Box Office Prediction (Feb 25th-27th)!! Uncharted and Dog look to repeat at the top of the box office while Newcomers flounder!

Sadly, Cyrano looks to limp into theaters alongside the truly bonkers Studio 666 while holdovers continue to flourish in the lead up to The Batman.

After a pretty big deal President’s Day Weekend last week, it looks like the box office will be taking a quick break this weekend to let things settle just before The Batman officially hits screens. As a result, the focus of this coming weekend shall be holdovers, particularly Uncharted and Dog. Last weekend seemed like a resurgence of the old-fashioned butts-in-seats movie star with Tom Holland succeeding outside of his Spider-Man franchise and Channing Tatum resurfacing for the first time as a lead since 2015, so this weekend, for them, will be very much about seeing whether their box office power carries over or if their openings were just “one-weekend-wonders”. As for new releases, we do have an intriguing pair, Peter Dinklage as Cyrano de Bergerac (sans the nose) in Cyrano as well as Studio 666, a horror-comedy film starring the Foo Fighters of all people. Neither looks particularly likely to make that big of an impression, but who knows, maybe one (possibly Cyrano) can break out.

With regard to the holdovers, it seems obvious that Uncharted will undoubtedly repeat as the number one movie this weekend in the box office top ten. The big question, however, is by how much? Normally, this would be relatively hard to predict as Uncharted is a breakout-hit video game adaptation, which has been a rarity in the past, and thus its box office could conceivably go a variety of ways. That said, as I’ve mentioned numerous times now, far from being the dud they used to be, video game films have actually been on a hot streak as of late, not only with hit video game adaptations like Sonic the Hedgehog ($304 million worldwide, kneecapped only by the pandemic which caused its theatrical run to last only four weeks) and Detective Pikachu ($431 million worldwide) but also with movies centered around video games like both recent Jumanji films ($961 million for the 2017 sequel and $798 million for the 2019 installment) and Free Guy ($323 million). Admittedly, Jumanji and Free Guy, which use video games as a backdrop against which the story is told and use gameplay mechanics for comedy, have performed better than straightforward video game adaptations, but there is no denying that with Detective Pikachu, Sonic, and now Uncharted, Hollywood has charted a path forward and found a way to make these movies genuinely work; seemingly by just making straightforward adaptations of the games that lean into the inherent cartoonishness/over-the-top nature of the source material, thus making the movies feel familiar to fans of the games as well as more inviting for newcomers who get treated to a fun adventure. Uncharted succeeded largely by appealing to its core fanbase by presenting them with a straightforward adventure flick that was able to reel in extra viewers who had an interest in seeing Tom Holland in the lead role.

Going back to the question of how it will perform this weekend, funnily enough, the performances of Detective Pikachu and Sonic actually provide something of a roadmap in this regard, as both had surprisingly similar performances domestically; both topping off their runs in the US with about $145 million apiece. I always love to see these kinds of box office patterns and find it ever so fascinating that some genres and stars have a very distinct number of people who are willing to go out to theaters to see them. Funnily enough, these performances even sync up nicely with the performances of another big, star-driven movie adaptation of a video game, that being Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider which debuted in 2001 to $47 million, very close to Uncharted‘s $44 million 3-Day opening gross, and legged out despite mediocre reviews (again, similar to Uncharted) to a gross of $131 million domestically. That’s within striking distance of Pikachu and Sonic, further reinforcing the pattern of box office performance for this kind of movie. The fact that both Pikachu and Sonic came out within such close proximity to each other and yet yielded nearly the exact same domestic haul (Pikachu did have a bigger worldwide haul thanks to stronger overseas appeal, but that comparison is less straightforward given that Sonic debuted just as international markets were starting to shut down in response to the pandemic) suggests a ceiling of about $145-150 million for videogame films at the domestic box office. Mind you, that is nothing to sneeze at and many studios would kill to have a franchise with such consistent performers as entries, but it also suggests that Uncharted will perform exactly the same way. By virtue of that, we should expect Uncharted to fall around -55% in its second weekend (the average second weekend drop between Sonic, Pikachu, and Jolie’s Tomb Raider) which would put it at a $19.8 million gross.

There is one factor that throws a wrench into this prediction and has to be addressed; that being Tom Holland as the star of Uncharted. I noted last weekend that part of the reason that Uncharted overperformed the way it did, aside from it having no competition, was that its star, Tom Holland, is riding how off of the success of No Way Home and could lure audiences to check out another one of his films. Sony clearly knew this as they even held some screenings that were double features of No Way Home and Uncharted (which likely boosted both grosses), and both films continue to perform quite well into the week. I noted that, while Uncharted‘s 4-Day President’s Weekend opening is in line with Sonic and Detective Pikachu, its 3-Day is actually more along the lines of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, a film that I would imagine, given its action-adventure treasure-hunting focus, its source material, and the sex appeal of its lead actress, would skew slightly older in its demographic appeal. Obviously, given his Spider-Man credentials, Tom Holland’s appeal is much broader, with all ages flocking to see his movies, which gives me the sense that there is some potential for the film to hold slightly better than that of Tomb Raider. I’m not confident in this prediction, as I think video game films have a sturdy core demographic and thus are less likely to deviate from box office norms, but should things go well, maybe Uncharted could hold by -50% to even -45% this coming weekend for a gross between $22-24 million. If that were the case, given that all other variables are essentially being held constant, it would be another indicator that Tom Holland, just Spider-Man, is a genuine box office draw. For now, I’m sticking with my -55% prediction, but let’s just see.

