Last weekend didn’t start the fire at the November box office after Paramount/Skydance Media/Fox’s mechanical breakdown with Terminator: Dark Fate, which is set to lose $130 million off an estimated combined $325M production and global P&A cost and $29M stateside opening.
This weekend, Warner Bros in a rare move for its genre product opens Doctor Sleep, Mike Flanagan’s feature adaptation of Stephen King’s 2013 novel and sequel to his 1977 tome The Shining, which is seeing a $25M-$30M start, enough to take the breath out of the James Cameron-produced Terminator sequel and take No. 1 for the frame. With Veterans Day falling on a Monday this year, the overall marketplace gets a bit of a boost.
Personally, I think Doctor Sleep is one of the best horror thrillers, up there with The Sixth Sense in its story of a grown-up but spiritually gifted Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor), who meets a younger girl with the same haunted gifts, with both taking on a cult of wackos led by Rose the Hat (the sublime Rebecca Ferguson) who kill children who possess “The Shining.” Not to mention what Flanagan pulls off in re-creating Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining hotel is pretty amazing, and is up there if not better than what Steven Spielberg pulled in Ready Player One. I expound on all of this because there’s a chance that Doctor Sleep has the potential to, no pun, sleep its way to big numbers in what will be a Frozen 2 Thanksgiving marketplace.
However, some are betting on the lower end of projections for Doctor Sleep based on its soft overseas start ($5.6M) from the UK, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and France, the pic’s 2 1/2-hour running time (I thought it ran at a fast clip), and level of scares. There’s also Doctor Sleep‘s Rotten Tomatoes score at 75% fresh, which is alright though below the 93% of Jordan Peele’s Us, the 98% of Get Out, and the 86% of It, but higher than the 57% Rotten of King’s latest Pet Sematary and It Chapter Two‘s 63% fresh. Doctor Sleep‘s strong suit is with younger demos and female, and in tracking actually looks stronger than Pet Semetary did when it opened to $24.5M.
Doctor Sleep is booked at 3,800 locations, sharing Imax with Dark Fate, but also playing in Dolby, PLF, Dine Ins and Drive Ins. Previews kick off Thursday at 6 PM.
Meanwhile, industry estimates figure Dark Fate will flicker out by dropping 50%-55% in Weekend 2 with $13M-$14.5M. Through five days, the Tim Miller-directed pic has made $34.5M, the lowest five-day take of the last five Terminators.
Outside of Doctor Sleep, which is counterprogramming to the larger November marketplace, is more counterprogramming with Universal’s Paul Feig romantic comedy Last Christmas starring Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding and Emma Thompson inspired by the George Michael holiday song. It is looking to do mid- to high teens at 3,300 theaters, beating Lionsgate/AGC’s $100M Roland Emmerich directed WWII movie Midway which will crash with $15M. Last Christmas will open alongside 10 territories including Australia, the Netherlands and Norway, and continues its international rollout through December. Last Christmas is strong with females 17-34 followed by older females and girl teens. Pic is stronger than Yesterday ($17M opening) among 17-34s, but that Universal/Working Title pic’s dominant demo was 35+. Last Christmas will jingle in at 7 PM previews tomorrow.
Midway is skewing toward older guys at 3,100 theaters timed appropriately to Veterans Day. Lionsgate acquired U.S. rights on the ensemble pic that stars Woody Harrelson, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, Aaron Eckhart, Darren Criss, Luke Evans, Patrick Wilson and Ed Skrein.
Lastly there’s Paramount’s comedy Playing With Fire starring John Cena, Keegan-Michael Key and Judy Greer, which is eyeing $7M-$10M at roughly 3,000 venues. Paramount was quite content last season with its $48M Mark Wahlberg-Rose Byrne-Isbaela Moner dramedy Instant Family, which opened to $14.5M and finaled at $67.3M stateside and $120.6M global — a solid single in baseball terms. It’s not certain that Playing With Fire will be ablaze in the family counterprogramming set, but ’tis the season to overindex. Right now females and kids are the key demos, but tracking is showing them at really low levels. Previews begin tomorrow at 4 PM. Overseas the pic will open in ten markets (24% of the overall international footprint) this weekend, including Mexico, Taiwan, Egypt, Trinidad, Columbia, Portugal, UAE, Bulgaria and Vietnam, with 58 additional markets to release.
On the specialty side, Amazon Studios’ Sundance acquisition Honey Boy is playing at four New York City and Los Angeles locations: Arclight Hollywood, The Landmark on Pico, and Lincoln Square and the Angelika Film Center. Pic is 96% fresh on RT. Fox Searchlight’s Jojo Rabbit, with $4.7M to date in its hop from 256 theaters in week 3, jumps to 600-750 locations in 35-40 more markets Friday including medium-sized cities such as Boise, El Paso, Honolulu, New Orleans and Reno.