The box office has been doing quite well over the past several weeks following a lackluster summer, but we're about to hit one of those slow weekend speedbumps. This weekend sees a trio of new releases coming down the pipeline in the form of STX's Countdown, Screen Gems' Black and Blue and 101 Studios' The Current War. Meanwhile, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil looks to hold strong and fend off the competition to keep the top spot for a second week in a row.
Indeed, it's been Disney's year and Maleficent 2, perhaps more than any other movie on their schedule, showcases why. This is considered something of a disappointment, as the sequel has underperformed in North America and is looking at between $18 and $21 million in its second weekend. However, the Angeline Jolie-led flick is already at $157.3 million globally and is on its way to becoming a relatively big overseas hit. Point being, even Disney's flops are capable of bringing in boatloads of cash.
As far as the weekend's new releases go, Black and Blue and Countdown will both be dancing around the $10 million mark. The former is a cop drama that stars Namie Harris and Tyrese Gibson. The Deon Taylor-directed thriller hasn't exactly wowed critics, as it currently sits at 59 percent at Rotten Tomatoes. On the flipside, we've got Countdown, a horror flick centered around an app that is looking to capitalize on the Halloween season. It was written and directed by Justin Dec, which serves as his directorial debut. While it's a toss-up, I personally give the edge, just barely, to Black and Blue on this one.
Related: Joker Dominates in 2nd Weekend as Gemini Man Tanks at the Box Office
Moving on, we've got The Current War. Specifically, the director's cut of the long-awaited biopic, which centers on the early days of electricity, with Thomas Edison Benedict Cumberbatch and Nikola Tesla Nicholas Hoult at the story's center. This was originally supposed to hit theaters way back in 2017, but poor reviews coming out of festival screenings hampered things, and this also got caught up in the Harvey Weinstein drama as well. Finally, 101 Studios stepped in to release it and gave director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon a crack at a new edit, which has been received much more positively. Still, the biopic will be lucky to crack $3 million in its first frame.
Elsewhere, Joker looks to finish in the number two spot again as it closes in on becoming the highest-grossing R-rated movie ever. Zombieland: Double Tap should also do reasonably well in its second frame with between $12 and $15 million, making for a rare, long-awaited comedy sequel that defies the odds to become a hit. Be sure to check out our full list of weekend box office predictions below and check back with us on Sunday for the weekend estimates. Numbers used in this report were provided by Box Office Mojo.
Studios like to avoid Halloween weekend; audiences tend to prefer trick-or-treating to theaters. Even horror titles prefer to open the week before with “Zombieland: Double Tap” this year, “Halloween” last. So while three wide releases debut this weekend — “Countdown,” “Black and Blue,” and “A Current War” — none should gross much more than $10 million, or break into the top three.
However, this pre-Halloween weekend is being used to test a new paradigm: Musicians-turned-directors who use movies to promote their new albums. Bruce Springsteen’ co-directed “Western Stars,” in which he portrays a B-movie actor looking back on his career. Fathom Events will host showings October 23, followed by screenings in more than 500 theaters nationwide.
Kanye West, true to form, is pushing the envelope even further with “Jesus Is King.” Featuring music from his long-delayed new album, West filmed his famed Sunday service in a James Turrell outdoor installation in Painted Desert, Ariz. Billed as “A Kanye West Film,” it’s directed by Nick Knight.
Here’s the radical bit: “Jesus Is King” plays exclusively at IMAX theaters for one week, with tickets ranging from $10-$19.75, but runs only 35 minutes including credits. Will audiences buy a Kanye West experience at $1.12 every two minutes? If this kind of specialization works, it could be a game changer for theaters seeking new avenues for revenue.
“Countdown,” a low-budget thriller from first-time writer-director Justin Dec, seems more prosaic — but he shot the film in April and has it in theaters six months later. That’s the kind of agility that marks distributor STX, which has suffered significant growing pains and financing partner challenges — but what matters for theaters is it provides a steady stream of original films.
This year,STX scored two $100 million hits with “The Upside,” which they salvaged from Weinstein, and “Hustlers.” That’s one more than Lionsgate this year, and two more than Paramount or 20th Century Fox. And with this, its eighth release of 2019, it has provided one more title than either Paramount or Fox. “Countdown” won’t be a major hit, but even that is more than welcome on weekends like this.
