I know what you’re thinking. “Oh, I dunno about the new ‘Independence Day’ movie. Sure, it’s being directed by the same guy, which is good, but where’s Will Smith?”
To which I will submit five returning bold-faced names who obviously need no introduction:
GOLDBLUM. PULLMAN. SPINER. HIRSCH. FOX.
I know, I know, you just soiled yourself in excitement. It’s okay, dear reader. These things happen. Go clean yourself up and let’s continue.
I’m kidding. The lack of Smith is a big blemish on the new alien-invasion franchise entry’s hopes at making some serious waves this summer. Pretend that the original fielded a mere ensemble cast, with all pieces created equal, at your peril. Captain Steven Hiller was a mammoth part of that movie’s zeitgeist-capturing success, and the specter of his absence has hung over this sequel’s otherwise-solid marketing materials all year. Anyway, yeah, if you’ve been thinking to yourself, “I liked ‘Independence Day’ but it needed less of its biggest and most charismatic star,” then Roland Emmerich’s got just the movie for you! And here we are, as yet another very-belated sequel floods multiplexes this weekend, 20 years after the original “ID4” took over the summer of 1996 and absolutely whooped “Kazaam” at the box office (granted, “Kazaam” came out two weeks after “Independence Day,” but “Independence Day” STILL whooped “Kazaam” that weekend). With “ID4R” (and its impending sequel), Emmerich and 20th Century Fox no doubt hope to tap into the nostalgia that drove “Jurassic World” to then-record-setting weekend grosses last summer (later trounced by “Star Wars: Episode VII”).
Weekend: June 24th-26th, 2016
Big New Releases: “Independence Day: Resurgence,” “The Shallows,” “Free State of Jones,” “Neon Demon” (limited)
Big Holdovers: “Finding Dory,” “Central Intelligence,” “The Conjuring 2,” “Now You See Me 2”
Projected Domestic Top 5:
1. “Finding Dory” (PG, 4,305 theaters) – $70 million second weekend (-48%)
So my cynical take on the latest Pixar mega-hit last weekend may not have been wholly warranted. Sure, it’s a gratuitous cash grab. BUT it’s also, apparently, an uplifting disability fable. To an extent, I share Dory’s short-term memory problems, and honestly my interest in actually seeing “Finding Dory” has kind of been piqued by articles like this one in the Washington Post. So, you know, if I remember to make a point of seeing it, I’ll check it out. I’ll have plenty of time to do so: despite losing probably half of its audience this weekend, this thing should still squeak in a bit ahead of its nearest challenger (see below) this weekend. Posting terrific mid-week numbers ($19.6 million on Monday, $23.2 million on Tuesday, and $18.1 million yesterday — each take a gross that our #3 finisher will struggle to achieve over three days), “Finding Dory” has proven to be a bigger hit with audiences than with critics, who generally were positive but not ecstatic on this second “Finding” feature. In assessing the sophomore weekend performances of comparable animated hits (i.e. the other four members of the $100 million+ weekend club), we see that “Shrek 2” eased just 33.2% in its second weekend in 2004, “Toy Story 3” dropped by 46.2% in 2010, while the less-loved “Shrek The Third” (2007) and “Minions” (2015) dropped by 56.4% and 57.4%, respectively. Expect “Dory” to experience something along the lines of “TS3,” and drop by 48-50% this weekend. Among modern blockbusters, that’s actually a very respectable hold. The 33% decline of “Shrek 2” 12 years ago would never happen to an equivalent movie today, the best you could hope for from an animated sequel on the scale of a “Finding Dory” really is about 45%. A 48% drop to a $70 million second weekend would give “Dory” an eye-popping $280 million after two weeks, keeping it well on track to hit that magical $400 million mark, especially with a cushy hold expected over the 4th of July.
2. “Independence Day: Resurgence” (PG-13, 3,508 theaters) – $55 million opening weekend, $130 million final
The original “Independence Day” was a phenomenon, making $306.1 million domestically (equivalent to $594.3 million when inflated to today’s ticket prices) and $817.4 million worldwide, far eclipsing its closest competition at the box office that year. But “Independence Day” is no “Jurassic Park,” and is more a footnote in the annals of ’90s movie history than the headliner one might expect. People haven’t been clamoring for a follow-up. And they still aren’t, but in a heatwave-heavy summer, seeing a stupid alien invasion movie in a well air-conditioned movie theater is the kind of deal that could appeal to kids and adults alike. A solid marketing campaign, good name-brand recognition, stellar-looking special effects, and the addition of Liam Hemsworth (you know, for girls) as a more cost-effective Will Smith star substitute should all collude to bring in a solid opening weekend haul. I’m going to peg it at an okay $55 million, with steep declines to follow. Audiences seem to have finally cooled on Hollywood’s sequel mania this summer. Internationally, this thing (rocking a production budget of $200 million, not counting probably $100 million in additional marketing expenses) will of course be huge and rake in $400 million no matter how horrible it is, BECAUSE THAT’S THE WORLD WE LIVE IN NOW.
