. Its reviews are poor, its marketing has been minimal, and it’s releasing in the dead of January against No Way Home, Scream, and friendly-fire in the form of Sing 2. Combined with depressed grosses overall for every other movie out that isn’t one of the aforementioned three, there just really isn’t much of an audience left for Redeeming Love, or The King’s Daughter, to capture.
So, how are they going to do? It’s very hard to tell. Neither film had any reported Thursday night preview grosses and, given their respective circumstances, there’s not a whole lot of precedent to rely on for predictions. I said before that a $5 million gross for each of them would frankly be a miracle, but I don’t think either will make it anywhere near that number. If I had to make a prediction, I fully believe that Redeeming Love will place ahead of The King’s Daughter in fourth place. Why? And, frankly, why so high? Well, largely because Redeeming Love comes from a major studio so it has stronger PR muscle behind it. The actual gross is very tricky to predict given that this kind of romantic drama is rarely made anymore and usually when it is, the results vary wildly. The closest comparison I could think of was 2018’s Forever My Girl, a Nicholas Sparks-like movie from Roadside Attractions, but that film opened to $4.2 million, likely helped by the fact that it starred the effervescent Jessica Rothe, hot off of her breakout role in Happy Death Day, but Redeeming Love has no major stars (Love Hard‘s Nina Dobrev shows up, but for what looks to be little more than a cameo) and that number just seems too high for this movie. Another Jessica Rothe starter, romantic drama All My Life with Harry Shum Jr., also looked like a good comparison, but that film had a more limited release (opening in 970 theaters) and only grossed $370K opening weekend. I’d guess a generous $3 million opening for Redeeming Love, but I would not be surprised to see it miss that mark. As for The King’s Daughter, which also is shouldering pretty terrible reviews (maybe explaining why it sat on the shelf for so damn long), is a complete wildcard, especially given that Gravitas Ventures has never released a film in over a thousand theaters before; they simply might not have the advertising or distribution bandwidth to properly support the film. At best, I see it opening with a similar gross to The Rhythm Section, Blake Lively’s underrated action-thriller vehicle which opened in January of 2020 to $2.7 million, one of the worst opening weekend grosses for a wide release in history. Still, that compellingly messy film had the benefit of opening in over 3,000 theaters, and I can’t imagine that The King’s Daughter is opening in more than 1,500 (if that), so an even lower gross is absolutely in the cards.
As for the rest of the top ten, it’s kind of funny to see that The King’s Daughter may potentially place fourth right above The King’s Man in fifth. That prequel movie has had some surprisingly strong legs since its Christmas release, even though its minuscule opening has essentially negated the promise of those legs. Still, with relatively consistent holds in the low-30s, we can likely expect to see The King’s Man take in $1.54 million this coming weekend. Sixth place is potentially going to go to The 355, which I am optimistically predicting to have a 50% hold in its third weekend. I was surprised with its previous hold of 51% despite terrible reviews and zero interest from moviegoers and I maintain that the better than expected performer that was Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City this past November/December is a strong comp here. Seventh place is likely to go to American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story with a 35% hold in its fifth weekend for a gross of $972K. Like The King’s Man, this Lionsgate sports drama is legging out nicely in spite of its low grosses (although it helps that American Underdog‘s budget is likely a tenth that of King’s Man).
It’s a bit saddening that American Underdog will likely be grossing around $970K this weekend as it creates a situation where three of the entries in the top ten will be taking under $1 million. That’s a sad state of affairs for any box office prognosticator to see, COVID notwithstanding. On the bright side, this does add some diversity to the box office by way of what kinds of movies we’ll be seeing in the top ten. Ninth place, assuming it wasn’t scheduled solely for a week-long run, is likely to be Belle, the Japanese anime that slid in right under the wire for Best Animated Feature Oscar consideration. Belle was released in 1,338 theaters this past weekend, and I’m assuming, based on the fact that there’s nothing huge out right now, that it will likely retain most of its theaters going into this weekend. The box office performances of anime films are notoriously hard to predict as they have passionate but niche fanbases who are more likely to show up on opening weekend than later down the line, so the drop is likely to be steep. How steep? Anywhere between 55-70% (and maybe even lower). Even the miracle that was Dragon Ball Super: Broly back in 2019 had a large 69% drop after a wonderous opening weekend gross of nearly $10 million (a record for anime films in the States). Given the lack of competition, I’m optimistically predicting a 55% drop for a gross of $720K, but like King’s Daughter and Redeeming Love, it would not be surprising if Belle’s gross was a lot smaller (Side Note: Belle is distributed by boutique arthouse animation distributor GKIDS in what is undoubtedly their widest release ever-by theater count-and I find it utterly fascinating that it will likely be doing this alongside indie label Gravitas Ventures as that company distributes its widest release ever with The King’s Daughter. Neat!) The top ten will then likely round out with Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza. I maintain that MGM bungled the release of that film by holding it in super-limited release (four theaters total!) for way too long before releasing it wide for Christmas in the shadow of No Way Home, but hey, it’s holding well and now it’s in the top ten so what do I know? Expect a likely 10% drop for a gross of $703K.
As for the specialty market, there once again really isn’t anything of note. The only title that caught my eye on the release schedule was Tiger Rising, largely because Queen Latifah stars and because it’s based on a book that was popular when I was in middle school, but I don’t expect much from it as it comes from an extremely small distributor. There is also A Shot Through the Wall, a drama exploring police brutality through the eyes of a young Asian cop, that has gotten solid reviews so far and has some potential as it comes from the more well-established Vertical Entertainment. However, Vertical tends to use small theatrical roll-outs as more of a glorified marketing campaign for their film’s eventual digital release (and, usually, an eventual Netflix debut further down the line) so this one likely won’t register with audiences for a few months. To Vertical’s credit, those roll-outs are actually handled quite well and their films do perform well in the ancillary market, so expect to see this topical drama become a point of conversation eventually with all your friends catching it on Netflix and a number of articles coming out dissecting why “audiences didn’t catch this drama in theaters?” Other than that, we’ll use the specialty market section on Sunday to take a look at any Oscar hopefuls still in theaters. Till then!