Weekend Forecast for June 14-16, 2019

By Reagen Sulewski

June 13, 2019

Cutest alien ever!

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There were always a few question marks on this summer's slate of films, relying so heavily on sequels, reboots and retreads as it does. But we're barely into June, and studios have to be nervously pawing at their collars after the dire showing of a few of their biggest properties. So let's trot out the next contestants/lambs to the slaughter? Sure, what else are they gonna do, launch an original title? It is to laugh.

In what seems like a typo, the first Men in Black movie came out 22 years ago this July at the height of Will Smith's action-blockbuster career (or maybe one of them - he's kind of cycled). Opening to a then ridiculous $51 million, it was a rare sci-fi-comedy-action blend that worked (I mean kinda - it's exceedingly thin on plot if you go back to it). Two lacklustre series later and the fact that Will Smith is now the same age as Tommy Lee Jones was in the first film and we're set for a relaunch with Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson in Men in Black International.

The basic premise remains the same - there's a secret agency of anonymous, invisible agents responsible for keeping the vast and numerous presence of peaceful aliens on Earth a secret, and safe from invasions by not-so-peaceful ones. Thompson plays a young agent who's been searching for the organization since she was a girl, when her parents were mind wiped and she wasn't, setting her on a life-long quest to join. Hemsworth is her partner, a more seasoned, if a little bumbling and brash veteran of saving the world. Emma Thompson joins the cast as the new head of the agency, while Kumail Nanjiani is the voice of an awkward little alien sidekick.

The formula for a Men in Black movie remains constant here, wild character designs, outlandish weapons and fight scenes and tons of fish-out-of-water humor as our "straight" characters have to navigate in a world of zaniness. Barry Sonnenfeld is no longer behind the camera as director, handing the reins over to F. Gary Gray, though that's not a name that inspires a ton of confidence. Hemsworth and Thompson have tested chemistry from Thor: Ragnarok, but it's a bit of a stale franchise that has bled out box office at each turn.

Middling reviews and a lack of really solid gags in the commercials are definitely troubling, but that earlier fact of it being 22 years since the series debuted is much more of a red flag. Between the three previous movies, there's probably one entire good movie in total, and it's not a series that's endured in pop culture, like Indiana Jones or Ghostbusters (or Toy Story... just wait one week for some fireworks). All of these things seem to point to a studio simply scrambling for whatever they have in their catalog and hustling it out. Nice idea, just... no one was pining for new Men in Black. They've kept the budget down, relatively speaking, which is good since they'll be opening at around $44 million.

A franchise with an even higher "wait, who asked for that?" factor is Shaft, which comes back 19 years after the Samuel L. Jackson sequel and introduces a third generation of private detectives names John Shaft (can you dig it? ehhhh, sorta). Jessie T. Usher plays the newest member of the family to appear on screen, as a cyber security expert investigating the mysterious murder of his friend. He calls upon his erstwhile dad (Jackson, reprising his role from the 2000 movie), who has issues with the Kids These Days, particularly this son of his, who fails to live up to his own standards of what being a man about town is. It's two curmudgeons for the price of one, as Richard Roundtree, original Shaft, joins the proceedings to exercise some old-fashioned ass-kicking, though as Jackson's father, not his uncle as the 2000 film claimed (with a six-year age gap. Ummm).




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The last version of this film was directed by John Singleton and had an interesting point of view and a couple of very compelling villanous performances from Christian Bale and Jeffrey Wright (who actually collected a handful of critics awards for it). This film, with Story's influence no doubt, seems to be taking more of a comedic bent to the idea, versus the ultra-serious, but pro-police-brutality (! that aged poorly) plot that characterized the last film. It's less blaxsploitation and more 21 Blax Street. Reviews are definitely not good and the support behind the film is lacking - where Jackson was "having a moment" back in 2000, now he just looks like another Cranky Old Guy, and is about 5 years too late for that to be a good thing. I'd expect $15 million for a start here.

It's a double dip of Emma Thompson this weekend, with Mindy Kaling's Late Night, expanding to 1,500 venues after a 4 screen debut last weekend. Thompson plays a late night talk show host that's spiralling downwards, bringing on Kaling with the hope that a new viewpoint in the writer's room with save the show. Written by Kaling herself, it's quite the wish-fulfillment movie and for a movie that's about comedy, seems to be absent that in the ads. Thompson is just a brashier version of her uptight persona, while Kaling is the super-best friend with all the answers and I'm basically falling asleep writing this sentence. It should be an afterthought this weekend with around $5 million.

Returning films are led by a couple of films that majorly disappointed. The Secret Life of Pets 2 fell off by over 55 per cent opening weekend to opening weekend from its original, as people realized just how little there was there. Kudos to making their one big idea work at least once but it's basically a glorified animated TV show that hit big somehow. From its $46 million opening weekend, it should drop to around $26 million this weekend.

The bigger story is Dark Phoenix, likely the last go-round for Fox on the X-Men franchise, particularly after a $32 million start, the weakest of all of the X-Men films. That it was the second kick at this story, with terrible reviews, awful ads and little going for it in the acting department all doomed this to mediocrity. This should fall massively to around $14 million this frame.

Disney's Aladdin broke through the $200 million plateau last week and is closing in on $250 million over this weekend. A solid international hit, it's a good news story for Disney when they needed one from their non-superhero/animated film departments. I'd give it $14 million this weekend, as it attempts to get to the $300 million mark.

Rocketman isn't Bohemian Rhapsody - far from it - but is still churning along with a solid amount each weekend and should reach the $100 million mark. I'd expect $8 million this weekend. Godzilla fell a massive amount in its second weekend, putting even a $100 million domestic total in a bit of jeopardy. While the next Kong/Godzilla film is already happening, it'll be difficult to justify much in this universe beyond that, without some serious adjustments to budgets. Look for $6 million here.


Forecast: Weekend of June 14-16, 2019
Rank
Film
Number of
Sites
Changes in Sites
from Last
Estimated
Gross ($)
1 Men in Black: International 4,224 New 44.3
2 The Secret Life of Pets 2 4,564 +3 26.7
3 Shaft 2,952 New 15.6
4 Dark Phoenix 3,721 0 14.5
5 Aladdin 3,556 -249 14.3
6 Rocketman 3,021 -589 7.2
7 Godzilla: King of the Monsters 3,207 -901 6.5
8 Late Night 2,218 +2,214 5.5
9 John Wick: Chapter 3 2.033 -743 4.8
10 Ma 1,782 -1,032 4.0

     


 
 

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Thursday, June 20, 2019
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