It’s a four-day weekend at the box office and it’s poised to be kind to a few new releases and some holdovers. Most in the industry call this the unofficial end to the holiday box office as most schools are fully back in session after MLK Day.
Despite the expansion of one film and three new wide releases, I still think the family-friendly Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle will rule the four-day weekend at the box office. The film held nicely in the post-holiday frame last weekend and topped the box office for the first time after being in theaters since December 20. I’m thinking it could gross $30-35 million over the four-day weekend and be at about $290 million by Monday, a figure that seemed unthinkable before the film was released.
The next few spots might be a bit close to call but I’m going to give the edge to Proud Mary for second place. The film, which involves Taraji P. Henson playing a hit woman working for an organized crime family in Boston, is tracking very well among African-American audiences and looks poised to bring out Henson’s fan base. Strong social buzz is likewise driving optimistic forecasts for opening weekend at this time, while early presales are encouraging. Taraji P. Henson actually ruled the MLK four-day weekend last year when Hidden Figures dominated during its fourth frame with $27 million. The target audience does make an impression on opening weekend with films like this and I think that will be the case here. The one thing working against it is that it isn’t available for critics’ screenings ahead of release which could indicate potential poor reviews but that still might not affect the target demo from coming out. I’m calling $20-25 million for the four-day weekend.
This is where things will get even tighter. It should be a close race between Paddington 2 and The Post for the next spots. Paddington 2 is actually opening the widest of the new releases and also has the best reviews of the bunch (It’s still sitting pretty with 100% on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing). The film has more worldwide appeal than domestic fans (the first grossed $268 million worldwide with $76.2 million of that from domestic grosses). The first film opened on this weekend back in 2015 and played well with $18.9 million and I would imagine that domestic interest has increased a tad more since then. The sequel has already made $125 million overseas so far and it will add more to the bank with a predicted opening of $18-23 million over the four-day weekend.
The Post finally opens wide after solid showings in limited release. The film, starring Tom Hanks as Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and Meryl Streep as publisher Katharine Graham, goes wide from 36 to 2,820 sites on Friday. The National Board of Review named it the best film of 2017, with Hanks and Streep taking the top acting awards. Critical reviews are also strong for the Steven Spielberg release with a solid 87% on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing. Its platform run in select cities has generated vocal enthusiasm, while its pedigree and award season buzz should translate to a solid nationwide opening and a very leggy run with Oscar nominations still ahead later this month. The timely subject matter gives the film an added appeal to various audiences in the midst of an ongoing national conversation about the current presidential administration’s controversial direction. What could work against the film? Its second greatest asset (political relevance) could also be its biggest disadvantage. Even for those who lean toward the side of agreeing with the film’s not-so-subtle timing and message, there still exists some burnout on the subject matter as part of the continued fallout from America’s hotly divisive presidential election and ongoing administrative controversies. In the end, it’s not how well it opens as it goes wide but how it will leg its way out through awards season and I think there is potential for this to play well to older audiences in the weeks ahead. For now, I’m calling an opening in the $17-21 million range for the four-day weekend.
The last of the new releases has Liam Neeson doing what Liam Neeson does best lately in, The Commuter. Neeson portrays a train passenger who becomes entwined in a murder conspiracy after meeting a mysterious woman. The film honestly looks like every action film that has starred Neeson in the last few years but it’s a formula that has seemed to work for him. The film is actually fresh with 65% on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing so it would appear that it’s not as generic as it looks. While the actor does have consistent decent showings in this genre as of late, social media activity is well behind that of Neeson’s more successful efforts. The target older demo will also be hard fought for this weekend thanks to The Post also aiming for some of that audience. I’m calling about $13-15 million for the four-day weekend.
Check back on Monday to see how the box office plays out! It’s definitely a crowded marketplace with the aforementioned films and it should see solid showings from the other holiday films such as Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Insidious: The Last Key, The Greatest Showman & Pitch Perfect 3.