New year, new box office. After the past two years pushed past the $11 billion mark in domestic box office, 2017 has tough acts to follow. Still, let’s be optimistic: With a range of offerings that appeal to multiple audiences, it’s a good early sign.
Four films, maybe five, will likely gross over $15 million this weekend; two or three of those have a shot of crossing $20 million. A fourth weekend at the top for “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (Disney) isn’t certain, but neither is what would replace it. Fellow holdover “Sing” (Universal) is nipping at its heels, “Underworld: Blood Wars” (Sony) opens. And with Lionsgate’s hot “La La Land” doubling its screens, it could also end up in the mix.” (20th Century Fox) is expanding and “
Jonathan Olley..© 2016 Lucasfilm Ltd.
“Sing” has been edging closer to the daily totals for “Rogue One” (in recent days, it’s been running only 10 percent less). If it grosses half of last weekend’s $43 million total, it could find itself in a close race for #1.
Less predictable, but expected to perform well, is the expansion of “Hidden Figures.” Since its Christmas Day opening in 25 theaters, it’s been a strong and consistent player, particularly among (but not limited to) black audiences. It will amass around $3 million by the time of its expansion, with a chance to reach $20 million. The strongest performers with lead black characters tend to be comedies (“Boo!,” “Central Intelligence,” “Ride Along,” though “Straight Outta Compton” dwarfed them all). However, a late August opening of “The Butler” reached $24 million, so better than expected results are possible.
This weekend has become a traditional spot for horror counterprogramming and this year it’s “Underworld: Blood Wars,” the fifth in the vampire/werewolf franchise that dates back to 2003. Kate Beckinsale returns in the lead, this time coming off the best reviews of her career for “Love and Friendship.” This has already opened overseas to more than $45 million; at its reduced budget ($35 million, half of the last effort in 2012), Sony can afford a sub-$20 million opening weekend and come out OK. (Little noted in the media is that its first-time feature director, Anna Foerster, is a longtime collaborator with Roland Emmerich. She served as cinematographer on “White House Down” and “Anonymous,” in addition to extensive F/X work.)
The wildest card in the bunch is “La La Land,” with Lionsgate showing confidence in its hit musical by expanding to 1,500 from 750 theaters two weeks before its expected major Oscar nomination haul. That would normally be the date to push ahead, but with it already past $40 million, adding quickly makes sense. It could add $10 million this weekend and conceivably more to its ever-growing total.
Another expansion, also to about 1,500 theaters, is J.A. Bayona’s acclaimed monster/fantasy Spanish film “A Monster Calls” (Focus). Unfortunately, its awards-qualifying, two-city platform run drew very little interest other than from critics, or shown anything like the $28 million it has grossed in its native country.