As for Dog, things don’t necessarily become any easier to predict. They don’t become harder though, as Dog has officially earned itself the title of “good, solid movie”. By that, I will be assigning it the catch call “good, solid movie” second weekend hold of -45%. That doesn’t seem all the scientific, but the fact is that Dog managed to attain good reviews and assert itself last weekend in a market that doesn’t tend to care all that much about solid adult-skewing studio programmers. Generally speaking, a hold of -45% indicates good word of mouth for a movie that people generally enjoy, and Dog is exactly that. If I did want to get scientific, I would peer into the box office runs of the last three big “dog-centric” films we’ve seen in the past few years, those being A Dog’s Purpose, A Dog’s Journey, and The Art of Racing in the Rain. Hilariously enough, my instincts seem to be right on the money as each of the three of those films have respective second weekend drops of -42%, -48%, and -44%, all within range of -45%. A -45% hold this coming weekend will result in a gross of $8.2 million in second place.

On to the holdovers, where, of course, we’re probably going to find No Way Home in third place. The Spider-Man film has been on a hot streak for weeks, and with Tom Holland currently dominating the box office with Uncharted, No Way Home will likely not be slowing down any time soon (especially with zero competition from newcomers which we’ll get to). In keeping with its most recent holds, expect a -20% hold for a gross of $5.9 million. In fourth, I’m expecting to see Death on the Nile, still limping after a weak opening and just chugging along (wait, bad analogy, this isn’t Murder on the Orient Express. Perhaps, floating along?) until it eventually heads to Disney+ and HBO Max. Expect a decent hold of around -45% for a gross of $3.5 million.

Fifth and sixth place are looking to go to two films that are proving themselves to be quite durable. Sure, Jackass Forever has nowhere near as much longevity as Sing 2, but to be fair, both are still legging out quite nicely. Sing 2, as I have pointed out continuously since its second weekend, is the undisputed weekend-to-weekend hold champion (Spider-Man doesn’t count as its holds are predicated slightly more on the size of its weekend grosses) and is likely to continue to hold that title as there is no big kids-film hitting theaters any time soon. That said, Jackass had a pretty nice rebound this past weekend after the Super Bowl took some of the wind out of its sails. Well-liked and having little competition (the newbies don’t really play all that much in the same sandbox) I’m expecting a -45% drop for Jackass (once again, the catch-all “solid” hold) which would result in a gross of $2.8 million. Meanwhile, expect a -20% drop for Sing 2 for a gross of $2.2 million.

You may have noticed that I’ve only really alluded to this weekend’s new releases up until now, as opposed to making them the main attractions of this post, and that should say a lot about how well they are expected to perform this weekend. As mentioned above, we have both Cyrano from MGM and Studio 666 from Open Road (the company that usually releases Liam Neeson action movies). Both are projected to open between $2-5 million this weekend, though I have to say, given their histories, I’m seeing each debut on the lower end. With Cyrano, I’m sad to say that while MGM has handled some films beautifully (or at least as best as possible) this season, like that of No Time to Die, House of Gucci, and most recently Dog, they’ve also really dropped the ball with others, most notably their awards contenders.

Sure, House of Gucci was positioned as an Oscar player (and was one for most of the season until its Best Actress miss), but in retrospect, it was never going to be a major critical darling given the divisive reviews and mixed reaction to Lady Gaga’s aggressive Oscar campaigning tactics. At the end of the day, Licorice Pizza was always going to be their major awards frontrunner for the simple fact that it was a Paul Thomas Anderson film (starring Cooper Hoffman, son of the late, beloved, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, certainly didn’t hurt either), and sure enough, it racked up nominations for Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay. However, the fact is that MGM’s handling of the film from a financial/box office perspective has been absolutely abysmal. They started strong out of the gate as the film debuted in just four theaters to a stunning per-theater-average of $86K. However, instead of seizing upon this momentum, MGM ludicrously decided not to take advantage of the empty post-Thanksgiving weekend and instead kept Licorice Pizza in just four theaters for four whole weeks, going wide for Christmas (a much more crowded frame) instead of soon after Thanksgiving when there was no competition. I can only assume that MGM was afraid to do battle with the debut of No Way Home, but the fact is that Licorice Pizza plays to a completely different audience than that of the superhero flick and likely could have carved out its own niche as a fun, leisurely awards contender. Instead, by having the film languish in limited release, it lost the momentum it had upon opening and hasn’t been able to reclaim it since as it’s topping out domestically with between $15-17 million on a budget of $40 million. Sure, it was likely never going to turn a profit in theaters, but by having it sit in waiting for so long, MGM likely left at least $5-10 million on the table. To be fair, Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch also topped out around $16 million, which would suggest a ceiling for awards contender grosses in 2021, but that was an art film composed primarily of vignettes that saw Anderson at his most stylish and experimental. Licorice Pizza may have been meandering, but it told a much more cohesive story and had a much greater potential to find an audience.

