Weekend Box Office Forecast: Free Guy Hopes to Hold Off Paw Patrol, While The Night House, The Protégé, and Reminiscence Also Debut

Photo Credits: Alan Markfield & 20th Century Studios ("Free Guy"); Warner Bros. ("Reminiscence"); David Tattersall & Lionsgate ("The Protege"); Paramount ("Paw Patrol"); Searchlight Pictures ("The Night House")

The penultimate weekend of August arrives with a quartet of wide releases, but will any of them be able to challenge the second frame of Free Guy?

Last weekend saw the Ryan Reynolds-led action-comedy debut on the high end of expectations with $28.4 million over opening weekend, once again shifting the narrative of what’s been an expectedly up-and-down final month of summer during a prolonged pandemic recovery and vaccine era. That start represented the best opening weekend for an original movie during the pandemic.

Free Guy‘s strong reception, including a 95 percent audience score and 82 percent critics’ meter at Rotten Tomatoes, are poised to help the hit movie generate staying power throughout these final weeks before fall movie season arrives — and probably after, thanks to the film’s 45-day exclusive window in theaters. Last week’s slim Saturday decline of just under 1 percent from opening day grosses provided a strong early data point to back up such hopes, and daily box office holds have continued to show encouraging signs and minimal market-wide impact (so far) from Delta variant concerns.

Four challengers arrive this weekend, although expectations for each have been quite modest in recent forecasts. The fortunes of one of those films may be changing for the better though. Here’s the breakdown:

PROS:

  • Paw Patrol: The Movie is the first high-profile animated film to open since The Boss Baby: Family Business eight weekends ago, and the first semi-animated film since Space Jam: A New Legacy in July. In other words, parents who feel comfortable taking their kids out to the movies finally have something new to check out after studios largely abandoned this corridor on the summer schedule when it comes to kid-driven movies.

    The Patrol brand has been quite strong for Paramount and Nickelodeon as a television series and merchandising attraction for the past several years, so built-in appeal for the franchise’s first big screen adventure is an advantage going into opening weekend.

    A 94 percent Rotten Tomatoes score provides additional upside, and pre-sales have ballooned late in the pre-release cycle this week with indications pointing to a minor breakout opening thanks to pent-up demand for family-centric movies.
  • Warner Bros.’ latest hybrid release, Reminiscence, boasts Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, and Thandiwe Newton in leading roles for a neo-noir, sci-fi pic from Lisa Joy (HBO’s Westworld). Adults over 30, plus fans of Jackman and Ferguson (who previously drove The Greatest Showman to big success) and those of Joy’s hit HBO series, are the target audience here.
  • Horror releases have been a dime-a-dozen this summer thanks to the minimal risk they carry as inexpensively made movies opening in a fractured pandemic market. The Night House is led by Rebecca Hall and has earned a healthy 86 percent critics’ score so far, serving as positives for this release which hopes to draw audiences in the under-35 age bracket. The Searchlight Pictures film, inherited and distributed by Disney, is exclusive to cinemas.
  • Lionsgate’s The Protégé is aiming to attract the older male audience that previously drove films like The Marksman and Wrath of Man to relative mid-pandemic success at the box office. A cast led by Maggie Q, Michael Keaton, and Samuel L. Jackson could help. The film is also exclusive to theaters this weekend.
  • A recent survey (conducted July 29 through August 2) by Screenvision and NCM notably found that 79 percent of moviegoers are not “overly concerned” about the Delta variant, 82 percent of movie fans are vaccinated already, and 73 percent are comfortable taking additional precautions such as masking indoors and sanitizing.

    Including other metrics, the study may provide some cautious optimism that box office impact from the Delta variant — relative to where business stood earlier in the summer — hasn’t been severe up to this point.

CONS:

  • A significant reason for bearish forecasts on Paw Patrol had been the concern among some parents to take their children back to cinemas since those under the age of 12 are not eligible for vaccines yet. In tandem with the climbing number of severe Delta variant cases among the unvaccinated population, forecasting models are quite varied in terms of what the floor and ceiling for this film are right now.

    Paw Patrol is available as a day-and-date release to streaming subscribers of Paramount+, and at last report, Regal is not screening the film this weekend. Both factors could hinder overall box office potential.
  • Pre-release tracking for Reminiscence has disappointed in recent weeks with social and pre-sale profiles trending closer to those of Those Who Wish Me Dead, which opened to just $2.8 million back in May. That film was also released day-and-date in theaters and streaming for free to subscribers of HBO Max, a factor that will surely ding Reminiscence at the box office — especially considering its lukewarm 46 percent critics’ score.
  • The Night House hasn’t been marketed heavily, and a glut of horror releases in recent weeks could have genre fans temporarily burned out for the time being.
  • The Protégé is in a similar position as Reminiscence with soft tracking heading into its debut. In general, both films could cannibalize each other’s already limited potential during a time of summer when studios tend to offload any content they feel doesn’t have significant commercial potential.
  • In general, moviegoer sentiment remains a metric worth watching amid the current Delta variant surge. NRG reported a 64 percent comfort level as of August 16. That’s down three points from 67 percent on August 9, which was down from 70 percent on August 2.

Opener Forecast Ranges

Paw Patrol: The Movie
Opening Weekend Range: $10 – 15 million
Domestic Total Range: $30 – $50 million

Reminiscence
Opening Weekend Range: $3 – 8 million
Domestic Total Range: $8 – $25 million

The Night House
Opening Weekend Range: $1 – 6 million
Domestic Total Range: $2.5 – $15 million

The Protégé
Opening Weekend Range: $1.5 – 6.5 million
Domestic Total Range: $4 – $20 million

Weekend Forecast

Boxoffice projects this weekend’s top ten films will decrease between 10 and 20 percent from last weekend’s $72.2 million top ten aggregate.

Film Distributor 3-Day Weekend Forecast Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, August 22 Location Count % Change from Last Wknd
Free Guy 20th Century Studios $15,200,000 $55,300,000 4,165 -46%
Paw Patrol: The Movie Paramount Pictures $14,000,000 $14,000,000 2,771 NEW
Jungle Cruise Walt Disney Studios $6,000,000 $92,300,000 3,575 -34%
Reminiscence Warner Bros. Pictures $4,700,000 $4,700,000 ~3,500 NEW
Don’t Breathe 2 Sony Pictures / Columbia $4,600,000 $19,300,000 3,005 -57%
Respect United Artists Releasing / MGM $4,200,000 $16,100,000 3,207 -52%
The Suicide Squad Warner Bros. Pictures $4,100,000 $50,200,000 ~3,000 -45%
The Night House Searchlight Pictures $3,600,000 $3,600,000 2,240 NEW
The Protégé Lionsgate $2,500,000 $2,500,000 2,577 NEW
Old Universal Pictures $1,300,000 $45,300,000 1,540 -45%

All forecasts subject to revision before the first confirmation of Thursday previews or Friday estimates from studios or alternative sources.

Theater counts are updated as confirmed by studios.