Film Discussion

US Box Office Report: 08/11/19 – 10/11/19

Midway dive-bombs Doctor Sleep, Playing With Fire burns it down, Last Christmas’ heart is given away, and Other Box Office News.

Call it a hunch, but I get the impression that we may finally be seeing the last of the 80s nostalgia cash-grabs pitched as potential tentpole milestones by movie studios all at a loss for what to do to combat the giant gaping maw that is the Disney monopoly.  Last week it was Paramount’s turn to learn this the hard way by yet again dredging the rusting corpse of Terminator up for a big “NO, REALLY, THIS ONE IS HONESTLY GOOD NOW, THE SEQUEL TO JUDGEMENT DAY YOU ALWAYS WANTED!” as if we don’t recall said promises made the last two godawful times in the span of a decade.  And whilst Dark Fate did manage to just-barely open higher domestically than Terminator: Genisys back in 2015, the Chinese box office – a.k.a. the reason why Terminator: Mega Drive didn’t definitively crush this series in a giant hydraulic press – was extremely lukewarm on Dark Fate and hasn’t stuck around this week, much like US audiences as this managed to drop substantially worse in its sophomore frame (63%) than Terminator: 32x did (49%).  So, combined with Dark Fate somehow costing $30 million more than Terminator: CD did in a flagrant middle-finger to common sense economics… yeah, I’m thinking this one might finally be dead.  Please.

But that was last weekend’s news.  This weekend’s victim in the school of hard knocks – those hard knocks being “just cos the kids and middle-aged adults stuck in arrested development go goo-goo for Stranger Things, doesn’t mean they will immediately fling themselves at any old 80s franchise bait” and “shit, maybe this whole ‘Stephen King revival’ was really more of just an IT thing” – was Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep.  The adaptation of King’s belated sequel to his classic novel The Shining and also a belated sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s classic film take on The Shining despite the fact that such a thing should be incompatible didn’t do so hot.  And by “didn’t do so hot,” I of course mean “it got trounced by a Roland Emmerich movie I genuinely hadn’t heard anything about until last month and came in under almost half of its projected prediction.”  Midway leads the chart with $17.5 million, Doctor Sleep settles for silver with $14.1 million.  Yes, neither number is anything to write home about.  I know that I’ve been in a bubble for the last month and a half, first with London Film Fest and now with the ongoing (at time of writing) Desert Bus for Hope, so am probably not the best judge of character here, but maybe this is also what happens when you, err, don’t actually advertise your movie coming out?

(Seriously, I didn’t even hear negative buzz for either Midway or Doctor Sleep in the run-ups to now.  I heard actual nada, which particularly raised alarm bells for the latter.  Am I the only one who experienced that?)

Similarly dead-on-arrival just like its extremely obvious to guess twist is Paul Feig and Emma Thompson’s Last Christmas in which the pair’s noble efforts to punt Love, Actually out of the solar system and install an actually good Christmas rom-com into the canon slipped on some errant ice and cracked its skull open on a conveniently-placed curb.  (No idea why I decided to describe the box office performance of a film I want to see like a kill from a Final Destination movie but, sure, let’s roll with it.)  $11.6 million and a “B-” Cinemascore, again most likely because audiences were insulted by the obvious and stupid twist.  The only wide release movie that even comes close to being labelled a success is the hacky family comedy Playing with Fire because I guess we’ve moved onto reviving the cinematic touchstones of the 90s in an effort to make me pray for the sweet release of death.  Sure, $12.8 million doesn’t seem like a “victory,” but when the film is the cheapest of the quartet of new releases (although Christmas’ budget is non-specifically between $25 and $30 mil so it may technically have the $29 mil Fire beat there) and is the only release of the weekend to come in above industry expectations…  This is where John Cena does that cap removal, head rubbing “fine speech” response to my negative Nancy-ing.

Very quickly, your Jojo Rabbit update: Disney have left it floundering in moderate release where all its momentum can cool off, so it’s currently sitting just outside the Top 10 with $3.942 million from 802 screens and a middling $4,915 per-theatre average.  I promise I’m not trying to be a miserable bastard.  I do love movies.  It’s just that no good ones are out right now.

doctor sleep cover

Tsil Lluf.  Tsil Lluf.

US Box Office Results: Friday 8th November 2019 – Sunday 10th November 2019

1] Midway

$17,500,000 / NEW

Again, I promise that I haven’t been intentionally ignorant or locking myself up in a cave since I got back from LFF (even if doing so would’ve been rather financially prudent of my broke-ass unemployable-ass self), but genuinely the first I heard of this was a month ago when I was filling in the claim sheet for our STT writers.  I know that Independence Day: Resurgence sucked and was thankfully ignored to death, but damn, duders!  This is still Roland Emmerich!  Yeah, it’s been a rough decade for him – remember when he blew $30 million, 130 minutes of film and several talented actors and crew members on making a film about the conspiracy theory that Shakespeare was a fraud who didn’t write anything – but he’s still a name!  Sort of!