Given how poorly MGM handled their prized Licorice Pizza, it really should come as no surprise that they bungled the release of Cyrano just as bad (or arguably worse). A retelling of the famous story of Cyrano de Bergerac in musical form, using most of the same cast as when the production was staged Off-Broadway in 2019 (including, but not limited to, Peter Dinklage in the title role and Haley Bennett as Roxanne, alongside Kelvin Harrison Jr nd Ben Mendelsohn), the film received early buzz in 2021 as a potential Oscar contender, particularly in the acting categories for Dinklage and Bennett, but MGM didn’t actually decide to release the film (let alone push it for awards consideration) until much later in the year. When I say “much later”, I’m not exaggerating as an awards qualifying limited release for the film on December 17th in a handful of LA theaters was not decided upon until early November. It debuted in so few theaters that grosses weren’t even tallied, much like a Netflix film, and was initially planned to have a slow expansion throughout the subsequent months as it prepped for a wide release in the US and UK in mid-January; that is before that plan was scrapped midway through and the film was just held for a straightforward wide release this weekend, completely bypassing a limited release to drum up momentum. Did the truncated release plan work? Did Cyrano get any Oscar love? That’s a rhetorical question; of course not! Sure, Dinklage has received some of the best reviews of his career, and the movie overall has been warmly received by critics, and sure, Dinklage was recognized by the Golden Globes and Critics Choice awards. But outside of mostly passing nods and industry insiders saying that “it really had a shot”, Cyrano didn’t register at all; not with awards voters, who gave it only one nomination at the Oscars in the costume department, and not with audiences, most of whom I would argue likely don’t even know that Cyrano is getting released. Adding insult to injury is the fact that the film is also not even going fully wide as it is getting a release in 797 theaters this weekend, further dampening its chances of box office success. It’s a damn shame too because it looks genuinely good. The trailer is absolutely lovely, if a bit slight, promising passion, romance, and good production values! Despite that, I honestly cannot see the film opening better than $2 million given just how little MGM has done to set the film up for success. That gross itself might be a stretch given the theater count and perhaps $1.8 million is more likely, but I would like to remain optimistic. I would love to be delightfully surprised and see Cyrano overperform, especially given the Dog, from the same studio, just did so, but I don’t have faith in MGM to make lightning strike twice here (I’ll cross my fingers though).

As for our other new release, the Foo Fighters meta-horror-comedy Studio 666, I’m honestly surprised to see this film getting a theatrical release. That’s not to say I think it will be terrible, but it just seems so gimmicky that I’m surprised that a streamer didn’t snap up the rights to the film to have a one-weekend wonder. Still, it’s good to see something like this in theaters, getting a proper wide release in over 2,000 theaters, as its exactly the kind of original, star-driven (or rather star persona-driven), outside-the-box film that people claim they want to see studios make more of. Still, I don’t expect the film to do all that well as, by the looks of the trailer, it seems more along the lines of a Fathom Event’s release than an actual movie. That’s not a knock on Fathom Events (I love them) but rather just me saying that it looks much more niche in its appeal than other films. Ironically, despite having more than double the theater count of Cyrano, I still think Cyrano will come in ahead of Studio 666 in terms of box office grosses. While I expect Cyrano to get to around $1.8-2 million, I can’t see Studio 666 getting anywhere above $1.5 million. That would put Cyrano in seventh place and Studio 666 in ninth, with Marry Me, which I am expecting to post a -50% drop for a gross of $1.8 million as audiences just don’t seem to be taking to the JLo rom-com no matter the circumstance, getting stuck in the middle of the two in eighth place.

Finishing off the top ten will likely be Scream with another solid hold of -35% for a gross of $1.2 million, which will likely take it to $79 million domestic by the end of the weekend (come on $80 million!). That said, don’t be surprised to see it potentially knocked out as we do have a 50th anniversary re-release of The Godfather that is likely to dominate the specialty market and maybe even crack the top ten.

As for the rest of the specialty market, we have a surprising number of limited releases of hugely varied genres and tones. There is Big Gold Brick, a mystery thriller-comedy starring Emory Cohen, Andy Garcia, Oscar Issac, Lucy Hale, and Megan Fox, where Andy Garcia hires Emory Cohen to write his biography and they get wrapped up in black comic chaos, which honestly looks like it has the production values of an SNL skit. There’s also Butter, about an overweight high schooler who becomes popular when he states online that he will eat himself alive in front of his class, as well as The Desperate Hour where Naomi Watts plays a mother who, whilst jogging, receives word that her son’s school has fallen victim to an active shooter and races against time to get to the school and save him. Like I said, hugely varied tones and genres, though, reading that back to myself, that might be an understatement. In all seriousness, the main specialty release to kept track of this weekend will be that of the 2022 Oscar Shorts, a compilation film of all the Oscar-nominated short films this year. We’ll keep an eye on that as well as the performances of specialty holdovers like Worst Person in the World and Drive My Car. Until Sunday, have a great weekend!

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