One of the biggest changes in movie release schedules, aside from the "every month is prime time" constant rollout of tentpoles, was the discovery that releasing your movie *on* a holiday weekend didn't actually make you more money, and that it made more sense to put it out the weekend before, effectively getting two opening weekends in a row. Where does that leave us? With a Thanksgiving weekend that has just two wide releases, neither of which is expected to be a blockbuster.
Weekend Forecast for November 29-December 1, 2019
By Reagen Sulewski
November 26, 2019
Looking at the cast of Knives Out, if you're a relatively well known actor in Hollywood, you should start considering that Rian Johnson might have a personal problem with you. A foul-mouthed, irreverent Agatha Christie-like murder mystery movie, it features at least ten actors that could go above-the-line in a lot of other movies. Christopher Plummer plays the patriarch of a large family of hangers-on, all looking for their cut of his fortune built from writing crime novels. After he's found dead, a police detective (LaKeith Stanfield) and a private detective (Daniel Craig) get about to investigating every one of those layabouts, ne'er-do-wells and just plain greedy relatives, with everyone having motive and opportunity.
Among the deep cast are Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, and Don Johnson, and the film uses them more towards the comic side of things, exhibiting a light, jazzy tone towards the genre. Aficionados of his prior work would be familiar with this kind of genre-bending, as he's placed a hard-bitten film noir in the world of high school with Brick, and then turned a con-artist film into poetry with The Brothers Bloom. Of course, he's most known from his work with the Star Wars series, though because it is Current Year, it's also made him infamous among certain circles who are mad that someone got Girl in their sci-fi opera. Hopefully that's a non-factor here, but you never know.
What is clear is that the film itself is one of the better crowd-pleasing offerings of the year with an almost unblemished record in its reviews. Oscar nominations aren't entirely out of the realm of possibility this year either, though Best Picture might be reaching. Those reviews have definitely elevated it from a throw away thriller, and the cast and director connection is opening up the film to multiple demographics, instead of the usual older crowd this might play to. I'd expect this to lead off with $24 million on the weekend, with another $12 million coming on Wednesday and Thursday.
Race relations in the US come to the forefront in the cinema with Queen & Slim, directed by Melina Matsoukas and written by Lena Waithe, most famous, so far, for the Netflix series Master of None. Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith (in her debut screen performance) play a couple on a first date that's quickly spiralling into a minor fiasco, when they're stopped by a police officer for a minor moving violation. Because this is Current Year, things escalate into violence, the cop firing at Smith, and Kaluuya ultimately killing the officer with his own weapon. Even though they barely like each other, the two are now joined at the hip as they run from the ensuing manhunt.
While the incident was born of pure circumstance and (in their view) self-defence, any interaction between Black people and cops is going to take on a political bent, and they're instantly cast as heroic revolutionaries by an underground that's eager to protect them. Becoming an accidental Bonnie & Clyde isn't on anyone's To Do List, but we're often not able to choose our reasons for fame. The film is a powerful look at the divides within society and the legacies of decisions about race made a long time ago. Reviews are strong, if not rapturous, but the film's bold stance likely makes up for any gaps in that. It may become a must-watch, and this fictionalized take seems to have more to say than a lot of true-story films about the subject, such as Detroit. While it's not exactly group-outing viewing, I'd expect around $13 million this weekend, with $7 million more in its first two days.
The no-brainer winner of the weekend is thus Frozen II, which puts us in a nearly unprecedented situation. With a $130 million opening, it's very nearly the film with the largest weekend heading into Thanksgiving, outpaced by only The Hunger Games 2. While it's difficult to look at a $130 million opening weekend and think that people might have been holding off on seeing the film, it's probably true to some extent, and family films are often the best performers over Thanksgiving. That's more likely to show up on the days before the weekend and might still lead to a sizable drop off, but if it can manage a 43 per cent or less drop off, it'll claim the title for largest 3-day Thanksgiving weekend. It's gonna be close, but I think it falls a little short, with a $70 million second weekend.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood looks like another film that might benefit from the holiday crowds, though the Mr. Rogers biopic-by-proxy could suffer from a little bait-and-switch feeling, as Tom Hanks is not really the lead of the film despite featuring so prominently in the advertising. That said, word of mouth is still great, and a great holdover to $11 million is possible.
The only other wide release that's likely to have a significant showing is Ford v Ferrari, though that is possibly muted after a 50 per cent drop in its second weekend. Some Oscar attention is still possible at this point, though it no longer seems like quite a slam dunk as it was after opening weekend. I'd expect $10 million this weekend.