“The Current War”
And then there’s the true outlier: “The Current War: Director’s Cut,” directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”. Once upon a time, this Tesla vs. Edison vs. Westinghouse biopic starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon was earmarked as an Oscar contender for the Weinstein Co. However, it made its world premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival to disastrous effect.
At that point, Harvey Weinstein took over editing — right before the New York Times filed its report on his alleged abuses, sparking the #MeToo movement. At that point, like other Weinstein films, “The Current War” fell into limbo. Two years later, Gomez-Rejon’s cut will move into theaters via new distributor 101 Studios, headed by ex-Weinstein Co. president David Glasser. Expectations are minimal; the success is that it’s being released at all.
The overall specialized pace slows a bit after four straight weeks of breakout titles, but Ira Sachs’ “Frankie” has the highest visibility of the new releases. The Cannes-competition film from the director of “Love Is Strange” is a Portugal-set family drama starring Isabelle Huppert. It opens in New York and Los Angeles
Finally, among all of these unusual releases there’s a classic: the Screen Gems low-budget genre pic. This one, “Black and Blue,” stars “Moonlight” acting nominee Naomie Harris and musician-turned-actor Tyrese Gibson. Directed by Deon Taylor, who also helmed “The Intruder” $35 million gross on an $8 million budget, it is the sort of niche film theaters need on otherwise empty dates.
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The screening of the Sony film seemed more like a celebration, with the cast and crew alike saluting Deon Taylor throughout the evening. Says Frank Grillo, "He's one of the most gracious and giving directors I’ve ever worked with."
"Be the change, asshole."
It's this phrase muttered by Naomie Harris' character in Black and Blue that presided over the red carpet of a special screening of the film in New York on Monday night. While neither director Deon Taylor nor the movie's scribe Peter A. Dowling coined the expression — which is derived from the platitude "Be the change you wish to see in the world," that Gandhi may or may not have actually said — it was used to explain the film's central theme by nearly everyone in attendance.
In Black and Blue, Harris plays a black rookie cop who accidentally captures corrupt officers killing a young drug dealer on her body cam. The rest of the film is dedicated to her mission of exposing the cops with the footage, all while fighting to survive their wrath and that of the people she grew up with, most of whom are unwilling to help her due to her occupation.
"Being the change is not expecting change to happen outside of you, but actually saying that the buck stops with me," Harris told The Hollywood Reporter. "And if I really want things to change, I have to be active. I have to do something about it. I have to take the moral stand."
The topic of police corruption, can be polarizing for some — especially as the conversation has turned into a partisan one, with the "Blue Lives Matter" movement alive and well. But while Black and Blue may sound like a film that concentrates on the exploration of hot-button political issues, Taylor said that's not exactly the case. Instead, the film "fuses action and thrills with a message."
"If you make an art-house film about this, no one in the world wants to see it. We see it every day on our phones. Our young kids, our youth, the culture — we're tired. We're tired of watching that," Taylor told THR. "So the last thing they want is a movie that beats over the top of their head. But if you make an action movie and you don't put anything in it, you just get an action movie. So I was really, really lucky to be able to make a movie like this and mesh the two together."
Taylor also got lucky when it came to landing Harris as the lead. Following her role in Moonlight — which landed her an Oscar nomination — she took a break from acting. Plus, she had purposely avoided taking on lead roles throughout her career. But Taylor got her on the phone, and instantly knew that "she would be the perfect person to make a movie like this."
"This film embodies everything that I've always wanted to be a part of. Here, we have a female lead who is the moral compass of the movie ... and she's not valued because of her sexuality or anything like that," Harris said. "It's just that she is a badass. She's a kickass, strong, fierce, independent, hugely intelligent, and morally strong female. So I loved that. Then I also love the fact that it's a movie that is super exciting. It keeps you on the edge of your seat but also talks about things that are socially relevant."
Black and Blue also stars Tyrese Gibson, Frank Grillo and Reid Scott — the latter of whom said it was "refreshing" for a thriller to also have "something to say."
The Current War had its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival back in 2017. The reaction from the audience in attendance: considerably mixed, bordering on mostly negative. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon understood where this was coming from: he wasn’t happy with the film, either. The filmmaker had been rushed to finish the film in time for TIFF and delivered a cut he was unhappy with. The urging for the rush job came from the film’s producer: Harvey Weinstein. After the TIFF screening, Weinstein, as was his habit, recut the film himself – a development that only made Gomez-Rejon more miserable.
