The winter doldrums continue as we head into February with a couple of quickly forgettable niche-targeted films, one of which is a bit of an echo of 2016's trend of pointless, needless, unwanted reboots and sequels.
Weekend Forecast for February 3-5, 2017
By Reagen Sulewski
February 3, 2017
In the early days of the 21st Century, a brief wave of interest in gothic Japanese horror swept across North America, peaking with the 2002 release of The Ring, an adaptation of one of the more successful examples of the genre in Japan. Starring an on-the-rise Naomi Watts, its moody take on technology and unspeakable, incomprehensible horrors was a fresh and bravura revitalization of the horror genre, particularly with its Sixth Sense-like twist. A genuinely buzzy film, it vaulted off a $15 million opening weekend to gross $129 million domestically, and spawned a sequel three years later that opened bigger but already showed the signs of genre fatigue brought on by The Grudge and Pulse.
Rings picks up the ball and runs with it, returning to its idea of a mysterious videotape that kills you seven days after watching it unless you convince someone else to watch it. It's gained something of a cult following in this movie's world in the13 years since we've last checked in, but Rings adds a new wrinkle – a film within the film that's been hiding in plain sight all this time that points at a deeper mystery to the mythos, and spookiness ensues.
The main thing that's unclear is just who was waiting for an update to this series that has in many ways become a bit of a joke in North America (it remains strong in Japan, where its antagonist is basically their version of Jason Voorhees). The advance tells don't look good for this, as it's been held from reviewers and its cast is largely unknown, keeping the film cheap, but severely limiting any kind of promotion or buzz. I'm reminded of the quickly forgotten Paranormal Activity film that tried to branch out to a new storyline and was entirely ignored. I'd look for just $12 million this weekend for Rings.
Maudlin teen drama gets a new entry with a sci-fi twist in The Space Between Us. Asa Butterfield stars as the first child born on Mars thanks to an “Ooops!” at the first human settlement on the Red Planet. After accidentally crashing back on Earth, he's faced with the fact that he's completely maladapted to survive in Earth's higher gravity, and his oversized heart (blatantly obvious metaphor alert!) is killing him here. This is a real bummer to his budding relationship with “fellow teen” Britt Robertson (Gabrielle Carteris says knock it off already) and their doomed romance is having John Green considering contacting his lawyer.
Directed by schmaltz-master Peter Chisholm (Serendipity, The Mighty, Hanna Montana) and also starring a cleverly hiding Gary Oldman and Carla Gugino, its reviews are barely better than “nonexistent”, and perhaps its producers would have been better served by holding it back as well. With teen-audience suffering mightily these days without a big pre-made connection (this is, against all odds, an original story and not an adaptation), The Space Between Us seems destined to sink quickly, opening to just $8 million.
And thus, the door is open for a third consecutive weekend at the top of the charts for Split, M. Night Shyamalan's horror comeback. It actually showed something in the way of legs last weekend, surpassing people's expectations of it being total crap. Expanding slightly, it should hold to the tune of about $15 million this weekend.
A Dog's Purpose survived its controversy with an $18 million opening weekend, when pre-release news that a stunt dog may have been mistreated broke just before its press screenings. Based on this figure and the low profile of its cast, this seems to have been a total non-factor, As a family film it should have solid legs, and a drop to about $12 million seems right here.
A couple of Oscar hopefuls are next, with SAG ensemble winner Hidden Figures and likely front-runner La La Land each staying high in the charts, thanks to awards buzz and venue expansions. The two films are dueling not just in awards contention, but in box office totals, as both sit at around $100 million domestic. Each film should come in with about $10 million this frame.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter suffered a similar fate as the recent Underworld film, dropping off significantly from recent (I use that world loosely) entries in its series, opening to $13 million. It's safe to say there's no one just discovering this series now, six movies in, and the usual extreme drop should kick in to around $5 million.