Weekend Box Office Forecast: Neeson’s The Marksman Targets Wonder Woman 1984’s Pandemic Throne During the MLK Frame

Photo Credits: Open Road Films / Briarcliff Entertainment ("The Marksman"); Warner Bros. ("Wonder Woman 1984")

Like every other holiday frame over the past ten months, this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend box office will look very different from what the industry is accustomed to. The primary bright spot will be a new wide release from Open Road Films and Briarcliff Entertainment, The Marksman.

By contrast, what would unexpectedly become 2020’s top domestic box office performer with $206.3 million in North America — Bad Boys for Life — opened to $62.5 million in three days ahead of the Monday holiday one year ago. It was the second highest showing ever for MLK weekend.

Flash forward to present times: Starring Liam Neeson in his latest action-thriller, a genre he has successfully gravitated toward over the past decade, Marksman is the second pandemic-era film starring the veteran actor aiming to provide open theaters with new content. The previous, Honest Thief (also an Open Road release), bowed to a $4.1 million weekend in mid-October.

Pre-release tracking and sentiment, such as it is right now, for The Marksman has been comparable to that and other recent Neeson flicks. His films have developed a fairly steady audience in recent years with occasional breakouts every so often. Nearly one year ago, he opened Cold Pursuit to $11 million in February.

That’s a target that isn’t currently achievable during the pandemic, unfortunately, so Honest Thief is one of the rare “easy” comparisons to make right now. Even then, that pic opened in 2,425 domestic locations before the late fall/winter surge of COVID-19 forced another wave of theatrical closures in markets that had temporarily opened back up last autumn.

By comparison, The Marksman will release in 1,975 cinemas across North America this weekend. An estimated 39 percent of the theatrical market is currently operating as lockdowns and restrictions have come back into full force with the virus at continuously peak case levels and vaccine rollouts behind schedule (as discussed in last week’s forecast).

According to The Boxoffice Company’s Showtimes Dashboard, The Marksman currently edges out Wonder Woman 1984 (16 percent to 15 percent) as the most booked film from a sample size of 1,768 domestic theaters (versus the DC sequel’s 1,829).

Meanwhile, Disney will re-release The Emperor’s New Groove in 744 theaters this weekend as another carrot for open exhibitors and families with kids who feel safe enough to venture out. The film earned $89 million domestically and more than $169 million globally during its original run back in 2000.

At the time of release, Groove was seen as an underperformer when compared to past Disney animated blockbusters (especially considering its $100 million production budget), but the film has gone on to earn something of a cult following in the two decades since.

On the holdover front, with minimal competition in play, a long holiday weekend ahead, and generally steady location counts confirmed by various studios, most films should ease very slightly from last weekend (which was already generated stronger holds than is typical for post-New Year’s frames).

Noteworthy drops to watch for this weekend will again be Wonder Woman 1984, which slid another 45.5 percent in its third frame last week to $3 million and a $32.6 million domestic cume, as well as Focus Features’ Promising Young Woman. The latter award season candidate has developed strong early legs in theaters, but does have a PVOD release on deck this Friday, January 15.

Weekend Forecast

Film Distributor 3-Day Weekend Forecast Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, January 17 Location Count % Change from Last Wknd
The Marksman Open Road Films / Briarcliff Entertainment $3,100,000 $3,100,000 1,975 NEW
Wonder Woman 1984 Warner Bros. Studios $2,100,000 $35,650,000 n/a -30%
The Croods: A New Age Universal Pictures $1,900,000 $39,150,000 1,855 +5%
News of the World Universal Pictures $1,000,000 $8,450,000 1,953 -19%
Monster Hunter Sony / Columbia $930,000 $9,050,000 1,694 -16%
Fatale Lionsgate $600,000 $4,820,000 1,175 -9%
Promising Young Woman Focus Features $530,000 $3,450,000 1,333 -6%
Pinocchio (2020) Roadside Attractions $195,000 $1,380,000 660 -12%
The War with Grandpa 101 Studios $160,000 $19,200,000 422 +7%
The Emperor’s New Groove (2020 Re-Issue) Walt Disney Pictures $90,000 $90,000 744 NEW

All forecasts subject to change before the first confirmation of weekend estimates from studios or alternative sources.

Forecasts above do not necessarily represent the top ten, but rather films with the widest theatrical footprint based on studio confirmations entering the weekend.

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Photo Credits: Open Road Films / Briarcliff Entertainment ("The Marksman"); Warner Bros. ("Wonder Woman 1984")