It’s with sadness that I must inform my dedicated readers that this will be the very last Weekend Warrior, at least in this format and at this location. After 12 ½ wonderful years here at ComingSoon.net, I’ve decided to move on. It’s been a really hard decision for me to make, because this has been my home for so long and for such a large part of my life, but everyone needs a change and this seemed like the right time for me.
Thanks to everyone who read the column on a weekly basis and either contacted me via the comments, Twitter or via Email to talk about it.
But most of all, thanks to Mirko Parlevliet, one of the best bosses and friends I’ve ever had, for giving me the opportunity to get into this business and keeping The Weekend Warrior around this entire time. I’m honestly not sure what I’m going to do next and where life will take me, but hopefully we’ll meet again whenever I do.
And of course, I’m leaving things off on Thanksgiving, a holiday that’s been the bane of my existence ever since I started trying to predict the box office over 14 years ago. But because I love all my faithful readers so much, I’ve even decided to bring back the charts for this one last column… enjoy!
Director: Peter Sohn (“Partly Cloudy”)
Writer: Meg LeFauve
Voice Cast:Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Jeffery Wright, Steve Zahn, AJ Buckley, Anna Paquin, Sam Elliott, Frances McDormand, Marcus Scribner,
Genre: Animation, Family
What It’s About: A hypothetical situation where the asteroid that took out the dinosaurs missed Earth so that dinosaurs and humans end up co-existing, as it follows the journey of an Apatosaurus named Arlo (Raymond Ochoa) who gets separated from his family and ends up teaming with a young boy to try to find them.
For the first time in their 20+ year history, Disney•Pixar is releasing two movies in a single year and that’s after Inside Out became one of the summer’s biggest hits, grossing $356 million domestic and nearly $500 million more overseas. For Pixar’s 13th original non-sequel animated feature film, The Good Dinosaur, they’re exploring the subject matter of dinosaurs, one that’s already proven popular this year with the success of Jurassic World, currently the #1 movie of the year both domestically and worldwide.
The Good Dinosaur was originally going to be released in the summer of 2014, but word got around that it was plagued with problems and after original co-director Bob Peterson left the project, it was delayed for more than a year as they tried to figure it out and Pixar decided to release it later this year after Inside Out.
There’s little question that Pixar Animation Studios has earned its status as one of the top animation houses with $9 billion grossed worldwide from their releases over the past twenty years. They’ve also won 7 out of the 14 Oscars given out for animated feature since the introduction of the category in 2001 and created so many popular characters that have become favorites among kids of all ages. In fact, only one of Pixar’s movies in the past 15 years has grossed less than $200 million domestically with most of them opening with $60 million or more.
In recent years, they’ve been getting into doing more prequels and sequels to their biggest hits with 2010’s Toy Story 3 being their top grosser with $415 million after a $110 million opening. 2013’s Monsters University also did well with a $82 million opening, but Inside Out helped pave the way for their original movies to do just as big business, and that’s going to be a hard act to follow for The Good Dinosaur.
Sure, the subject at the core of The Good Dinosaur is a strong one, but the voice cast isn’t as much of a selling point unlike how Inside Out had a comedy star like Amy Poehler in a main role. Pixar’s biggest hits to date Toy Story 3, Finding Nemo and Monsters University, all had strong name actors who have proven themselves in other realms besides animation. Another big difference between The Good Dinosaur and Inside Out is that director Pete Sohn is a first-timer and not one of the Pixar “brain trust” as was the case with Pete Docter and others, and it certainly seems like that has made a difference with past Pixar movies (although who knows how much of the general public knows who directs these movies?)
More importantly, The Good Dinosaur is opening over Thanksgiving, one of the best times to release a family film. As you can see in the chart above, Disney quite literally owns Thanksgiving.
The last Pixar movie to open over the holiday was Toy Story 2 way back in 1999 and that’s still the #2 highest-opening Thanksgiving movie of all time with $80 million in five days (and that’s 1999 when tickets were cheaper and there wasn’t the 3D upcharges that has helped the box office). A year earlier, Disney opened Pixar’s A Bug’s Life and it didn’t fare nearly as well, but it’s still the #5 family film to open over Thanksgiving. When you account for 17 years of inflation, that amount would be much higher.
