Weekend Forecast for February 17-19, 2017
By Reagen Sulewski
February 17, 2017

Snitches get stitches.

If there were some way to get Hollywood to start spreading out its actual successful releases, I think we should encourage that. One week after three solid opening weekends, we get a slate of three new films that are likely to undershoot even the second weekends of the previous group.

It's not impossible to see why Fist Fight might have made a good amount of sense to someone at some point to greenlight, especially with its leads, who have headlined several successful middle of the road comedies in the past. It's clear that something's gone quite wrong in the execution of it, however. Ice Cube and Charlie Day star as rival teachers within a school and when one (Day) gets the other fired (Cube), he gets challenged to the classic “end of the day” fight outside the school. This is funny, you see, because it's adults and not children settling their differences this way.

Thrown around them are the cast of wacky supporting characters, including the pain-in-the-ass principal (Dean Norris), the over-his-head athletics coach (Tracy Morgan), the druggy potential sex offender teacher (Jillian Bell), the over-officious security guard (Kumail Nanjiani)... wait, can we back up a couple there?

Anyway, it's clear they're hoping to capitalize on the same wacky vibe from films like Are We There Yet? and Horrible Bosses, playing off Day's panicky vibe and Cube's natural tough guy persona, with a strong hint of Bad Teacher, although no one should really be copying that film in any remote sense. There's also a weird flatness to the comedy in the trailers and commercials, which have that “we improv-ed everything, bet you can't tell!” feel to them and that tell tale sign of weakness, a scene of a group of character standing in a group laughing out of context. “This is funny!” they want to insist but shouldn't have to. The concept is enough to manage at least a non-embarrassing weekend, but should be limited to about $15 million.

A film that's been a bit of an internet punchline since its first trailer debuted, The Great Wall represents one of the Chinese film industry's first big forays into the North American market. Legendary director Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers) goes for pageantry with the story of two Western soldiers-for-hire (Matt Damon, and another guy, inconsequential) who venture to China to steal the secret of gunpowder in the 9th century, but arrive in the middle of a battle between an ancient Chinese order and a group of aliens(?) which the wall was built to protect against.

Damon is about the most ridiculous actor you could pick to play a medieval archer (except maybe Ben Affleck), but he was obviously chosen for his (theoretical) international appeal. On the surface, it appears to be one of those “Western guy ventures into primitive culture for sanctimonious savior mission,” though that's probably the opposite read, as the purpose is really to show the wonders of China and how they've always been awesome don't you know. That doesn't make it non-ridiculous, just, ridiculous in a way you weren't anticipating. Reviews aren't great overall, but some give it a bit of leeway for what it is, a bit of spectacle with spectacular scenery. Anyone expecting returns based on Damon's Jason Bourne numbers will be in for a big disappointment, however. I'd expect a weekend of around $12 million.

The Cure For Wellness sees Hollywood get delightfully weird with a gothic horror thriller. Gore Verbinski directs the film, starring Dane DeHaan as a young executive tasked to retrieve his company's CEO from a Swiss health retreat, which employs a strange variety of... unconventional treatments. After an unsuccessful visit, DeHaan finds himself as a patient in the retreat, where strange visions and crazy characters torment his very sanity.

Filmed in various tones of grey, aqua and beige, it's got that “classic horror look” and seems to be about as close as we'll get to a Bioshock movie in the near future, full of body horror and grim, dark scenery. For those people seeking out a waking nightmare of a film, this is exactly what they'll be looking for, but it's a very naturally off-putting film and unlikely to breakthrough in any significant way. It reminds a bit of Dark City, albeit in a real world, not sci-fi setting. This should be around a $7 million opening.

The door is then wide open for a repeat performance at the top for the LEGO Batman movie, which opened to a solid $53 million. The spinoff of 2014's The LEGO Movie, it's opened the door to a new universe of movies, though one can imagine the well running dry fairly quickly. It's also a nice bright spot for DC films, although a bit of an embarrassment to the live-action division that they're being beaten so handily by plastic. A decent second weekend of $33 million seems likely.

The BDSM fan-fiction of Fifty Shades Darker took a huge hit in its second entry of the franchise, opening to just barely over half of the first film's $85 million, with a $46 million debut. Things likely get much worse from here, as the original film took a massive three-quarters hit in its second weekend as looky-loos abandoned the film in droves. The hit should be less this time as we're dealing with smaller numbers and more of a known quantity, but the majority of people who wanted to sit through this glorified late-night Cinemax soft-core have already seen it. It should slide down to about $15 million.

A franchise moving in the opposite direction is John Wick, which saw its sequel open to over double it's original, with $30 million. The Keanu Reeves action film filled with world building and elaborately choreographed gunplay gained a huge following in digital release and has a chance for a Taken-like run as a series of films. It should have a decent second weekend with $17 million.

Split gave up its top spot after three weekends, having dropped to $9 million but breaking the $100 million milestone. It seems headed for $150 million domestic, and sets the stage for an M. Night Shyamalan implosion four films from now. Give it $5 million this weekend.

Hidden Figures expanded its box office lead among Best Picture nominated films, separating from La La Land by several million. In the last weekend leading into the Oscars, that gap should increase by another couple of million, as the space race/civil rights combo movie picks up another $6 million.