Had studios realized that the latest Fast and Furious movie wasn't going to be quite the juggernaut that the last one was, this weekend's slate of releases might not have been such a hodge podge of afterthoughts and orphans. But such is life.
Weekend Forecast for April 21-23, 2017
By Reagen Sulewski
April 21, 2017
With audiences keying into the value of camp via the Joan Crawford/Bette Davis series Feud, something like Unforgettable might be just what they've ordered. A thriller about an ex-gone-wrong, it stars veteran TV actor Geoff Stults and Rosario Dawson as a newly married couple who have to deal with his psychotic ex-wife Katherine Heigl (playing herself) and her control issues, particularly involving their child. This being the social media age, the inevitable “framing of the good character” comes through a stolen phone and fake Facebook accounts, but it's coming out of the “erotic thriller” holster that Hollywood goes to every once in a while, whether it be Fatal Attraction, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Swimfan or Obsessed.
The number of people who are non-ironically interested in this movie has to measure in the dozens, and probably includes most of the family members of the cast and crew. However, camp has its selling point, despite the overall terrible reviews and paint-by-numbers appearance of the script. While Dawson is a likable enough actress, her hits are few and far between, at least based on her name recognition, and Heigl is legitimate box office poison, having previously sunk a ready-made franchise (One for the Money) and innumerable TV series. It's been eight years since she's had anything you could reasonably call a hit, and might be known as “that kitty litter” lady now (she certainly looks like she's smelling it in the trailers for this). There's just nothing that can speak well about this film, but with its modest star power, and medium venue count, it's the best of a bad lot of earners, with about $9 million in store.
Disney's annual Earth Day nature documentary centers around pandas this year, with Born in China. There's very little to say narratively about these films, which try to fashion a bit of a story around a group of wild animals they managed to follow for several months to years, but they have steadily decreased in interest since the peak of Chimpanzee several years ago. Pandas are a bit of a winning go-to animal, but this whole series feels a bit played out. Why, even narrator John Krasinski (John Krasinski, kids!) probably can't lift this over a $5 million opening weekend.
Free Fire looks a bit like someone took the last 15 minutes of Reservoir Dogs and extended it out to a 90 minute feature, then turned up the slapstick dial. That someone is British director Ben Wheatley, who's corralled a group of character actors to play Looney Tunes Mexican Standoff. Set in one location, a warehouse in Boston in the late '70s, it's a weapons deal gone wrong starring Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Sharlto Copley, Jack Reynor, Cillian Murphy and a few other minor names. With snappy patter, constantly shifting loyalties and a level of blood squibs that border on the “beautiful,” this is a film that comes pre-made with cult status, like a Guy Ritchie movie before he got all slick and covered in Madonna. However, debuting in just over 1,000 venues, its potential is quite limited this weekend, and it should arrive with just $4 million.
Prestige drama The Promise debuts in a reasonable amount of venues but comes with even less potential at the box office. Starring Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac and Charlotte LeBon in a love triangle set in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire and around the Armenian Genocide, which probably wins some contest for “most arcane setting for a studio film.” Directed by Hotel Rwanda's Terry George, it's one of those films that looks like it's aiming for awards season, but is really just overwrought and soap-opery. I'd look for just around $3 million this weekend.
Lastly for wide release films, we have Phoenix Forgotten, the umpteenth film to jump on the “found footage” bandwagon, going after a purported UFO sighting in the Phoenix area in 1997, and the three teenagers who went searching for more information on it. It's a bit of a cheap-looking film, starring no one and with no promotion, so it's somewhat surprising that it's even getting a wide release. This format of horror film seems to have run its course, and if there was really anything to it, we'd have heard about it at some festival screening or another. It'll be lucky to get away with $2 million this weekend.
Thus, The Fate of the Furious is left wide open to claim another weekend chart. After a suspicious estimated take of $100.2 million, the eighth version of this franchise ended up with a still solid $98 million for its start. This is well down from the seventh film, but it's proving difficult to compete with the emotional send off of Paul Walker. Meanwhile, it's raking in ridiculous amounts of international bucks , which mean less to studios than domestic, but it's still wildly impressive. Over a billion worldwide seems to be a certainty again, though this weekend's North American take should be about $37 million.
The Boss Baby and Beauty and the Beast continued to capture the family market last weekend with $16 and $12 million respectively, although they're chasing very different milestones. The first would likely be happy with $150 million, while Disney's latest live action adaptation of one of its classics is reaching for $500 million. I'd expect $11 million and $8 million each for these two films, as the roster of returning earners thins out before May's onslaught.