Calling November a disaster at the box office so far might be a little bit dramatic, but not by much. Out of 11 wide releases in this month, only one has had an opening weekend of over $30 million, and that's the only that has a chance at $100 million domestic. I guess it's time for Disney, soon to be the only studio left standing (I'm kidding. I think), to come to the rescue!
Weekend Forecast for November 22-24, 2019
By Reagen Sulewski
November 21, 2019
If you've had a child in your life that was born from, say, 2002 and on, you've been aware, to an extreme degree, about Disney's juggernaut that was Frozen. Launching as one of the new wave Disney princess films from their house brand (as separate from Pixar), it blazed a trail through late 2013-early 2014 and dominated kid culture for years. It's possibly never even let up. A really loose retelling of the The Snow Queen, it utilized a Broadway-like story and song structure like few other animated films before it. Building off the groundbreaking animation style of Tangled, it marched its way to a (suspiciously exact) domestic total of $400 million, and almost $1.3 billion worldwide, and at least that many plays of its show-stopping hit Let it Go.
The song-and-dance number wasn't so unique overall, but perhaps much more radical was Disney's abandoning of the heroic prince narrative so common to their stories and making it much more of a female empowerment film and a story of sisters. Frozen II will try to recapture that magic, which might be difficult from a purely artistic standpoint, but this is Disney we're talking about here -- they have ways of making you care.
Ads and commercials have been light on details or plot, mostly focusing on a "the gang's back together, and they're doin' stuff!" message, but things have begun to leak out. It's more of the story of Queen Elsa and her magical ice powers, and trying to answer the question of their origins. That may lie in the direction of the mystical forest just outside the borders of Arendelle (*forehead smack*). This points the film in the direction of environmental and indigenous rights issues as to what it's "about", but the attraction will clearly be the antics of Anna and Elsa, Kristoff and Olaf, and the cacophony of characters surrounding them on a grand adventure.
The core voices, Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Josh Gad and *snaps fingers* c'mon, c'mon... Johnathan Groff! return with key additions coming from Evan Rachel Wood, Sterling K. Brown, Alfred Molina, Martha Plimpton and Jason Ritter. Reviews are less stellar than the first go around, but that feels inevitable when trying to follow-up a surprise fan and critic favorite. I can't envision any kids referring to the Rotten Tomatoes score when urging their parents for a weekend movie.
Sequels haven't shown that much strength this year, even for Disney, which recently had a bit of a lame duck in Maleficent 2: Electric Boogaloo. This is a different story and a property for which there is effectively an unlimited appetite, rather than some of Disney's attempts to make fetch happen. Last time, Frozen opened to a slightly-under-the-radar $67 million, but there's no surprise waiting for people this time. That means the same level of legs aren't likely here, but a much larger opening weekend should be expected, with about $115 million.
If a film could serve as a medical prescription, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood might be exactly that film. A sideways biopic of Fred Rogers, it stars Tom Hanks as the beloved children's entertainer and ambassador for goodness and polite society. Matthew Rhys stars as a writer assigned to do a profile for Esquire (in the far off date of ...1998), approaching the assignment with a critical, cynical eye. Surely there has to be some dark side to this man, as no one's really how they appear on TV, are they? It's rather clear to us now that what you saw was the real deal with Mr. Rogers, but positivity was something of a radical notion in the late 90s, as it is just now.
More than just a straight telling of his story, it's a look at the profound effects of Mr. Rogers' Neigborhood on American society, or at least his attempt to have one, and why he'd be such an essential figure today. The film also makes some bold storytelling choices, diving into the show itself and making direct appeals to the audience. Director Marielle Heller, most recently from Can You Ever Forgive Me?, is on the verge of becoming a household name with these critically acclaimed films, especially on beloved American figures. In a cultural environment that is bursting at the seams with negativity and anger, this film could be pitch perfect, like water in the desert. With Hanks' star power and wonderfully matched persona, this has significant breakout potential. The obvious parallel is Saving Mr. Banks, but this has even better upside. I'd look for a $23 million opening weekend.
A more traditional kind of film makes it in as the third wide release of the week, with 21 Bridges. A cop drama starring Chadwick Boseman, it seems to share a fair amount of DNA with Black and Blue from a month ago, albeit with a bigger set of stars and a more cinematic setting. The title refers to the number of ways on and off the island of Manhattan, which becomes important when those are shutdown to track down a pair of murderers who've killed a cop. This manhunt ends up finding more than was bargained for, with a conspiracy that threatens to go very high up indeed.
Boseman plays the lead detective on the manhunt, with other roles going to Sienna Miller, J,K. Simmons, Taylor Kitsch and Keith David. Taking place over the course of one night, it follow that classic escalating tension structure, with a quick pace and lots of action and stunts. It's not highbrow fare and doesn't present much new, which definitely presents a challenge for box office. Time was, this was the kind of film you'd land with an established star, like Denzel or Bruce, but this kind of thriller is mostly out of fashion now and even Boseman's fame from Black Panther doesn't mean much here. Without great reviews, it's looking like about a $10 million opener.
The ranks of returning films have grown very thin just before Thanksgiving, after several weeks of soft openings. Ford v. Ferarri was the sole bright spot of last weekend with a $31 million bow, and critical acclaim should buoy it to another decent weekend of $19 million. After that, we've got family film Playing With Fire dropping to $5 million, while war drama Midway may be able to hold to that mark. Meanwhile, Charlie's Angels could drop from its $8.3 million start to around $3 million, which would be a gigantic disaster in the long run.