May 2018 Box Office Forecast
By Michael Lynderey
May 5, 2018
With Avengers: Infinity Wars having been unceremoniously dumped on the last weekend of April (where it was easy to miss), May 2018 is left with just two entrants into the rigged megabucks lottery, starring a pair of incorrigible and very profitable rascals apparently beloved by the moviegoing population. The rest of the schedule is full of small films about strong female characters, and, frankly, from this slate, it's many of those I'd rather watch...
Dr. Phibes Rises Agai Solo: A Star War Story (May 25th)
And so it is that Solo: A Star Wars Story brings the Star Wars series to a
graceful end, providing a bittersweet conclusio... (how many more times am I going to do that joke? Well, I dunno, how many more Star Wars movies you got?)
2018 gives us a May without a single blockbuster special effects film released in its opening weekend (or its second), the first time this has happened since 2005, when the first weekend of the fifth month was opened by Kingdom of Heaven, House of Wax, and Crash, the biggest of which, Crash, finished with $54 million (although I have to assume Kingdom of Heaven was meant for bigger things). Before that, we must go back to the 1990s for a May that opened without any legitimate $100m grossers.
So, for obvious, April-related reasons, this month should end with more high-tech explosions and chases than it began with. Solo is set for May's very last weekend, and after a few years of underwhelming Memorial Day release slates, the film should at least whelm. Some forecasts even see a $200 million opening, but I'm an optimist.
Han Solo star Alden Ehrenreich appeared on an episode of Supernatural before being discovered by Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola, starring in the latter's indie Tetro (2009) and proceeding to headline the dusty if intriguing young adult adaptation Beautiful Creatures (2013); where he delivered the first of his trademark faux Southern accents, the most curious example of such for a guy from Los Angeles since Jeff Bridges. Ehrenreich's death scene in Stoker (2013) was memorably brutal, while his name seemed to appear on any number of casting lists for blockbuster roles (Spider-Man in 2010, Harry Osborne in 2012) until he won this one.
He is joined here by Emilia Clarke, who temporarily took over the Linda Hamilton role in Terminator (Linda took it back), and also does something on television I'm not very familiar with. As per Star Wars criteria, we are also given friendly robots who pack a mean comedic punch, a giant, snarling wookie who won't let his advanced post-centennial age keep him down, and TV's Donald Glover in his first reasonably important film role, as a young Lando Clarrissian (well, he was always young). Elsewhere, Paul Bettany provides what seems a gust of villainy, and Thandie Newton is a bun-haired rebel leader of some apparent importance. Also, a friend of mine says Woody Harrelson has never made a bad movie, and while he's sadly wrong about that, Star Wars fans are lucky to have Woody on board the ship this time.
There was some confusion about the directors of the picture, though suffice it to say what began as a Chris Miller and Phil Lord film has now become a Ron Howard directing credit instead. The man who once made Eat My Dust! is now making Star Wars, part 10? You take your work where you can get it.
Putting credits, complaints, and utterly irrelevant background information aside, it's worth noting that Star Wars has won the box office year just about every time it's had something new out (just like the Friday the 13th series! though much less deservedly). The big exception was sixteen years ago, when the original Spider-Man film (ask your grandparents about it) bested Attack of the Clones and took its golden crown, first in May and then the year entire. 2018 will make for the second time the space warriors have been beaten, I suppose, since Black Panther has already taken in $689 million (wait, really?), and the new Avengers film (such as it is) is making inroads at about the same goal.
Han Solo could at least win the summer season, though, where it does have to contend with the Deadpool, Incredibles, and Jurassic Park sequels. Let's get ready to rumble.
Opening weekend: $185 million / Total gross: $515 million
2. Deadpool 2 (May 18th)
Two of the biggest films of the year open within a week (but what have they done for me lately?).
Yet once more Ryan Reynolds dons on the pizza make-up, the tights, and the samurai sword, and launches into action, emitting a glib sense of humor while slaughtering hundreds of faceless nobodies priviledged to die in his very presence. Such is the stuff of magic.
Or so I'm told. The original film seemed to be tracking for some semblance of a $50 million opening, but decided to just go ahead and start with $132m over three days, unduly intruding on my beauty sleep on an otherwise slow February weekend in 2016. It broke all sorts of records for R-rated, ultra-bloody films ($363m total), and its sequel appears aching to break a few more.
In the first film, Deadpool killed dozens or hundreds of people to thank them for curing him of his terminal cancer.
The plot this time could not have possibly been predicted by anyone who'd seen the first film, and didn't also follow the comic books. Deadpool 2 introduces some kind of time traveling, ill-tempered, cyborg named Cable, who has seen too many Terminator films for anyone's own good, and who may or may not be the villain. Elsewhere, Deadpool assembles a team of super-powered individuals (...), and names them the X-Force, while commenting on the irony or intellectual property theft or some such humour.
