After a busy summer at the movies — where five blockbusters have opened to $100 million or more — the dog days may be upon the domestic box office.
That is, unless Hollywood can field a sleeper hit…or two. Over the weekend, three new releases — Sony’s literary adaptation “Where the Crawdads Sing,” Paramount’s animated “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” and the Focus Features period drama “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” — hope to surprise as they make their way to the big screen. However, none of those offerings will come close to dethroning Disney’s Marvel adventure “Thor: Love and Thunder,” which opened to $143 million and looks to add $55 million to $65 million in its sophomore outing.
In terms of newcomers, “Where the Crawdads Sing” (which is touching down in 3,625 cinemas) and “Paws of Fury” (which is landing in 3,400 North American locations) each hope to generate at least $10 million between Friday and Sunday. Box office watchers believe “Crawdads” could pull ahead of “Paws” on box office charts, especially if family audiences continue to buy tickets to “Minions: The Rise of Gru.” With a far smaller footprint, “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” will be lucky to reach $1 million from 978 cinemas.
Critics have been mixed on “Where the Crawdads Sing,” which is based on Delia Owens’ best-selling mystery novel. Without glowing word-of-mouth, the $24 million-budgeted “Crawdads” could struggle to stand out to people who aren’t familiar with the book. There are at least two A-listers working to spread the gospel: Reese Witherspoon produced the movie after falling in love with the novel and Taylor Swift wrote a new original song for the movie called “Carolina.”
Directed by Olivia Newman, the story follows a young girl named Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones of “Normal People” and “Fresh” fame), who grows up alone in a North Carolina marsh and later is engulfed in a murder trial of a former love interest.
Variety’s Owen Gleiberman enjoyed the movie as a “compelling wild-child tale” that is “as dark as it is romantic.” He particularly praised the performance of Edgar-Jones, writing, “She gives Kya a quiet surface but makes her wily and vibrantly poised — which isn’t necessarily wrong, but it cuts against (and maybe reveals) our own prejudices, putting the audience in the position of thinking that someone known as Marsh Girl might not come off as quite this self-possessed.”
Reviews for “Paws of Fury” are still under embargo, so it’s unclear how critics responded to a movie that over-indexes on fart jokes. Loosely inspired by the 1974 Mel Brooks film “Blazing Saddles,” the computer-generated “Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” centers on a down-on-his-luck dog who is trained to become a samurai all while a villainous cat threatens to destroy his village. Rob Minkoff and Mark Koetsier directed the film, featuring the voice cast of Michael Cera, Ricky Gervais, Brooks and Michelle Yeoh. Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Animation acquired the PG “Paws of Fury” for $10 million, so good reviews or not, there’s not a ton on the line for the studio.
“Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” hopes to serve as counter-programming against the YA-skewing “Crawdads” and toddler-friendly “Paws of Fury.” The charming and well-reviewed 1950s-set period drama stars Lesley Manville (“Phantom Thread”) as a widowed cleaning lady who travels far and wide in search of the perfect Dior dress. eOne financed the film, which also features Isabelle Huppert and Jason Isaacs.
Variety’s chief film critic Peter Debruge says the PG-rated “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” effectively “offers a pleasant reprieve” for audience members who may be “tired of movies in which something as grand as the fate of our existence is at stake — threatened by aliens or wizards or something so far removed from reality.”
In other words, there’s finally a film in theaters for people who prefer to not know the logic behind a comic-book multiverse.