Last week was not the week to take off Bold Box Office Predictions. There was actually a plethora and eclectic mix of new movies to dissect. I really should have taken this week off instead, as there is literally nothing new opening in wide release, so I apologize. Here’s my excuse – I was dealing with snow:
Okay, truth be told, I’m in California, but I know many were dealing with this over Christmas, which obviously had an effect on the box office. I hope everyone stayed safe, and we’ll just use this week as an excuse to talk about last week. We’ll start with that little movie about water, or whatever.
So, everyone FREAKED OUT over Avatar: The Way of Water’s domestic opening weekend ($134.1 Million).
It was no doubt an underperforming number. I’d also like to apologize to James Cameron, because whenever I give a high prediction, that’s essentially the kiss of death.
Yeah, I predicted $172 Million. To be fair though, most people had this in the $160 Million-ish range, so the $134.1 Million surprised everyone. Here’s the bottom-line though: The worldwide gross is already over $1 Billion, and it hasn’t even been open for three full weeks.
Yeah, nobody is crying for Avatar: The Way of Water. And let’s not forget, it’s going to keep playing and playing and playing, racking up big numbers for a while. Avatar right now is basically going through the first few opponents in Punch-Out.
As Avatar 3 was shot at the same time, we know we’re getting that one in 2024. Will the box office justify Avatar 4 and 5? Time will tell. As far as this second installment is concerned though, it’s doing just fine.
Let’s move onto another movie that hasn’t been quite as successful. Damien Chazelle’s Babylon. Yeah, this one was more like…
With a reported budget of $78 Million (via IMDB), not to mention the excessive marketing that went on, there’s no denying it – Babylon bombed. This is a real tough one for me. Whiplash (also directed by Chazelle) is my favorite movie of the last ten years, and firmly in my top twenty of all-time favorite films. I’m also a big La La Land defender, so I was rooting hard for this. I was waiting to see what the first reactions would be much like Michelangelo waits for pizza.
I knew the initial reactions would dictate this movie’s fate. For a 3-hour+ bombastic, loud movie about Hollywood, this movie needed to get unanimous praise and enthusiastic word of mouth out of the gate. What we got instead was the dreaded divisive reaction, sealing its box office fate right then and there.
As someone who reviewed this movie and passionately stamps it as the best film of 2022, I was certainly in its corner, but at the same time, it’s a hard recommendation to give. Why is that? Well, I’m not going to tell you here, you’ll just have to read my review.
Babylon is a vintage example of the perils of the Rotten Tomato culture. I’m sure there were moviegoers who had a mild interest in seeing Babylon, but took one look at that mid-fifties Rotten Tomato score, said “Oh, I bet it sucks,” and that was it. This is frustrating, and allow me to be the old man on the lawn here for just a moment.
There was a time when people actually had to dig in and read about a movie. Even in the age of Siskel and Ebert, while you’d get the “Thumbs Up!” or “Thumbs Down!” recommendation, people still listened to their reviews and then made a decision. The problem is we are so over saturated with 9,000 critics, from the Marvin’s Review Shack behind Wal-Mart.com and Frank’s Movie Thing on a Web Page Posting Whatevs Breakfast Sandwich Emporium Furniture Delivery Reviews.com (apologies if those are real sites), that we don’t know who to read, so we just look at that Rotten Tomato score and call it a day.
Now to be fair, the audience score is actually lower, so I can’t just blame one number for this. All I’m trying to say is this – there’s more to the story on Babylon then a Rotten Tomato rating. Okay, that’s my Babylon tangent. I’ve rambled long enough.
Let’s move onto another divisive movie, although judging by the audience, it’s not divisive at all — Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale. Now, I bring this movie up for a couple reasons. First of all, it’s only been open in just over 600 theaters, but its per theater average is CLEANING UP, as the film sits at just over $3 Million at the time I’m writing this. Not too shabby. Now this is where the Rotten Tomato element is rather interesting, I swear.
The critic score is in the mid-sixties, yet the audience score right now is above 90% as I write this. I’ve seen The Whale (it’s great, IMO), and I can attest that the audience I saw it with were a puddle of tears when it ended, so it’s one of those movies. I’ve seen pundits throw in the towel on The Whale getting a Best Picture nomination, but I’m not ready to do so.
This is in the Joker zone. For whatever reason, critics don’t like this one very much, but the audiences are WAY into it. This could very well be pundits not wanting to believe in this because they don’t love the film, but don’t be surprised if this movie gets over nominated. We’ll see if this continues to make waves as it expands into more theaters.
Quickly covering the other two films that just opened, we have our 800th musical biopic in the last five years, and a Puss in Boots sequel 11 years in the making. Let’s start with that one. We had an Avatar movie 13 years in the making, and now this. Ummmm, yeah, Puss in Boots is not Avatar.
Now I give the film credit, as supposedly it’s very good. The box office is fine (sitting at just over $30 Million domestic), and it’s going to rip past the absolute debacle that was Strange World, but relative to other franchises, it’s not doing much, so a Puss in Boots movie in 2022 was a head scratcher, that’s all.
Finally, we have the Whitney Houston movie, which went so under the radar, they literally had to change the title of the film and add her name to it, just to make it clear it’s a Whitney Houston movie. Now that’s desperate.
At this point, I’d love to see a studio just embrace this. They should just call the film, “This is the Whitney Houston biopic, please see the movie. Really Appreciate it. Thanks.” I’m sort of not kidding. It would be funny, and just the sheer comic nature of it might get people in the theater.
I am legitimately surprised that a Whitney Houston biopic didn’t make more money though. Whitney Houston…kind of a big deal, right? Am I crazy?
At the end of the day though, this movie had absolutely no marketing whatsoever, and the reviews certainly didn’t help, and so that about does it. However, this is another one of those films where the critic and audience ratings are complete opposites. We’ll see if this can gain any legs, but any chance of a Naomi Ackie Oscar nomination is pretty slim based on the complete lack of buzz.
HOW WILL IT ALL BREAK DOWN…
Okay, I think I made up for no column last week. Geez Louise, we covered a lot!
This is a weird weekend to predict, because the snow factor could mean that many of these numbers just stay the same, but it’s also still a holiday weekend, so who knows.
Oh right, this is a column about predicting box office though, so I guess I should give it a try. Fine. Here you go. I’m tired now, I’m going to go get a bagel from Frank’s Movie Thing on a Web Page Posting Whatevs Breakfast Sandwich Emporium Furniture Delivery Reviews.com.
1. Avatar: The Way of Water — $53.2 Million
2. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish — $8.9 Million
3. Babylon — $2.6 Million
4. Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody — $2.5 Million
5. Violent Night — $2.4 Million