Box Office Futures Listcore: “Dory” To Swim Ahead Of The Pack

Hey thugs. Buckle up for ANOTHER UNNECESSARY SEQUEL THIS WEEKEND. Hope you’re all as pumped as I am!

…Which is to say, not at all. Call me when “War Dogs” comes out.

Weekend: June 17th-19th, 2016
Big New Releases: “Finding Dory,” “Central Intelligence,” “Clown” (limited)
Big Holdovers: “The Conjuring 2,” “Now You See Me 2,” “Warcraft,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows,” “X-Men: Apocalypse”

Projected Domestic Top 5:

1. “Finding Dory” (PG, 4,305 theaters) – $120-$130 million opening weekend, $340 million final

Let’s travel back in time a bit, shall we? The year was 2009, and Pixar had just released “Up,” a critically acclaimed, wholly original children’s movie about death that also happened to be a box office smash. They were riding a wave of good feeling then; John Lassiter’s CGI hitmakers were praised in the press for tacitly avoiding resting on their laurels by churning out original content — even though all around them studios were recycling familiar brands for an easy buck.

Flash forward to 2016, and that’s no longer the case. They made a third “Toy Story” in 2010, a second “Cars” in 2011, a “Monsters Inc.” prequel in 2013, and now a “Finding Nemo” sequel in 2016. “Cars 3” hits theaters next summer, a movie that can only be described as “rabidly anticipated” by Owen Wilson and his immediate benefactors. “Toy Story 4” (presumably with a new voice for Slinky, which is bullshit) drops in 2018, followed by the sequel to Pixar’s best film, “The Incredibles 2,” in 2019 (a whopping 15 years after the original). Sure, original fare has occasionally been released between the sequels and prequels, but make no mistake: Pixar is now firmly ensconced in the naked-cash-grabbing business, and business is unfortunately booming.

“Finding Dory,” the $200 million-budgeted, wholly unnecessary follow-up to 2003’s $370 million-grossing “Finding Nemo,” looks to ride great reviews and buzz to an easy box office win this weekend, and quite possibly next weekend, too, when its big competition will be the even-less-necessary “Independence Day” sequel, coming out 20 years after Roland Emmerich’s first alien invasion epic, but boasting a 100% decrease in Will Smith. Prior recent Pixar retreads have made, in adjusted dollars, $120 million (“Toy Story 3”), $70 million (“Cars 2”), and $84 million (“Monsters University”). But “Dory” is looking to trounce all those figures. Last year’s Pixar summer entry, “Inside Out,” opened to $90.4 million ($94.1 million in 2016 money) and held strong throughout the summer, bringing in $356.5 million stateside (which would translate to $370.5 million this year) and $857.4 million worldwide by the end of its run. In a marketplace with no other kiddie fare, and with a ubiquitous ad campaign and four-quadrant demographic appeal, the Ellen DeGeneres-starrer is poised to go off like gangbusters. I’m thinking it sets a new record for a Pixar sequel — and thus, any Pixar movie, since “Toy Story 3” still holds that record — adjusted or unadjusted. And if audiences like it as much as critics, it could hit the $400 million sweet spot. Only “Toy Story 3” has transcended the $400 million mark (it grossed $415 million in 2010 dollars, equivalent to $447.9 million today), but the original “Finding Nemo” has made the most adjusted money, $483.4 million (it made $339.7 million in 2003).

2. “Central Intelligence” (PG-13, 3,508 theaters) – $35-38 million opening weekend, $95 million final

The latest Kevin Hart buddy comedy gets after it tomorrow. January’s “Ride Along 2” was a bit of a disappointment, netting $35 million in its opening weekend en route to a $90 million final. Those numbers are nearly identical to the buddy comedy that preceded it, “Get Hard,” which took in $33 million in its opening weekend and finished with.. $90 million. The Rock is a box office upgrade from Ice Cube and Will Ferrell (Ferrell’s star has faded since his market peak, about 10 years ago), but Hart fatigue, coupled with a possible Game 7 of the NBA Finals on Sunday and the US Open this weekend (which will certainly distract the eyeballs of this movie’s intended demographic, young men in the 18-49 year-old age bracket), may negate any attendance boost thrown his way by the inimitable Dwayne Johnson. I say they either go a bit higher or hit that $35 million sweet spot. The $60 million action-comedy is currently rocking a middling 56% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but dumb action movies don’t live and die by the marks of critics — though their perceived quality can sometimes help in projecting their longevity.