And then everything came crashing down: numerous sexual misconduct accusations against Weinstein came to light, The Weinstein Company imploded, and The Current War was pulled from its November 2017 release. Now, the film about the battle between Thomas Edison Benedict Cumberbatch and George Westinghouse Michael Shannon is finally being released with a cut approved by Gomez-Rejon – a cut that uses a new score, adds a few new scenes, and presents a much tidier narrative. After all this time, will The Current War spark – or flicker out and go dark?
First thing’s first: I was one of the people who saw the TIFF cut back in 2017, and I was also one of the few critics to give that cut a mixed-to-positive review. The Current War didn’t knock my socks off, but it was a handsomely crafted drama featuring strong performances and a unique visual style. But director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon didn’t share that opinion.
“I knew in my heart, and every fiber of my body was saying, it’s not ready,” he said in an interview. “I was drowning in notes, to the point I was addressing them more than editing the film. I’d get them from London, and then more from New York. We rushed the mix, ADR, sound…I was completely shattered by one screening I knew I wasn’t ready for.”
Time – and a little help from executive producer Martin Scorsese – gave Gomez-Rejon and The Current War a second chance. The director was able to have one day of reshoots and re-edit the film to his liking. So, is it a completely different movie now? Not exactly. The Current War: Director’s Cut plays similarly to the cut that screened at TIFF. The story is the same, unfolding in the same manner. But there’s a little more energy here. Things feel tighter without being overly condensed. And the two main characters at the center of the drama are given a little more room to breathe and develop.
Inspired by true events, The Current War follows the battle that raged between inventor Thomas Edison and entrepreneur George Westinghouse. After the testy Edison blows off a dinner arrangement with the entrepreneur, the wealthy Westinghouse concocts a plan to get the inventor’s attention. Edison is on the verge of electrifying the country with his Direct Current DC, which has a limited range. Westinghouse, meanwhile, knows that Alternating Current AC is much more powerful and cost-effective. His initial plan is to spark a partnership with Edison, but this backfires – Edison is too prideful and too competitive. Thus the two men engage in a battle for electrical supremacy, with Westinghouse insisting his system is better and Edison insisting AC is deadly and dangerous.
This gives Benedict Cumberbatch the chance to play yet another brilliant jerk – it’s the type of role he can play in his sleep. The relationship between Edison and his sickly wife Mary Tuppence Middleton has more focus in this cut – but not by much. It’s hard not to paint Edison as the villain of this story, especially since Shannon’s Westinghouse seems so incredibly well-mannered and polite. If The Current War is more of the same for Cumberbatch, it’s a nice change of pace for Shannon. The intense actor tends to specialize in intense roles, often portraying simmering lunatics on the verge of lashing out. Here, he’s calm and kind, and the far more sympathetic of the two men. Especially when Edison starts deliberately killing animals with AC to prove his point, and goes so far as to help design the first electric chair.
Rather than settle for a standard historical costume drama vibe, Gomez-Rejon gets creative, creating rich, fluid scenes where the camera glides about or pulls back to reveal large cutaways showcasing the bowels of the earth below. It’s stylish and lively and keeps The Current War cooking. The film almost never slows down, which makes for an altogether entertaining saga but also doesn’t give the story the attention it might deserve. When Nikola Tesla Nicholas Hoult pops up. we expect him to play some sort of major part in this drama, but after a grand entrance, he mostly recedes into the background, a victim of the movie’s breakneck pacing.
The speedy pace also results in Gomez-Rejon not having faith in his audience on several occasions. It’s as if the filmmaker, worried that the movie is going by too quickly, needs to stop and quickly point out obvious details for fear we might miss them. Case in point: the first half-hour of the movie is overloaded with title cards. We’re talking painfully obvious title cards, too. When an establishing shot of the White House appears it’s accompanied by the title card THE WHITE HOUSE, WASHINGTON D.C. And whenever a new character pops up, they, too, get a title card announcing who they are and what they do. This becomes particularly egregious when Tom Holland‘s Samuel Insull first appears. Insull is shown with a title card reading SAMUEL INSULL, EDISON’S PERSONAL SECRETARY. Less than a minute later, the character introduces himself to someone else by saying, “I’m Samuel Insull, Mr. Edison’s personal secretary.” Did we really need the title card if he was just going to tell us the same exact thing thirty seconds later?
