With $88 million last weekend, “Logan” (20th Century Fox) made the case for a March box office rebound. “Kong: Skull Island” (Universal) should maintain that momentum, though not at quite the same level.
With a production cost of $190 million (double the “Logan” pricetag), “Kong” will need major worldwide appeal to justify the expense. Produced by the now-Chinese-owned Legendary Pictures, who are coming off the shaky “The Great Wall,” the new film ticks all the boxes for a hit.
It’s a massive production, familiar enough for traction but still fresh (particularly for foreign viewers), and sufficiently similar to other hits (see: “Jurassic Park” franchise). And, there’s enough intelligence in the directing and acting talent to suggest a good critical reaction. The director is Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who made his debut at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival with “The Kings of Summer;” the cast includes Tom Hiddleston, Oscar-winner Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, and Samuel L. Jackson.
If the opinions of other studios counts, the production earned enough respect to earn an exclusive berth as this week’s sole wide opener. Despite that, it still could be in a race for the #1 spot with “Logan.” Even with a 50 percent drop, the R-rated Marvel Wolverine smash would still gross $44 million.
Working in the favor of “Kong” is the market hasn’t seen a PG-13 “thrill ride” entry since “Rogue One” nearly three months ago. Legendary went down this road three years ago with their “Godzilla” redo (whose director, Gareth Edwards, went on to direct “Rogue One”). With “Kong,” Legendary again took a chance on a young director who’s never attempted a project of anything like this scale. However, initial reviews suggest Vogt-Roberts added a welcome off-beat sensibility that steers “Kong” from being a standard reboot.
That said, estimates of around $50 million would place “Kong” far short of both “Logan” and the early guesses for “Beauty and the Beast,” which opens next week. Compared to “Godzilla,” which opened to $93 million in 2014, it’s lagging. Will foreign make up the difference? The template here could be “The Legend of Tarzan,” which opened to only $38 million but did enough worldwide to scrape by despite a similarly high budget.
“Logan” has already made over $100 million and the $5 million-budgeted “Get Out” (Universal) should pass that mark with another expected strong hold. The rapid pace of 2017 releases to hit $100 million, and the variety of titles involved, is an increasingly positive sign for business. And early estimates have “Beauty and the Beast” opening over $100 million.
The limited-release scene gets some needed action this weekend Among them are a couple that could get beyond modest returns.
Lionsgate will open CBS Films’ “The Sense of an Ending,” made in England by India’s Ritesh Batra (“The Lunchbox”). It stars Jim Broadbent (with Charlotte Rampling in a smaller role) as a man in his old age retracing school-day events that still haunt his life.
IFC has Cannes 2016 Best Director Olivier Assayas’ “Personal Shopper,” which reteams him with Kristen Stewart. Focus World (normally a Video on Demand unit, but going the theatrical route this time) has the French cannibal thriller “Raw,” also a Cannes premiere last year. And Magnolia is releasing “My Scientology Movie,” a British hybrid documentary with former members recreating what they saw inside the church.