Box Office Oracle — 09/20/2019-09/22/2019

Welcome to the Box Office Oracle–where new movies are pitted against each other for box office supremacy and only one can claim victory. Each week, I will be doing a quick box office prediction for all wide new releases. Sorry, obscure indie films I’ve never heard of, but you aren’t going to be discussed here unless you become big.

This is also something I’m going to keep as free of “controversy” if I can. This means that if, I don’t know, Jon Voight is voicing an evil government agent talking bear in a DreamWorks movie, I’m not going to make a bunch of Trump jokes. If a Tom Cruise actioner comes out, I’m not going to make a bunch of Scientology cracks. You get the idea. I want for this to be kept fun and simple.

So, without any further discussion, let’s get into this weekend’s three big new releases, Downton AbbeyRambo: Last Blood and Ad Astra.

Downton Abbey 

This weekend we have three different releases which not only all have potential to be strong, but they also all have a shot at taking that precious number one spot. Of the three of them, tracking is working most in Downton Abbey’s favor, though in terms of comparisons, we don’t have much to work with here. The main reason for this is it’s a sequel to the primetime British soap which aired in the states as one of PBS’s Masterpiece shows, and there haven’t exactly been many big screen adaptations of those. What we can say is that Abbey was a big hit both internationally and stateside–it even topped Sherlock to become Masterpiece’s highest rated series ever–so the audience for this is definitely there. On the other hand, Downton Abbey also had a very happy ending overall, so whether or not fans are hungry for more remains to me seen.

My gut is telling me it will work primarily based off of the appeal of its characters, who people will enjoy the chance to visit again. I’m not sure how much the plot matters for a film like this–the short version is that the King and Queen visit Downton, with the usual amount of romance and drama involved both upstairs and down–but at the end of the day what is the big selling factor is the cast, as virtually every major player from the series is back for this outing. Reviews are also solid at 85% “fresh” over at RT, which should be enough to give Downton Abbey $23 million opening, though it could open a little lower or higher depending on how competition plays.

Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Go:  The swoon factor! The sheer likability of the characters combined with the aura of the chance to experience Downton in a theater should be enough to entice most fans into buying film tickets.

Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Stay Away: As previously stated, the series already had a great ending. And if you’ve never watched an episode of the show, there may be no reason for you to go to this unless a friend or partner is bringing you along.

Today’s Lucky Lotto Numbers: $23 million opening; $56 million finish.

Rambo: Last Blood 

Yes, there’s another Rambo movie in theaters, and no, no one was probably asking for it. But darn me if the trailer for this one isn’t exciting, using “Old Town Road” perfectly to amplify the tone and the adrenaline factor. In other words, this film looks better than many probably thought it would, but critics (no shock) are decidedly not on board here, giving Last Blood a bad 30% rating over at RT.

Is that going to hurt the movie in any way? Probably not much. Basically the target audience for this is getting exactly what they want here, with an aging Rambo living his life quietly until someone is stupid enough to piss him off, which leads to lots of as-whooping in gunplay, culminating in the drawing of last blood.

I hate, hate, hate using this kind of commentary in a box office column, but Lionsgate’s timing here seems to be hoping that Rambo will function as counter-programming to Downton Abbey, with men showing up for Sylvester Stallone’s latest as their wives go to the “female offering” of the week. Again, I absolutely hate using gender when it comes to this kind of discussion, as I myself go to more than my fair share of what would be considered “chick flicks.” Having said all of that, Last Blood should be able to eclipse the $18 million that 2008’s Rambo slaughtered during its opening, and should debut to $21 million (though, as with Downton, it could go a little higher or lower than that depending on how competition does).

Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Go: The fact that they went with the ridiculous title of Last Blood for a final Rambo film is enough for me to give it a slightly guilty recommendation.

Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Stay Away: Support this, and you might accidentally encourage Stallone to make an Over the Top sequel.

Today’s Lucky Lotto Numbers: $21 million opening; $45 million finish.

Ad Astra 

Once upon a time, Disney bought 20th Century Fox. Since that acquisition, not a single one of their releases has done particularly well at the box office, but all parties involved are hoping that changes with Ad Astra, and hey, Disney at least seems to be trying with the marketing for this one )which is more than could be said for Dark Phoenix earlier this year). Boosting up optimism is the involvement of Brad Pitt, who plays an astronaut send off into space to find his long-presumed dead father Tommy Lee Jones.

What I like here is that Ad Astra could satisfy those who have been craving some spectacle, combined with a mystery which looks pretty engaging to boot. Reviews are strong at 80% “fresh”, which bodes well for this kind of film, even if tracking is somewhat low with projections indicating it should land in the mid-teens. I’m going to be a little more hopeful than that, as positive buzz and overall good marketing should lift Ad Astra to around $20 million (so, yeah, I’m basically giving all three movies the same prediction this week).

Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Go: Brad Pitt remains a strong box office force, so don’t be surprised if tracking is completely wrong here and the film manages to top the box office this weekend.

Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Stay Away: Well-reviewed space operas don’t always fare well, as last year’s First Man proved.

Today’s Lucky Lotto Numbers: $20 million opening; $53 million finish.

Other fun stuff…

Downton Abbey was a traditional Masterpiece series in many respects, but it also had a surprising amount of character deaths. It was the sort of show where characters could be talking about estate affairs one minute and someone could be hurling out blood the next.

* One of the many things I loved about Downton Abbey was its affection for the non-glamorous couple, whether it was Anna and Mr. Bates or Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes. These are normal people who don’t need lust and sexual attraction to bring each other together; they are simply happy and content in each other’s company.

* Speaking of Anna and Mr. Bates, they really couldn’t catch a break during the series, so here’s hoping the movie is kind to them.

* May as well use this as an opportunity to say to please not post any spoilers about the movie in the comments.

* Jim Carter (who plays Mr. Carson) is awesome, and should be in more stuff.

* If you haven’t watched Downton Abbey, the following comment will be very confusing or even offensive: Isis is adorable.

* I’m kinda excited about the Downton Abbey movie, okay?