These noticeable missteps aside, The Current War deserves its second chance, and it deserves to find an audience, however small that audience may be. It’s still not the show-stopping saga it could’ve been, but it remains a well-crafted and stylish story about two men hell-bent on proving themselves right at any cost. Much like the two figures in his film, Gomez-Rejon refused to give up on his invention.
It was a big weekend for sequels, with Maleficent: Mistress of Evil coming in first place. Joker slid into second place, with Zombieland: Double Tap doing better than expected in third. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil was actually a bit soft in its opening, only pulling in $36 million. A couple of indie movies also did well this weekend, with Neon's Parasite, A24's The Lighthouse and Fox Searchlight's Jojo Rabbit all arriving with a strong debut in limited release.
Disney was expecting a little more from their Maleficent sequel at the box office this weekend. The domestic total arrives at nearly half of what the original made in 2014, debuting at $69.4 million. Those who did watch the sequel apparently enjoyed Angelina Jolie's return as the Dark Fey. Audiences have given the movie an 'A' CinemaScore. It also has a 96% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil opened simultaneous in all major markets overseas. There it earned an extra $117 million, which makes its global tally $153 million, so you can pretty much call it a hit out of the gate, despite fewer people opting to see it in the states. Chinese audiences spent $22.4 million on tickets this weekend. Russia paid $10.7 million, Mexico pulled in $7.8 million, with Italy at $4.7 million, Korea at $4.6 million, Brazil at $4.5 million, UK nabbing $4.3 million, France with $3.9 million, Thailand at $3.7 million, Philippines with $3.5 million, Germany at $3.4 million and Spain bring up the rear with $3.2 million.
Related: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil Trailer Has Angelina Jolie & Michelle Pfeiffer at War
Joker continues to be a big blockbuster hit, and is well on its way to becoming the highest grossing R-rated movie of all time. In its third weekend of release, it only saw an audience dip of 48%. It has earned an additional $29.2 million in the states. That puts its total at $247 million. Overseas, it pulled in an additional $77.8 million, and now sits at $737.5 million worldwide. Not bad for a standalone DC Comics movie about a villain descending into madness with no superheroes in sight.
Ten years in the making, the sequel Zombieland Double Tap lands in third place with a higher than expected take of $26.7 million over the three day weekend. It arrives with bigger debut numbers than the original, which pulled in $24.7 way back in 2009. This latest adventure with Tallahassee, Columbus, Wichita and Little Rock earned a 'B+' CinemaScore. The zombie-infested follow-up is playing in 17 overseas markets, where it pulled in an additional $5 million.
The Addams Family animated comedy comes in at number four in its second weekend at the box office, earning an additional $16.05 million. That puts its domestic total at $56.8 million over the course of ten days. Rounding out the top five is Gemini Man, which fell off -59% in its second weekend of release. It nabbed just $8.5 million, working off a staggering $138 million budget. We may have to chalk this one up as a bomb. It has only made $36.5 million in the states thus far. Overseas, the movie fared better with $33.4 million, with $21 million of that coming from opening day in China. The movie has made $118.7 million worldwide.
Rounding out the top five is Paramount's Gemini Man dipping -59% as it kicks off its sophomore frame with an estimated $8.5 million for a domestic cume that now stands at $36.5 million. Internationally, the film brought in an estimated $33.4 million this weekend, the bulk of which comes from a $21 million opening in China. The film's overseas cume now stands at $82.2 million for a global total reaching $118.7 million.
Abominable is in sixth place with $3.5 million in its 4th weekend of release, its domestic total standing at $53.9 million. Downton Abbey lands at number 7 with another $3.08 million, becoming Focus Feature's highest grossing movie ever. The movie has earned $88.6 million total domestically. Judy slides into the 8th spot with another $2.05 million for a domestic total of $19 million thus far. In at number 9 is Hustlers with $2.05 million as well. It's a certified hit with $101.8 million. And in at number 10 is horror blockbuster IT: Chapter Two with an additional $1.5 million added to its domestic total of $209 million.
Parasite arrives just outside the top ten, earning $1.2 million in just 33 theaters. A24's The Lighthouse also had a strong showing playing at just 8 locations, earning $419,764. It will go wider next weekend, arriving in 500 theaters. And then we have Jojo Rabbit, the movie about a boy and his imaginary friend Hitler. It played in just five locations with earnings of $350,000. These numbers come in from Box Office Mojo.
