Weekend Forecast for December 22-24, 2017
By Reagen Sulewski
December 21, 2017
The usual shotgun approach to the Christmas week leads to at least six new wide releases and numerous expansions and limited releases filling the cinema screens over the most wonderful box office time of the year.
Leading the way on Wednesday is Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, fulfilling the promise we all knew would happen of a Guns N' Roses song being used to sell a children's movie (following up on this summer's use of Eminem for said same). A sequel to 1995's adaptation of the children's book about a mystical board game that transports its contestants to an adventure land, it updates the setting for the modern equivalent, video games. Starting off with a Breakfast Club type situation, it then transports its collection of student caricatures – jock, nerd, hot chick, female nerd – into characters that exist in the game, with Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black and Karen Gillan respectively personifying them there.
And then we get to the wacky physics-bending action-adventure stuff, as the four must “beat the game” to return to the real world, fighting through their own mental blocks and adapting to their new, game-appropriate and seemingly-assigned-by-a-therapist powers. There's also a direct tie-in to the original movie with filmmakers hinting at a tribute to Robin Williams through his character from it. It's nothing particularly revelatory but as a solid., middle-of-the-road family action picture over the holidays, it's placed perfectly to grab the Night at the Museum audience. As directed by Jake Kasdan (who had just that one brilliant film, Zero Effect, in him, apparently), it has received strong reviews and should compete to be the biggest earning of the new openers, coming in with around $38 million over the weekend.
Also opening Wednesday was The Greatest Showman, a musical about the life of circus founder P.T. Barnum, holding him out as a sort of Mother Theresa to the outsider community. Hugh Jackman plays the lead role, with Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Zendaya and Rebecca Ferguson in key roles. As directed by Michael Gracey, a former effects supervisor, it plays a bit like watered-down Baz Luhrmann.
In the wake of La La Land, the move towards more original musicals is a natural one, but that's a tough bit of lightning in a bottle to capture again. The ads lay heavily on the “From the lyricists of!” angle, but I'm not sure that's really the winning pitch for this film. Musicals are notoriously hard to catch on without buzz, and this one doesn't quite have it. Reviews are middling at best, though this would not be the first Christmas spectacle to defy critics, but I think any such windfall from this would occur starting on the 25th. I'd be looking for a weekend figure of around $12 million.
Coming then, to the weekend releases proper, we start with Pitch Perfect 3, the wrap up to the surprise hit franchise about a capella singing contests. This edition catches up with the Bellas after their world championship win only to find that being in a high level vocal group doesn't entirely translate to success in the real world. Thus, they reunite to go on a USO tour and finding themselves up against bands that *gasp* use instruments! There's also a record deal in the mix somewhere, but it may only be extended to Beca (Anna Kendrick) at the expense of the rest of her crew – will she abandon them for bigger things when they're clearly looking to her for support and camaraderie?
Coming on the heels of the surprising and leggy hit of the original, and then the giant smash but also tremendous critical disappointment that was the sequel, Pitch Perfect 3 finds itself in the squishy middle in terms of potential. Terrible reviews might normally sink this, but it's probably critic proof in a lot of senses. More worrying is the recycled plot points and jokes from the other two films, and the realization that there's only so much you can drag out of films that are mostly about singing cover versions of songs. Factoring in the general reduction in opening weekends that happens around Christmas, I'd say we're looking at a start of $35 million.