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February 2016 Box Office Forecast

By Michael Lynderey

February 4, 2016

Don't you want me, baby?

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9. The Choice (February 5th)
The Choice carries a title that is maddeningly unspecific and could plausibly headline any number of genres, but this romantic drama is our annual entry in the cinematic cannon of Nicholas Sparks. Sparks' literary slate has produced some real big hits (The Notebook and Dear John), but has mostly come down to earth lately, with middling earners like The Best of Me (2014) and The Longest Ride (2015) following the more successful The Lucky One (2012) and Safe Haven (2013). Sparks' films get a bad rap, but they're at the very least earnest and agreeable, if usually totally implausible.

The Choice is headlined by Benjamin Walker, who made for a very convincing Abraham Lincoln in the 2012 biopic (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter; what did you think I meant?), and by Teresa Palmer, who's starred in her share of mid-level genre pictures, most recently in that Point Break remake that came and went just a month back. Walker had his own under-performing December film, In the Heart of the Sea, and it's an interesting testament to the mischievousness of the box office when a fairly inexpensive film like The Choice stands a reasonable chance of outgrossing its stars' most recent and much more high-budgeted titles (both Point Break and the Sea film cost one hundred million dollars a pop; The Choice was made for a tenth of that). I don't see a spectacular breakout here, but it's Valentine's Day and Deadpool isn't really all that romantic, so I assume that for a moderate swath of the population, attendance of the movie will be mandatory.

Opening weekend: $10 million / Total gross: $30 million

10. Risen (February 19th)
The first of the season's two films about Jesus Christ, this one is set in the days and months after his crucifixion, while the upcoming The Young Messiah (due three weeks later, in March) follows his early years. In the interest of chronological order, they should've switched release dates. Never mind, though: the star here is Joseph Fiennes, playing a malcontent Roman Centurion who happens to bear a startling physical resemblance to Michael Jackson (no, really!). He's joined by Harry Potter veteran Tom Felton and a bevy of other British Romans, with Cliff Curtis a unique casting choice to play Jesus.




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I assume there's outreach by the studio to the Christian community, but it's difficult to say if they'll embrace what mostly looks like a period piece without strong religious and emotional overtones. The biblical film Son of God did very well for itself two years back, although Risen seems to have less heavy grassroots support. The film it reminds me most of is The Eagle (not to be confused with Eddie the Eagle), the Channing Tatum/Jamie Bell film about Romans from a few years back, and it might end up playing at more or less the same ballpark of a middle-of-the-road historical drama.

Opening weekend: $9 million / Total gross: $25 million

11. Triple 9 (February 26th)
In a month that features more elaborate forms of violence and action, this is a relatively old-school thriller about cops, robbers, and all those men and women who fall somewhere in between on the spectrum, without quite choosing where. I assume there's a big heist, a handful of shootouts, and a plot twist or two involving the allegiances of some of the characters, but while it may seem familiar, Triple 9 is distinguished by its mid-level cast, which is decidedly numerous. That cast contains both quantity and quality, counting among itself leads Casey Affleck and Chiwetel Ejiofor, TV luminaries Aaron Paul and Norman Reedus, both working their way back to big film roles, soon-to-be Wonder Woman Gal Gadot, along with the hard-working Anthony Mackie, who can often be found in ensemble films, and the invaluable and increasingly omnipresent Kate Winslet (now, how did she get involved in this one?). Woody Harrelson, who adds some flavor to just about anything, rounds out that list. I don't feel too strong an aura of anticipation for this film in the air, but critical notices should set the box office template here: if there's strong support from reviewers, Triple 9 should have no problem attracting older audiences and make for a reasonable run. If it's weaker, it'll probably get lost among the month's more flamboyant genre films.

Opening weekend: $11 million / Total gross: $23 million


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