3. “Central Intelligence” (PG-13, 3,508 theaters) – $17.8 million second weekend (-50%)
I was insanely on-point in calling this one last weekend. Let’s see if I can make it two-for-two. Though “CI” scored extremely positive notices from fans last weekend, it’s about to confront some very direct competition in the buddy-action-comedy department from the “Independence Day” sequel, which will no doubt hurt the Kevin Hart-Dwayne Johnson flick’s second-weekend bottom line. Its audience should roughly be cut in half this weekend (bringing its cumulative take to $70 million-ish), and then stabilize with better holds in the weeks ahead.
4. “The Shallows” (PG-13, 2,962 theaters) – $16 million opening weekend, $60 million final
Blake Lively doesn’t wear a lot of clothes and fights sharks? I’m in. I think about $15,999,983’s worth of people are right there with me (a ticket in LA costs like $17, which, I agree, is insane) — effective previews that don’t give away too much of the story or the look of the sharks but do show plenty of Lively’s great derriere should yield a solid showing this weekend. Lively doesn’t have the star wattage of, say, Scarlett Johannson (YOU MADE A MISTAKE, RYAN REYNOLDS), so going much higher than the low-$20 million range is probably out of the question. But the modestly-budgeted ($17 million) “The Shallows” should bring plenty of people into the water on concept alone, which is great news for Sony. It also is the best-reviewed wide release of the weekend (all the better-reviewed movies are only in limited release), so that could help bring in an older crowd in the flyover states.
5. “The Conjuring 2” (PG-13, 3,033 theaters) – $7 million third weekend (-53%)
Now that it’s clear “The Conjuring 2” will be performing more like “Annabelle” and less like “The Conjuring,” look for another sizable drop this weekend. “Annabelle” fell 57% in its second weekend (actually a few notches better than the 63% drop of “The Conjuring 2” — the first “Conjuring” only fell by 46.9% in its second weekend, indicative of good word-of-mouth among audiences), then by 50% in its third weekend. With the advent of Blake Lively In A Bikini and all those sharks, “The Conjuring 2” is no longer the freshest fish on the horror movie block, even in the summer, which will also take some of the sheen of its appeal to those seeking a good scare. It’s also losing 9.6% of its theater count from last weekend, which won’t help its cause. “The Conjuring 2” will be lucky to descend by the 53% I’m predicting for this weekend. That would bring its three-week total to a good $90 million or so, with my original $115 million prediction a safe guess for a final landing spot domestically.
A quick note: “Free State of Jones” has been riding absolutely zero positive buzz, boasts a topic that all demographics are wholly exhausted of (the White Savior Slave Movie), sports bad-to-mixed reviews and a miserably bad ad campaign. I smell a severe flop, something that threatens to debut outside the top five. Matthew McConaughey, despite his supposed McConnaissance, is no longer much of a box office draw on his own merits. He has only had two big box office hits post-McConnaissance, come to think of it. McConaughey’s focus lately has been on prestige cinema, which has a narrower niche and lower expectations. When it comes to actually bringing asses into the seats en masse for large releases, his recent record is spottier. His biggest movie since 2011 was “Interstellar,” a fall event movie with great trailers whose biggest name was probably Christopher Nolan (it also boasted the star power of Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine in supporting turns). McConaughey’s other hit was the first “Magic Mike,” a concept-driven ensemble piece whose main draw was Channing Tatum. I think his latest — despite being helmed by pedigreed writer-director Gary Ross (who wrote “Big” and “Dave,” and wrote and directed “Pleasantville,” “Seabiscuit” and the original “Hunger Games”) — will be hard-pressed to crack the $10 million mark, which would be a massive disappointment for its production company, STX Entertainment, unleashing “Jones” into a very wide 2,815 theaters. My current prediction is a paltry $6.5 million and a #6 finish behind “The Conjuring 2.”