Three new movies will hit theaters on Friday, but likely none will be able to dethrone the reigning box office champ, “Onward.” Disney’s animated fantasy adventure debuted to $39 million last weekend, a lackluster result for a Pixar film, but enough to dominate the competition.
Unless one of this weekend’s newcomers — Universal’s “The Hunt,” Sony’s “Bloodshot” and Lionsgate’s “I Still Believe” — beats expectations, “Onward” should have no trouble leading the pack again. “Onward” could add another $15 million to $17 million in its sophomore outing, should it perform similarly to 2015’s “The Good Dinosaur” and 2017’s “Cars 3” — two Pixar movies that saw opening weekend ticket sales comparable to “Onward.” Meanwhile, each of the three offerings hitting multiplexes this weekend is projected to earn around $10 million.
So far, coronavirus doesn’t seem to be impacting the box office — at least in North America. But that could change if audiences opt to avoid public spaces as the novel virus continues to spread throughout the country and world. Movie theaters have seen mass closures that will result in billions of dollars in lost revenues in areas like China, Japan, Korea and India — countries hit hard by the pandemic.
“The Hunt,” though eyeing a quieter launch, is perhaps the most high-profile among the new titles. The violent satirical thriller was initially slated to debut last September, but was pulled from Universal’s slate after a trio of mass shootings. Before “The Hunt” was shelved, the film stirred up controversy when President Donald Trump criticized it on Twitter, saying it was made to “inflame and cause chaos.” “The Hunt” depicts elites who kidnap and prey on average Americans for sport. An early trailer for the movie referred to those being hunted as “deplorables.”
Universal announced earlier in 2020 that it would ultimately release the film and used the public turmoil as a marketing tactic, rebranding “The Hunt” with the tagline, “The most talked about movie of the year is the one nobody has seen … yet.” Whether the movie — directed by Craig Zobel — being talked about translates into ticket sales remains to be seen. “The Hunt” was produced by Blumhouse for $14 million, a modest figure that’s on the higher end compared to most low-budget Blumhouse titles. It got mixed reviews, with Variety’s Peter Debruge saying “The Hunt” “delivers the excitement, if not necessarily the deeper social critique.”
Damon Lindelof, creator of HBO’s “Watchmen” and “Lost,” wrote “The Hunt,” which will play in 3,000 theaters in North America this weekend. The film, intended to illustrate and poke fun at the political divide in America, stars Betty Gilpin, Ike Barinholtz, Emma Roberts and Hilary Swank.
Although “The Hunt” is rated R, it could compete for attention from moviegoers with “Bloodshot,” a PG-13 superhero thriller starring Vin Diesel. “Bloodshot,” opening on 2,800 screens across the U.S. and Canada, cost $45 million and could struggle to turn a profit if projections hold. Should “Bloodshot” fall short of commercial expectations, Sony won’t be on the hook entirely — Columbia Pictures, Bona Film Group and Cross Creek Pictures co-financed the film.
David S. F. Wilson directed “Bloodshot,” an adaptation of the comic book about a marine who was killed in action and later brought back to life with superhuman abilities. The cast also includes Eiza González, Sam Heughan, Toby Kebbell and Guy Pearce.
Elsewhere, Lionsgate hopes “I Still Believe” can galvanize the same crowd that drove its Christian drama “I Can Only Imagine” to box office success in 2018. Industry watchers predict that “I Still Believe” has the best chance of beating “Onward” on box office charts, should it overperform. “I Still Believe” was directed by Andrew and Jon Erwin, the brothers behind “I Can Only Imagine.” The movie is based on the life of contemporary Christian singer Jeremy Camp (played by “Riverdale” star KJ Apa) and his first wife (Britt Robertson), who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer shortly after they wed.
In limited release, Focus Features’ “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” will open in four theaters — Angelika and Landmark at 57 in New York, and ArcLight Hollywood and Landmark in Los Angeles. The drama, directed by Eliza Hittman, debuted to high praise at the Sundance Film Festival and has a 100% average from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” follows two teenage girls from Pennsylvania who travel to New York following an unplanned pregnancy.