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, Doctor Sleep, Playing with Fire, Midway, and Last Christmas.
With Terminator: Dark Fate basically bombing last weekend, the door has been opened for this quasi-sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining to break out. Then again, given that it’s based off a book that Stephen King wrote primarily to “reclaim” The Shining after spending years complaining about the film adaptation of it, it’s hard to know if what we’re getting is a follow-up to the movie or the novel here. The story features an adult Danny Thomas returning to the Overlook Hotel to deal with some ghosts who I’m sure are quite friendly, along with encountering a child who also shares his shining power.
Trailers and TV spots have been extremely good, doing a great job of inspiring curiosity in a film which many naysayers might have been eager to write off. Reviews are pretty solid at 75% “fresh” over at Rotten Tomatoes, but there’s still the issue of what exactly is being sold to audiences here. The novel is widely regarded as one of King’s worst, so if it’s a straightforward take on that, filmgoers may be quick to spread bad word-of-mouth. Still, that shouldn’t impact its opening much one way or the other, so look for $27 million.
Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Go: The movie looks scary and exciting. Plus The Shining might be the greatest horror movie ever made.
Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Stay Away: “Doctor Sleep” sounds like Doctor Strange’s very boring brother.
Today’s Lucky Lotto Numbers: $27 million opening; $84 million finish.
Playing with Fire
Okay, I probably should be saying that this movie looks terrible, but gosh darn it, it has too many people I like in it in order for me to do that. John Cena plays a hardass firefighter who doesn’t like kids, so naturally he’s stuck babysitting several of them after his team rescues them. Again, I should be saying this looks like crap, but Cena’s just so damn likable that I find myself laughing at the trailer. I should be lamenting over its big selling point being a little girl shitting her pants, but then John Cena tweets about how the movie features a ton of My Little Pony references, and suddenly I’m won over. And heck, it has Keegan-Michael Key (doing exaggerated hand gestures which are actually kind of funny) and John Leguizamo, and those guys make anything they’re in better by default.
Of course critics are enjoying roasting this movie with as many flames as they can, but at the end of the day, they don’t do much to hurt a film like this. This is harmless slapstick family comedy in the vein of Paul Blart: Mall Cop, so it should enjoy a solid box office reception, at least until Frozen II comes out. $20 million sounds about right.
Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Go: Among life’s great certainties are death, taxes, and John Cena being one of the most charming men on the planet.
Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Stay Away: “Boom, boom!”
Today’s Lucky Lotto Numbers: $20 million opening; $71 million finish.
Falling into the “they just don’t make ’em like that anymore” category is Midway, a World War II actioner focusing on the battle of its namesake. This looks old school in a Captain America kind of way, and while critics aren’t overly enthusiastic, I suspect audiences are going to give it a very high CinemaScore. That said, the release date is odd here–it’s basically being sandwiched between Terminator and Charlie’s Angels–and it doesn’t help matters that it comes to us from Lionsgate.
Can Midway still take flight? That depends on if it can benefit from Veteran’s Day weekend. The cast is certainly nice here, and the aerial battles look great, so there is a chance this one could break out. I just wish it had more marketing going for it. Look for $14 million, which wouldn’t be terrific for a film which probably has a $100 million price tag.
Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Go: This looks like a pretty good film, hearkening back to the older days of cinema.
Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Stay Away: Red Tails failed to fly high at the box office despite having the very best of intentions.
Today’s Lucky Lotto Numbers: $14 million opening; $53 million finish.
Arriving on a busy weekend is a romantic comedy which probably would’ve been a guaranteed hit only a few years ago. Alas, the genre has been struggling greatly theatrically in the era of The Hallmark Channel. Heck, even the last rom com to break out big–Crazy Rich Asians–did so largely because of its cultural humor more than anything. Can Last Christmas emerge victorious despite all of that?
Here’s the good news: no Game of Thrones cast member saw a bigger career boost from that series than Emilia Clarke, so her having the leading role here as a recovering alcoholic looking for love during the holidays is a big boost (even if you’d be forgiven for mistaking her for Emma Watson here). I also like that the trailer offers some extremely gentle crass humor to go along with its sweetness. Unfortunately, too much competition is going to prevent this from opening too big, but since it’s a Christmas movie, it could prove to be quite leggy if people like it. Look for $11 million.
Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Go: I fucking love Christmas movies.
Why Your Fortune Cookie Tells You To Stay Away: I will say that even though she has a writing credit, the casting of Emma Thompson as Clarke’s mother makes no sense as she looks nothing like her.
Today’s Lucky Lotto Numbers: $11 million opening; $65 million finish.
Other fun stuff…
* Without giving too much away, I found Terminator: Dark Fate to kind of be a mess. It doesn’t work as a “sequel” to T2 since it’s not a continuation of that story, and all it does as a so-called “bold” relaunch is have the exact same plot with the exact same goal as the previous films. Also, it takes Arnold more than an hour to show up. I do not expect this one to have legs.
* Speaking of Emilia Clarke, her Terminator movie was at least a lot more fun than Dark Fate (which has an obscenely violent prologue which more or less puts a bad taste in the audience’s mouth).
* My go-to response every time someone tries to “defend” The Razzies to me is to mention that The Shining was nominated for two of them. The Razzies fucking suck.
* I’m a tad late to the party, but I did finally go to Zombieland 2. While not as funny as the first film, it’s extremely enjoyable (make sure you stay for credits).
* What will you be doing at the movies this weekend? Sound off in the comments!