Memorial Day Weekend is no longer the peak weekend of the summer movie season like it once was – though that seems to be a consequence of Hollywood pushing the boundaries of summer more than anything – but it's still unthinkable to leave it a weekend without tentpole movies. Two major sequels answer this requirement this weekend, but with both being of... dubious interest, it prompts some major questions about this sequel-heavy summer.
Weekend Forecast for May 27-30, 2016
By Reagen Sulewski
May 27, 2016
X-Men: Apocalypse continues the universe established by the First Class films, which confusingly runs in parallel to the original films but also contains some things that directly contradict them but that we're supposed to just accept as actually happening and *deep breath* here's why Disney's actually the only studio that has its head on straight with these kind of films. Anyhoo, in this film we're now into the '80s, which means feathered hair and acid wash jeans as far as the eye can see. Most of the world's mutants have settled into obscurity (including Magneto in a hammer-to-the-skull obvious job as a metalworker) until the arrival of Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac, in some really strange casting), the world's first mutant, who has been dormant for centuries.
Intent on wiping the slate clean because humanity has been messing everything up, Apocalypse sets about to gathering together his Four Horsemen, made up of the aforementioned Magneto, Storm, Angel and Psylocke - and then because Jennifer Lawrence has become the most famous person in the cast, it's up to Mystique to lead the counter-strike against the extinction-level event. And hey, here's Cyclops and Jean Grey and dammit none of this makes sense stop it.
The third X-Men film was where things started to go off the rails last time and while that is in no small part Brett “the 2000s Joel Schumacher” Ratner's fault, it was also due to Fox going mad with power and throwing this and this and that and every other mutant they could think of into The Last Stand until it became so overstuffed it couldn't support its own weight. There's a reason that the best adaptation of this property remains the animated TV series, which gave the approximately 793 characters some room to breathe. That said, The Last Stand was a pretty dumb concept, and the last couple of X-Men films have been taking the rational tack of giving fans re-contextualized classic storylines on the big screen. Apocalypse is one of the biggies, and fans should be pretty excited to see this tackled by Bryan Singer, the one guy who's shown that he knows what he's doing with this property.
The notion of super-hero fatigue seems to be catching on as a problem in the industry, but what it really seems to me to be is “re-hash fatigue”, as the spectacularly meta Deadpool was a massive hit earlier this year, and the positively bursting-with-characters Civil War managed to succeed and not drop off the face of the Earth thanks to changing the typical end of the wold stakes. That's literally what we're getting here, so I'm concerned with its long-term prospects, if not necessarily its opening weekend. I'd expect a start of around $82 million for the opening weekend, and then some more panic and calls for another reboot or some junk.
In March of 2010, Tim Burton technicolor barfed a live-action Alice in Wonderland movie out into the world and managed, seriously, no foolin', a billion dollars' worth of worldwide box office – I know – I'll wait while you re-acclimatize yourself to that fact ... OK, ready again? We were kind of at peak-Johnny Depp at that time, and while that's more than enough justification to make a sequel from a business standpoint, I'd feel pretty confident in offering a bounty for anyone that still professes to like that film.
But again, billion dollars, so here we go with Alice Through The Looking Glass, continuing on with the Lewis Carroll stories as Mia Wasikowska returns as the title character, back in Wonderland to save the Mad Hatter from the Red Queen and something something off with their heads. I would be literally astonished to find anyone who cared what this film is actually about, as even in the most generous analysis, it's a film that's predicated on its Technicolor visuals and psychedelic effects that punch you in the face shouting “Whimsy! Whimsy! Whimsy!” This might be notable mostly for being Alan Rickman's last big screen appearance (albeit under a CGI sheen). With America's on-again, off-again love affair with Johnny Depp back in the “off” position, I see a steep decline in the box office take of this sequel, with an opening weekend falling into the $55 million range for its first four days.
The films that may benefit the most from the holiday frame are those released last weekend, as they get something of a pass on their lackluster opening weekends. The Angry Birds Movie or: Sony Stops Trying opened to $32 million on the strength (?) of being from the most popular mobile game of six years ago (coming in 2022, Candy Crush: The Movie, and you think I'm kidding but guess what). Family films typically fare the best on this long weekend, as there's extra time to check out multiple movies. This should result in a $24 million weekend here.
Captain America: Civil War will make it a very Marvel holiday as it sticks around for a solid fourth place finish with around $20 million over the holiday, bringing it ever close to $400 million domestic. In one of those troublesome developments for summer 2016, another questionably derived sequel, Neighbors 2, opened to less than half its original start, with only $21 million. Re-hash fatigue, I'm telling you. It's a thing. Give it $13 million over the holiday.
Further down the list we have The Nice Guys, which of all the Shane Black movies in existence is definitely the Shane Blackiest. The '70s LA buddy cop noir comedy awesomeness genre film (oh, it's a thing) opened to a modest $11 million but has a chance for some legs. I'd expect about $8 million this holiday frame, though. The Jungle Book may leapfrog this a little for the above mentioned family film reasons, pulling in about $9 million.