This Veteran’s Day weekend sees the release of four new wide releases all tackling very different audiences, but only one is making a serious play at topping the weekend box office. Releasing in 3,855 theaters, Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep is hoping to court horror fans for some post-Halloween thrills. Based on King’s sequel novel to his classic The Shining, this adaptation is also acting as a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation of that novel (despite King’s frustrations with that adaptation), utilizing iconic imagery from that film in the marketing. That adaptation made $44 million when it was released, and adjusts to over $147 million today. Sleep seems unlikely to reach those heights, with buzz around the movie relatively muted despite solid reviews (73% on Rotten Tomatoes, 60 on Metacritic). Expect an opening around $24 million, on par with the Pet Sematary remake from this past April.
While Doctor Sleep is hoping that moviegoers will want to take in some belated Halloween scares this weekend, Last Christmas is banking on moviegoers wanting to take in some holiday cheer three weeks before Thanksgiving. Not that opening a Christmas movie in early November is anything strange – just one year ago this weekend, Universal released Illumination’s Grinch to a strong $67.6 million. Since the holiday season lasts only to the end of December, studios want to get their holiday-themed movies out as early as possible, banking on strong legs to carry the holiday movie through the month of December – this is what The Grinch did, with multiple weekend drops of less than 25%.
Universal hopes to repeat that leggy magic this year with Last Christmas, but there is a question of whether the movie will even open high enough to convince theaters to keep it until December 25. The film’s lead, Emilia Clarke, is a household name thanks to her portrayal of Daenerys on Game of Thrones for eight years, but this will be her first time anchoring a film that is not based on a bestselling book (Me Before You) or a part of an ongoing franchise (Terminator: Genisys, Solo: A Star Wars Story). An original film like this would usually rely on critical acclaim to give it a boost, but reviews have been mixed at best (45% on Rotten Tomatoes, 49 on Metacritic). Still, it’s the first romantic comedy to receive a wide release in ages (I believe Isn’t It Romantic from February is the last one?), so there might be a place in the market for the movie to thrive, with an opening weekend of $14 million.
Meanwhile, Lionsgate hopes to take advantage of the Veterans Day holiday this weekend with the release of their war epic Midway. The studio saw success in early November three years ago when Hacksaw Ridge opened to $15.2 million bfore finishing with a $67.2 million domestic total, and is probably hoping for similar success with Midway. Unfortunately, despite an all-star cast and a $100 million budget (about 2.5 times bigger than Hacksaw‘s reported budget) reviews for Midway are significantly weaker than Hacksaw, and buzz as a result is a lot more muted. Look out for a $12 million weekend.
Finally, Playing with Fire doesn’t seem to be attaching itself to any recent or upcoming holidays, but that’s not the only reason the film looks set for a box office under-performance. Starring John Cena, the film is a new entry in the “put a big action star in a kid-friendly environment” that brought success to Arnold Schwarzenegger (Kindergarten Cop), Vin Diesel (The Pacifier), and Dwayne Johnson (The Game Plan, The Tooth Fairy). However, Cena has never reached the star level of any of those actors, and these kind of live-action family comedies have fallen by the wayside in theatrical release. An $8 million opening sounds about right.
Holdovers: The four new openers will be pushing a lot of the smaller holdovers out of theaters, but with Veterans Day on Monday, expect some decent holds for the older films that can hold onto their screens, particularly Joker, Maleficent, and last weekend’s breakout Harriet. October’s two big art house hits, Parasite and Jojo Rabbit, will also officially expand into wide release this weekend. Parasite will bring its theater count to 603, giving it the widest release for a foreign language film in America since Un Gallo con Muchos Huevos in September 2015. Jojo Rabbit will expand into 798 theaters, which should put it just outside the weekend’s top 10.
1. Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep – $24 million (NEW)
2. Last Christmas – $14 million (NEW)
3. Terminator: Dark Fate – $13.5 million (-54%)
4. Midway – $12 million (NEW)
5. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil – $9.2 million (-29%)
6. Joker – $8.9 million (-34%)
7. Playing with Fire – $8 million (NEW)
8. Harriet – $7.6 million (-35%)
9. The Addams Family – $5 million (-40%)
10. Zombieland – $4.1 million (-45%)
Jojo Rabbit – $3.5 million (EXPANSION)