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Box Office Oracle — 11/01/2019-11/03/2019

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 four big new releases, Terminator: Dark  FateHarrietMotherless Brooklyn and Arctic Dogs.

Terminator: Dark Fate 

Falling into the somewhat new “genre” of the not-quite-sequel/not-quite-reboot is Terminator: Dark Fate, which finds Linda Hamilton (in her first movie in several years) returning to the role of Sarah Conner. Conner, of course, was dead in the original timeline for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and then played by Emilia Clarke in another “not-quite-sequel/not-quite-reboot” in 2015’s Genisys.

So what makes this one different, besides the involvement of Hamilton? Not terribly much, it seems, as this does look like a pretty typical Terminator outing. There’s nothing wrong about that as far as I’m concerned, but I don’t think things like an  R rating or even James Cameron’s name being featured heavily in the marketing are going to have a big impact on way or the other on this one in terms of receipts. Add to that some click-bait headline grabbing quotes by those involved (“It’s going to scare THE FUCK out of misogynists!”), and there’s something that feels sort of desperate about this one in terms of how the studio’s handling it, and I hate that it’s already being promoted as the start of a “new trilogy” when that’s already happened twice with this franchise.

And let’s be real: no Terminator film has done very well at the box office since T3, and that was back in 2003. Helping matters here are some pretty solid trailers, and a decent 70% “freshness” rating over at RT, but the fact that the general consensus seems to be that it’s “fine” isn’t going to do much for it in the hype department. Still, with no competition for the action market, look for $42 million, and whether or not that’s enough depends on how much this one cost.

Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Go: Outside of Salvation, I’ve liked all of the Terminator movies.

Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Stay Away: There is something rather cynical about these “sequels” which “undo” the events of what has been established canon. And “must-watch” buzz doesn’t appear to be happening here.

Today’s Lucky Lotto Numbers: $42 million opening; $101 million finish.


As awards season gets underway, so do the releases of movies hoping to claim such prizes, which brings us to Harriet, a biopic of Harriet Tubman. Trailers for Harriet have tried to make it look like an action thriller (something I doubt the movie actually is), with Focus Features giving it a fairly heavy marketing push. But this is a movie about slavery, and feel-bad subjects like that don’t usually make for blockbusters (well, except for Django Unchained).

What movies like Harriet depend on to get momentum are reviews, which have been “okay” at 71% fresh, but as is often the case with such films, some of those reviews may be praising Harriet Tubman the historical figure more than they are the movie itself. With no big stars behind it, Harriet should finish the weekend with about $8 million, though there is a chance of it overperforming.

Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Go: This looks like a pretty good biopic of one of history’s more under-served historical figures.

Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Stay Away: Slavery dramas are a very tough nut to crack. They can alternate between terrific cinema like 12 Years a Slave to vanity projects like The Birth of a Nation.

Today’s Lucky Lotto Numbers: $8 million opening; $31 million finish.

Motherless Brooklyn 

Oh hey, we have a second potential awards contender this week, this time in the form of a noir drama starring Edward Norton as a man with a rare mental condition which he is able to use to help solve crimes. So it’s sort of like Rain Man if it had been a gangster thriller, I guess. Also starring Alec Baldwin as the big bad, this does look like a nifty picture overall, with gritty and engaging trailers.

Fitting right in with the other new releases this week, reviews are “fine” for this one at 60% “fresh” over at RT, but what helps out this one if that there are some big name critics giving this one huge praise, while the overall reaction towards Harriet seem to be that it’s “good.” That said, this hardly looks like a “mainstream” release, and should open to about $5 million.

Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Go: Good marketing and a pretty sharp concept behind it are attractive points here. Plus the movie is the directoral debut of Edward Norton.

Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Stay Away: Are you going to do this instead of a new Terminator film? Probably not.

Today’s Lucky Lotto Numbers: $5 million debut; $22 million finish.

Arctic Dogs 

John Cleese voices an evil James Bond villain walrus who wants to take over the world by causing global warming and melting everything. Hey, be patient, John Cleese Walrus. In a matter of time, humans are going to do that on their own.

For better or worse, John Cleese Walrus appears to be a high point here, as even with a not-too-shabby voice cast (which includes Alec Baldwin on one of two movies he’s in this week), there is virtually nothing to make this into a hit. Tracking has Arctic Dogs at $5 million, but even that sounds kind of high for this one. Look for $3 million.

Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Go: John Cleese Walrus.

Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Stay Away: While I suppose something is to be said for an animated feature that addresses climate change (something the marketing has downplayed), this does look like one that can wait for DVD for many.

Today’s Lucky Lotto Numbers: $3 million debut; $14 million finish.

Other fun stuff…

* I wonder what the Terminator franchise would look like today if Salvation had been a better movie.

* Though it was well-liked by many, I wasn’t a big fan of last year’s “not quite reboot/not quite sequel” Halloween. In addition to “undoing” the events of Halloween II (which is easily the franchise’s most solid sequel), I also found it to be oddly conservative with its politics (liberal foreign journalists are killed, humane treatment of prisoners is mocked, “snowflake” father who refuses to use a gun is killed without anyone caring, etc.). Also, for something that was billed as the “end all” between Jamie Lee Curtis and Michael Meyers, it ended up serving as set-up for two sequels. Frustrating film for me.

* If you want a great Edward Norton movie you may not have watched, check out The Illusionist, which sort of works as more sentimental alternative to The Prestige (both movies, oddly enough, opened around the same time).

* What will you be doing this weekend? Sound off in the comments!