The holiday box office season, that two month box office period starting the first full weekend of November and continuing to the very end of the year, kicks off this weekend with four new wide releases. Unfortunately, the season looks likely to kick off with a lukewarm start, as four movies are on track for underwhelming openings of varying degrees.
The biggest opener this weekend, Terminator: Dark Fate, takes another swing at reviving the Terminator franchise, this time with Linda Hamilton making her first return to the franchise in 28 years. While reviews for the film have been more positive than the last two attempts in 2009 (Terminator: Salvation) and 2015 (Terminator: Genisys), the film has had difficulty building buzz – there are only so many times you can try to convince audiences to give a franchise another chance. The film opened in some markets last weekend to underwhelming numbers, and the US market seems likely to repeat that. Tracking has the film at $40 million, but I would peg it at $32 million
Meanwhile, Focus hopes to jumpstart the Oscar chances for Harriet with a box office over-performance this weekend. The film quietly premiered near the end of TIFF last month with solid reviews, which have remained positive if not passionate (73% on Rotten Tomatoes, 66 on Metacritic). Still, the first theatrical release about the life of Harriet Tubman, one of America’s greatest heroes, is the kind of thing that should sell itself with relative ease, even if its star, Cynthia Erivo, is not yet a household name. Focus does not do immediate wide releases for their prestige films very often, but they did find success last year when they released BlacKkKlansman into 1,512 theaters last August to a $10.8 million weekend. Harriet will probably not go as high as that film, but with an opening theater count of 2,056 theaters, the film would make a solid $9 million.
The last two major releases are, for the most part, non-events. Arctic Dogs is the latest release from Entertainment Movie Studios, an animated film hoping to capitalize on the downtime between Disney releases. But despite a wide release of over 3,000 theaters, the movie is unlikely to get past its direct to video look, and will have to settle for a $5.5 million weekend. Finally, Motherless Brooklyn drops in an estimated 1,250 theaters, and looks likely to be another adult drama bust for Warner Bros. after The Goldfinch‘s flopping in September. Expect an opening in the $2.5 million range.
Among the wide release holdovers, expect Maleficent and Joker to have decent weekend holds, particularly Maleficent with the lack of serious family competition. Among the platform releases, The Lighthouse see a small weekend drop as it increases its theater count to 978 theaters, while Parasite and Jojo Rabbit inch closer to a nationwide release with 456 and 256 theater counts respectively. Expect all three to land in the $2-2.5 million range, with Jojo and Parasite both having outside shots at their first weekends in the top 10.
1. Terminator: Dark Fate – $32 million (NEW)
2. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil – $12.4 million (-36%)
3. Joker – $12 million (-38%)
4. Harriet – $9 million (NEW)
5. The Addams Family – $6.7 million (-44%)
6. Zombieland: Double Tap – $6.3 million (-47%)
7. Arctic Dogs – $5.5 million (NEW)
8. Black and Blue – $4 million (-52%)
9. Countdown – $3.5 million (-61%)
10. Motherless Brooklyn – $2.5 million (NEW)
Parasite – $2.3 million (+25%)
Jojo Rabbit – $2.3 million (+120%)
The Lighthouse – $2.2 million (-27%)