Box Office Oracle — 10/18/2019-10/20/2019

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 two big new releases, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and Zombieland: Double Tap.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil 

Originally set for release next summer, Disney surprised the press earlier this year by announcing that their sequel to Maleficent would open in mid-October instead. This was a very…odd move for a big budget movie targeting a family audience. Why do that when it will almost certainly leave some money on the table? The answer could be Disney’s upcoming streaming service, which launches in November. In other words, even if  Maleficent: Mistress of Evil doesn’t do as well in theaters as it could, it can still serve as yet another way to advertise Disney+ in the near future.

Having said that, we’re definitely not going to see the numbers we saw for the original Maleficent here. That film not only opened to $69 million when it opened in May of 2014, but it was leggy, managing to wrap things up with more than $240 million in the bank (and $700 million worldwide). That’s not bad for a movie which went through reported production hell (to the point where there was a switch of directors at the last minute) and fared pretty badly with critics, many of whom being eager to write it off as a bomb before it was even released. Not a remake so much as a revamp, Maleficent reworked the story of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty to make its title character into the good guy, which makes the “Mistress of Evil” subtitle on the sequel rather confusing.

Not that I could exactly tell you what the plot is from the trailers. Basically Maleficent is upset because her goddaughter Aurora is getting married, and she doesn’t trust romance because of what happened to her in the first movie (which was…a rape allegory), so she turns against Aurora’s probably evil mother, and then…fairies kidnap her or something? So yeah, you could maybe argue that Maleficent wasn’t exactly begging for a follow-up, but everything at least looks pretty here, and the original did have fans. I’m just not sure if it had enough of them to turn what was intended as a summer release as a mid-October hit. Tracking has the sequel at around $50 million, but I’m not feeling that optimistic, especially as it has to deal with the second week of The Addams Family. Look for $37 million.

Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Go: The first Maleficent fell into the “fine” category for me.

Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Stay Away: Again, the timing makes no sense here other than to boost Disney’s streaming service, and I don’t think trying to sell it as a”Halloween movie” will work (and, no, comparing it to last year’s Halloween reboot breaking out doesn’t fly, as that was an R-rated slasher film going for a very different crowd).

Today’s Lucky Lotto Numbers: $37 million debut; $93 million finish.

Zombieland: Double Tap

Pretty much the definition of a pleasant surprise, 2009’s Zombieland was a sleeper hit, winning over critics and audiences alike with its mix of heart and twisted humor. Absolutely hilarious from start-to-finish, it was 82 minutes of pure bliss, so a sequel was inevitable. Kind of.

Delays galore became involved–the most notable of which due to that doomed Amazon Prime series with no returning cast members which no one watched–meaning that here we are, a decade later, with the follow-up finally arriving. Everyone from the first film is back for this round, along with some new faces, including a scene-stealing Zoey Deutch as an idiot who has somehow managed to survive the zombie apocalypse.

On paper, the 70% “freshness” might not sound great, but it’s actually outstanding for a long-postponed sequel like this one, and should give it a solid boost with audiences. In fact, Zombieland actually beat Maleficent  during preview screenings last night, and while I don’t think it will take the top spot, I do expect it to beat tracking, and it should open to around $24 million.

Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Go: The original Zombieland was terrific, and the return of these sarcastic characters is extremely welcome.

Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Stay Away: Zombies have been everywhere for a long time. Hell, there have already been at least two quirky zombie comedies released this year alone.

Today’s Lucky Lotto Numbers: $24 million debut; $79 million finish.

Other fun stuff…

* Next week, we finally have a horror movie actually opening in October, as Countdown tries to be The Ring for the cell phone generation.

* I’m late with this already, so I’ll shut up now. Have a good weekend!