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Box Office Preview: Will Melissa McCarthy’s ‘The Boss’ Beat ‘Batman v Superman’?

Box Office Preview: Will Melissa McCarthy's 'The Boss' Beat 'Batman v Superman'?

Superheroine Melissa McCarthy looks to displace two superheroes this weekend. The producer-writer-star’s “The Boss” (Universal) is the major opener this week. If results follow expectations, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (Warner Bros.) will drop to second in its third weekend, continuing its precipitous decline.

Thursday night previews for “The Boss” took in just under $1 million, below two of McCarthy recent output, but double her first solo lead outing “Identity Thief.” That February 2013 release went on to gross $34 million on its first weekend. With new McCarthy vehicles a regular event, “The Boss” lacks the thrill of the new that boosted “Identity,” so anything close to that take would be a surprise. But somewhere between $25-30 million could be enough to land it the top spot.

“The Boss” is McCarthy’s fifth lead comedy role since her breakout success in “Bridesmaids” five years ago (along with smart supporting roles in “St. Vincent” and “This Is 40”). Three of the four have grossed over $110 million, and all— despite mainly negative critical response— have impressively managed to gross around four times their opening weekends. That’s the definition of a movie star. She’s audience-friendly and utterly critic-proof. And she’s pulling women, who are often put off by bad reviews on opening weekends. 

McCarthy’s previous four starring films have opened to between $39 million (“The Heat,” paired with an even bigger star, Sandra Bullock) and $22 million (“Tammy,” like “The Boss,” directed by her husband Ben Falcone). Expect the weekend figure to come in somewhere between these numbers, with over $30 million not out of the question. The only recent comedy to score has been “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” two weeks ago (also Universal), which opened to $19 million. The R rating for the usual raunchy McCarthy content gives it a bit different appeal, but could also widen its audience.

McCarthy’s comedy foil is Kristen Bell, who other than her “Frozen” voice role hasn’t shown much box office strength. But her clean image as a former assistant who helps to humanize her tyrannical ex-boss could add appeal (playing a similar role to Anne Hathaway’s in “The Devil Wore Prada”). Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”) plays McCarthy’s arch-rival and ex-boyfriend. Throw in Universal’s usual ability to maximize marketing and a less-competitive play date, and the outlook looks upbeat for a strong opening.

For both “The Boss” and “BvS,” their position isn’t as important as the actual gross. If “BvS” drops 50% and does $25-26 million, whether or not it achieves three straight weeks at #1 (“Deadpool” and “Zooptopia” are the only other films to take the top spot in the past two months), Warners should be happy. But after “Bvs”‘s high-end (but not unprecedented) 69% fall last weekend, even a 60% third week drop ($21 million) would suggest continued mixed response and a lower than expected final domestic total. The drop will give an indication whether despite its front-loaded opening it will ultimately gross on the level of “Deadpool” ($375 million likely) or “Zootopia” ($350 million possible).

Through Tuesday, “BvS” had taken in $268 million, huge for 12 days, but likely the bulk of its ultimate total. Based on weekday grosses, $20 million or even lower (more than 60%) is possible. “BvS” grossed $2.7 million on Thursday. Based on usual third weekend multiples from a second Thursday with most theaters holding, “BvS” should do somewhere around $24 million. If it tops that by much, and “The Boss” hits the low end of expectations, it could still eke out a “win.”

The other new wide release is stunt-fest “Hardcore Henry” from enterprising newcomer STX. Their two films since they debuted with “The Gift” haven’t equaled Joel Edgerton’s thriller and its decent $44 million haul. They did manage to hit $36 million for recent horror entry “The Boy,” like “Henry” aimed at a younger audience looking for a variation on genre themes. They acquired worldwide rights for the film (besting at least two other studios) for $10 million after the film premiered at Toronto last September. “Henry” is told by a first-person character perspective (a rare device still best known from the 1940s Raymond Chandler adaptation “The Lady in the Lake”) of a man back from the dead having no memory of his past.

Even with a 3,000-plus theater release and a clear field, the offbeat nature of this first feature and lack of big names makes guessing its take more difficult. Figure $10 million or more to be quite good, but like “The Gift” and “The Boy,” word of mouth could help sustain a better than average longer run. And with less than normal marketing expenditures and international rights, the upside seems to be positive for STX even if it opens a bit lower. Its late evening previews brought in $380,000.

Even with a 40% fall (more than what is likely), “Zootopia” (Buena Vista) would tally around $12 million, which could make it no worse than third. “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” and “Miracles from Heaven,” both holding well so far, should outpace last weekend’s #4 “God’s Not Dead 2” (Pureflix), which has lagged behind both since the weekend.
Strong performing niche releases “Eye in the Sky”(Bleecker Street) and “Hello, My Name Is Doris” (Roadside Attractions) both add a few runs (up to 1,089 and 978 respectively). Warner Bros. is pushing “Midnight Special” to 493 theaters (+435) while last week’s opener “Everybody Wants Some!!” from Richard Linklater and Paramount jumps to 63 (+44). “Miles Ahead” (Sony Pictures Classics) adds 21 to its initial four.

Two other Toronto premieres open this week, neither platformed, but opening via alternative routes shaped by their potential prospects. The biggest impact in theaters will be “Demolition” (Fox Searchlight), the festival’s opening night film (usually helmed by a Canadian director). Quebecois Jean-Marc Vallee has had three straight initially limited opening successes: “The Young Victoria,” “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Wild.” This one stars Jake Gyllenhaal, who continues to seek out dramatic roles with an edge from directors who have had recent acclaim. Here he plays a recent widower whose life is unraveling.
Searchlight is following the same pattern from April last year when they opened 2015’s other fact-based journalism expose “True Story” with Jonah Hill and James Franco to far less success than the later “Spotlight.” That opened to just under $2 million in 831 theaters, a little under the 850 projected for “Demolition.” Both films were not well-reviewed, likely leading to this mid-level wider release. In this case, Gyllenhaal’s recent credibilty with recent efforts like “Southpaw” should yield better results.
Focus (through its Focus World offshoot, but the same team) is releasing “Mr. Right,” coincidentally the Toronto 2015 closer, in 35 theaters but mainly on Video on Demand (a plan already in play at the time of its premiere). The romantic comedy costars Anna Kendrick and Sam Rockwell.

Three new limited releases stand out in terms of theater placement and/or review attention going into the weekend. The Orchard has “Louder Than Bombs,” the first American film from Norwegian Joachim Trier. This played in competition at Cannes almost a year ago, and later Toronto. A strong ensemble led by Isabelle Huppert, Jesse Eisenberg, Gabriel Byrne, Amy Adams and David Strathairn carry this drama about a father and two sons dealing with the aftermath of the death of their war photographer wife/mother. It has the top theater placement among new openers in New York and Los Angeles.
Drafthouse has Karyn Kusama’s “The Invitation,” a thriller set at a dinner party where mysterious forces threat. Kusama (“Girlfight”) hasn’t had a new feature since “Jennifer’s Body” in 2009. This premiered over a year ago at South by Southwest. It scored two top theaters — Manhattan’s IFC Center and Los Angeles’ Arclight Hollywood among its 12 dates — along with its Video on Demand showings.
More limited but getting the best reviews of the week is the Brazilian “Neon Bull,” set it at a back country rodeo. It received strong critical reception at Venice and Toronto last year, and is opening exclusively from Kino Lorber at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Manhattan venue.

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