2] Doctor Sleep

$14,100,000 / NEW

Or, and just humour me on this, studios could try selling their movies for a change instead of dumping all but the MASSIVE blockbusters at random points in the schedule and being surprised when they don’t return great numbers?  Once again, I was with my friend Lucy, who is in the industry and is an active horror fan (rather than a passive horror fan like yours truly) two weeks ago and even she had heard absolutely nothing about this one, good or bad.  Why y’all doing Mike Flanagan dirty like this, Warner Bros.?  I mean, I’m not going to find out until it hits home media on account of being proudly wimpy, but Joel Thornton’s write-up doesn’t make it seem so bad.

3] Playing with Fire

$12,800,000 / NEW

This, on the other hand, has been relentlessly pushed in my face since August, still has another month to go over here due to being part of this year’s Boxing Day dumpees, and I can tell you with certainty that repeated indoctrination-like exposure does not in fact make this look any more palatable.  Admittedly, I felt the same “OH GOD WHY STOP” responses towards that live-action Dora movie in the run-up to its release only for that to be surprisingly enjoyable, but something tells me that the director of The Game Plan and Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 isn’t going to be able to snatch mild victory from the jaws of defeat like the director of The Muppets and Flight of the Conchords could.

4] Last Christmas

$11,600,000 / NEW

Not out here until Friday in a strange inverse to the order in which British-y movies usually get released.  I’ve deliberately kept myself away from all trailers relating to this one because it’s Paul Feig so he has my benefit of the doubt, but even I got spoiled on the twist because it was the first thing my mind jumped to when it got out around the time of the trailer’s dropping that there would be a twist.  Boy, Emilia Clarke just cannot catch a break when it comes to terrible twisty endings this year, huh?

5] Terminator: Dark Fate

$10,799,870 / $48,457,000

I had intended to tick this off on Wednesday, but time got away from me so I’ve pushed it to this week instead.  I also have to keep reminding myself that this came out, much like how I had to keep reminding myself it was coming out in the weeks leading up to release.  Shit, maybe I actually am the problem if entire slates are passing by me with nary a remembrance.  Dave Bond’s seen the film and shrugged his shoulders at it for those of you who need judgement passed in a timely fashion.

6] Joker

$9,200,000 / $313,491,507

Because I was late for Terminator, I was forced to relinquish my quest to be The Last Person to See Joker and get it over with since I had a slot to fill before my Farmageddon rewatch.  It bored me.  If this film were a person and I were at a party being subjected to its empty bloviating ineffectual provocations, I’d tell it “you bore me, darling” before going off to hang out with The Irishman instead.  That’s all there is to say.  Why have we been wasting so much oxygen on something so “meh?”

7] Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

$8,002,000 / $97,301,901

It has just re-dawned on me that Disney hired Academy Award nominated actor Chiwetel Ejiofor to appear in this dumb Game of Thrones for kiddies fever dream under heavy make-up for approximately 10 minutes of screen time to do nothing except rattle off nonsensical exposition and anticlimactically die a death the film is under the misguided assumption is supposed to be moving and emotional.  In case you had forgotten, the Maleficent duology are my kind of bad movies.

8] Harriet

$7,230,000 / $23,463,140

Drops on these shores in two weeks which is a remarkably quick turn around for both Oscar Bait and a specifically Black piece of cinema – for comparison: Julius Onah’s highly-acclaimed Luce, which opened in the US back in August, received its UK release just last week.  I mean, it’s gonna get murked by the other three efforts of counter-programming vying in vain for the adults who aren’t being dragged to or willingly patronising Frozen II seventeen-thousand times that opening weekend, but I appreciate the gesture.

9] Zombieland: Double Tap

$4,315,000 / $66,655,483

Speaking of dead people, did you know that The Sixth Sense turned 20 (in the UK) last week?  Eamon Hennedy went back in his time machine to see if the movie still holds up now that nobody’s going around calling Shyamalan “the next Spielberg” or anything else equally as hyperbolic and which only looks more embarrassing as the years stretch onwards.

10] The Addams Family

$4,100,000 / $91,367,705

Nowhere near creepy, kooky, mysterious, spooky, or -ooky enough.  Hell, it’s basically an Illumination joint.  Try harder next time.

Dropped out: Countdown, Black and Blue, Motherless Brooklyn, Arctic Dogs

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