There is no one better at promoting and marketing family films then Disney and they have the proven track record, although for whatever reason, The Good Dinosaur has become a harder sell than a movie about the inside of a little girl’s brain.
The fact that they haven’t been screening the movie nearly as much as Inside Out (which played at CinemaCon months before release) and that most critics won’t see it until opening week (actually a day before release) is worrisome that they don’t expect the overwhelmingly positive reviews of other Pixar movies. And yet, there’s a good chance that The Good Dinosaur will be nominated for an Oscar in the animated category, which it will easily lose to Inside Out.
The Disney•Pixar brand is still one that can get people of all ages into theaters and there’s a good reason why their previous Thanksgiving releases have been so successful because it’s the perfect weekend for families to see movies together. Add to that the popularity of dinosaurs right now, especially among kids, and you have a good chance at a movie that will make $70 to 75 million over the five-day weekend and probably $200 million or more total with no direct competition until mid-December.
Distributor: Warner Bros./MGM
Director: Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station)
Writer: Ryan Coogler, Aaron Covington
Cast:Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Anthony Bellew, Sylvester Stallone
Genre: Action, Drama
What It’s About: Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) is the progeny of legendary boxer Apollo Creed, and in hopes of making a name for himself as a boxer, he travels from L.A. to Philadelphia to ask his father’s old friend Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) to train him as a boxer.
Sylvester Stallone’s 1976 breakout film Rocky wasn’t the first boxing film ever made, but it certainly is the one that most people will remember, mainly because it kicked off a franchise that extended through the ‘80s until it petered out with Rocky IV, which oddly enough opened over Thanksgiving where it grossed $31.8 million over the five days.
To date, Rocky Balboa is still Sylvester Stallone’s most famous role, as he went on to direct three of the four sequels from 1979 to 1985 and then revived the character for 2006’s Rocky Balboa. Creed is an interesting decision because it effectively acts as a sequel and a way to wrap up Rocky Balboa’s story while introducing a new boxing hero that has connections to one of Rocky’s greatest adversaries, Apollo Creed.
It’s also a way to reunite director Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan following their award-winning Sundance hit Fruitvale Station, which got Coogler a lot of attention and awards as his first feature. Before starring in the film, Jordan already had found some success starring in Red Tails and the superhero film Chronicle and he was at the center of controversy when he got the gig playing Johnny Storm, aka The Human Torch, in this year’s biggest superhero bomb Fantastic Four (but honestly, it wasn’t Jordan’s fault. He actually wasn’t bad in the role). Playing Adonis Johnson, Apollo Creed’s son, is another big move for the actor, one that will hopefully lead to future films (unlike Fantastic Four).
One thing bringing Coogler and Jordan on board will do is help bring in the African-American and urban crowd that have been severely deprived in terms of movies this fall, and there’s already a decent crossover audience with fans of boxing and Rocky.
The last boxing movie in theaters was Southpaw, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and directed by another top African-American director, Antoine Fuqua, which opened with $16.7 million back in July and grossed $52.4 million and that’s without the connection to the popular “Rocky” franchise.
Rocky IV’s opening over Thanksgiving could be used as an indicator for how well Creed might do, because $31 million by 1985 movie ticket standards is pretty huge and would probably be somewhere in the $71 million range if adjusted for inflation. That doesn’t mean Creed will open that big because it’s not a sequel, but it is a strong relaunch for the character that should bring in a large audience of older fans and younger boxing enthusiasts.
Creed is getting absolutely fantastic reviews so far, which definitely gives it an advantage this weekend since anyone unsure of whether it can live up to the Rocky legacy will have their concerns alleviated by the amount of positive reinforcement from the critics.
The nature of this movie will probably make it more frontloaded to Wednesday and Thursday rather than over the weekend which is more about family fare, but it should be good for roughly $30 million over the five-day weekend, putting it in third place behind The Good Dinosaur and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2. Without a lot of strong competition in the coming weeks before Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I can see Creed ending up with $85 million or more.
