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Box Office Preview: ‘Abominable’ Opens Wide as ‘Judy’ Opens Oscar Season

This weekend also brings Steven Soderbergh's "The Laundromat," the new Takeshi Miike, and theatrical pit stops from A24 and IFC before VOD.

Judy

Renee Zellweger in “Judy”

Roadside Attractions

After a week that saw the success of three wide-release openings with “Downton Abbey,” “Ad Astra,” and “Rambo: Last Blood,” we are back to one this week with “Abominable” from DreamWorks Animation. The isolation is the industry’s nod to “Joker,” which opens October 4 and is expected to dominate the month. It’s also a matter of happenstance: Once upon a time, “The Hunt” was expected to open September 27.

A late-September date isn’t unusual for animated features. Sony launched its “Hotel Transylvania” franchise similarly, in anticipation of Halloween. Last year, Warners launched “Smallfoot” to $23 million. And there hasn’t been a major cartoon feature since “The Lion King” more than two months ago.

However, those considerations aren’t the main drivers. This Himalaya-set, Chinese coproduction opening in the Middle Kingdom on a prime period there and the $75 million film is expected to find much of its bounty there. Domestically, the estimate has been around $20 million, which would make it the second-lowest DreamWorks Animation opener.

Even so: Animated titles often overperform, so don’t rule out it placing #1. Its competition is the second weekend of “Downton Abbey,” which has a shot at $20 million in its second weekend. Expect “Ad Astra,” “Hustlers,” “Rambo: Last Blood” and “It: Chapter Two” to each score around $10 million.

With the other holdovers, and new limited entries, expect a total gross somewhere around $90-$110 million. The same weekend last year amassed $105 million. (Apart from “Smallfoot,” the other opener was the comedy “Night School,” which was #1 at $27 million.)

Judy

Judy

Roadside Attractions / screencap

Limited openings

Judy (Roadside Attractions)

Telluride and Toronto screenings established Renee Zellweger as the early frontrunner for the Best Actress Oscar (a position held by Glenn Close this time last year) with this Judy Garland biopic. Roadside, as they have frequently done with high-pedigree, easier-to-market releases, will open in around 450 theaters nationwide. They will have most top-end specialized theaters, along with a range of high-end screens in upscale and older-audience areas. Among festival and awards releases, the high end for Roadside openings was “Love and Mercy,” which grossed $2.1 million. With less competition, this could have higher potential.

Netflix

The Death of Dick Long (A24)

The Day Shall Come (IFC)

The Laundromat (Netflix)

Until very recently, these three films would have been platform openers with slow art-house expansions. Instead, the releases are meant as loss leaders in advance of their respective home-viewing outlets (VOD and Netflix).

Going day and date in 25 theaters is “The Day Shall Come.” Starring Anna Kendrick, this British production made in the Dominican Republic is a comedy about a preacher who dreams of revolution in his homeland who becomes enmeshed with an FBI investigation. It premiered at SXSW, and sits with 71 (favorable) Metacritic score.

A24 will open Daniel Scheinert’s Sundance-debuted “The Death of Dick Long” in a handful of theaters, including heavyweights like the Arclight Hollywood (though only with three shows). Scheinert also co-directed A24’s 2016 “Swiss Army Man,” which opened in three theaters before quickly expanding, with an ultimate $4.2 million gross. Both films are black comedies (this one, about band members dealing with the sudden death of a colleague while in rural Alabama); this one will head out to VOD on Oct. 7, 10 days after release.

Steven Soderbergh’s “The Laundromat” will have the longest lead time before its October 18 streaming debut, three weeks after its limited theater play. The first of multiple Netflix films that will get advance theater dates to the extent possible (most theaters refuse to consider them), its dates include key New York and Los Angeles Landmark locations. After Venice and Toronto showings, it stars Meryl Streep as a widow who probes insurance fraud at a firm headed by Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas. It received tepid reviews (58 on Metacritic); as usual, we don’t expect to get grosses.

First Love Takashi Miike

First Love (Well Go USA)

The Golden Glove (Strand)

The best and worst reviews among leading limited openers this week both come from veteran directors. “First Love” from cult director Takeshi Miike has made around 100 genre features. This one, about a boxer and hooker involved in a drug smuggling plot in Tokyo, premiered at Cannes, then showed at Toronto. It has a 78 Metacritic score, and opens initially in New York and Los Angeles before expanding next week.

“The Golden Glove” is the first film for Fatih Akin after his acclaimed “In the Fade” (which won the Golden Globe for Foreign Language Film last year, though missed an Oscar nod). That terrorist revenge thriller did modest business. His follow up, about a German serial killer, saw a poor response at Berlin last February. It opens at New York’s IFC Center.

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