Weekend Forecast for February 19-21, 2016
By Reagen Sulewski
February 19, 2016

Man, Puritans had it *rough*.

Okay, so nothing that the multiplexes were likely to offer this dismal February weekend had much hope of topping Deadpool either in quality or in box office. But would it have killed Hollywood to at least try?

Each of the three wide opening films this weekend has some kind of niche that it is playing to, and an element that could see it break out, but ultimately each is flawed for this marketplace. Of the three, I like The Witch's chances to break out the best, based on genre. A Sundance darling, The Witch is set in 17th century New England, before the Salem Witch Trials, and focuses on a colonial family that moves itself out into the hinterlands (Now: Site of Wal-Mart Super Center) only to be haunted by what appears to be evil spirits, which slowly close in on them. Accusations fly, including several towards the family's daughter about taking part in witchcraft, which was of course a real thing that people did back then.

A rare horror film with not just good but actually exemplary reviews, it's nonetheless hampered by a no-name cast, but with what is potentially a star-making role by lead actress Anya Taylor-Joy. It's more of an arthouse horror film than the cheap scares that have served to represent the genre of late. It's an audience that tends to crave the new and innovative, and this may count. Legitimately creepy and unsettling ads may drive a smallish weekend, and with its very limited budget that should be more than well enough. On a relatively small venue count of 1,800, it should be able to grab $9 million.

On the opposite end of the faith-based storytelling axis, we have Risen, which seeks to answer the question “What would a procedural about the life of Jesus look like?” The question of “why would one do this?” remains hanging out there. It is, in essence, exactly the film that Hail, Caesar! was making fun of, or at least the modern version thereof. Joseph Fiennes plays a Roman Centurion tasked by Pontius Pilate to determine the truth or fiction of the claimed resurrection of Jesus. I don't think it even needs a spoiler alert considering the title, but...

Intended almost entirely for true believers, this lacks the all-consuming hype (and controversy) of The Passion of the Christ, as well as the schmaltzy hucksterism of films like God's Not Dead or Heaven Is For Real (and on that front, give it a couple of weeks). Thus, it's a limited-appeal film that doesn't have that curiosity factor, and strangely, misses its natural Easter release date. I'd expect about $8 million here.

For one of the greatest sportsmen in American history, it's curious that Jesse Owens has never had a major motion picture made about his life (TV movies, yes, but never a feature). Race (...I see what you did there) tells of Owens rise to fame through his collegiate career leading up to the pinnacle of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, where his quadruple gold-medal performance thumbed the nose of Hitler and smashed the notion of Aryan genetic superiority. Played here by Stephan James, he teams with his college coach (Jason Sudeikis, playing against type) and challenges the reigning assumptions of the day, as well as running headlong into the controversy of even competing at the Berlin Games, given what was known even at that time about Hitler's treatment of its Jewish and minority citizens.

Part of the problem here is that the event that Owens is best known for, the 100m sprint, is an event that last just 10 seconds, making any kind of extended dramatic competition more or less impossible to set up. He's going to win, and it'll be over quickly. The rest of it has to be filled with world building and history lessons, which are rather well known by this point. Reviews would have this as a mediocre result, serviceable but without anything to make it stand out. This should find about $7 million this weekend.

While Deadpool always had breakout potential, few if any pundits saw last weekend's results coming. With a masterful ad campaign and with rave review after rave review rolling in, the hype fed on itself and propelled it to $132 million over its opening three days, the *18th* highest opening weekend of all time and bigger than a Superman movie, a couple of Iron Mans and a whole bunch of Spider-Mans. It was a stunning result that showed adult (very adult) targeted comic movies can have huge audiences, and may change, at least for a time, how Hollywood views the comic market. Of course, it'll all lead to an inevitable crash as they take the wrong lessons and just make a bunch of raunchy films without the commentary of Deadpool, but it's a heck of a toboggan ride while it lasts. With the holiday factoring into Sunday's take, and a natural front-loading for comic films, I'd look for a sizable drop this weekend even with strong word-of-mouth, to about $63 million.

Kung Fu Panda 3 was a solid second place in its third weekend, crossing the $100 million mark just after the weekend. Thanks to the holiday performance, it has at least some chance now of matching the $165 million domestic of Kung Fu Panda 2, and should earn about $12 million this weekend.

The nominal romance of the weekend, How to Be Single, was a modest earner at $18 million last weekend with a huge boost from Valentine's Day. Thanks to that factor, this should fall hard, to around $8 million.

The long-awaited, maybe, sequel to Zoolander was sunk by terrible reviews, opening to just under $14 million. Few comedies have burned up so much good will so quickly, and Zoolander 2 should disappear quickly, falling to $6 million this frame.