In recent years, the first two weekends of May have belonged to Disney and Marvel as competition fears not only the opening-weekend impact but also the second-weekend aftershocks. Thus, the second weekend becomes something of an orphan, with total business way down from its predecessor. This year is no exception.
Jodie Foster’s Wall Street thriller, "Money Monster" (Sony), will seek older viewers intrigued by stars George Clooney and Julia Roberts, while "The Darkness" (Focus), Jason Blum’s first horror film of 2016, will fill the spooky-movie void; the last one was "10 Cloverfield Lane" two months ago.
"Civil War" should gross at least $70 million this weekend, down about $100 million – a standard drop. Last year, "Avengers: Age of Ultron" took in $77 million its second weekend, from an even bigger start ($191 million). "Civil War" has grossed about the same as "Ultron" during the weekdays so far, making a similar fall off likely.
Still, let’s put Marvel’s dominance in context: It’s likely to quadruple the projections for the two new entries, combined.
International marketing influenced Sony’s "Money Monster" date, which parallels the film’s world premiere as a special screening at the Cannes Film Festival. With some key European markets opening Thursday (including France) and others shortly thereafter, it’s an unparallelled moment for media attention.
As a comp, Wall Street drama "The Big Short" earned $63 million overseas, just below its domestic $70 million domestic gross. "Wolf of Wall Street," with Martin Scorsese and lead Leonardo DiCaprio, did about 70% of its worldwide total overseas.
Clooney is no DiCaprio in terms of draw, international or domestic, but his adult-audience films like "Hail, Caesar," "The Descendants" and "Up in the Air" have done equally well at home and abroad, despite the strong American storylines. For Roberts, recent mid-level successes "Mirror, Mirror" and "Eat, Pray, Love" scored more than $100 million in foreign returns.
The target audience for “Money Monster” likes to read revies, so the mixed critical response has dampened domestic expectations. Budgeted at $27 million, it’s unlikely to earn more than $10 million this weekend, which could see it swiftly forgotten among the recent mass-appeal recent releases.
"The Darkness" is Blum in his wheelhouse – low-budget, cut-above horror movies released through his overall deal with Universal. Focus, Universal’s specialized division, handled this one under its High Top genre label. (Eli Roth’s "The Green Monster" went this route last year, to a tepid $3.5 million.) Universal provided the marketing money and Blum’s people oversaw the overall campaign, which heavily relied on social media to reduce costs and hit the target market.
The film has no early reviews, but it’s directed by Australian Greg McLean, whose 2005 "Wolf Creek" was a film festival hit; Dimension pushed it to a $16 million total. The cast includes Jennifer Morrison (TV’s "House") with Kevin Bacon, Radha Mitchell and Paul Reiser in a story about a family that returns from a Grand Canyon vacation with an unwanted supernatural souvenir.
Blum hopes to open to about $5 million across 1,750 screens. It’s a modest goal; it would take only $4,000 per theater to reach $7 million. Using similar marketing methods, STX managed nearly $11 million in January with its sleeper horror release "The Boy,", so Blum could easily top his low-ball prediction.
Among specialized releases, four stand out. Whit Stillman’s latest "Love & Friendship" (Amazon/Roadside Attractions), which premiered at Sundance in January, shares the best New York/Los Angeles theater placement with "The Lobster" (A24), the first English-language film from Greek director Yorgos Lantimos, whose "Dogtooth" was an unexpected Oscar Foreign Language nominee a few years ago. Both films have received some of the highest praise for any 2016 release to date.
Stillman’s early successes ("Metropolitan," "Barcelona") established him as a keen observer of upscale youth. His last film, 2012’s "Damsels in Distress," was a disappointment for Sony Pictures Classics with barely $1 million in grosses. "Love & Friendship," based on the Jane Austen novella “Lady Susan,” stars Kate Beckinsale as the title character. Austen’s work remains a popular dramatic resource – sometimes far afield ("Austenland," "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”) — but her period adaptations often work.
"The Lobster" debuted in competition at Cannes last year. Colin Farrell leads a cast that includes John C. Reilly, Lea Seydoux, Rachel Weisz, and Ben Whishaw in a contemporary romantic fable where single people are segregated with the choice of either mating or picking out the animal they wish to become. Like last week’s decent opener, "A Bigger Splash" (Fox Searchlight), it’s targeted outside the more conventional films that appeal to older audiences.
British director Terence Davies is back with "Sunset Song," a romance set in a rural Scottish community, just before and during World War I, where a late-teen girl manages to transcend the rigors of her childhood. Like most of Davies’ films, it blends lyricism, social commentary, and strong sexual tension. Davies’ last film,"The Deep Blue Sea" (Music Box), won Rachel Weisz best actress from the New York Film Critics Circle. It opens at three major New York/Los Angeles venues, as well as Toronto.
"The Monster With A Thousand Heads" (Music Box), which opened Wednesday in New York at two theaters, is a 74-minute Mexican film about a woman driven to extremes as she encounters insurance problems while tending to her critically ill husband. It is showing at two of Manhattan’s best remaining theaters for subtitled films, the Lincoln Plaza and Film Forum.
Also opening, after multiple weeks on VOD, is Ben Wheatley’s thriller "High-Rise" starring Tom Hiddleston (AMC’s "The Night Manager") and Jeremy Irons. This has strong initial placement for a VOD title, as well as some good reviews. Also, "The Last Days in the Desert" (Broad Green), which premiered at Sundance 2015, opens in eight cities. With Ewan McGregor as Christ, it’s the latest from Rodrigo Garcia ("Albert Nobbs"). Its release includes heavy marketing to faith-based groups.