February 2016 Box Office Forecast

By Michael Lynderey

February 4, 2016

Don't you want me, baby?

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3. Race (February 19th)
This ambitious drama is a biopic of legendary runner Jesse Owens, who made a strident and symbolic victory in earning four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany's Berlin, against the face of prejudice both domestic and foreign. Yes, the title surely must have a double meaning. Race is clearly targeted as a prestigious film meant to reflect the box office success of another period piece biopic of African-American achievement, 42, with Stephan James headlining his first really big film as Owens, and Jason Sudeikis in the Harrison Ford role.

Race is opening right before Oscar weekend, and I don't think it's too implausible that some viewers may incorrectly assume it's a nominee. The film seems like a feel-good movie at its most primal and sturdy, and if it gets good reviews (and it's reasonable to assume it will), it ought to play well enough in the second half of the month, even if the subject matter isn't as dear to potential audience's hearts as the baseball setting in 42 must have been.

Opening weekend: $19 million / Total gross: $59 million


4. Hail, Caesar! (February 5th)
The Coen Brothers are back with another big movie, and as usual, an all-star cast comes calling at the directors' behest: George Clooney and Channing Tatum as old-school Hollywood stars (the former is much easier to imagine as such than the latter), as well as Scarlett Johansson, in a not-unexpected display of '50s glamor, Jonah Hill, as comic support, and Josh Brolin, who I think is technically the lead, playing real-life Hollywood producer Eddie Mannix (he's just about the only real person depicted in the film, at least by name).

The Coens have spent the last 10 years moving from smaller comedies to a handful of surprisingly profitable films (True Grit, a $170 million+ grosser, remains their apex), and Hail, Caesar! looks to be one of their more approachable titles, at least on paper, with a wide release and an all-star cast somewhat recalling their Burn After Reading. Adult audiences love 1950s movies like this one, even if pictures about Hollywood don't often play well at the box office (the setting time and place and the vaguely black comedy tone remind me of the recent Trumbo, of all films). No matter, though: the talent involved should grant Hail, Caesar! an opening weekend that's above a Hail Mary pass, and given the solid reviews already pouring through the press, it should play out the rest of its run in a more than respectable manner, even if the plot (Hollywood star abducted by screenwriters, I think?) and tone (thoroughly Coen-esque) place the title just somewhat out of the mainstream.

Opening weekend: $18 million / Total gross: $58 million

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