After a very strong Presidents Day weekend propelled by the opening of “Sonic the Hedgehog,” things will settle down — way down. It’s likely to fall short of the same weekend last year, with two new openers that will gross substantially less than weekend two of “Sonic.” Disney’s “The Call of the Wild” should take the #2 spot, easily ahead of the “Brahms: The Boy 2” (STX). But the 20th Century Fox-produced Jack London adventure story starring Harrison Ford, which is expected to gross under $20 million, maybe in the neighborhood of $10 million, and it comes with a cost of as much as $125 million. Unless the film has enormous longer-term appeal plus major foreign interest, that’s disappointing.
Through Tuesday, “Sonic” grossed over $74 million. A fifty percent fall from its first three-day total of $57 million would give it a second weekend around $28 million; a little higher is more likely. The $85 million-budgeted film, Paramount’s first breakout success since the last “Mission: Impossible,” is in the early stages of foreign release, where it’s also doing well. This is positioned to become a potential franchise for Paramount, which it badly needs.
Disney now directly distributes the Fox films it acquired. (Through late last year, they were handled by a parallel staff of holdovers.) The brand now fills a niche similar to Screen Gems at Sony or Pixar at Disney. Going forward, we’ll refer to those films by the entity that distributes them.
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In this case, “The Call of the Wild” even sounds like a Disney movie — although it’s not franchise-related like nearly all core Disney releases. It’s not only a family-oriented story, but like so many Disney live-action films, it’s also a PG-rated adaptation of a well-known classic that features animals and relies on CGI to enhance visuals. It’s almost like the Fox team set out to make a Disney film prior to the merger. (Of curious coincidence: In 1935, a Clark Gable-starring version of this novel was the first release from the newly merged 20th Century and Fox studios).
The film is directed by Chris Sanders, who comes out of Fox Animation and the “How to Train Your Dragon” series and was executive producer of last year’s entry, “The Hidden World.” That title opened exactly one year ago, to $55 million, and that’s why this weekend will reflect a year-over-year box-office decrease. Reviews for “Wild” are not expected to be the decisive factor in how it plays, but they’re mediocre (54 on Metacritic). Ford has a stellar box-office track record, but it’s mainly the story that will determine its fate.
“The Boy” was an early low-budget success for STX that opened to $10 million, which is the high end of expectations for this sequel. Brahms is a life-sized doll that wreaks havoc on a second family after they move into the same English mansion that hosted the original film. Katie Holmes joins the cast this time around. Like the original (which ended up with $35 million, a decent total for its cost), this is PG-13. That sometimes can limit interest with core fans, but since it worked before, staying steady makes sense.
“Birds of Prey” should place between “Call” and “Brahms,” in third place with around $10 million. That will get it to around $75 million — hardly great, but just enough to make it frustrating for D.C. Comics since it likely won’t justify a sequel. “Bad Boys for Life,” which approaches the $200 million mark, will battle “Brahms” at around $8 million.
Second weekends of “The Photograph” (Universal), “Fantasy Island” (Sony), continuing runs of “1917” (Universal) and “Jumanji: The Next Level” (Sony) should all be in the $4 million-$5 million range. Likely just below, though possibly holding better, will be “Parasite,” which has soared.
Top theater placement among specialized openings goes to “Emma” (Focus), the latest Jane Austen adaptation. Similar to “Little Women,” this follows a fairly recent film version (Miramax had one with Gwyneth Paltrow in 1994, which had an adjusted gross of around $50 million.) This time it stars Anya Taylor-Joy and, as Focus has done successfully in the past, it had no festival showings. It is getting favorable but not breakout reviews (67 score at Metacritic), and opens in New York and Los Angeles.