3. “The Conjuring 2” (R, 3,356 theaters) – $17-20 million second weekend (-52% to -58%), $125 million final

In 2013, the original “The Conjuring” dipped by 46.7% in its second weekend, from $41.9 million to $22.2 million. Its spinoff, “Annabelle,” dropped by a less-awesome 57.3% in October of the subsequent year, from $37.1 million to $15.9 million. Unlike “Annabelle,” “The Conjuring 2” stands out in the summer marketplace more than “Annabelle” did, as it was battling other horror movies in the run-up to Halloween. “The Conjuring 2” faces no such threats; the only other “wide” horror release is this week’s 100-theater unfurling of the Weinstein-Dimension movie “Clown,” which at least has a terrifying poster, I guess? I say “Conjuring 2,” despite adding a lucky 13 theaters to its domestic theater count, errs on the “Annabelle” side of that decline differential, dropping somewhere in the 50-58% range, bringing its two-week total to around $75 million. It should still cruise back the $100 million mark with ease, regardless of how it holds up this weekend. If my guess is mildly on the money, “The Conjuring 2” (sporting a budget of $40 million) will easily crack my $115 million domestic estimate as well, and get closer to a $125 million finish. For those of you who saw “The Conjuring 2,” let’s hope you liked it, because there’s a whole lot more where that came from. Wan and Co. just announced their intentions to spin off the new flick’s creepy nun into her own movie, and we’ll be served a fresh dose of “Annabelle” with a sequel for that movie next fall. I can only imagine that this weekend will determine whether or not New Line-Warner Brothers want to conjure up (ahem) a second sequel to the Wan-Farmiga-Wilson pilot franchise. Ugh.

4. “Now You See Me 2” (PG-13, 3,232 theaters) – $11-$13 million second weekend (-%42 to -50%), $80 million final

The big question with the 4-5 slots this weekend: can “Now You See Me 2” pull ahead of “Warcraft,” which (just barely) beat it out last weekend for the runner-up spot at the box office? This intrepid reporter says yes. The $90 million Jesse Eisenberg magician thriller has been doing significantly better than the Paula Patton fantasy epic thus far this week, grossing $7.6 million from Monday through Wednesday, compared to the slighter $5.8 million added to the “Warcraft” piggy bank (“NYSM2” outpaced “Warcraft for each of the first three days). It also is playing to more mature crowds, who are more inclined to see movies in their second and even third weekends, as opposed to the more fanboy-oriented “Warcraft,” which was most likely more front-loaded. Both movies are supposed to be pretty bad, but “Warcraft” just looks way worse, with an absolutely atrocious marketing campaign and uninspiring word of mouth spreading apathy far and wide. I’m pegging “Now You See Me 2” to dip by about 45% from its $22.3 million start, finishing in the $11-13 million range in its second weekend bringing its total to around $45 million. I also amended my guess for its final gross to $80 million, down from $85 million.

5. “Warcraft” (PG-13, 3,406 theaters) – $9-10 million second weekend (-58% to -64%), $65 million final

Duncan Jones’s tepidly-received adaptation of the worldwide gaming phenomenon enters its second weekend on the US charts poised for a huge drop. Somehow, Universal pencilled it in to add on six additional theaters to its tally. No one can say why, but there you go. Internationally, the sum total for the $160 million-budgeted “Warcraft” after yesterday’s grosses were tallied is $310.4 million. Domestically, that total is $29.9 million — less than 10% of its cumulative earnings to this point. After a less-than-stellar $24.2 million opening weekend, look for “Warcraft” to take a “TMNT”-esque dive in weekend deux, circling the drain to the tune of $9-10 million, for a total around $40 million. It’ll be hard-pressed for this one, a severe critical turkey, to cross $65 million stateside, although it could easily top out at $450 million worldwide.

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