It’s been a rough year for 20th Century Fox since their merger with Disney was finalized, with box office performances that have ranged from adequate (Breakthrough) to disappointing (Ad Astra) to flat-out disastrous (Dark Phoenix). However, following the first November weekend without a $20+ million grosser in 20 years, the studio could help revive what has thus far been a dreary month and reverse their post-merger woes with the release of Ford v. Ferrari.
Granted, it’s not easy to find positive precedent for a Ford v. Ferrari breakout, both in the type of movie it is and the recent box office history of the stars of the movie. Cars have been the center of a couple of successful franchises (the Cars and Fast & Furious franchises), but one-off movies focused on cars are few and far between these days. The closest recent comparison is Ron Howard’s Rush, another true-story racing film that was a non-event in America, grossing just under $27 million total. Meanwhile, Christian Bale’s track record as a box office draw outside of an ensemble or franchise title is spotty at best, while Matt Damon is still recovering from a rough 2017 with three major critical and financial disappointments (The Great Wall, Suburbicon, Downsizing).
That said, there are positive signs for a breakout this weekend. The film had a successful premiere at Telluride at the end of August that helped kickstart Oscar buzz for the movie, and reviews for the film have been very positive, with a certified fresh score of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 77 on Metacritic, both of which are among the best scores for its two stars in recent memory, and are the best reviews for a wide release since Ad Astra and Hustlers in September. The marketing has also been aggressive and to-the-point, selling an underdog story and intense car racing action. Expect an opening weekend around $24 million.
The weekend’s next big release, Charlie’s Angels, might have a bumpy road ahead. The first tracking numbers a few weeks ago had the movie opening in the mid-teens, and the numbers have only gotten worse. The Elizabeth Banks-directed feature is shaping up to be another failed brand revival on Sony’s part, after the box office disappointment of Men in Black International this summer. Granted, reviews have been much stronger than that film, while still being a bit mixed (65% on Rotten Tomatoes, 52 on Metacritic), and probably won’t be enough to get the movie an opening weekend much above $13 million.
The weekend’s last new wide release, The Good Liar, looks to have an inconsequential start. The rare starring vehicle for stars Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren has received mixed reviews (61% on Rotten Tomatoes, 57 on Metacritic), but the two stars can be low-key draws in the right vehicle – McKellen gave Roadside Attractions one of their biggest hits ever with Mr. Holmes ($17.7 million), while Mirren had two modest hits a few years ago in Woman in Gold ($33.3 million) and The Hundred Foot Journey ($54.2 million) despite similarly tepid reviews. It will compete with Ford v. Ferrari for older audiences, but it should pull in a solid $8 million opening.
Holdovers: With three new releases all aimed at older audiences, expect adult-aimed holdovers Midway and Doctor Sleep to experience steep drops, while the more family-aimed Playing with Fire and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil should have one more solid weekend before Frozen II sucks up that audience.
1. Ford v. Ferrari – $24 million (NEW)
2. Charlie’s Angels – $13 million (NEW)
3. Midway – $9.5 million (-47%)
4. The Good Liar – $8 million (NEW)
5. Playing with Fire – $7.9 million (-38%)
6. Last Christmas – $6.9 million (-39%)
7. Doctor Sleep – $6 million (-57%)
8. Joker – $5.9 million (-37%)
9. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil – $5.7 million (-32%)
10. Terminator: Dark Fate – $5.2 million (-52%)