1 Maleficent: Mistress of Evil2Joker3 Zombieland Double Tap4The Addams Family5Gemini Man6Abominable7Downton Abbey8Judy9Hustlers10IT Chapter Two
In 2014, Disney came up with a fairly novel idea of centering blockbuster family film on a female villain played by Angelina Jolie. It was a huge hit, opening with almost $70 million on its way to a $241 million domestic haul and over $750 million worldwide. That movie opened right after Memorial Day in the heat of the summer when all the kids were out of school.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil was originally scheduled to roll out on the same weekend in 2020, but Disney moved it ahead seven months into the Halloween movie window but during a time in which most kids were in school. The results weren't exactly disastrous, but they weren't great for the second Maleficent movie, either. It opened to the tune of $37.7 million, which would be a great opening for most family film sequels. But this is Disney, and Maleficent 2 cost $185 million to produce, a figure that the film is unlikely to surpass domestically.
It's hard to say exactly what went wrong with Mistress of Evil. An October release may not have helped matters. Reviews certainly didn't 40 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but reviews weren't great for the original, either 53 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences who did turn out to see both movies loved them they both received an A Cinemascore, and the RT audiences score for this one was significantly better than the original 96 percent to 70 percent for the first one. I think it is purely a matter of release date, and to Disney's credit, they probably also realized that Mistress of Evil will be the only game in town for family movies until another Disney movie comes out over Thanksgiving, Frozen 2, and this also allowed the Mouse House to stick Artemis Fowl in the old Maleficent 2 release date. Poor Disney: Too many blockbusters, and not enough release dates to avoid cannibalizing themselves.
Meanwhile, Joker continues to put up healthy numbers in its third weekend, earning $29 million, as it approaches $250 million domestic $247 million, to be exact. The worldwide numbers now are an eye-popping $737 for a movie that only cost $55 million to produce.
Zombieland 2: Double Tap opened with good but not great numbers, earning $26.7 million, slightly better than expectations. It's been ten years since the original opened, and the sequel not only had a tough act to follow but a decade of expectations with which to contend. It was alright, as reflected in the 67 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes and the B+ from Cinemascore. I love zombie movies, Zombieland is my second favorite zombie movie ever behind Shaun of the Dead and I thought Double Tapped was a little disappointing, to be honest. I had hoped for more from Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the screenwriters not only for the original Zombieland, but the two Deadpool movies.
The remaining entries in the top ten were all holdovers. Addams Family had a surprisingly decent 53 percent hold despite the arrival of Maleficent, earning another $14.2 million to bring its total to $55 million. Gemini Man, on the other hand, dropped 60 percent, earning only $8.5 million to bring its ten-day total to only $36 million it cost nearly $150 million to make.
The numbers get much smaller beyond that. Abominable earned $3.37 million, good enough for sixth place. It's earned $54 million, which is decent. It has also earned $115 million worldwide on a $75 million budget and should do well on digital platforms over the holidays. Downton Abbey scored $2.9 million to bring its total to $88.4 million as it makes a long-shot push toward $100 million.
Hustlers, meanwhile, did cross the $100 million mark this weekend, which is a big deal for a film that only cost $20 million for STX Films to produce it's earned $125 million worldwide. It is also worth noting that Lorene Scafaria becomes the second female director this year to have movie earn $100 million behind only Anna Boden, who co-directed Captain Marvel.
In its 6th week of release, STX's HUSTLERS was granted access to the exclusive $100M+ VIP room this weekend, raining down w/ another 2 million dollar billz, $101M total. pic.twitter.com/mAnF4iygXB
— Exorcist Relations Co. @ERCboxoffice October 20, 2019
Judy is not going to make $100 million, but it's doing remarkably well, too. It's the sleeper hit of the fall, earning almost $2 million in its fourth week to bring its total to $19 million for Roadside Attractions. IT Chapter 2 closes out the top ten this weekend, earning $1.4 million to bring its total to $209 million. It's also earned over $450 million worldwide. I would be remiss, too, if I didn't mention number 11 on the list, Parasite, which earned a whopping $1.2 million in only 33 theaters.
Next weekend sees three new releases. If you're into Tesla/Edison wars, or Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon, The Current War looks great. It will open against STX Films' teen thriller Countdown and Black and Blue starring Naomie Harris and Tyrese Gibson.