What last week was only just a possible inconvenience has now become major world events unceremoniously and without welcome butting their head into everything and upending everyone's apple carts. Movies may be the last thing on the minds of people this weekend, which is unfortunate for the three major releases of this weekend.
Weekend Forecast for March 13-15, 2020
By Reagen Sulewski
March 12, 2020
Rapidly moving events have seen multiple major movies shifted to later in the year, or even 2021, and major centers declaring that large gatherings, including movie theaters, are temporarily banned. Combine that with general anxiety about COVID-19 and social interaction, and we're going to have major impacts on the weekend's box office, and some fairly disastrous numbers put on the board. For this reason, and with overall effects becoming unpredictable, we'll present and abbreviated version of this weekend's forecast.
The widest opening of the bunch is I Still Believe, based on the story of Christian pop singer Jeremy Camp and his first wife, who died of ovarian cancer shortly after their marriage. A typical faith-based tear-jerker, it's going to play almost exclusively to the converted, as Camp has very little awareness outside of Christian music circles. Starring KJ Apa (of Riverdale, struggling a bit with an accent and over-earnestness), Britt Robertson (or Tomorrowland) as the star-cross'd couple and Gary Sinise and Shania Twain (!) as his parents, it's following in the footsteps of surprise hit I Can Only Imagine, about Christian rock group MercyMe's lead singer, which opened to $17 million two years ago. Poorer reviews and just awful timing put this more in line for about $6 million.
Bloodshot is an adaptation of the Valiant comic character (don't worry, you've never heard of any of their stuff), about a soldier killed in action, but resurrected with the help of nanotechnology to make him a nearly indestructible killing machine. Thanks to that tech, he's owned both body and mind by the corporation that brought him back -- but he's fighting back against that, trying to get to the bottom of a grand conspiracy and also the bottom of his vocal register. Also starring Eiza Gonzalez and Guy Pearce, it seems to be a largely joyless and noisy exercise of mayhem and explosions. The best comparison seems to be a sci-fi version of The Punisher, with the hope that Diesel's stardom will push this to higher levels, but he is essentially a non-factor outside of the Fast & Furious franchise (one of this week's victims of the schedule!). Look for around $5 million this weekend.
The Hunt is just a film that can't catch a break. Last fall, after ironic complaints from conservatives, it was bumped from the release schedule, only to show up now... right in time for COVID-19 to send everyone running. A spiritual cousin to The Purge, it posits a world in which every year, God-fearing 'Mericans are kidnapped by Liberal Elites to be hunted and killed for sport. The whole thing is an elaborate satire on the political divide and just what people will believe these days, although it seems to be only moderately successful at that. Starring Betty Gilpin, Hillary Swank, Ethan Suplee, Emma Roberts and Ike Barinholtz, it's a film that is likely to be particularly kneecapped by current events, and may open to around $5 million.
The effect on returning films may be profound. Onward is already Pixar's lowest opening ever at $39.1 million (just under The Good Dinosaur), and now it faces a pandemic. That previous low bar film had a 61% second weekend drop, but that was partially due to Thanksgiving. Onward isn't poorly reviewed like that, or the other example of just plain Bad in Pixar's library, Cars 3, but it could face drops like that, with a second weekend of just $15 million.
The Invisible Man is the only other film likely to place this weekend, having pulled in a solid $50+ million so far against a $7 million budget, so any drops from here are only hurting the ultimate profit. This should see around $7 million more this weekend. Lower down the ranks we could see some monumental drops, and there'll be all the justification in the world for studios to have moved their big films.