This is kind of the way these November weekends are supposed to work; three films with broadly commercial appeal, strong casts and relatively uncomplicated premises (two of them even not based on existing IP! And the one that is, isn't an overdone one!) battling for pre-holiday space in the box office charts. We may be spoiled for expecting $100 million opening weekends, but I can remember a time when this would be a treasure of riches.
Weekend Forecast for November 8-10, 2019
By Reagen Sulewski
November 7, 2019
Once upon a time, Danny Torrance had the weirdest vacation ever. His dad moved him to a creepy old hotel in Colorado, where there was no one to play with other than these two icky girls, and no one that he could talk to in his head, except that one janitor but he was far, far away. And then his dad started acting strange and then froze to death. Forty years later, he's still running from the memories of that trauma, and using his powers to help those that are close to dying. That's the setup for Doctor Sleep, which serves as the sequel to The Shining, the Stephen King novel adapted by Stanley Kubrick in controversial fashion.
Ewan McGregor plays the grown up Danny, who in a "ain't time funny" development, is basically exactly the right age to play him if we count off from the movie's release. In the course of his travels, he comes across another small child that shares his powers, and who is being hunted by a band of creatures (led by Rebecca Ferguson, looking like a goth Stevie Nicks) that are stealing their powers in order to live forever. The solution to protect her - force a final showdown by heading back to the Overlook Hotel, since abandoned, which was the scene of his original trauma. Well, abandoned by people, anyway. The ghosts that haunt it still remain, and are hungry to meet up with their old playmate again.
King was famously angry with Kubrick's adaptation, and wrote the sequel partly to reclaim his vision of it. The movie adaptation must hew to our memories of The Shining though, so it's a bit of a hybrid of the two, with the trailer making certain touchpoints (Room 237, REDRUM, the topiary maze, the axe hole in the door) central to the pitch.
Doctor Sleep is almost in a different genre than The Shining though, with more of King's tendencies towards the mystical and alien, rather than Kubrick's ghost story. If you're looking for exactly the same experience, you're going to wind up feeling more like the extended sequence in Ready Player One which aped those scenes. Director Mike Flanagan, who has done journeyman work on various horror projects, is probably not a Kubrick-in-waiting, so we're unlikely to have a work of sudden genius here. Reviews are decent though, and King adaptations are back in vogue. Expecting something like It's performance is right out, but a solid weekend of around $33 million seems likely.
Holiday movies make their traditional early appearance starting with Last Christmas, and belonging to that rarest of genres these days, the romantic comedy. Emilia Clarke, fresh off losing the Seven Kingdoms, is an underachieving employee at a Christmas store in London with dreams of professional singing glory. On a particularly disastrous day she meets hunky Henry Golding, who she dismisses as weird, nursing her own trauma about a health scare.
He quickly turns into a dram boyfriend, encouraging her to live her life more freely and take chances on her dreams. There's something that's just a little off about him that makes her reluctant to tell other people about him, hmm...
As written by Emma Thompson (who costars as Clarke's Yugoslavian (!) mother), there's clearly something that the film is holding up its sleeve, and with the connection in the title to the George Michael song, it's definitely of the maudlin variety. That said, most of the film appears to be of the bog-standard rom-com genre, albeit with a holiday/Hallmark bent. Paul Feig directs, though he's not really known for this genre, and he probably doesn't add much to the box office column. It's the very likeable lead actors that anchor that should bring people in, and the timing seems right on a holiday rom-com. A repeat of Crazy Rich Asians' opening weekend seems bullish, but a weekend of around $18 million is a good target to shoot for.
The traditional war film isn't something we've seen a lot of lately - most big budget versions are experimental like Dunkirk, heightened like Wonder Woman, or heavily dramatized, like Atonement. In comes Midway, a war film "like they usta make 'em", with heros and gritted teeth and ridiculous moustaches.
The Battle of Midway was a crucial point in the early days of the US's involvement in World War II, when the Japanese targeted it for expansion after the Pearl Harbor attack. A small atoll in the middle of the Pacific, barely large enough for an airstrip, it was nonetheless a potential foothold for the Japanese close enough to US territory to scare them. Thus, this had to be defended at all costs, and led to one of the first big carrier battles in history, which changed the face of naval warfare.
More than a dry military history though, Midway, directed by Roland Emmerich in a rare turn away from destroying humanity's landmarks, basically picks up where Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor left off, with the first raids on Japan, then working up to this battle which started to turn the tide of the war in the Pacific.
That's meant in a fairly literal sense, as it's full of the bombast and literal-mindedness that characterized Bay's undeserved effort at a war film. There's also thankfully less romantic subplots, though the odd "girl back home" story is included for salt and pepper. Several well-known historical figures make an appearance including Admirals Nimitz and Halsey (Woody Harrelson and Dennis Quaid) but we're mostly led into the story by the average aviator or sailor (even if the vast majority are based on actual people).
Ed Skrein (with the amusing but real name of Dick Best), Luke Evans, Nick Jonas and Patrick Wilson are the best known members of the fighting cast, full of Errol Flynn swagger. The film's ads play as a bit of a parody of war films, looking fairly false and artificial, boys playing at war. Reviews are middling at best (YCWIDT), savaging it for being one-dimensional and bringing nothing new to the genre. Positioned as a Veteran's Day release, it should get some attention for that, but this is looking like a $16 million opening weekend.
The future of the Terminator series looks grim after Dark Fate's $29 million opening weekend, which just marginally beat out 2015's Genisys. Perhaps if James Cameron had directed instead of producing, but then he'd have to stop working on his 17 Avatar sequels that no one's looking forward to. We should expect around $15 million for the second weekend.
Joker keeps on rolling, crossing the $300 million mark, making things really interesting for the Oscars, with no obvious blockbuster favorite to make it in as a nominee. It's certainly enough to get Joaquin Phoenix noticed for Actor. That it's become a cultural touchstone, gaining traction as a symbol is a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy, and helping to buoy it in what is now its sixth weekend. It should earn around $9 million this weekend.
Maleficent 2 had a solid third weekend, but it's a bit too little, too late, and its still looking at a $125 million final total, around half of what the original earned. Give it $8 million this frame. Historical drama Harriet, about Underground Railroad pioneer Harriet Tubman, had a modest $11 million opening weekend, and should earn around $6 million this weekend, headed towards a $40 million total absent any awards attention.