Weekend Forecast for May 13-15, 2016
By Reagen Sulewski
May 12, 2016

You heard it here, kids: don't even try.

The start of recent summer movie seasons have settled into a familiar pattern – giant first film, and then everyone takes a step back for a week. This year is no different, as the apparent answer to “how do you compete with the biggest film of the summer” from Hollywood is that you don't even try.

Sitting far below Captain America 3's water line is Money Monster, the highest profile of the two new wide releases this week, despite its A+ star power cast. George Clooney stars as the host of the titular show, a Jim Cramer-esque stock pitchman who's more carnival barker than financial analyst with Julia Roberts as his long-suffering producer. On what appears to be a normal show day, the live broadcast is interrupted by a bomb-vest wearing Jack O'Connell (late of Unbroken), who demands to know why a stock that Clooney recommended tanked, taking all his life savings with it.

Directed by Jodie Foster (her first helm in five years since the ill-fated The Beaver), the film then becomes more than a ticking clock procedural by having the tank of the stock in question be connected to an actual conspiracy that relates to some of the larger financial scandals of the day. In some ways, this looks to play out like a fictionalized version of The Big Short. It seems to hearken back to the days of thrillers like Ransom and Conspiracy Theory and Inside Man that just don't get made anymore, largely because they don't hit the “event movie” benchmarks (maybe Clooney could wear a cape?).

Reviews land firmly in the “it's a'ight” category, and given the state of the industry, that would be needed to make it a hit. Clooney's coming off a disappointment with Hail, Caesar!, while Roberts has a string of, if not flops, certainly not hits of late. So while they are names of the highest sort, their power and prestige to automatically draw people in is definitely in question. Further hurting the film's prospects is that it's about a subject that, while topical, tends towards the arcane and preachy, while at the same time trivializing a real problem. In short, it's one of those “movies without an audience” problems that crop up from time to time, and despite solid ads and good support from the studio, this will struggle and earn only about $13 million this weekend.

Seizing on the Friday the 13th release date, The Darkness is attempting to capture the horror film market. Kevin Bacon and Radha Mitchell star as the parents of a family who become haunted after a visit to the Grand Canyon, and their troubled young son brings back an Anasazi artifact (sponsored by the National Parks Service?). These spirits slowly start to take over their home and in the fine tradition of recent horror film, dark stuff spreads everywhere, signaling impending doom and some dastardly fate.

The big problem is that The Darkness is a spectacularly unscary-looking horror film, and this, more than anything would seem to doom it to mediocrity. Its big shock moment in the trailer: black ink on someone's face. Oooooooooh. Yeah I'll, uh, pass, as will a vast majority of the movie-going public as this manages a rather anemic $5 million this weekend.

This brings us back to Captain America 3 and its $179 million debut. If you're a glass half-full kind of person, this represents a tripling of the opening weekends of the Captain America franchise since its debut six years ago. If you're a glass half-empty kind of person, this is the second film to not improve on the opening weekend of The Avengers despite throwing the kitchen sink at the screen. That feels like kind of a silly attitude given that this is effectively found money at this point, and DC is still struggling to get profit out of its giant superhero exercises. It has, after only one weekend of domestic release, surpassed the worldwide total of the last Captain America film (that being a troublesome figure, but apples to apples), and more important, has received great reviews and solid word-of-mouth, in contrast to some other recent superhero movies I might mention.

That said, this is a known quantity at this point, and it's difficult to imagine significant legs from this opening. The first Avengers movie managed only 50 percent off its first weekend's take, and other Marvel films have not matched that (not even your beloved Guardians of the Galaxy surprise hit). I'd expect about $84 million this weekend and an easy win.

The Jungle Book's family adventures should pull in another $15 million this weekend to push its total over $300 million, giving Walt Disney its second of those of the year, with the third just around the corner – maybe in a week, maybe less. Lastly, Mother's Day should come crashing down from its holiday-specific boost to arrive with about $5 million.