While the ongoing coronavirus pandemic took its toll on holdovers this weekend, the new releases performed almost as well as expected. That’s not to say any of the newbies were blow-out hits, and the films opened lower over the weekend than projected on Friday. However, it implies that many of those who wanted to see the newbies still showed up, while everyone else stayed home rather than playing catch-up. Does that mean that A Quiet Place part II and Mulan would have opened to expectations had they not bee delayed? Maybe, but it means that the lack of high-profile newbies is going to have a very negative effect on domestic theatrical movie-going for the duration of this crisis.
The top newbie of the weekend was Lionsgate’s I Still Believe. Directed by the Erwin Brothers, penned by Jon Erwin and Jon Gunn, the Kingdom Story Company film is a Christian biopic about musician Jeremy Camp (played by Riverdale‘s KJ Apa) and his relationship with his first wife (Britt Robertson) who fell ill shortly before their wedding. While titled after Camp’s song, the film was hoping to remind interested viewers of I Can Only Imagine. It, along with Peter Rabbit and Game Night, was among the few wide releases to thrive alongside Black Panther as the MCU movie cosplayed as Titanic in early 2018. I Still Believe was aiming to be this year’s big mainstream faith-based breakout.
Think Heaven is For Real, War Room, Miracles From Heaven, The Shack, I Can Only Imagine and Breakthrough. Of note, the film got an early IMAX debut this past Wednesday, and it is playing in some IMAX theaters alongside Bloodshot this weekend. It’s the first faith-based flick to get the IMAX treatment, and its $9.5 million domestic debut was close to Lionsgate’s $10-$12 million projections. That it only pulled a 2.37x weekend multiplier does imply that folks made a choice to stay home on Saturday and Sunday. We’re talking about a movie that cost closer to $10 million than $15 million, and my own hopes were merely an opening somewhere between $14 million and $17 million.
Could it have opened closer to I Can Only Imagine ($17 million in 2018) or The Shack ($16 million in 2017) in more conventional circumstances? Probably, but it’s entirely possible that the film will leg out akin to those other two Lionsgate movies (and better than more secular mainstream releases), presuming theaters actually stay open. Besides, it’s an okay opening and right in line with the last few faith-based releases, think Overcomer ($8 million in 2019), Breakthrough ($11 million in 2019), The Star ($9.8 million in 2017) and War Room ($11 million in 2015). I still think it would have opened closer to $15 million in different circumstances, but that’s not Lionsgate’s fault.
Sony’s Bloodshot wasn’t exactly expected to break big and yet opened slightly below even pessimistic expectations. The Vin Diesel sci-fi actioner, based on a Valiant comic book about a dead soldier who is revived and given nano bytes which essentially give him superpowers, was intended, in theory, to kick start a Valiant cinematic universe. Even before the pandemic started that was a highly unlikely possibility, because frankly non-DC/Marvel comic book movies (think Hellboy) have struggled as much as anything else over the last few years. Throw in lousy reviews and Vin Diesel’s poor track record outside of Fast & Furious, and a $9.3 million opening weekend isn’t exactly a surprise.
Considering Sony was arguing for a $10 million opening a month ago, folks who still wanted to see Bloodshot more-or-less showed up (or will show up) on opening weekend. The problem is that a $9.3 million launch is still a lousy debut for a $42 million-budgeted flick (Columbia split the cost with several other participants). However, again, Vin Diesel outside of Fast & Furious isn’t exactly box office dynamite. The Last Witch Hunter opened with just $10.8 million in 2015 while even the higher profile relaunches like Riddick and xXx: The Return of Xander Cage opened with over/under $20 million in 2013 and 2017. He’s just not that big of a star outside of Fast and Furious.
The problem for Bloodshot is that many of the overseas territories, including China, which have been more willing to embrace these Vin Diesel vehicles, are either on lockdown or taking a hit. Last Witch Hunter earned 82% of its $156 million cume (still not good enough on as $90 million budget) overseas, while xXx 3 earned 87% (including $164 million in China alone) outside of North America. Neither of these films were perceived as domestic hits ($27 million and $45 million respectively). But that safety net now doesn’t exist, which is mostly why Universal just moved F9: The Fast Saga from May 22, 2020 to April 2, 2021. This is a disappointment, but coronavirus isn’t to blame.
Finally, poor, poor misunderstood, abused and now ignored The Hunt. The Blumhouse action comedy may be the unluckiest movie since The Interview. Originally scheduled for September 27, 2019, the Betty Gilpin/Hillary Swank flick got embroiled in a political firestorm both due to several high-profile mass shootings and its insertion into the partisan political hellfire after word of its premise (liberals hunting MAGA conservatives for sport) leaked out. The film was pulled from the schedule while Rambo: Last Blood (an ultraviolent action drama about Mexican sex traffickers) and Joker (which was presumed, incorrectly, as an ultraviolent incitement to incel rebellion) opened as scheduled on September 20 and October 3 of last year.
Universal eventually rescheduled the Craig Zobel-directed film for Friday the 13th, with a marketing campaign that leaned into the controversy (“The most talked about movie of the year is one that no one has seen.”). And then they ran smack dab into a literal pandemic. Now, to be fair, it’s entirely possible that this (comparatively) star-free, R-rated, politically-targeted action comedy might have opened soft even in ideal circumstances. But, again, anyone on the fence or merely casually curious is probably going to stay away from theaters for the near future. As such, as feared, the film is now doomed to be more written about than actually seen.
The Hunt earned $5.3 million (and a C+ from Cinemascore) over its opening weekend. That’s both behind the third weekend-gross of The Invisible Man (a likely $6 million frame) and right in line with the $5 million opening last December of Cats and Blumhouse’s Black Christmas. Universal was hoping for a $10 million launch a month ago, and it’s entirely possible that the film still would have “underperformed” (including a meh 2.43x multiplier) both sans the original controversy and the unlucky new release date. Even without the moronic controversy and doomed release date, this flick wouldn’t have been very leggy, and will now be lucky to top its $14 million budget.
Full coverage and live updates on the Coronavirus