‘The Shining’ Sequel ‘Doctor Sleep’ Will Lead 4 New Releases, but Where Are the Hits?

Ewan McGregor stars in the adaptation of the Stephen King sequel, and Emma Clarke brings us a new Christmas movie, but this weekend will still fall short of 2018.
"Doctor Sleep"
"Doctor Sleep"
Warner Bros.

Four new wide releases this weekend brings the total to 11 over a three-week period. And, this will be another weekend in which grosses fall short of the same period last year, when “The Grinch” debuted to $62 million.

Doctor Sleep,” an adaptation of Stephen King’s sequel to “The Shining,” will lead the weekend somewhere in the range of $25 million-$30 million. With a reported $45 million budget, and likely foreign interest, that’s a decent showing. However, three other releases — “Midway,” “Last Christmas,” and “Playing With Fire” — are unlikely to pass $20 million each.

Since Labor Day, we’ve seen two major hits with “Joker” and “It: Chapter Two,” both of which grossed over $200 million, and one film over $100 million with “Hustlers.” However, 2018 saw five films in the same period open to $50 million or more. This year, unless “Doctor Sleep” really stuns, there’s only one: “Joker.” That puts pressure on three sequels that open in the next few weeks with “Frozen 2,” “Jumanji: The Next Level,” and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” along with standalone hopefuls to pick up the slack.

Stephen King is a franchise in his own right, but his currency in film was in decline until the two “It” titles revitalized his work. That gave new life to long-gestating plans to adapt his sequel to “The Shining.” This is a continuation of the story that’s aimed at viewers who aren’t wedded to Stanley Kubrick’s vision. It’s a more a mainstream horror film and Danny is now a psychic, and troubled, adult living in Florida.

Warners smartly reworked King into the studio sweet spot of mid-budget horror films like “The Conjuring;” risking comparisons with Kubrick was a fool’s mission. The end result is getting adequate reviews and benefits from heavy trailer showcasing with “It: Chapter Two” and “Joker.”

It opened last week in several European countries; results were decent but unspectacular. That said, it should be ahead of the new pack and upend “Terminator: Dark Fate” from #1 after one week.

“Last Christmas”Universal

Both “Midway” and “Last Christmas” are vying for next best, both somewhere in the vicinity of $15 million. For Roland Emmerich’s $100 million World War II naval battle film, which Lionsgate financed with Chinese investors, that would be terrible.Aimed at the Veteran’s Day holiday weekend, this will fall far short of “Dunkirk” and 2001’s “Pearl Harbor.” Reviews are trending to mildly negative.

Paul Feig’s “Last Christmas” is a London-set holiday rom-com. Reviews are middling at best, but word of mouth could keep it strong through Thanksgiving. That, plus international appeal, should make this at least a modest success.

“Playing With Fire,” another $30 million-budgeted family comedy, sees a group of firefighters (led by John Cena) forced to oversee a trio of children (+ cute dog) needing short-term care. It’s a formula akin to recent Mark Wahlberg comedy hits, and initial reviews are awful. Still, this will be for the public to decide, which could propel it to a passable life after a predicted under-$10 million debut.

"Honey Boy"
“Honey Boy”screenshot

As we head into a nonstop series of awards contenders through Christmas, this weekend brings the limited releases of Netflix’s “Marriage Story” and Amazon’s Shia LeBeouf-starrer “Honey Boy.” Both received stellar reviews, but — like “The Irishman” — most theaters are denying patrons the chance to see the soon-to-be-streaming “Marriage Story” on screen.

LeBeouf recreated his early life in “Honey Boy,” which Amazon is releasing with conventional windows. It has a two-city platform release in top theaters, boosted by in-person Q&As at some shows. It was acquired for around $5 million, far less than other Amazon Sundance buys. That’s a cheap investment for a film they own worldwide on all platforms.

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