Thu. Sep 24th, 2020

Box Office Preview: ‘Maleficent’ and ‘Zombieland’ sequels hope to defy their belated releases

While October has not normally been home to event movies outside of the occasional horror hit, last year’s trio of hits from Sony (Venom), Warner Bros. (A Star is Born) and Universal (Halloween) showed that the month can easily be fertile ground for a potential breakout hit. This year Joker and The Addams Family have further demonstrated that, and this weekend Disney and Sony hope to continue that streak with two belated sequels.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is opening five and a half years after the original film, which was Disney’s biggest non-Marvel hit of 2014, making over $750 million worldwide. That original film was relatively well-received, and marks the second attempt by Disney to produce a sequel to one of their animated re-imaginings. The first one, Alice Through the Looking Glass, paints a potentially worrying picture for Mistress of EvilLooking Glass dropped significantly from its predecessor, going from a $1.025 billion worldwide gross for the 2010 original to a $299 million gross for Looking Glass. Granted, the original Alice was boosted upon release by the popularity of 3D, while Maleficent seems to have endeared more positively in the public eye. Still, a decline from the original’s $69 million opening seems likely. I would pin the movie at a $40 million opening weekend.

The weekend’s other sequel, Zombieland: Double Tap, comes after an even longer hiatus, a whole ten years after the original film release on October 2, 2009. That film was a surprise breakout, becoming the highest grossing zombie film of all time (World War Z has since surpassed it). A sequel to that film that had come out two or three years afterwards would have been an easy breakout to call, but with ten years passed, demand for a follow-up has dwindled. The advertising campaign has been light on plot, mostly focusing on the chemistry of the original cast and introductions of some new characters, making the whole endeavor feel a little inconsequential. Still, reviews have been kind to the film (currently at 73% on Rotten Tomatoes), it’s the first R-rated comedy release in a while, and being Halloween-adjacent will probably help the movie out with casual moviegoers looking for something holiday-appropriate. An opening around $21 million sounds about right.

In limited release we have two new platform releases hoping to capitalize off of hot festival runs. Jojo Rabbit will open in five theaters in NY and LA, after winning the People Choice’s Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, a prize that is usually the harbinger of a solid box office run. Of the last ten English-language winners, half of them had an opening per-theater-average of at least $80,000, and all but one of the ten films went on to gross at least $45 million domestic. While Jojo‘s reviews have been divisive, the film’s writer-director-co-star Taika Waititi has developed a passionate cult following in recent years, and the film’s playing-with-fire satirical angle on Nazis can help bring out filmgoers curious to see if the film pulls off the balancing act. I’m predicting a per-theater-average of $85,000 from its five theaters for a $425,000 weekend, with the potential to go even higher.

The other new limited release, The Lighthouse, is director Robert Eggers’s follow-up to his hit horror film The Witch. With black-and-white photography and an academy aspect ratio, Lighthouse will be a much more difficult sell to mainstream audiences. The film was a massive success when it premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival, although the reception has become a little more divisive in North America. Still, the film should be able to find an audience in limited release, as it opens in seven theaters this weekend, where it should make about $350,000 ($50,000 PTA) before going into semi-wide release next weekend.

Holdovers: After its jaw-dropping -41.9% hold last weekend, Joker hopes for another expectations-defying hold. Maleficent and Zombieland will be slightly stronger competition than Addams Family and Gemini Man, but another strong drop around 40% seems likely. Addams Family will likely feel the heat of Disney competition, while Gemini Man will need to hold out hope that the movie’s 84% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes is indicative of good word-of-mouth.

1. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil – $40 million
2. Joker – $33.5 million
3. Zombieland: Double Tap – $21 million
4. The Addams Family – $14.4 million (-46%)
5. Gemini Man – $11.5 million (-44%)
6. Abominable – $3.5 million (-43%)
7. Downton Abbey – $3.2 million (-35%)
8. Hustlers – $2.2 million (-44%)
9. Judy – $2.1 million (-34%)
10. IT: Chapter Two – $1.9 million (-40%)

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