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Director: Paul McGuigan (Lucky Number Slevin, Push, Gangster No. 1)
Writer: Max Landis
Cast:Daniel Radcliffe, James McAvoy, Jessica Brown Findlay, Andrew Scott, Freddie Fox
Genre:Horror, Thriller, Drama, Action, Comedy
What It’s About: When Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy) learns that a freak at a circus is incredibly intelligent about anatomy and biology, he helps the poor soul escape and refashions him as his lab assistant Igor (Daniel Radcliffe), as they begin a mad experiment to try to create life.
Every Thanksgiving, there is one movie that just doesn’t fit in and this year it’s this attempt at reinventing Mary Shelley’s iconic horror monster with a new take on the Frankenstein legend, this one focusing more on the scientist and his assistant Igor. The movie is different in that it tells it through the eyes of the character who was depicted as a mindless hunchback in the original 1931 Frankenstein but who takes on a very different guise when played by the charming Daniel Radcliffe.
This is the latest attempt to reinvent a genre by Max Landis, who scored big time with his early superpowers film Chronicle and became quite in demand in Hollywood for his high concept original ideas, including the recent American Ultra and Mr. Right. He also was put in charge of trying to revive the horror creature that was in the public domain but telling the story from a different viewpoint, and Victor Frankenstein takes the well-known story and adds humor and action to the mix.
While Victor Frankenstein may be able to sell itself based solely upon the name value of its title, it’s just as much about whether the stars of huge franchises like the “Harry Potter” movies and the latest Professor X from Fox’s “X-Men” movies can get their fans into seats.
Daniel Radcliffe may be forever known as Harry Potter after headlining the 8-movie franchise that grossed $7.7 billion worldwide, although he’s had trouble translating that success into his subsequent films. One of Radcliffe’s first major films since completing the series was 2012’s The Woman in Black, another period horror film that grossed $54.3 million, but his movies since then have been smaller indies with only one (2014’s What If) getting a wide release.
James McAvoy has had prominent roles in Oscar fare like The Last King of Scotland and Atonement as well as scoring high-profile comic films like Wanted and playing the young Professor X in 2011’s X-Men: First Class and the Bryan Singer-directed X-Men: Days of Future Past. Those have generally been decent hits, although some of his other smaller indies like The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby with Jessica Chastain have barely made a mark, so it’s hard to see him as a box office draw.
So that brings us back to the familiarity of the title character. Last year’s awful I, Frankenstein, starring Aaron Eckhart, bombed with just $19 million total, while later that year Universal tried to revive their classic vampire with Dracula Untold, which did slightly better with $56.3 million grossed domestically, relying on its $160 million grossed overseas to make back its budget.
The movie could potentially be of interest to younger women due to the good-looking dudes, the glamorous time period and the film’s romantic angle for Radcliffe, but those that already have seen The Hunger Games will probably opt for family fare, so it’s hard to think that this will have much of an audience competing against the stronger new and returning movies.
If Victor Frankenstein was released at any other time–like in October when it was supposed to be released–it probably would have done big business, opening with $20 million or more, but opening a movie primarily targeted towards young guys over Thanksgiving is a death wish as seen by other films that tried it. It should be able to make $13 to 15 million over the five days but it will be less than $10 million over the three-day weekend and it’s unlikely to gross more than $35 or 40 million total.
Also expected to expand nationwide is Fox Searchlight’s Brooklyn, starring Saoirse Ronan, while Spotlight is supposed to expand even wider, which should hold its position in the Top 10 for another week. Brooklyn also has a chance of breaking into the Top 10 but it will be in the same general ballpark and it will depend on how well Ridley Scott’s The Martian holds up in its ninth weekend.
This Weekend Last Year
Last Thanksgiving, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (Lionsgate) remained #1 at the box office with $82.7 million over the five days and $57 million over the three-day weekend. The one new family movie, the animated Madagascar spin-off The Penguins of Madagascar (DreamWorks Animation/Fox), didn’t do as well as it should have, with just $36 million over the five-day weekend and $25.4 million for the three-day, barely getting into the Top 10 for family films released over Thanksgiving. It fared way better than the R-rated comedy sequel Horrible Bosses 2 (New Line/WB), starring Jasons Bateman and Sudeikis and Charlie Day, which only earned $23 million for fifth place, while Big Hero 6 and Christopher Nolan’s took third and fourth place with minimal drop-offs in their fourth weekends. Also the future Oscar nominee The Theory of Everything expanded nationwide into 802 theaters where it grossed $6.4 million over the five-day holiday. The top 10 earned $218 million, which shouldn’t be hard to surpass with this week’s offerings.
