This past week is a perfect illustration of what makes Awards season so much more difficult than the others. We had a whopping six new films to consider that included a horror film (they always seem to surprise), a film clearly targeted at boys, and a title from a legendary director. Returning films featured a clear winner from Golden Globes night the Sunday before and two films with predominantly African American casts on the last MLK weekend of the Obama administration. Oh yeah, and there were weather issues at different parts of the country that caused the rescheduling of one of the NFL Divisional Round games.
It’s just that simple!
What Did We Learn From Last Week?
There are a few cardinal rules of Fantasy Movie League and I admittedly broke one of them last week: Never underestimate the enthusiasm of horror fans. I completely discounted “The Bye Bye Man” because of the presence of “Underworld” in the market despite how well “The Forest” did on this same weekend in 2016. Unless there are issues with the distributor, which in this case there were not, you can count on a horror opening of $15M to $20M no matter how bad the reviews are.
We were also reminded that corporate synergy matters. The lone thing “Monster Trucks” seemed to have going for it was that it was a Nickelodeon production, but that kind of access to its target audience was enough for a weekend that defied pro forecasts. Contrast that with my biggest gamble and mistake of the Fall season, “Max Steele”. While that film appeared on Disney DX, it wasn’t made by them and didn’t get the same kind of targeted marketing push that “Monster Trucks” clearly benefitted from.
What About New Films?
Four new films open on Inauguration Day, headlined by Vin Diesel’s return to the “XXX” series in a film he also produces. It’s been almost twelve years since “XXX: State of the Union” opened on 3400+ screens to an adjusted weekend gross of $16.8M (~$4800 Per Theater Average) and 2016 didn’t go so well for new entries of stale franchises. Will “XXX: The Return of Xander Cage” do better? Diesel was in two films released in 2015 and while “Furious 7” opened to a whopping $147M, “The Last Witch Hunter” opened to only $10.8M and the theater count (TC) for his latest entry will be much closer to the latter.
Is M. Night Shyamalan back? After years of forgettable or even laughable films, “The Sixth Sense” director surprised in 2015 with the positive response to “The Visit”, which opened with $25.4M, a $8285 PTA. Early reviews for “Split” might indicate he’s got two good ones in a row and it would need a $7500 PTA to meet it’s Long Range Forecast of $22.5M.
A familiar cast tells us the Ray Kroc story from the Weinstein Company in “The Founder”. It is scheduled to be in less than 1200 theaters, which means it would only need a $5400 PTA to approach its Long Range Forecast of $6M but this one puzzles me. It has a nice score on Rotten Tomatoes, so why release this in January when you could have released it a month sooner and put Michael Keaton in a position to drive more marketing for it with potential awards nominations? Keep an eye out on whether or not those reviews hold and at the density of that theater count when showtimes come out. This has potential to be a sneaky Best Performer but could also tank.
A24 has had great success with “Moonlight” and I can’t help but think as a smaller distributor they’ve put all their resources behind that film and for very good reasons. “20th Century Women” may have been hurt by that after an October NY Film Festival premiere followed by a limited release in December. This week it opens wide, but whether or not this one is playable will depend on what that theater count means exactly.
Finally, “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” has the lowest Long Range Forecast in recent memory at $1.4M, but it comes from a distributor trying to build on its success in horror, High Top Releasing. It’s best grossing non-horror film was a drama called “I’m in Love with a Church Girl”, which did ~$2100 PTA and if this current film did the same, it would beat that $1.4M and get to $2.1M.
What are the Combos to Watch this week?
If you apply the latest Long Range Forecast to the three new films that have them you get an average value of around $67.4K and applying that to all films in play this week without Long Range Forecasts yields the default setting for the Lineup Calculator this week. What that initially tells you is that ProBoxOffice likes the value of “The Founder” and there are a number of 6x plays that are worth considering. But that’s already the BSA this week for reasons BSWhite1970 states well.
To find other options, if you first lower “The Founder” to $5M and then start moving up the top contenders from CCR’s Bonus Bar post up to his suggested value of $80K, some other candidates reveal themselves (full table):
Does anybody have the guts to play “Monster Trucks” 7x or x8 this week? That’s a big risk/reward play without a lot of room in between but if you believe in a strong hold for it, the math supports some options there. If you like a “Patriots Day” hold, you can pair 6x of it with either “Split” or “XXX” and a low end filler. There are also multiple scenarios where you can fit two screens of either “Split” or “XXX” and a “Monster Trucks” and/or multiple “20th Century Women” should the theater count be worth it on the latter.