With “Logan,” 20th Century Fox seems to have done it again. The new Wolverine sequel is the second Marvel project with an R-rating — and, like Fox’s 2016 Marvel hit “Deadpool,” it will be the first blockbuster opener of the year.
“Logan,” starring Hugh Jackman in his most familiar role as the X-Men character, premiered at the recent Berlin Film Festival, received excellent reviews (currently 93% on Rotten Tomatoes), and is directed by James Mangold. In addition to directing “Wolverine” in 2013, Mangold came out of the indie world (his 1995 debut, “Heavy,” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was acquired by Miramax) and later directed best-actress Oscar winners in “Girl, Interrupted” and “Walk the Line.”
The two most recent “X-Men” films opened on a Memorial Day weekend, to $91 million (2014) and $66 million (2016). The first and second standalone “Wolverine” movies had initial weekends of $85 million (2009) and $53 million (2013), respectively. All had the then-standard PG-13 rating for Marvel Comics films.
Of course, Fox parlayed its R-rated “Deadpool” into a $132 million opening weekend just over a year ago. That film felt original, with a tonal shift (comedy, some romance), and had the good fortune to open on a combined Presidents and Valentines Day holiday weekend, with limited competition. For “Logan,” a figure about half as good would still be strong — and that’s before the anticipation of massive foreign returns.
The competition, such as it is, won’t pose much of a threat. “The Shack” (Lionsgate), an adaptation of a faith-based best-selling novel, stars Sam Worthington (“Avatar”) and “Hidden Figures” Best Supporting Actress nominee Octavia Spencer. It’s expected to earn $10 million or a little more — not bad for this genre.
“Before I Fall” (Open Road) will likely make only half as much, at most. From Sundance veteran Ry Russo-Young (“Nobody Walks”), it stars Zoey Deutsch as a teen mysteriously reliving day of her sudden death for a week. It’s received some favorable reviews, but it’s also the kind of film that’s lately struggled to gain traction.
Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” is headed to a strong second weekend. This week has been terrific, with $9 million added Monday and Tuesday. Strong word of mouth, combined with the best reviews for any wide-release, post-awards season film, should propel this to over $20 million this weekend. Eventually, it will cross $100 million — on a $5 million budget.
In the mix will be the post-Oscar “Moonlight” (A24) victory lap, which expands to 1,500 theaters and its widest release to date. (Previously, it had only one week in over 1,000 theaters). This comes after the film added home viewing options, and exhibitors are making an exception from their usual reluctance to play with VOD and DVD/Blu-Ray availability. It should spark some business, but less than it would have without the home-viewing alternatives.
Although “La La Land” (Lionsgate) won six Oscar out of its 14 nominations, its unexpected (and startling) best-picture loss could put a damper on the length of its remaining run. However, no immediate home options are planned.
Among limited releases, the 2017 Sundance-premiered “The Last Word” (Bleecker Street) has the best theater placement in its initial New York/Los Angeles dates. It stars Shirley MacLaine as an aging former business exec who works to shape her obituary before her perhaps near-term demise. Around this time last year, another comedy with a veteran actress, “Hello, My Name Is Doris,” was a surprise specialized success, so this has precedent.