Tim Burton has had a rough spell at the box office. “Big Eyes” was an Oscar contender that failed to grab any gold, “Frankenweenie” was a bridge too bizarre for family crowds, and “Dark Shadows,” starring Johnny Depp, revived a campy ’60s show that most of America had forgotten. Burton, once a reliable purveyor of popcorn hits, hasn’t scored since 2010’s “Alice in Wonderland.”
But the director of “Batman” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is on firmer ground with “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” an adaptation of the best-selling novel about a young boy who is taken in by an orphanage populated by children with extraordinary powers. It’s mixture of the magical and the macabre seems a perfect fit for Burton’s quirky sensibility. The film is expected to open in first place, with roughly $26 million when it debuts in 3,520 locations. Fox is distributing the film, which will need to do well overseas if it wants to recoup its $110 million budget and start a franchise.
It’s been a difficult month at the multiplexes. Clint Eastwood’s “Sully” was an awards-season success and should close its run with more than $100 million in domestic ticket sales, but the likes of “Blair Witch,” “Bridget Jones’s Baby,” and “Storks” all failed to connect with consumers. This weekend is shaping up to be another difficult year-over-year comparison, with newcomers such as “Miss Peregrine’s” and “Deepwater Horizon” failing to match the windfall enjoyed by “The Martian.” That Matt Damon blockbuster opened over the same weekend in 2015 to a massive $54.3 million.
“On paper it seemed like there’d be something for everyone this month, but nobody seems to be in the mood to go to the movies,” said Shawn Robbins, senior analyst for BoxOffice.com. He hopes that ticket sales will rebound when “The Girl on the Train,” “Doctor Strange,” and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” begin rolling out in the coming weeks.
“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” should displace last weekend’s champ, “The Magnificent Seven” from its perch atop charts. The Western remake is expected to bring in $16 million in its sophomore weekend in theaters. That may be enough to snag a second-place finish. It all depends on how Lionsgate’s “Deepwater Horizon” plays. The true-life story about the men and women who were caught up in one of the worst oil spills in history reunites the “Lone Survivor” team of Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg. The pair’s previous film debuted to a whooping $37.8 million, but their latest collaboration is facing fiercer headwinds. “Deepwater Horizon” is shaping up to open to $18 million, which would be a poor result given its $110 million production cost. It will unroll on more than 3,200 screens.
Reviews have been sterling, and the film currently holds an 85% “fresh” rating,” so Lionsgate hopes that the picture will get a boost from the critics. As for Wahlberg and Berg, they’ll have another opportunity at the plate when “Patriots Day,” a look at the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, bows on Dec. 21. Lionsgate will distribute and co-finance that movie along with CBS Films.
In addition to the two big new releases, Disney will also try to expand “Queen of Katwe,” after the inspirational drama about a chess champion from Uganda failed to make a big stir in limited release last weekend. The film should generate about $5 million, but the studio is hopeful that word-of-mouth could help the film build an audience organically. “Queen of Katwe” cost $15 million to produce, making it a small bet for the Mouse House. But it’s also the kind of movie that Disney doesn’t really make any longer. Although the studio has experimented with more modestly budgeted dramas such as “Million Dollar Arm” and “McFarland, USA” in recent years, Disney is primarily in the blockbuster business. It makes Marvel adventures, Pixar yarns, and animated fare — films that sell toys and merchandise. For all of its virtues, that’s not “Queen of Katwe.”
Then there’s Relativity Media’s “Masterminds,” a comedy about a bank heist that stars Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig, and Jason Sudeikis. The film was originally slated to debut in August of 2015, but was held up for over a year after Relativity slid into bankruptcy. The studio managed to hold onto the title throughout the Chapter 11 process and, at one point, thought that it had commercial potential. In bankruptcy filings, the studio predicted that “Masterminds” would rack up $125.4 million in revenues over its lifetime, with roughly $47.1 million in profit. That tidy little profit could be hard to achieve given how “Masterminds” is tracking. The film is expected to debut to $10 million. Relativity’s most recent release, “The Disappointments Room,” collapsed when it debuted earlier this month, making less than $3 million.
Relativity CEO Ryan Kavanaugh is trying to gin up excitement for “Masterminds” on Twitter by promising to drop $100,000 on audiences for the film. It could be a joke or he could literally be paying people to see his movie.