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February 2017 Box Office Forecast

By Michael Lynderey

February 2, 2017

A man and his dog seek vengeance.

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The January tradition of dishing out exactly one horror movie per week proceeds at full speed ahead, with the sole exception of February's holiday weekend, when the month's big three sequels will duke it to see who outgrosses the rest. Right now, that looks like a fight between a LEGO in a Batcape and Fifty Shades' chain, whip, and torture rack, with John Wick's arsenal of killing machines a worthy if implausible dark horse challenger.

1. The LEGO Batman Movie (February 10th)
Three years ago, The LEGO Movie arrived on the scene with questionable expectations. It left with enthusiastic reviews, a devoted fanbase, a $257 million total gross, and the launch of both a potential franchise and voice-over lead Chris Pratt's career as a star of shockingly overperforming films (well, other than Passengers, The Magnificent Seven, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, etc., etc.).

That first LEGO movie was a little too meta for my own good, but it broke out to ridiculous and offensive numbers ($69 million first weekend), and seems to have set the building blocks for a whole cinematic den of LEGO-sized and -built spin-offs, with a Ninjago film premiering later this year, and other releases of a similar toy-sized ilk in various stages of deliberation and preparation.

So, then, The Lego Batman Movie is the year's first big superhero film (well...). Most of the live-action actors don't reprise their roles; Will Arnett carries this one as Bruce Wayne and the Bat, Michael Cera lands his dream role of Robin, Zach Galifianakis is the ever-present Joker, and the supporting cast of vocals is distinguished by both comedians and somewhat more serious thespians. The film's poster throws in every major Batman side character and villain except for The Kitchen Sink (The Kitchen Sink is a malevolent plumber whose hands were fused with a pair of radioactive faucets..., etc.; he'll be in the sequel). As a childhood viewer of the 1990s Batman series, seeing some of these characters on-screen at last lit the nodes of memory, with the film promising the likes of Clayface, Blight, Mr. Freeze, and, as prominently as you might expect, Harley Quinn (Jenny Slate). At three years after the original LEGO Movie, it's exactly at the precipice of successful sequels, and LEGO Batman is lucky to come in as only the first follow-up in the wave of LEGO content set to blockade across the screens in the unsuspecting near future.

All that information, and the film's box office still baffles me. So as frank as I'll sound, my question is, I dunno, does anyone take any of this seriously? Should we expect typical caped crusader box office, even if not directly infused by the skill of Christopher Nolan (who, as it turns out, is not involved here)? Can this film overtake Batman & Robin's $107 million total? I could be underestimating LEGO Batman, but I'm still unconvinced that the human race will so readily attend LEGO-made versions of their favorite entertainments, at least so much so as to guarantee blockbuster earnings.

On the other hand, a LEGO version of Fifty Shades Darker would be a must-see; imagine the possibilities.

Opening weekend: $47 million (4-day) / Total gross: $150 million




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2. Fifty Shades Darker (February 10th)
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan return for nocturnal festivities two years after their first on-screen date, and launch themselves once again into Valentine's Day weekend, which is one holiday Johnson does not take off (she recently carried the light romantic film How to be Single, which opened on the same weekend in 2016 and was largely S&M-free). Hey, the first film was kinda funny, but it wasn't so bad at all, as far as kinky big-budget romances based on tawdry internet fan-fiction go. You may mock it all you want (as you should), but getting all those chains, whips, and muscle contractors up there on that wall takes a lot of work and dedication.

Other than a change in director (James Foley this time), much of what was true for the first film remains the same, with some expansion of the supporting players; Kim Basinger is nicely cast as one of the male lead's former romantic pursuits. The love story, which seemed during the first film's last frame to have stalled, continues here, with Anastasia Steele still a hopeless if largely untested romantic and Christian Grey retaining his reputation as a stoic practitioner of the dark arts (oh, and by the way, he's still really rich, if it's at all relevant). The trailer plays up a colorful masquerade ball and the film's thriller elements, and seems to point to concurrent threats from the past (his) and the same old hesitations about the future (hers).

The book series is probably a few years off from the height of its popularity, and so the first film's opening ($85 million) and closing ($166 million) will most likely remain high points for the series. While the third film, scheduled for next year, might decline neath $100 million, the ship is sailing ahead this time with only a minimal downsizing of crew. And as for this franchise, too bad the name "Nocturnal Animals" was taken.

Opening weekend: $73 million (4-day) / Total gross: $144 million


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