As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. But pandemic or not, it seems ambitious to have seven new movies scheduled to open nationwide in the wake of “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
That’s right, seven new films — “The Matrix Resurrections” (Warner Bros.), “Sing 2” (Universal), “The King’s Man” (Disney and 20th Century), “The Tender Bar” (Amazon Studios), “A Journal for Jordan” (Sony), “American Underdog” (Lionsgate) and “Licorice Pizza” (MGM) — will make their way to North American theaters around Christmas Day and attempt to lure audiences away from the box office behemoth that is “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
Cue the voice on the other end of Liam Neeson’s ominous phone call in “Taken”: “Good luck.”
In non-plague times, it wouldn’t be unusual to slate several new films during the holiday season; the stretch between Christmas and New Year’s is typically the most lucrative time for moviegoing. But outside of comic book adaptations, hardly any pandemic releases have managed to sell a significant number of tickets, and outsized competition for screens certainly won’t help.
Some choose to look optimistically at the range of offerings as a boon for film exhibitors, who went months during the worst of the pandemic without many high-profile movies to offer.
“While there will certainly be casualties, there is no question that — without exaggeration — there is something for everyone,” says Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst with Comscore. “Multiplexes will be bustling with major foot traffic.
One thing is certain: “Spider-Man: No Way Home” isn’t slowing down. Concerns over the rapidly spreading Omicron variant of COVID-19 could result in a pileup for other new movies, but Sony’s comic book epic should again emerge unscathed.
After collecting a stunning $260 million in its debut, “No Way Home,” the third chapter in Tom Holland’s web-slinging trilogy, has continued to turbocharge the box office. On Monday, the film collected a huge $37 million, which is more than most non-superhero films in 2021 have generated in their entire theatrical runs. Those figures, encouragingly reminiscent of pre-pandemic days, push “No Way Home” to $297 million domestically and put the film on pace to crush the $300 million milestone in record time. Sony’s superhero adventure added another $41.2 million overseas on Monday, boosting international revenues to $383.4 million. Globally, the latest “Spider-Man” movie has generated $680 million and looks to be the first pandemic-era release to cross $1 billion in ticket sales. Even more notably, it would be hitting that benchmark without China, the world’s biggest moviegoing market.
Over the next weekend, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is expected to generate $90 million to $100 million in its sophomore outing, another exceptional result. After “No Way Home,” the battle for second place will come down to Universal’s animated musical comedy “Sing 2” and “Matrix Resurrections,” which are getting a jump on the weekend by opening on Wednesday.
The fourth “Matrix” installment is targeting a five-day total around $40 million to $50 million from 3,550 venues while debuting simultaneously on HBO Max. The sequel to 2016’s family-friendly hit “Sing,” which is playing exclusively in 3,900 theaters, is expected to generate $40 million between Wednesday and Sunday. Those two films been well-reviewed and could become commercial smashes, but they have their obvious challenges. With plenty of options on the big screen, moviegoers could opt to watch “Matrix” for “free” when it lands day-and-date on streaming. And “Sing 2” caters to parents with young kids, which is a demographic that hasn’t been the most eager to go to the movies while a highly contagious virus continues to wreak havoc.
It’s been nearly 20 years since the Wachowskis’ seminal sci-fi series has last graced theaters. “Resurrections” acknowledges that time gap, picking up two decades after 2003’s “The Matrix Revolutions.” In the latest entry, directed by Lana Wachowski, Keanu Reeves reprises his role as the sleek cybercriminal Neo and Carrie-Anne Moss returns as Trinity — though neither remember each other or their past. However, Neo’s blue-pill reality changes when a new version of Morpheus (portrayed by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) offers him the infamous red pill and reopens his mind to the world of the Matrix.
Variety’s Peter Debruge had mostly positive things to say about “The Matrix Resurrections,” calling it “a pop-subversive sequel smart enough to realize there’s no reason for it to exist.”
Reviews may be less vital to “Sing 2,” a jukebox musical that instead hopes to entice moviegoers with earworms like Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy,” Kygo and Whitney Houston’s remix of “Higher Love” and Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” Directed by Garth Jennings, the animated comedy tells the story of the optimistic koala Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) and his animal friends (voiced by Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Nick Kroll, Pharrell Williams and Taron Egerton) as they attempt to convince a legendary rock star (voiced by none other than Bono) to perform with them during a concert for a snooty media mogul.
In his review for Variety, Debruge wrote, “If ‘Sing 2’ sounds like a shameless excuse for a bunch of celebrities to perform cover versions of Top 40 hits while animated animals lip-sync the lyrics for our amusement … well, that’s essentially what it is.”
But, hey, that proved to be a winning formula for Fox’s Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Paramount’s Elton John musical “Rocketman.” In other words, don’t underestimate the power of foot-tapping jams on a giant screen enhanced by surround-sound.
Heading for a fourth-place finish, “The King’s Man” is landing in approximately 3,100 theaters and hopes to collect $15 million to $20 million over the five-day frame.
“The King’s Man” is the third installment in the “Kingsman” film series and serves as an origin story about the independent intelligence agency. Matthew Vaughn directed the period spy action film, which stars Ralph Fiennes and follows a collection of history’s worst tyrants and criminal masterminds as they gather to plot a war to wipe out millions.
That leaves “American Underdog,” which is aiming for $7 million to $10 million from 2,700 cinemas, and “A Journal for Jordan,” which is projected to make $7 million or less from 2,500 locations. Since “The Tender Bar” is being released by Amazon Studios, the company likely won’t report box office grosses. And “Licorice Pizza,” the latest feature from director Paul Thomas Anderson, is only expanding its footprint nationally after playing in select theaters in N.Y. and L.A. in recent weeks.
A traditional crowd-pleaser akin to “The Blind Side,” the Lionsgate sports drama “American Underdog” stars Zachary Levi, Anna Paquin and Dennis Quaid and recounts the true events of the Los Angeles Rams quarterback Kurt Warner, who went from stocking supermarket shelves to becoming two time NFL MVP, Super Bowl champion and a hall of fame quarterback.
Denzel Washington directed “A Journal for Jordan,” based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book about Charles Monroe King, a 1st Sergeant who is deployed in Iraq and keeps a journal of love and advice for his infant son. Sharing the diary with her child, his fiance Dana Canedy reflects on her unlikely yet powerful romantic relationship with King. The film cost $25 million.