Just as President Biden’s top medical adviser Anthony Fauci is declaring that the US is exiting “the full-blown pandemic phase” of Covid, three studios are hoping to lure out adult audiences, mostly women who’ve been slow to return to cinemas.
Further curbing Sunday business is Super Bowl, however, if older moviegoers are determined to head to the cinema this weekend, then they’ll go on Friday or Saturday as they’ve shown during previous big game frames.
MGM / UAR’s Thanksgiving title, House of Gucci, remains the highest opening and movie during the pandemic for an older adult skewing title with a $ 14.4M 3-day and $ 53.5M running stateside tally. That Ridley Scott directed the movie, which was snubbed for all but one Oscar nom yesterday, pulled in 45% 18-34 and 34% over 45 in its first five days.
Disney’s long-held Kenneth Branagh directed Agatha Christie 20th Century Studios adaptation, Death on the Nile, is hoping to emulate that box office trajectory, possibly even best it, with estimates ranging from $ 11M- $ 17M at 3,200 theaters including 700 PLF screens and 375 Imax auditoriums. The movie, carrying a $ 90M production cost, features an all-star cast including Wonder Woman‘s Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Annette Bening, Russell Brand, and Branagh among others. The movie coincidentally arrives in theaters just after Branagh’s Belfast, which is re-expanding this weekend after landing seven Oscar nominations including Best Picture. I’m told it wasn’t an intended plan for Death on the Nile to capitalize on the heat of the filmmaker’s Irish autobiopic, rather it was more about playing into the Valentine’s Day holiday which falls on Monday.
There will be two waves of previews for Death on the Nile: Tonight at 6PM in select IMAX, PLF & 70mm screens and tomorrow at 5PM.
Branagh’s first Christie adaptation, Murder on the Orient Express, overperformed and surprised with a $ 28.6M opening with close to half its audience over 50 in its first weekend in early November 2017. Murder on the Orient Express ended its stateside run at $ 102.8M. Reviews for Death on the Nile are slightly better than Murder on the Orient Express, 69% fresh to 60% fresh.
Also looking to hook older women is Universal’s Jennifer Lopez-Owen Wilson romantic comedy Marry Me which is eyeing $ 8M- $ 11M at 3,600 theaters with a drop on the paid tier of Comcast’s Peacock streaming service. Marry Me cost $ 23M before P&A, and an opening on the high-end would be great for this movie. The theatrical day-and-date play, announced back in December, is the conglom’s effort to boosts its low 9M paid streaming subscribers, while trying to grab a female audience that’s still at home during Covid. Pre-pandemic, Lopez hit her best opening for a live-action feature at the domestic box office with Hustlers at $ 33M, which legged out to $ 105M. Prior to that she had Second Act at STX which debuted to $ 6.5M and ended its run at $ 39M.
While interest for Marry Me is stronger among older females, Lopez movies can pull in the 18-34 crowd as well. The notion is that Marry Me will skew younger than Death on the Nile. Previews start tomorrow at 5PM with the film landing on Peacock too. No critical ratings yet on RT for Marry Me.
The movie reps the third Universal title to date following this type of dynamic window after DreamWorks Animation’s Boss Baby: Family Business ($ 16M opening, $ 57.3M) and Blumhouse / Miramax’s Halloween Kills ($ 49.4M, $ 92M domestic). That horror sequel repped one of the many bright spots for the exhibition last October. Samba TV measured that 2.8M US SmartTV households watched Halloween Kills in its first 31 days where Boss Baby 2 drew 2M over a similar period of time. It can be argued that Peacock isn’t greatly eroding Universal’s ticket sales just yet. One insider close to the film tells me that there’s been an uptick in Peacock subscription orders prior to Marry Me hitting the service.
Marry Me was originally announced in the spring of 2019 and developed at STX before heading to Universal in July that year. The Kit Coiro directed movie follows pop singer Kat Valdez (Lopez) who learns that her hot new music supernova Bastian (Maluma, in his feature-film debut) has cheated on her. The two have plans to wed before their fans at a concert. However, Kat in a moment of inspired insanity, proposes to divorced high-school math teacher Charlie Gilbert (Wilson) who is unexpectedly in the audience. Pic also stars John Bradley and Michelle Buteau.
Briarcliff Entertainment has the Liam Neeson action title Blacklight playing at 2,772 theaters with a forecast of a $ 5M opening with an eye on older males. Tom Ortenberg has been supplying Neeson movies to cinemas during the pandemic since the fall of 2020 starting with Honest Thief ($ 4.1M opening, $ 14.1M domestic) and The Marksman last January ($ 3.1M opening, $ 15.5M domestic). Neeson will be meeting fans tomorrow night at the 7:30 pm show at NYC’s Lincoln Square AMC.
Yesterday, we told you about Oscar Best Picture nominees’ plans for expansion this weekend. UAR / MGM’s Licorice Pizza is making the biggest break from 786 theaters to 2,000 runs. Not much is expected in regards to the Best Pic noms’ box office surge due to the whole adult Covid factor and the fact that these movies have been in theaters for quite some time. But we will see.
Netflix, which doesn’t report grosses, is putting their Best Pic noms back in theaters, ie The Power of the Dog which leads at the Oscars with 12 noms is jumping from 46 locations to 200, while Don’t Look Up with four Oscar noms is moving from eight to 30 theaters.