February 2017 Box Office Forecast
By Michael Lynderey
February 2, 2017
6. Rings (February 3rd)
Death by videocassette returns yet again for this third film, with a largely unknown cast of teenagers being targeted by the same Japanese-inspired ghost who, at the height of her fame roughly ten years ago, spent two movies chasing Naomi Watts across the country while being parodied rather astutely in Scary Movie 3. Since, these days, only quaint antiques stores carry VCRs, it appears that the joke is now on her and her murderous videotape; although as with all horror movie villains both ectoplasmic and corporeal, she cannot be killed and never dies, except through low box office attendance for her starring roles (there's a good idea for a horror movie). As with many of my horror sequel predictions, I must offer a history lesson before I can issue a forecast, and especially because the original The Ring (2002) remains one of the most influential horror films of the young century, having left in its wake not one but two particularly annoying sub-genres, 1) the American remake of a Japanese film (which it was), and 2), the PG-13 ghost movie (ditto), two film types that are often but not always combined to create movies that are even more annoying (The Grudge, Pulse, The Eye, etc.).
The cast consists of hitherto unknowns, while Vincent D'Onofrio reprises his usual plot-explaining luminary (ala Sinister). The first Ring took in $129 million, a lofty goal this one will not achieve, but we've seen that thus far the year has a knack for awarding decent openings to PG-13 horror films (though maybe not so much to their R-rather action hybrids, a la Underworld and Resident Evil).
So did America miss Samara, the killer videotape ghost? She has a strange sort of pre-embalmed charisma that's hard to resist. But we must try.
Opening weekend: $15 million / Total gross: $38 million
7. The Great Wall (February 17th)
Matt Damon, Willem Dafoe, Pedro Pascal, Jing Tian, and Andy Lau headline this action fantasy film carrying yet another topical title; in events that are not meant as metaphor, The Great Wall depicts 1000s-set combat between gallant warriors and giant monsters who had previously been held back by the title structure, the Great Wall of China (so that's what they built it for!). The Great Wall poster emblazons the line "What were they trying to keep out?" square opposite Matt Damon's face, producing an imprudent if comical answer to its own question.
The Great Wall cost $150 million and was released in China last year, where it has performed reasonably. Over here, it has been delayed a little and occasionally accused of whitewashing, I guess because neither Matt Damon nor his antecedents were around in 11th century China. Damon carries star power, to be sure (Jason Bourne finished with a more-than-respectable $162 million last summer), but these faux-history historical epics have largely come and gone from both screen and memory in recent years. The vaguely if inelegantly comparable Gods of Egypt totaled at just $31 million at a similar release window last year, while another Asian-set epic, 47 Ronin, was largely overlooked on the domestic front in December 2013, though its star is now seeing much better days as the leading man of film number 3 on this list. So there's hope.
Opening weekend: $13 million / Total gross: $35 million
8. A Cure for Wellness (February 17th)
Director Gore Verbinski may well be known for pricey action-adventures, specifically ones in which Johnny Depp often happens to appear (Pirates, Rango, and the still-underrated Lone Ranger), but he had in fact also launched the American branch of the horror franchise The Ring, and this month returns to provide it with some competition. Dane DeHaan, probably my favorite actor of my generation, is the star; having dabbled in indies in recent years, here he carries his first wide release since Chronicle, which was also kind of a high-concept genre film and which broke him out as a star on a cool Friday night five Februaries ago. A Cure for Wellness is about some kind of sinister clinic holding forth experiments on innocents in the Swiss Alps, with DeHaan playing the investigator who scours the place looking for the twist ending. I don't know if the trailers and posters sell this film quite clearly, and the title is eccentric and opaque, though I will defer to DeHaan's good judgment.
Opening weekend: $13 million / Total gross: $32 million
9. Fist Fight (February 17th)
Fist Fight's plot seems a mild nudge at workplace conflict, with two teachers setting up an epic brawl after school to sort out their differences (wait, what?), though it's always great to see educators who are really passionate about their work. Returning to self-effacing suburbia for a bit, Fist Fight stars Ice Cube in the kind of comedy he could've headlined at just about any time in the last 21 years, post-the day when Friday (1995) made him a perhaps unlikely comedy leading man. Charlie Day, who always did look like he suspects that he's about to get his face pummeled in, broke out in Horrible Bosses but hasn't gravitated toward a leading film role until now, while the supporting cast consists of Tracy Morgan and more than a handful of humorous thespians (Jillian Bell, Kumal Nanjiani) on the verge of breaking out, though here they're only on the verge of the poster. As the month's only real intentional live action comedy, it might score a few points, but barring good reviews, I'm uncertain of its longevity. Still, let the best man win.
Opening weekend: $9 million / Total gross: $28 million
10. Collide (February 24th)
Nicholas Hoult plays an American without a special set of skills who nevertheless finds himself engaged in a sort of younger iteration of Taken, chasing down his girlfriend (Felicity Jones) across the Autobahn highway in Germany (no speed limit there, remember?), while combating whichever group of hard men are earning a minimum wage doing muscle work for the film's villain. Collide may or may not have been pushed back from a 2016 release to capitalize on Jones having just carried Rogue One, which overcame great odds to become the biggest domestic earner of last year (wait, was it? That sucks), as well as having co-starred in Inferno, which remains one of the better Tom Hanks films (okay, that was trolling. There are at least four or five that are more excellent). Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley are the supporting Sirs ("Sir Anthony Hopkins", etc.) who dabble in malfeasance, Hoult seems like a nice guy, "Autobahn" is a very cool word, and the film should probably do okay in the month's later days.
Opening weekend: $10 million / Total gross: $19 million
11. Rock Dog (February 24th)
Rock Dog is a Tibetan mastiff who's musically inclined (but at least he doesn't blog about it). Like The Great Wall, this is a Chinese-American co-production that's already played on the other side of the world. There's a noted voice cast (Luke Wilson, J. K. Simmons, and Lewis Black) and some cute animated bits, and so with this prediction I wish to be flattering but must ultimately be honest.
Opening weekend: $5 million / Total gross: $18 million