A swerve into untrodden ground should give a surprise boost to the box office, when a studio makes a pitch to a demographic that they haven't catered to in a long, long time – that's right, I'm referring to romantic comedy fans.
Weekend Forecast for August 17-19, 2018
By Reagen Sulewski
August 17, 2018
OK, OK so Crazy Rich Asians is notable in that it's the first entirely Asian cast of a Hollywood movie since 1992's Joy Luck Club (I feel we shouldn't sleep on 2002's Better Luck Tomorrow even though it was an independent film, especially since it launched the career of one Justin Lin). That's certainly something unique in the marketplace and seems destined to energize that demographic like Black and Hispanic-cast films have done for those in the past couple of decades. But what's set to really make this film stand out in the marketplace is that it's a romantic comedy in a world where those films, at least the big budget, glamorous version of those, has basically gone extinct.
Based on a phenomenon of a novel, it stars Fresh Off the Boat's Constance Wu as an NYU professor who falls into a romance with a Singaporean man, Nick Young (played by Malaysian travel host Henry Golding in his first movie role). When he offers to take her back home to a friend's wedding and to meet his family, she discovers that he's actually the scion of the wealthiest family in the country, and the eventual heir to a fortune. Will her uncultured western ways clash with the refined high society of Singapore? Will sassy best friend Awkafina say some crazy stuff and make us laugh? Can she win over her dragon lady future mother-in-law (Michelle Yeoh)? Have you ever watched a movie before?
Part travelogue, part wish fulfillment fantasy, it's got the right blend of glitz and cheese to make the Asian casting almost irrelevant, although it's still an important driving factor. The ecstatic reviews don't hurt either. Opening on Wednesday to $5 million, it should carry strongly through the weekend for a first weekend take of $28 million.
Peter Berg's fourth collaboration with Mark Wahlberg hits screens this weekend with Mile 22, the story of a top secret commando unit, used as a team of last resort, tasked with smuggling a police officer out of hostile foreign territory in SE Asia to a landing strip 22 miles away (oh I see now) with ambushes all the way.
Wahlberg plays The Man With All The Answers, while Rounda Rousey and Lauren Cohen make up the most recognizable members of his on-the-ground support team. It's fairly humorless, straight ahead gritty action, with the machismo style that Peter Berg has been refining over the past decade or so. It's also pretty ugly looking in many ways, both from a plain visual aspect and from its politics, which lean hard to the “evil anonymous foreigner” side of things. Reviews are basically non-existent, which tells you most of what you need to know about its quality.
Berg & Wahlberg have had solid success with their real life stories adaptations like Lone Survivor, Patriots Day and Deepwater Horizon, but diving into the fictionalized world of The War on Terror may have left them a bit in the weeds. While “based on a true story” brings out the cavalry for military-themed action, the invented stories are often viewed as generic action films, with the box office to match. So no $125 million here like Lone Survivor, and its opening weekend should be more in the area of $11 million.
Prehistory isn't a time films often turn to, but the ones that do are often pretty memorable (for good or for bad) – Clan of the Cave Bear, 10,000 B.C., The Good Dinosaur... like I said, they're not always good. Alpha proposes to tell the story of the moment when wolves were first domesticated into dogs, with a classic “journey across the wilds” survival story.
Australian actor Kodi Smit-McPhee plays a member of a prehistoric tribe on his first hunt who then gets injured and separated, adopting a likewise injured wolf that seems friendly enough. From there it's a wander across the wilds to reunite with his people, encountering harsh terrain and weather and other wild animals, including a sabre tooth tiger that looks like it's on loan from the Smithsonian.
Reviews are actually pretty positive for this, highlighting the adventure story, though let's be clear, this is very much for a pre-teen and family audience, which as always is going to limit its potential pretty severely. It's also got a lot to work past in terms of its setting and trailer, which quite frankly looks ridiculous (and the Imagine Dragons soundtrack ain't helping). A start around $7 million seems right here.
Shark fest The Meg managed a great $45 million to win the weekend last time around, based on its crazy giant prehistoric man-eating fish action. As is customary, its studio found some ridiculous records for it to claim, declaring it to be the highest opening shark attack movie ever, which is true and hilariously specific. We should expect a pretty steep drop for Jason Statham and company, to around $21 million.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout held its own in its third weekend with $19 million, keeping it on pace to become the highest grossing film of the series. It's also a good sign that we can basically expect these until Tom Cruise literally falls apart or just dies. Look for about $11 million this weekend.
Christopher Robin did not display the legs that might have been hoped for by Disney, with just less than 50 percent drop off. This seems to be a rare miss for the studio, which has been having an outstanding year with every single one of its releases making over $100 million so far (A Wrinkle in Time being a notable fudge). With $50 million in the bank after the second weekend, this will be a bit of a struggle, and it should drop to about $7 million this frame.
BlacKkKlansman was Spike Lee's best effort in a decade, earning an $11 million opening and rave reviews. There's some chance for legs here with a small expansion, and I think it hits $6 million in its second weekend despite, or maybe because of, its strong point of view on race relations.