Memorial Day Weekend is no longer quite what it once was in terms of the kick off to summer - Marvel has definitively closed the door on that - but we still have a big tentpole film to mark the holiday. In Disney's current strategy, it's one of their biggest tests yet, despite all of the surface pluses.
Weekend Forecast for May 24-26, 2019
By Reagen Sulewski
May 24, 2019
In the move towards remaking all of Disney's animated hits as "live-action" versions, a few of their biggest hits stood out both as natural choices to remake, but also as ones that might present huge, head-scratching challenges. The Memorial Day anchor film, Aladdin, is one of those. The 1992 version of this film leaned heavily on the improvisational comedic genius of Robin Williams, and thinking about the version of the film that would exist without him is more than a little bit depressing. It's one of the New Golden Age Disney films that most relies on a single performance - though its visual spectacular isn't to be overrated. Both of these reasons raise more than a couple of questions about why you'd take that film and try to make a live action version of it.
"Because it made over $200 million in a time when that was a giant sum of money for a movie to make" is one good reason, and when it comes to remakes, audiences often don't think about why they liked a previous version. Substituting in Will Smith as the genie isn't the worst idea ever, with the tale of a street urchin stumbling upon a magic lamp that contains the wish-granting genie not requiring a ton of meat on its bones in order to work. He's not going to substitute for the manic energy that Williams brought, but it's a different sort of vibe, as long as you forget about what was there. The visual elements, well you can try and substitute them in but the lushness of the animated version isn't likely to be replaced here. Guy Ritchie - not the guy you'd think of for a period fantasy musical - gets director duty, with relative unknowns Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott taking on the roles of Aladdin and Princess Jasmine, respectively.
After March's underwhelming performance of the remake of Dumbo, Disney is likely a bit more gunshy about this strategy than they previously were, and the somewhat soft reviews for this are another element of worry, with some calling the genie effect something close to "nightmare fuel". I mean, harsh, but... Working in its favor is that these remakes seem to perform in relation to the esteem shown towards the original, and Aladdin is up there with Beauty and the Beast or maybe half a tier below. The problem with Dumbo was that it was a film that virtually no one had revisited in decades. Aladdin, meanwhile, has remained in the public consciousness one way or the other. With most of the Memorial Day Weekend to itself, it should open with around $88 million, $115 million over four days.
Definitely not a Superman-movie-why-are-you-even-asking-get-those-lawyers-out-of-here Brightburn takes one of the great What If? proposals in comic history and runs with it - what if you gave super powers to a child ... and that child was an asshole? In this case, you get a horror movie about an unrestrained nightmare of a child, a genre film you'd subtitle We Need To Talk About Clark Kent. So much of the Superman story centres on the nurture, with Ma and Pa Kent being crucial to making sure their super-powered child grows up on the side of goodness and light. In Brightburn, Elizabeth Banks and David Denman aren't quite up to the task and the progressively troubling descent of their child that arrived from the stars (played by relative newcomer Jackson Dunn) is a result of that - or maybe there was nothing they could do. In either case, the idea of a parents' love as being a key weakness is a compelling one for a horror film.
Directed by David Yarovesky, written by two of the Gunn brothers and produced by James Gunn during his brief exile from Disney, it's a crackerjack premise, but a bit of a awkward bridge between the horror and superhero genres. There hasn't been a ton of advertising for this one and you get the feeling that Sony doesn't quite know what to do with this one. I'd look for around $12 million over three days and $15 million over four.
The critical darling of the weekend is Booksmart, the directorial debit of Olivia Wilde. A coming-of-age story, it focuses on two high school seniors who realize as graduation approaches that they've done absolutely nothing fun or reckless with their youth. Even one of them coming out as gay hasn't helped their deviancy, and they resolve to rectify that over the course of one weekend, trying to ruin their reputations properly before they head off to college.
Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein play the two teens, making Superbad comparisons natural as Feldstein is Jonah Hill's sister. It's got a wicked and fierce sense of humor in its ads, and reviews are almost universal in support of it. A stellar supporting cast, including Jason Sudekis, Will Forte and Lisa Kudrow could bring in some older audiences. Teen films are somewhat out of vogue now, and female led ones in particular are an unfortunately tough sell right now. It'll likely be lumped in with films like The DUFF and Edge of Seventeen instead of Superbad because of this. It has a chance to build though, and an opening weekend of $10 million, or $13 million over four, seems about right.
John Wick 3 put two in the skull of the box office last weekend, starting off with $56 million. The ballet of gun violence has built significantly with each outing and given a third (fourth? fifth?) act to Keanu Reeves' career as a leading man. The holiday weekend should allow it to show some legs, and $$33 million should be in store for its second weekend, blowing past the $92 million domestic total of John Wick 2. We're in full blown phenomenon territory here.
As Avengers: Endgame enters its fifth weekend, dreams of passing Star Wars: The Force Awakens as the biggest domestic earner of all time seem to be gone - it's got around $75 to 100 million left in domestic box office - but the all time worldwide figure is getting closer to reality. It's sitting about $160 million shy of Avatar and that remaining domestic box office is almost putting it over the top. Add in a couple of weeks of international box office and it should get to around $2.8 billion, enough to slide past James Cameron's epic. For Memorial Day Weekend, it should nab about $20 million.
Pokemon's Detective Pikachu had a sizable drop in its second weekend to $25 million, but really, any box office over $50 million is a big win for this nutty project, and it's headed for around $150 million domestic, and probably $400 million worldwide. I'd expect $14 million for this weekend.