Box Office Check-In! May 20th-22nd! A Quick Look at Multiverse of Madness and Downton Abbey: A New Age Before tomorrow!

Dropping in to see how the box office is doing this weekend, all eyes continue to be on Multiverse of Madness to see how well it legs out. After a huge drop of -67% last weekend, akin to that of the -69% second weekend drop for that of Batman vs Superman, a stronger hold (closer to -40-45%) would’ve been necessary to pull the film out of free fall (similarly to that of Spider-Man: Homecoming, which fell in high 60th percentile in its second weekend, only to then rebound and leg out well through the end of the summer). Personally, I don’t see the film doing all that great, though I did predict around a -50% drop (on the higher end of expectations given the lack of competition this weekend) for a gross of $30 million. Sadly for Doctor Strange, it seems that I was being too optimistic as estimates are rolling in closer to $26-27 million for the weekend, a drop closer to -56-57%. Indeed, it seems that Batman vs Superman really is the best comparison here as Multiverse of Madness is starting to peter out pretty fast after a strong opening weekend. To be clear (once again), it’s not flopping as the momentum from the opening gross will pull it past $350 million domestic and it will finish with at least $850 million worldwide, but that does not meet the level of hype that this movie was receiving, especially coming off of Spider-Man: No Way Home. There is an argument to be made that this was “just another Doctor Strange movie” (and in that regard, it is succeeding wildly as it will make at least $200 million more than its predecessor), but the inclusion of the Scarlet Witch, the multiversal elements, and those cameos all set the bar very high for the film by turning it into a Civil War-style event. Furthermore, No Way Home, despite bringing in Doctor Strange and its own set of cameos, was firmly and solely rooted in the appeal of Spider-Man and his cinematic history and mythology as opposed to Multiverse of Madness which heavily leans on the expanded mythos of the MCU. The fact that No Way Home topped $1 billion in that regard (Christmas release notwithstanding) while Multiverse of Madness is likely to struggle to make it there is disconcerting, especially as the MCU continues to lean more heavily into interconnectivity between character storylines; not only across multiple films but also the TV shows. Hopefully, Multiverse can pull out an upswing midway through the weekend.

Likely to come in second place will be Downton Abbey: A New Era, a film that I have admittedly only been anticipating as a challenger to The Lost City‘s crown as the big female-focused movie of the year. Fascinatingly enough, however, I’m inclined to think that not many people are anticipating Downton Abbey at all. The promotion for the film has been quite good with lovely trailers and NBCUniversal (which owns Downton Abbey production house, Carnival Films) utilizing its entire portfolio of corporate assets, including networks like NBC, USA, Bravo, E!, and Oxygen, as well as its streaming capabilities with Peacock, to increase awareness for the film (the original film was even rerun on NBC this week and continues to play this weekend on Bravo).

Now, to be fair, the original film was a major success but also helped by a specific set of variables. Based on the acclaimed and highly popular British period drama, Downton Abbey naturally catered to older moviegoing audiences, particularly women, who are usually very underserved in the theatrical market. On top of that, the film was released four years after the end of the original series, thus audiences had been given the time to “miss” the cast and the world of Downton, making them all the more eager to return to that world when a new installment of the story was released. Finally, the fact that the film was a continuation of a beloved TV series added its own kind of “special sauce”. When you really stop to think about it, we rarely see shows get that kind of treatment anymore; in fact, is usually the other way around as far as reboots go. As of late, when we actually do see TV shows turned into movies, the movies that result are usually either taking themselves much too seriously or, more often, not seriously at all, instead opting for a more meta-commentative tone that that relies on nostalgia either as a crutch or for parody. Downton Abbey, on the other hand, recalls a time when films based on TV shows firmly rooted themselves in the appeal of the show itself, bringing back members of the original cast and crafting a story that would fit within the world and tone of the show, just with higher production values. Think of Mission Impossible, the original Star Trek films, and even something like The Simpsons Movie where in each case, the film is essentially a signifier of the shows enduring impact and popularity. These days many will complain that certain TV-to-movie adaptations just “feel like an extended episode of the show”, but in the case of Downton Abbey, that is clearly what fans wanted and what they got. The result of this was a surprisingly large $31 million opening, a domestic haul of $96 million, and a worldwide total of $194 million. Is it any wonder we have a sequel releasing this weekend?

All that said, the fact is that this sequel, while well-reviewed and looking like as pleasant an outing as the last one, doesn’t have all those same factors going for it. Yes, there’s three year time gap between the films, but that was more so a result of the pandemic than the studio actually wanting fans to “miss” the world (Lord knows after it took three years to even plot out an idea for the original film, the speed at which this film went into production is remarkable) but otherwise, A New Era lacks the same novelty of seeing the Downton Abbey TV show on the silver screen of the first time. As a result, there was always going to be a drop between these two installments and A New Era was definitely not going to reach the same $30 million heights as the first. In that regard, the question becomes, where is it going to land? Reportedly having taken in $7.58 million on Friday, industry estimates have the film pegged at $18 million for the weekend. Personally, I find that to be a bit low as with Multiverse of Madness skewing younger and Lost City not being at the height of its powers, A New Age should be able to serve as solid counterprogramming and draw older moviegoers who are starting to return to theaters. That said, with how little awareness there seems to be for the film (my own parents, both of whom are fans of show, did even know it was coming), $18 million would not be surprising, but I am going to be an optimist and say it will catch a nice windfall and hit $20 million by the end of the weekend.

As for third and fourth place, The Bad Guys and Sonic 2 continue to stand side by side. I’d predicted The Bad Guys to hold by -30% for a gross of about $5 million and Sonic 2 to have the same hold for a gross of $3.25 million. Interestingly enough, with Friday grosses coming in, it looks as though both are doing even better and are on track to make about $5.4 million and $3.85 million respectively. Fifth place, meanwhile, is likely to be home to this weekend’s other new entry, Men, A24’s newest film and the latest project from Alex Garland of 28 Days Later, Ex Machina, and Annihilation fame. Given A24’s recent major success with Everything, Everywhere, All at Once (which we’ll get to in a moment), I had high hopes that Men would deliver. The story follows a young woman (played by Oscar nominee Jessie Buckley, one of the best actresses to break out in the past six years) who retreats to the rural English countryside to rest and recover from the tragic suicide of her husband only to be stalked by a malevolent presence embodied by multiple men in town (all played eerily by Rory Kinnear). Despite the fact that it looks to be another stylish, somewhat opaque, and less commercial offering from the indie studio, I figured that its horror trappings and A24’s business savvy would allow them to propel it to at least $5 million at the box office, coming in between The Bad Guys and Sonic 2. Alas, I clearly was thinking too much of this title as with a Friday gross of $1.4 million, the is looking at a $3.5 million debut. In retrospect that makes a lot of sense given that while Alex Garland is an acclaimed writer and director (Ex Machina and Annihilation are each masterful works of sci-fi in their own rights), he’s never been a major box office draw (case in point, while Dredd, which he wrote, is considered one of the best pieces fo sci-fi filmmaking of the past decade, it was a major box office disappointment). Combined with the fact that Jessie Buckley is not particularly well-known to general audiences (though she absolutely should be; or at least well as well known as her contemporary, Florence Pugh) and that Rory Kinnear is a familiar face but not a draw, Men was destined to be cult theatrical play and find traction down the line when it becomes available to rent. Perhaps that is A24’s plan here, but it is a bit of a disappointment when considering how well they did with Everything, Everywhere, All at Once. Speaking of that gem, it officially passed $50 million domestically (!) and is looking to come in sixth place with $2.82 million.

Finishing off the top ten, I’m expecting Fantastic Beasts 3 to continue with another strong hold in its penultimate weekend before it hits HBO Max. Expect around a -45% for a gross of $1.4 million in seventh place. FireStarter should take a massive tumble with at least a -65% for a gross of $1.33 million as it is evacuated from theaters as fast as possible, so expect it in eighth place. Ninth place will be where I am paying particular attention this weekend as I am expecting The Lost City to end up there. It’s no secret that I am desperate to see The Lost City hit $100 million domestic, and I am particularly curious to see if any more theaters start dropping in as it is now available to stream on Paramount+ (as well as rent outright). Even with it dropping last weekend, the Paramount+ availability didn’t really dent it all that much and it has already made it $98.8 million. I’m predicting a drop of -35% and gross of $1.1 million, which means it will likely hit $100 million sometime mid-week. Rounding out the top ten will likely be The Northman which should be commended for holding on this long. I predict it to drop about -45% for a gross of $957K as it tumbles out of the top ten forever.

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