Super Bowl weekend has historically meant a drastic slowdown of box office sales for domestic theaters, a trend that won’t be reversed but could still be mitigated by a handful of new releases this year. Two of them will attempt to counter-program the big game, and one — The Beatles: Get Back – The Rooftop Concert — is a specialty IMAX release that could challenge for a top ten position.
Meanwhile, the industry will be watching several of this week’s newly minted Oscar nominees in their award season expansions.
Headlining this weekend should easily be Death on the Nile, director and star Kenneth Branagh’s follow-up to the hit adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. The latter was a notable hit with its $28.7 million bow and leggy run toward to $107.3 million in North America, summing up at $353 million globally — all on just an estimated $55 million production budget.
Nile enters a very different world, though. Even before the pandemic, this sequel was identified as a candidate for diminished returns in long range forecasts due to the nature of similar genre follow-ups and the somewhat lower profile of the source novel relative to the more ubiquitous Orient Express IP. Now, Nile has to contend with evolving audience habits and a still-cautious older female audience — the bread and butter of these films and Christie’s fan base.
Orient Express wasn’t completely lop-sided in its age appeal thanks to a strong cast and marketing surrounding in modern flair, though. That film’s first weekend drew a reported 51 percent over the age of 35, while 56 percent were women. The former statistic there could be beneficial for Death on the Nile with another ensemble led by Branagh, Gal Gadot, Letitia Wright, Russell Brand, Emma Mackey, and Rose Leslie, while being backed by a healthy promotion cycle aiming to attract adults in the 25 to 34 age range.
The film’s trailers have been running in theaters since before the pandemic began, and consistently since they reopened, even as the release date has been pushed multiple times. Awareness isn’t going to be a major issue. Overall tracking ranks among the best of any film released so far in 2021 or 2022 among those courting adult women as a primary audience. Various metrics and social trends are ahead of where West Side Story stood before its $10.6 million opening in December and comparable to House of Gucci ($14.4 million three-day Thanksgiving bow).
Disney will distribute the film in approximately 3,200 domestic locations this weekend, including 375 IMAX venues and over 700 Premium Large Format screens. The sequel is holding Early Access screenings in select premium formats on Wednesday, followed by traditional Thursday previews beginning at 5pm. With the audience and Super Bowl in mind, staying power is in play for the film due to minimal competition in the weeks ahead.
The other high-profile wide release of Super Bowl weekend falls even more squarely into the counter-programming column, although expectations are more modest. Marry Me, starring Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson, is aiming to get a jump on Valentine’s Day business before the date day itself on Monday, but tracking has shown mixed signals thus far.
Lopez is easily the romantic comedy’s biggest asset as the star continues to be a force in pop culture and isn’t long off the success of 2019’s Hustlers, while Wilson himself remains a viable and well-known presence. Still, Universal shifted this film to a hybrid release strategy in recent months and will be releasing it for free to Peacock streaming subscribers on the same day as its theatrical opening.
The latter factor is notable given this film’s primary selling point to — again — adult women. Lopez’s core audience leans away from the current generation of young moviegoers driving the bulk of theatrical business during the waning pandemic, which means Marry Me will likely need to over-index among young women and date night crowds to exceed expectations this weekend.
Opening in over 3,600 locations with Thursday night previews, Marry Me is tracking similarly to fellow pandemic-era release Respect, which bowed to $8.8 million last year. Lopez herself has opened a rom-com on Super Bowl weekend before when The Wedding Planner bowed to $13.5 million in 2001.
Elsewhere, Briarcliff Entertainment sends the latest Liam Neeson thriller — Blacklight — into wide release this weekend at 2,772 locations. Marketing only began helping the film pop up on traditional tracking and social metrics in recent days, and the male-driven audience will likely be more attentive to the game this weekend. Blacklight is most closely tracking with Copshop and The Protege.
Following a strong $391K performance from 67 IMAX venues on January 30, Disney and the PLF company will send Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back – The Rooftop Concert into more venues for special engagements this weekend. In addition to single showtimes on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, a Wednesday screening is also planned. The studio has not yet confirmed how box office grosses will be reported, but the strong turnout last week and continued pre-sale activity for this weekend’s dates show potential for the documentary to near or reach the top ten this weekend.
Oscar nominations were announced earlier this week. In years past, that’s often been a signal of what movies would expand nationwide and capitalize on their growing award glow. While still far from the norm, that will be the case for Belfast and Licorice Pizza this weekend.
Focus has confirmed the former will up its location count from 390 to 920 starting Friday after receiving seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. UAR has not confirmed fellow nominee Pizza‘s count, but Dashboard projections show it could be north of 1,800 after playing in 786 last weekend. That film remains exclusive to theaters, while Belfast is otherwise currently only available at home as a $20 PVOD rental or purchase after having a theatrical-only run during the latter weeks of 2021.
West Side Story was also a big nominee, but current Dashboard estimates show a more modest boost for the Steven Spielberg’s location count this weekend (although that could change as Disney has yet to report on its expansion). Instead, the distributor took the opportunity to announce Story will receive its streaming debut via Disney+ and HBO Max on March 2.
Last but not least, Spider-Man: No Way Home will continue its historic march this weekend. Despite facing new male-driven competition and losing its remaining IMAX footprint one week ago, the Marvel epic dropped a mere 13.6 percent at the box office. Although the Super Bowl will impact it like all other films on Sunday, the lack of direct competition should again help it to post a very strong hold under the circumstances.
Of course, the big “wait and see” story with No Way Home remains when it will pass Avatar on the domestic all-time chart. Through Tuesday, February 8, Spidey stood at $750.4 million — just $10.1 million behind the James Cameron film. Our current projections have Spider-Man only slightly behind Avatar‘s $760.5 million lifetime gross by the end of Sunday, but it seems inevitable that No Way Home will climb past it and into third place by no later than next Tuesday, February 15.
Wide Release Forecast Ranges
Opening Weekend Range: $1 – 4 million
Death on the Nile
Opening Weekend Range: $12 – 17 million
Opening Weekend Range: $6 – 9 million
Weekend Forecast & Location Counts
Boxoffice projects between a 7 to 17 percent decline for this weekend’s top ten films from last weekend’s $55.9 million top ten aggregate.
|Film||Distributor||3-Day Weekend Forecast||Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, February 13||Location Count||3-Day % Change from Last Wknd|
|Death on the Nile||Disney / 20th Century Studios||$14,500,000||$14,500,000||~3,200||NEW|
|Jackass Forever||Paramount Pictures||$8,000,000||$38,000,000||~3,604||-65%|
|Spider-Man: No Way Home||Sony Pictures / Columbia & Marvel Studios||$7,100,000||$759,000,000||~3,500||-25%|
|Marry Me||Universal Pictures||$7,000,000||$7,000,000||~3,600||NEW|
|Scream (2022)||Paramount Pictures||$2,900,000||$73,200,000||~2,700||-39%|
|Sing 2||Universal Pictures||$2,800,000||$143,200,000||~2,900||-34%|
|Licorice Pizza||United Artists Releasing||$1,100,000||$14,100,000||~1,850||+71%|
|The Beatles: Get Back – The Rooftop Concert||Disney / 20th Century Studios||$800,000||$1,350,000||~190||NEW|
*All forecasts are subject to revision before the first confirmation of Thursday previews or Friday estimates from studios or official sources.
Theater counts are updated as confirmed by studios. The above table does not necessarily represent the top ten as some studios do not finalize weekend location counts and/or an intent to report box office returns prior to publishing.
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