Wednesday, April 17, 2019

In Laman's Terms: Summer 2019 Box Office Predictions (Part Two)

In Laman's Terms is a weekly editorial column where Douglas Laman rambles on about certain topics or ideas that have been on his mind lately. Sometimes he's got serious subjects to discuss, other times he's just got some silly stuff to shoot the breeze about. Either way, you know he's gonna talk about something In Laman's Terms!

OK, it's time for the second part of my Summer 2019 Box Office Predictions. While the first part of this column saw me predicting what would be the ten biggest movies of the summer, this go-around I'll look at every single movie scheduled to open in wide release this summer and place them into one of three columns: Likely Hits, a place for films whose box office success seems assured, Wild Cards, a place for films whose box office future seems cloudy, and Potential Misfires, a place for films likely to underperform at the box office.

Let's kick things off with a look at Summer 2019's...

Likely Hits
In his first live-action star vehicle in three years, Seth Rogen, alongside Charlie Theron, will face off against the second weekend of Avengers: Endgame with the romantic-comedy Long Shot. Rogen isn't foolproof at the domestic box office and this one's being released by a studio (Lionsgate) without a ton of experience in releasing romantic-comedies,  but so far it looks like there's enough positive buzz and appealing marketing to make this one a success. Opening the same weekend is The Intruder, a thriller starring Michael Ealy, whose last six movies for Sony/Screen Gems all opened over $20 million. Don't be surprised if that trend continues here. Also bowing the first weekend of May is El Chicano, a superhero film that's generating strong advanced online buzz that could translate into this one being the first major sleeper hit of the summer. In the third weekend of May, John Wick: Chapter 3: Parabellum (what a clumsy title!) arrives and actually seems like a surefire bet at the box office given how well-liked the first two installments are. Opening against it is The Sun Is Also A Star, which will likely continue the hot streak modestly budgeted YA-novel romantic drama adaptations have been on lately between Love, Simon and Five Feet Apart. 

For the first time in a few years, we actually have a bunch of different wide releases opening over Memorial Day weekend instead of just one or two big blockbusters. Neither BrightBurn or Booksmart are likely to break the bank but they're cheaper projects that so far look poised to do solid business over the holiday weekend. Right after Memorial Day weekend, Ma seems to have all the ingredients in place to become the next Blumhouse sleeper hit. One of the two titles wrapping up June 2019 is Annabelle Comes Home, the newest Conjuring title that will likely end up beneath the domestic haul of the past two Annabelle movies due to it facing more competition, but these Conjuring movies are so cheaply made that they're guaranteed moneymakers. The high-concept romantic-comedy Yesterday, meanwhile, is also bowing that weekend and seems like it has the potential to be a major sleeper hit. People love The Beatles, the ads make it look upbeat and sweet and the premise is unlike anything else opening this summer, those all seem like elements that could take its box office gross to the next level.

Opening against the newest Spider-Man movie is Midsommar, a new horror movie from the director of Hereditary. Opening five days after an Annabelle sequel is a risky move, but there should be enough room for two horror movies over a holiday weekend. The following weekend,  the Chadwick Boseman vehicle 21 Bridges arrives and though the marketing has yet to kick off for it (I imagine STX Films is waiting to drop a trailer on Avengers: Endgame), it sounds like the kind of Tony Scott cat-and-mouse thriller that the marketplace hasn't had in a while. Keep an eye on this one, it could surprise us all. Also opening that weekend is the Kumail Nanjiani/Dave Bautista action comedy Stuber and its memorable first trailer and the rising profile of each of its two lead actors are two critical factors that make it seem like a likely solid performer for Disney/Fox. Though it's hard to say if it can match up to the box office hauls of the biggest Quentin Tarantino movies, if a grimy non-mainstream movie The Hateful Eight can still manage to crack $50 million domestically then it'd be a shock if Once Upon A Time In Hollywood ended up grossing under $100 million domestically.

Moving into August 2019, Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark is based on widely beloved source material and its popular trailers and Super Bowl ads are already generating plenty of buzz. Finally, Warner Bros./New Line Cinema have a lot of confidence in Blinded By the Light (pictured above), to the point that it became one of their rare Sundance purchases in the last decade. Debuting in wide release over the same weekend WB used to launch Crazy Rich Asians to box office glory last year, Blinded By The Light doesn't have to match the domestic haul of that Constance Wu vehicle to be a hit. Clearing $50 million would more than triple WB/New Line's $15 million purchase of the title at this year's Sundance festival. The strong reviews its generated and its broadly appealing premise make it seem like that $50+ million domestic mark could be easily achievable. Finally, Overcomer, the newest film from the directorial duo behind War Room and Courageous, is likely going to follow in the footsteps of those previous directorial efforts and strike box office gold at the end of the summer.
Wild Cards
The second weekend of the summer brings a couple of movies whose box office prospects seem tailor-made for this column. For starters, I have no clue where Uglydolls could go at the box office. STX Films has little in the way of experience marketing family movies and the premise could come off simply as Trolls-lite to viewers. But STX is giving the film a major marketing push that includes a whole lot of notable singers promoting the project, maybe that'll be enough to get it to success. Can the combination of Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson make The Hustle one of the early comedy break-out hits of the summer? The last two comedies opening over Mother's Day (Snatched and Life of the Party) could only crack $45.8-53 million, we shall see how close to those domestic totals The Hustle gets.