This Week’s Predictions
If the Mockingjay – Part 2 had fared better in its opening weekend, it would have likely remained #1 for a second, but it’s likely to drop, allowing the new Pixar film The Good Dinosaur to open at #1, even though it won’t gross nearly as much as Inside Out did earlier this year. It’s important to remember that Friday will be bigger than normal since everyone is out of work and school and a lot more people go to the movies after getting their Thanksgiving meals and Black Friday shopping out of the way. Similarly, Sunday tends to be lower than usual since people go back to work and school on Monday and that will affect the family films more than others. There’s a chance Brooklyn might break into the top 10 with its nationwide release, although it probably will be held back by one of the returning movies, most likely Ridley Scott’s The Martian as it continues its amazing run in the Top 10.
1. The Good Dinosaur (Disney•Pixar) – $53.5 million ($74.5 million 5-day) N/A
2. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (Lionsgate) – $45.5 million ($66.5 million 5-day) -35%
3. Creed (MGM/Warner Bros.) – $21.5 million ($32 million 5-day) N/A
4. The Peanuts Movie (20th Century Fox) – $10 million ($13.7 million 5-day) +4%
5. SPECTRE (Sony/MGM) – $9.3 million ($13.5 million 5-day) -9%
6. Victor Frankenstein (20th Century Fox) – $9 million ($13.2 million 5-day) N/A
7. The Night Before (Sony) – $6 million ($8.6 million 5-day) -15%
8. Secret in Their Eyes (STX Entertainment) – $4.4 million ($6.3 million 5-day) -3%
9. Spotlight (Open Road) – $2.8 million (4 million 5-day) +11%
10. The Martian (20th Century Fox) – $2.4 million ($3.5 million 5-day) -5%
— Brooklyn (Fox Searchlight) – $2.2 million ($3.2 million 5-day)
This Week’s Must-Sees
Janis: Little Girl Blue (FilmRise)
Director: Amy Berg
Stars: Janis Joplin
What It’s About: The director of acclaimed docs like Deliver Us from Evil, West of Memphis and the recent Prophet’s Prey tackles the life and career of the enigmatic ‘60s siren who broke onto the scene during the Summer of Love and quickly rose to fame before her sudden death at the age of 27 from a heroin overdose shortly before the release of her solo album “Pearl” in 1970. It’s an amazing film with lots of never-before-seen archival footage that really gives you a good idea what an amazing force she was on stage. It’s the perfect companion to two of this year’s other great docs, Amy and Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, a trilogy of films about what happens when one rises to fame too quickly. This was one of the best movies I saw at the Toronto International Film Festival and after its recent NY premiere at DOC-NYC, it will get a limited theatrical release before airing on PBS.
The Danish Girl (Focus Features)
Director: Tom Hooper
Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Ben Whishaw, Sebastian Koch, Amber Heard, Matthias Schoenaerts
What It’s About: During the mid-20s, Danish landscape painter Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) are a loving couple who are trying to have a baby, but when she asks for him to pose in a ballerina’s dress so she can finish a portrait commission, it awakens something in Einar that leads to him creating the entity of “Lili” that eventually leads to him becoming one of the first men to have gender confirmation surgery.
It will open in select cities on Friday and will likely expand nationwide sometime in December.
Other Limited Releases of Note:
Killing Them Safely (Sundance Selects)
Director: Nick Berardini
What It’s About: This film looks at the over 500 deaths from Taser-related injuries since they were introduced in the early 2000s by Tom and Rick Smith. It opens at the IFC Center in New York on Friday.
The Iraqi Odyssey (Typecast Films)
What It’s About: A personal story from an Iraqi filmmaker whose middle class family has been scattered across the globe due to war and the foreign occupation. Representing Switzerland for the Foreign Language Oscar, it opens at the IFC Center in New York on Friday.
You can post any comments or questions below, or you can get in touch with the Weekend Warrior on Twitter.
And th-th-th-th-that’s all folks!
Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas