After several delays, Sony’s Morbius finally hits screens in the hope of recapturing the Venom magic (and it needs all the help it can get). Meanwhile, the rest of the box office chugs on with a question as to whether Oscar winners will see any boosts.
After what seems like an eternity, this weekend will officially see the release of Morbius, a comic book vampire film based on the character from Marvel canon which, reportedly, is connected to the MCU (or at least the grander Marvel Universe that Sony is building out for itself with the characters it owns). Originally filmed in 2019 and set for a release in July of 2020, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as other factors involving the shuffling of Marvel/Sony films around the schedule overall, resulted in it being delayed multiple times. Since then, the film has garnered a bit of a bad reputation. Fair or unfair, its original trailer seemed to make the film out to look somewhat like a mid-2000s generic vampire film rather than a big-time comic book movie, and Jared Leto (who plays the “living vampire” as Morbius is so dubbed in the comics) doesn’t have the best track record with fans given his recent movie output and his tendency to be…weird on sets. Something that definitely did not help the film was also the fact that practically the exact same trailer, which many felt was lacking, ended up playing in front of major movies for essentially two years due to near-constant release date shuffling for the film on the part of Sony. The result is that, even prior to the movie premiering, many have seemingly already formed a relatively negative opinion about it.
As for me, honestly, I could care less. I have no connection to this character at all, I’m not particularly a Jared Leto fan, and I’m also not the biggest fan of vampire movies. Morbius just isn’t on my watchlist and I’d much rather be going to see The Lost City (since I missed it in theaters last weekend due to a cold) or be saving my money to see Sonic 2 (Paramount is really killing it this year!). That said, Morbius does find itself in an interesting place at the moment. As expected given the online discourse, the movie finds itself with dismal reviews, standing at 16% (yikes!) on Rotten Tomatoes, with a 3.8/10 average score to boot, and a 37 on Metacritic. Critics, with a few exceptions, generally seem to find the film dull and uninspired, and with the public sentiment towards the film generally low, one would think that the film is DOA. However, I feel compelled to mention another Sony-Marvel-adjacent film that also found itself on opening weekend with bad reviews and a dated feel to it that many seemed to dismiss outright based on trailers: Venom. Yes, it might be hard to believe (or maybe not), but the Venom films many love nowadays did not get off to a good start with the media perception of the character on film. Many were excited to see Tom Hardy as the character, but awkward CGI and a “late 90s” look to the film made many viewers apprehensive about enjoying the film, or at least, so we thought. Despite critics flashing the film with a Rotten Tomatoes score originally in the low-20%s (it now sits at 30%), audiences still ventured out to see the film, perhaps out of curiosity, and were pleasantly surprised to discover not a bloated, incoherent, sweaty mess of a film, but instead a surprisingly well-paced, purposefully retro, and darkly funny comic book movie rooted firmly in the appeal of Tom Hardy playing off himself as Venom. Public sentiment was so positive toward the film that it ended up opening to $80 million, clawing its way to $213 million domestically, and spawning a sequel that opened to an even bigger $90 million in the middle of a pandemic. Sufficed to say, Venom found itself in a similar situation to Morbius and managed to pull through, so there’s hope that Morbius can do the same.
All that said, none of that hope is mine. While I am certainly open to the possibility of Morbius overperforming, the character simply does not have the same level of recognition as a character like Venom, so I feel audiences will be less inclined toward it. With regard to how that will affect the box office, industry estimates came in surprisingly high at $40-50 for this weekend, but Sony is pegging the film at around a $33 million opening, doubtlessly undershooting the projection in the hopes of claiming a potential overperformance for Sunday. However, personally, I think they are right on the money. I see Morbius opening around $30 million, at best $33 million. I would like to be pleasantly surprised but truly, I see very little interest here, including from myself.
Okay, with that out of the way, on to stuff I’m more excited about, specifically The Lost City! Yes, we are very much interested in just how well the film is going to hold this weekend, and the odds seem to be in its favor to do well. As mentioned in last weekend’s post, Sandra Bullock’s films tend to have pretty good legs whether she is the big draw or if she’s part of a bigger ensemble. The Proposal (The Lost City‘s likely best comp) had fantastic legs of x4.88 while The Heat also had sizable legs of x4.08 with Ocean’s 8 managing a more than solid x3.37. Now, all three of these films saw themselves with differing second weekend drops which spelled out different potential box office trajectories overall. The Proposal held at around -45% for its second weekend while The Heat held on with an even stronger -37%, though the two of them would end their runs with roughly the same domestic totals ($163 million vs $159 million). Ocean’s 8, on the other hand, dropped -54% in its second weekend (still healthy) and ended its run with $140 million. Any of these trajectories would frankly be fine for The Lost City, as long as it reaches $100 million domestically. That said, when I think about it, I’m predicting The Lost City largely to follow The Proposal‘s trajectory given its construction, specifically being a rom-com starring a major male Hollywood personality (who excels comedically). That would give the film a -45% hold for a gross of $16.72 million in second place. I’d love to see it do even better, but for now, -45% works as the standard “strong hold”, especially when the movie is built purely on star appeal.
In third place, I’m predicting The Batman to hold with about a -40% drop for a gross of $12.2 million. This entry itself is a bit precarious position as estimates regarding its final worldwide gross have been dropping sharply over the past few weeks. Originally thought to be a likely billion dollar-grosser, a slowing of its pace at the international box office lowered those expectations to $800-900 million, while further slowing of the film domestically and, perhaps in larger part, speculation that the film’s imminent release on HBO Max might affect is box office now have several pundits saying it might not even make it past $700 million. I’ve previously detailed a “wait and see approach” to tracking the film’s performance, but I am curious to see if all this speculation causes the film to start to fall faster, especially since it reminds audiences that the film will be available on HBO Max for no extra charge on April 19th. I’m still convinced that it can at least make it to $800 million. but only time will tell.
Rounding out the top five are likely to be Uncharted and RRR. Uncharted has more or less settled into a good groove and will likely see a hold of around -25% for a gross of $3.75 million. This would take its domestic gross to about $138 million, virtually guaranteeing that the film hits $140 million in the next two weeks. After that, the question will be whether the film can hit $150 million. RRR, the South Indian epic that made a sizable impression at the box office last weekend, is likely to take that fifth spot, assuming of course that the film was not set for a limited “event” release (I’m highly doubtful of that given the fact that it’s from the director fo Baahubali and those films had multi-week runs). Now, as for just how much it will drop, it is difficult to determine a second weekend for a film like this given that, like anime films, Indian films tend to see relatively large second weekend drops, and not in a super predictable way. Some have dropped off in the 70%s, some have been highly anticipated, open big, and then drop off in the 60s, and others are slow-burners that actually manage relatively impressive holds in the 50s. Given Baahubali’s historic run, I feel it is safe to assume that RRR will fall into one of the latter two categories. Of course, the question then becomes which. In the summer of 2015, when Baahubali: The Beginning was released, that film actually found a solid audience and managed to hold quite well with -56% in its second weekend. This, along with two years in between for others to catch up on the prior installment, set the stage for Baahubali: The Conclusion to open with three times the gross of its predecessor in 2017, though it would see a steeper drop off of -68% in its second week. Given that director S. S. Rajamouli has become a prominent figure in the landscape of Teglu cinema, and that RRR took in $9.5 million (much closer to Baahubali 2‘s $10 million opening), I’m inclined to think a roughly -68% drop in order here, which would see RRR taking in about $3.04 million. Still, given that it is a new property, I am curious as to whether RRR just might hold even better as more discover it. Time will tell, but no matter what, RRR is still a sizable hit here in America.
As for the rest of the top ten, another foreign import, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 (assuming it doesn’t absolutely leave cinemas this weekend; unlikely given its continued box office strength), is likely to come in sixth place with $1.8 million off of another relatively steep drop of -60%. This will take it right up to the edge of $30 million domestically. Dog looks poised to take seventh place with a potential -40% drop (given the presence of The Lost City in the marketplace) and a gross of $1.28 million and will likely hit the $60 million mark domestically (we should expect the film to begin to bow out of theaters soon after). Eighth place is likely to be No Way Home‘s with another fantastic hold of likely around -25% and a gross of $1.5 million while Sing 2 is likely to take ninth place with a potential -15% drop and a gross of $1.16 million. Finishing off the top ten is, more than likely, X which I expect to fall around -55% for a gross of about $1 million.
As for the specialty market, we’ll specifically be looking to see how well Everything, Everywhere, All At Once does in expansion (it is set for a fully wide release on April 8th) as well as if any Oscar winners expand to take advantage of their newly minted “award-winning” status. CODA is reportedly being rereleased in around 600 theaters this weekend so I will be curious to see if the film’s grosses are reported as that theater count is enough to make a dent. Most Oscar winners, however, were released some time ago, have all but left theaters, and I’d be extremely surprised to see most of them return this weekend. It would be a smart move for many films as the weekend is relatively sparse with new titles, but the logistics of a rerelease might not be worth the trouble, particularly for films like The Eyes of Tammy Faye which was released back in September to terrible viewership. The only films I can see trying to take advantage of an Oscar boost would be the usual suspects, West Side Story, Drive My Car, and likely Encanto, since they are all still playing in theaters. The bigger question will be whether or not, in light of recent drama, King Richard will see a rerelease. I bet not, not only because of controversy but also because the film has just returned to HBO Max and Warner will likely want to drive viewers to watch it there. Still, who knows, maybe Warner Bros. is crazy enough to put it back in theaters; they say there is no such thing as bad publicity.