The advertising for Deadpool 2 treats all this material like you should have already known it was coming, and maybe you did. Cable, I guess, is the straight man to Reynolds' humour-generating machine, and indeed is played by Josh Brolin with his trademark scowl and aversion to scatological humour. Returning parties include Leslie Uggams as Deadpool's blind neighbor, TJ Miller as a supporting humourist, and a walk-on role by one of our most prolific and highest-grossing screen actors, Stan Lee. Zazie Beetz is some kind of gun-totting vigilante, and the posters include unicorns and a giant rubber ducky, for any potential animal lovers in the audience.
All of this must sound terribly appealing to a lot of people, because Deadpool 2 should outpace even the loaded totals of its original film, which cut out the middle man by opening with the kind of weekend that should have been reserved for its own sequel. How much uncharted land that leaves for Deadpool 2018 isn't clear, though audiences certainly have a penchant for giving hundreds of millions of dollars to superhero films and then, immediately thereafter, hundreds more to satires of those films that point out how ridiculous they are.
Opening weekend: $200 million / Total gross: $455 million
3. Life of the Party (May 11th)
In a month where almost every film but the top two seems to be themed somewhere on this subject, Melissa McCarthy stars in a story about mothers and daughters, opening right on time for Mother's Day (and for the record, Deadpool and Han Solo didn't have mothers).
In the tradition of Rodney Dangerfield enrolling in his son's college in Back to School, McCarthy is a mother who follows her daughter onto higher education after her divorce leaves her aimless. Now, I don't hear much impassioned and nostalgic longing for Back to School today, but it was a funny film and one of the bigger movies of summer 1986, opening on June 13, the same day as the legendary Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and ultimately besting it, $91m to $70m. In the long run, it seems Ferris was triumphant anyway.
Life of the Party is McCarthy's third collaboration with husband Ben Falcone, she as star, he as director, and them jointly on scripting duties, after their interesting Tammy (2014) and uncouth The Boss (2016), both reasonable stimulants of box office grosses ($84m and $63m, respectively). This new film promises the opportunity of viewing McCarthy desecrate age-old and august college traditions like frosh week and mass consumption of beer kegs, while learning an important and affirming life lesson [or two] in the process - let your kids go? You can't relive the past? The possibilities for self-improvement are endless.
Looking at this forecast list as an anti-Solo and anti-Deadpool delegate, I see a lot of quality, but few plausible box office champions, save for this one. If the thirst for counterprogramming to the two dynamos is deep enough, the McCarthy film could even play for enough weeks to cross $100 million. Make Rodney Dangerfield proud.
Opening weekend: $22 million / Total gross: $75 million total
4. Show Dogs (May 18th)
Children this May are set to be entertained mostly by the dour Thanos and the brash Han Solo, and by potentially inappropriate excursions to the heavily R-rated if supremely immature Deadpool, so Show Dogs stands in striking contrast to the landscape it enters and surveys.
Show Dogs may appear a goofy and potentially scatologically-inclined comedy, but anything with dogs in it can only ratch as a positive (Show Dogs, the title, is completely literal). The film is helmed by Raja Gosnell, an old hand at broad children's entertainment, from Home Alone 3 to the Scooby-Doo films to all the Smurfs and Chihuahuas you can shake a stick it (and should).
Will Arnett stars as a police detective on the trail of some malfeasant behaviour, a collection of clues he follows to the Westminster Dog Show training rounds, or to an incredible simulation thereof. Among his human co-stars is Natasha Lyonne (nice to see in a major film again), while the roster of voices coming out of helpful canines includes Ludacris, Alan Cumming, Stanley Tucci, Jordin Sparks, Shaquille O'Neall, and of course Gabriel Iglesias, who had no less than five voice roles in major films last year, and so wasn't going to pass this one up.
This film's probable detractors may be distressed by what I suspect will be its higher than expected opening and total, but I'm just glad to see someone putting up a fight against Deadpool absolutism. Especially if it involves cute dogs.
Opening weekend: $14 million / Total gross: $45 million
5. Breaking In (May 11th)
The Breaking In poster features an intense Gabrielle Union standing firm and ready for battle, with the tagline "Payback is a mother" emblazoned across her person. This lines up nice symmetry with the recent Tyler Perry film Acrimony, where an angried Taraji P. Henson sat cross-legged in a dark room while "Hell hath no fury" was scrawled across the premises.
Acrimony was a tale of uncompromising revenge and hatred by a character who would not budge from her position (and that position's merits were, to the film's credit, made debateable rather than one-sided). Breaking In, on the other hand, is much more clear cut, a thriller with a female lead about city dwellers who encounter violent malevolence in the remote outdoors (and proceed to kill it). Union plays a mother who must attend to her father's passing in a large house in wooded locales far from significant population presence. There, she is challenged by home invaders who are after some secret treasure, and the film's poster more or less gets right to what happens next. She takes up arms and fights back to rescue her children from the offending parties.
The marketing here should be strong, and the film stands out as a thriller in a month with many more comedic alternatives, often also involving single mothers.
The afore-mentioned Acrimony, which features a climax so outlandish it must simply be seen
to be believed, seems like a reasonable financial guiding post, having opened with $17 million and finished with $42 mil. Breaking In, with a May release date and Mother's Day, should at least land in the same ballpark.
