Weekend Forecast for February 14-16, 2020

By Reagen Sulewski

February 13, 2020

Wait a second. I'm not the first cartoon character you've driven with?

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A triple event weekend - Valentine's Day, President's Day and post-Oscar afterglow - gives the opportunity for multiple firework displays at the box office, both major and minor. Four new wide releases make it a good old fashioned "something for everyone" weekend.

The list of video game film adaptations worth a damn is a pretty short one. You've got ... hold on... no wait it'll come to me... uh, some of the Resident Evil movies are fun? The Pokemon movies, kind of? A couple of them have been reasonably successful financially, such as Assassin's Creed, and Warcraft (no, really. $438 million gross), but those came with a heavy reliance on international box office. Perhaps ending this mighty streak of uselessness is one of the more unlikely candidates, given both the thinness of the character and the horror of the early footage, Sonic the Hedgehog.

Sega's one-time flagship character, built to compete with the Mario franchise, does actually have a mild history in crossover animation. But the basic characteristics (runs fast, likes gold rings) don't lend themselves a ton to a major motion picture. Enter some sassification, and the help of an unhinged comedic talent. Ben Schwarz voices the title character, who arrives on Earth from an alternate dimension and can run at supersonic speeds. While stranded here, he longs for friendship, and somehow lands on choosing James Marsden (hilariously top billed - I want his agent, wait... no I don't - this is his second movie where he spends the whole time just talking to nothing), a local sheriff. This also brings him to the attention of the main villain of the series, Dr. Robtonik, played by Jim Carrey as basically a "Jim Carrey's Greatest Hits" character, complete with literal moustache twirling.

Leaning heavy on the pop culture references, gross-out humor and video-game logic mayhem, it's squarely aimed at kids, so your grimdark fantasies from your fanfiction are just not going to happen (this time. Save it for the Chris Nolan reboot). As dark as it gets here is Robotnik's plans to steal Sonic's powers for world domination, so literal cartoon stuff. Reviews are, surprisingly, pretty positive, although we're mostly grading on a curve here. This isn't high art, or even a Marvel movie - it's a diversion fit for the low teen and pre-teen set.




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That we've got a somewhat enjoyable product here is a bit of a miracle after the first trailer inspired gasps (gasps!) across the Internet, as the original character design had made the insane decision to give realistic teeth and eyes to Sonic's animation. A softened look greets us here, making the film actually watchable instead of having us constantly recoiling in horror. While this honestly feels about 20 years too late for maximum cultural impact, it probably took this long for technology to catch up to the right aesthetic in movie making so as for it to not be utter trash. its best hope at crossover appeal is Jim Carrey nostalgia, as it'd be great to see him throwing zany comedy fastballs again. I'd except an opening weekend of around $40 million this weekend.

Fantasy Island seems like a strange property for a big screen adaptation, until you realize that Blumhouse has gotten its tendrils into it, and then it's like, oh. Ohhhhhhhhh. The classic of 80s TV, which saw Ricardo Montalban and his rich, velvet tones welcome guests to a remote Pacific island where their greatest wishes were granted, often with a moral lesson attached to them. And once you start your fantasy, you *have* to see it out to the end no matter what.

The 2020 version of this makes the morality play more explicit, with the fantasies of the guests putting them in terrible peril, and requiring them to make heroic efforts to survive their supposed fantasy, a bit like a Monkey's Paw version of Saw. Lucy Hale, Maggie Q, Austin Stowell, Jimmy O. Yang and Ryan Hansen star as the guests, while Michael Pena plays the mysterious Mr. Rourke, proprietor of the island. This film's version of Tattoo is no Herve Villechaize, but rather Parisa Fitz-Henley, maybe best known for being Meghan Markle in one of those quicky Hallmark films.

Blumhouse continues to have a strong streak of tiny horror films that punch above their weight, and this matches well to another of theirs that starred Lucy Hale, Truth or Dare. I don't think this quite matches that $18 million opening weekend, but a $15 million or so take isn't unreasonable based on the solid and suspenseful ads.

Romance on Valentine's Day is taken up by The Photograph, which plays like a lost version of a Nicholas Sparks adaptation. Issa Rae stars as a woman discovers a mysterious photograph of her recently deceased mother, and in tracking it down, finds it was taken by a rising-star journalist, played by LaKeith Stanfield. From there, a romance blossoms, which also allows Rae to discover some truths about her mother and her romances (from the distant 1980s!).

This is in no way ground-breaking stuff, in fact it's well trodden ground. But that's exactly what romance fans are looking for, and on Valentine's Day it's going to be the best choice by far (Sorry, Harley). Director Stella Meghie is starting to make a name for herself, but this is probably going to struggle outside of mostly Black audiences, looking to make around $13 million.

Downhill is a curious case of a national release that seems to have all the elements of a wide release. Will Ferrel and Julia Louis-Dreyfus star in the film which is a genre-flipped remake of Force Majuere, a Swedish film about a father who panics in the face of an impending avalanche at a ski resort, only to have to deal with the consequences of abandoning his family when it turns out to be a false alarm. While that film was a drama, this plays up the comedy aspect, with Ferrell's natural goofiness leading well to a character that finds sudden cowardice, and Louis-Dreyfus playing well at bitterness and disappointment.

Names like this would seem to support a major release, but it's receiving "just" a 2,300 venue slate, in part due to it being a Searchlight property. Reviews are also not being kind to it, and it seems to have not survived the translation both to English and to comedy. This should start with only around $5 million.

After a disastrous roll out, Birds of Prey dropped its unwieldy subtitle for its second weekend, becoming just: Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey, bending to the reality of why anyone had any interest in this film in the first place. I don't think that was the problem though, and a $33 million opening was well below plausible worst case scenarios. Although it wasn't the most expensive budgeted comic book film, at $97 million it's still going to struggle to find its way to profitability. Bad news has a way of snowballing, and the title change is basically an admission that they've completely botched this. Back to the drawing board for DC? Give this $14 million this weekend.

Bad Boys For Life held decently for its fourth weekend, and now has an outside shot at $200 million domestic. It's been a stubborn little performer, and last weekend was surprisingly gentle to returning films, though it should drop to around $7 million this weekend.

The two films that stand to benefit most from Oscar weekend are 1917, and of course, Best Picture winner Parasite. A win like that should have a major impact precisely because it's a film that was overlooked due to it being a foreign film. There's a real chance for discovery by the public as it expands to over 2,000 venues this weekend, and it could earn as well as $5 million. Meanwhile, 1917 wasn't shut out, but lost out on most of the major awards it was anticipated to grab. It still got exposure and should see a strong holdover, but just isn't going to get the boost it might have from a Best Picture win. Look for it to see $7 million this frame.


Forecast: Weekend of February 14-16, 2020
Rank
Film
Number of
Sites
Changes in Sites
from Last
Estimated
Gross ($)
1 Sonic the Hedgehog 4,167 New 40.2
2 Fantasy Island 2,784 New 15.6
3 Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey 4,236 0 14.8
4 The Photograph 2,516 New 13.5
5 Bad Boys For Life 3,185 -345 8.8
6 1917 3,081 -467 7.1
7 Downhill 2,301 New 5.9
8 Parasite 2,001 +941 5.4
9 Dolittle 2,866 -596 4.0
10 Jumanji: The Next Level 2,410 -319 3.5

     


 
 

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