Poms is also opening over Mother's Day weekend in an attempt to replicate the success of last May's sleeper hit Book Club. The names aren't as well-known in this one and the gags in the trailer aren't as memorable as the one in Book Club's trailers though, so we shall see if Poms can also find box office glory. Also bowing that weekend is Tolkien, the first Fox Searchlight filmed released by Disney. J.R.R. Tolkien is a well-known figure whose story seems like it could work for a commercially appealing biopic drama but the marketing's been oddly quiet for this one and could lead to it getting trampled by the other mid-budget new releases debuting at the start of May. Moving onto June 2019, Late Night has two well-known and well-liked lead actors (Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson) but the first trailer was awkwardly put together and it's yet to be seen if Amazon Studios can successfully launch lucrative wide releases. In the second weekend of June we have Men in Black International, an attempt to keep that Men in Black series going with new leads. The last three Men in Black movies were remarkably consistent in their domestic box office performances and reuniting the two leads of the beloved feature Thor: Ragnarok is a stroke of genius but it seems like audiences have given the marketing for Men in Black International a mixed response so far. In the realm of Sony/Columbia's recent attempts to take titles from their library and turn them into modern franchises, we shall soon see if this one is the next Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle or the next The Girl In The Spider's Web.

Opening the same weekend as Men in Black International is Shaft, a sequel to the iconic Shaft series. Following up on beloved movies is a good way to ensure financial success in the summertime but so far, the marketing's emphasis on broad comedy seems to have drawn a mixed reaction from audiences. There's a lot of horror films opening this summer (a sharp contrast to last summer which felt oddly on the genre) and it remains to be seen if there's enough space for original horror feature Crawl, though the promise of grisly crocodile mayhem could be enough to make it stand out in the marketplace. An original drama starring primarily comedic actors like The Kitchen is gonna sink or swim based on its marketing, though its unique premise and its lead performer, Melissa McCarthy, just scoring a high-profile Oscar nod bodes well for it. Good Boys certainly has a distinct comedic premise to its name, but advanced mixed reviews for the title make one wonder if it can stand out in an August that isn't lacking in light-hearted material. It feels like even kids weren't clamoring for The Angry Birds Movie 2 but completely underestimating the surprisingly durable Angry Birds brand feels like a fool's errand at this point.
Potential Misfires
The lowest opening weekend for any X-Men movie is the $53 million bow of The Wolverine. Does this summer's Dark Phoenix end up going lower? Probably thanks to a lackluster marketing campaign and a lack of goodwill from the last stand-alone X-Men movie, Apocalypse (which opened to $65 million). Also opening in June is Anna, the newest Luc Besson movie, which Lionsgate seems to be trying to burn off in a quiet fashion by kicking off the marketing only two months before its release. The only trailer that's out there makes it look derivative and it's unlikely to stand out in a marketplace that's far from devoid of action movie options. Opening against Anna is Child's Play, one of three killer doll movies opening over a span of six weeks this summer. Horror remakes have a toxic aura around them in the modern era as audiences seem to prefer sequels to beloved horror classics like the newest Halloween movie and that, combined with opening a week prior to a new Annabelle movie, will likely kill off buzz for this new take on Chucky.

Speaking of killer doll movies, Brahms: The Boy II is an unexpected sequel to the January 2016 movie The Boy, which doesn't seem to have inspired anywhere near enough goodwill to warrant a sequel. That alone seems like a major box office hindrance, though the fact that it'll have to face a barrage of horror movie competition in August also doesn't help. Opening on the last day of July is Dora and the City of Gold, an adaptation of Dora the Explorer that looks utterly bizarre at this stage given that the marketing is eschewing any and all elements people associate with the famous character. That, plus opening just twelve days after The Lion King, will likely lead to this one coming up short at the box office. The same fate is likely in store for fellow family movie Artemis Fowl, a feature Disney seems to have forgotten about completely given that they haven't produced a new piece of marketing for it in nearly five months. Though the books on which its based are popular, it feels like their time has come and passed while Disney's marketing just makes Artemis Fowl look like any other live-action fantasy movie. 47 Meters Down: Uncaged is a sequel to a 2017 sleeper hit shark movie and it feels doubtful the first one produced enough fans to make this one a franchise.

Joel Kinnamon crime thriller The Informer has such generic marketing so far that it feels destined to flop in its August 2019 release while Where'd You Go, Bernadette, despite having a star-studded cast, feels like it'll perform more like Operation Finale than The Help when compared to the box office performances of past August dramas. Finally, Angel Has Fallen is the newest installment in the Olympus Has Fallen saga. Lionsgate/Millenium scored a late August sleeper hit with The Hitman's Bodyguard two years ago but given that Gerard Butler has nowhere near the box office clout of Samuel L. Jackson, it's doubtful Angel Has Fallen soars.
And now, for the first time ever in the history of this annual column, let's look at movies that are supposedly scheduled for wide theatrical releases this summer but either don't look like they'll make their release date or don't have official summer 2019 release dates yet. First, there's the long-delayed The Current War, which does indeed appear to be on track for a wide release in August courtesy of newbie distribution company 101 Studios. Next, we have two 20th Century Fox titles, Ad Astra and The New Mutants. Disney confirmed they plan to give both films theatrical releases at their CinemaCon presentation two weeks ago, but there's no way either film makes their current May 24th and August 2nd (respectively) release dates. Meanwhile, STX also has two films that may or may not make it into the summer 2019 schedule. The Dave Bautista comedy  My Spy has a trailer out and I keep seeing an August 9th date attached to it, but STX has yet to confirm a date for it. STX also has domestic distribution rights to Playmobil: The Movie, which was originally scheduled to bow August 16th domestically via the now defunct distributor Global Road. It remains to be seen if STX plans to keep it on that date. Finally, the long-delayed animated family movie Animal Crackers has been, according to the official Facebook page of its director, given an August 30th release date. Its domestic distributor, Entertainment Studios, has not officially announced this release date though so we shall have to wait and see if Animal Crackers finally sees the light of day in a domestic theatrical release.

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