Opening weekend: $17 million / Total gross: $41 million
6. Book Club (May 18th)
In another respite from the intergalactic chaos, this particular book club is dominated by an all-star selection of legendary baby boomer women (or, in one case, baby boomer-adjacent). Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, and Jane Fonda star, four actresses whose work has been memorable and witty for any number of decades, including the last two.
They are draws. Keaton, for her part, had a run of successes in the mid 2000s (her Something's Gotta Give, 2003, remains one of my favorite romance films of the century). Bergen has played a lot of quirky ex-wives, Fonda sat out 1990-2005 but has since headlined several comedies, and Steenburgen's perhaps collected the most credits lately, appearing as gentle love interests to the likes of Nick Nolte (A Walk in the Woods) and Michael Douglas (Last Vegas), among many others.
So these are our clubbers, who find themselves in one of those plots where their lives are refreshed and upended by new friendships and hitherto undiscovered reading material. Though it's a bit... untoward... that the object of literary fascination in the film is the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy (with all due respect, of course). With novels as their inspiration, romantic misadventures surely follow, and the stars' significant others in the film include Don Johnson, Andy García, Richard Dreyfuss, and Craig T. Nelson (the absence of Sam Elliott from a film like this is explained only by his alien abduction).
Like many of the other titles on this list, staring agape at #1 and #2, Book Club should have a small but determined volley of support, carrying it to an honourable total against a low-budget.
Opening weekend: $10 million / Total gross: $31 million
7. Overboard (May 4th)
This decade, with the exception of her comeback in Snatched (2017), I have been forced to write about Goldie Hawn's work only in the past tense, which is a shame. She's one of my favorite comic actors, and Overboard (1987) was among her best roles, a spoiled heiress who loses her memory and is re-educated as his dutiful housewife by a local (Kurt Russell) to whom she had been ornery. And so, at his command, she proceeds to diligently wash his dishes, take out his garbage, raise his children, and behave in every way she had been trained not to. To spoil it for you, yes, she gets her memory back at the end. And yes, they fall in love and stay together, living happily ever after with the man's four sons, who had already been instructed by him to pretend the heiress is their mother ("How come I don't remember my own children?" she wondered).
I know how it sounds - but I assure you it was funny!
Perhaps the premise, par for the course of the day in 1987, is a bit too controversial for 2018, and so this time the boorish brainwasher is played by Anna Faris, while the millionaire who's turned into an obedient homemaker is of the opposing gender (comedian Eugenio Derbez). Outside of the Scary Movie films, Faris has dabbled in a fair share of box office successes, perhaps particularly Hef's last stand, The House Bunny (2008), and the always-topical The Dictator (2012). And while I confess to have missed most of his work, Derbez has starred in comedies that were blockbusters in his native Mexico and hits in the U.S., particularly Instructions Not Included (2013).
The remake should play reasonably well and will probably come in first among new May 4 releases, though looking at the chasm between it and Avengers' second weekend may not be for the faint of heart.
Opening weekend: $9 million / Total gross: $25 million
8. Tully (May 4th)
Worlds away from R-rated violence, Charlize Theron moves deftly from action cinema to intimate drama, as a working mother of three whose life is made a little easier by a night nanny (Mackenzie Davis) hired as a gift by her brother. It's a sort of twist on Mary Poppins, with less focus on the children and more on the friendship that grows between a mother and the woman she trusts with her children's lives.
Tully is written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman, and indeed Theron and the director worked together on the well-reviewed Young Adult (2011), a dark acerbic nightmare about an ex-cheerleader prowling around the streets of small town Minnesota. After his upbeat, fitfully charming, and financially excelsior Thank You For Smoking (2006), Juno (2007; also scripted by Cody), and Up in the Air (2009), the turn to Young Adult must have seemed a tad jarring. In any case, Reitman's new film is receiving quite positive reviews, his best since about his previous work with Theron, and setting it up as an excellent candidate for those seeking material outside of the Marvel-Disney coalition.
Opening weekend: $6 million / Total gross: $25 million
9. Bad Samaritan (May 4th)
Bad Samaritan is an old dark house thriller placed on the opening weekend of May in the belief that every month of the year must have at least one horror film (for other smaller films of the genre opening on this summer-starting weekend, I'm reminded of An American Haunting in 2006). Indeed, even as a practicing demographer of the upcoming film schedule, I must confess I had no idea this film was opening in wide release until a week ago (I've failed you all).
The story is about a valet (intriguing Irish actor Robert Sheehan) who breaks into a wealthy home, where he discovers a captive woman and the evil afoot that had made her so. A former Doctor Who, David Tennant, is the villain, along with Kerry Condon as the woman, and direction by disaster film-enthusiast Dean Devlin. This film's obscurity is not an indicator of absent quality: Bad Samaritan is receiving generally positive reviews, and could acclimate itself respectably, even at the bottom of the list.
Opening weekend: $2 million / Total gross: $5 million