Weekend Forecast for September 20-22, 2019

By Reagen Sulewski

September 19, 2019

Brad Pitt, serious astronaut

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After many many weeks where there was little doubt about top spot at the box office, a genuine, electrified, three-car box office race has shown up on this lonely weekend in September, with an unusual amount of star power and heavyweight IP involved. Last week's top two aren't likely to go out without a fight as well, building the roster of current films back up from the late summer doldrums.

The film I'd give a slight edge to take top spot is the one based on the oldest franchise of the bunch, Rambo: Last Blood. Sylvester Stallone returns to this character for the fifth time, and 37 years since the release of First Blood. This film sees the aging Vietnam vet and clear PTSD sufferer retired to a farm in Arizona, recuperating from his extracurricular activities in Burma in the last film. His niece, who works with him to deal with his conditions, travels to Mexico in order to visit her estranged father, where she's kidnapped by human traffickers, as is customary in Mexico. Cue the carbon fiber bow and headband, cause Rambo's got some more anonymous brown people to kill!

In Sylvester Stallone's trip through memory lane of his films, this ranks below the Rocky revival, but above the upcoming Cobra remake, having had a little recent success. Eleven years ago, the most recent film in the series opened to a decent $18 million off hype of it being a return to form (it wasn't, really) and hyper-violent (oh, it was that). This one is that, too, and feeds into the most violent and ugly of modern sensibilities about the Other, as if to say to the Death Wish remake, "That was a good start, but why'd you pull your punches?"

That's the climate we're in right now though, and nostalgia and the Olds are driving a lot of projects lately. Recently, we had octogenarian Clint Eastwood direct himself to over $100 million with The Mule, a tale of senior citizen threesomes and drugrunning. While reviews are kind of dismal, the cynical action movie money should travel to this film, giving it an opening weekend of $21 million.

The sole film of the weekend's trio that's based on an original concept, Ad Astra also has the best star power. Brad Pitt plays the son of an astronaut (Tommy Lee Jones) sent on a secret space mission of his own (in a near future where we have colonies and shopping malls on the moon and have sent people to the outer parts of the Solar System). This mission involves secret experiments that potentially threaten all life and also, pirates on the moon! I mean, finally, Hollywood.




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Directed by James Gray, who has mostly run in the indie/crime genre, it's the kind of sci-fi film that's getting tagged with the "contemplative" descriptor, which is a synonym for "slow" and "audience infuriating". Reviews are still strong and it is a beautiful looking space movie with an IMAX connection. I'm reminded some of the Soderbergh/Clooney remake of Solaris, which alienated most of its viewers. This looks a little more straightforward than that, but it's not a blockbuster space movie like Gravity, it's a more personal one like First Man. I'd expect $18 million for opening weekend.

A film adaptation of British costume drama Downton Abbey isn't the most likely box office champ, but it's not the most outlandish one either, especially in this market. The ITV/PBS series about a English country estate in the early part of the 20th century, it's an Upstairs/Downstairs for the Internet generation with a nice tour of the major events of the early part of the 1900s and the massive knock on effects for British society as it emerged from aristocratic rule.

The feature film picks up in the late 1920s with the Earl and Countess of Grantham preparing for a royal visit and all the trappings involved in that - though unbeknownst to all, an assassin may be lurking! Meanwhile, social changes are happening and Maggie Smith is unhappy about all of it.

It's not earth-shaking stuff, but for fans of the series, which ran six seasons, it's a solid farewell to the comings and goings of this sleepy country estate. It's been four years since the last episode of the series, so it's possible that its time has passed by, though I would expect there's more loyal viewers than many other series. It managed up to 10 million viewers for some episodes, but I would expect the older skewing audience to take its time getting to this film. Look for around $16 million this weekend.

It: Chapter Two won a second weekend in top spot, despite losing over half its opening weekend tally. It's clear at this point that it won't match or even come close to the $327 million of the first half of this film, but a "house money" $225 million isn't anything to sneeze at. I'd look for it to drop to around $17 million this weekend.

Hustlers was a strong performer on its opening weekend with $33 million for the Jennifer Lopez led stripper heist movie (that is, strippers who heist, not a heist of strippers). While there's a little bit of Oscar talk for the film, that's probably outlandish. What's clear is that it's a big success for its multi-racial and mostly female cast, compared to its $20 million budget. Legs are possible for the film but I expect that to be a bit muted and a $16 million weekend is in the cards here.


Forecast: Weekend of September 20-22, 2019
Rank
Film
Number of
Sites
Changes in Sites
from Last
Estimated
Gross ($)
1 Rambo: Last Blood 3,618 New 20.8
2 Ad Astra 3,460 New 18.6
3 It: Chapter Two 4,156 -414 17.5
4 Hustlers 3,525 +275 16.4
5 Downton Abbey 3,079 New 16.2
6 Good Boys 2,017 -719 3.1
7 Angel Has Fallen 2,505 -571 3.0
8 The Lion King 1,978 -387 2.4
9 Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw 1,382 -668 1.9
10 Brittany Runs A Marathon 1,033 +276 1.5

     


 
 

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Saturday, October 19, 2019
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