Forget the Super Bowl face-off between the Eagles vs. the Chiefs, the hottest weekend matchup is unfolding at the box office as several contenders — “Magic Mike’s Last Dance” and “Titanic” (yes, really) among them — compete for first place.
The third “Magic Mike” chapter, this weekend’s only new nationwide release, is expected to bring in $8 million to $10 million from 1,500 North American theaters in its opening weekend. At the higher end of estimates, “Last Dance” has a chance of bumping and grinding its way to No. 1. But at the lower end, it’ll run into Paramount’s 25th anniversary re-release of “Titanic,” which hopes to add $10 million over the weekend.
Elsewhere, “Avatar: The Way of Water” is looking to bring roughly $7 million in its ninth weekend of release, and Paramount’s octogenarian comedy “80 for Brady,” which has stayed strong in the days after its $12.7 million debut, is projected to collect around $8 million in its sophomore outing. It’ll be a close call between the top five movies in North America.
Channing Tatum returns as a stripper with a heart of gold in “Magic Mike’s Last Dance,” which is billed as the third and final installment in the steamy trilogy. The Warner Bros. movie, which co-stars Salma Hayek Pinault, was commissioned for HBO Max and granted a production and marketing budget that corresponds with expectations for streaming releases. But once Discovery bought the company and David Zaslav took over as CEO, executives opted to give “Last Dance” a theatrical release due to enthusiastic test screenings.
“Magic Mike’s Last Dance,” directed by the original’s filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, is playing in roughly half the amount of theaters that screened the first two films. And so, the threequel is projected to debut to far less than the first “Magic Mike,” which opened to $39 million in 2012, and slightly below the sequel “Magic Mike XXL,” which opened to $12.8 million in 2015. Those films were huge commercial hits, grossing $167 million and $117 million worldwide, respectively. The profit margins were especially sweet because they didn’t cost much for studio films; the initial saga carried a $7 million budget and the second carried a $14 million budget. The third movie’s price tag is in the high $40 million range.
The franchise also inspired a successful Las Vegas stage show called “Magic Mike Live,” which is the genesis for “Last Dance.” Despite the winning origin story, the third installment hasn’t gotten the best reviews. However, recent romantic comedies without stellar Rotten Tomatoes grades have still managed to scored thanks to A-list stars, a factor that could help Magic Mike 3.” By comparison, “The Lost City,” with Tatum and Sandra Bullock, opened impressively to $30 million, “Ticket to Paradise,” led by Julia Roberts and George Clooney, opened to $16 million, and “80 for Brady,” another title rescued from streaming, opened to $12.7 million. In the case of “Magic Mike’s Last Dance,” the timing, just ahead of Valentine’s Day, is certainly ideal. Expect a solid turnout on Monday’s fictional holiday Galentine’s Day as well.
In a move that’s unusual but not unprecedented for the studio, Warner Bros. has been shielding pre-release tracking estimates on the research platform Rentrak, which collects and distributes daily, down-to-the-minute ticket sales across the entertainment industry. The decision, which is ruffling some feathers among its rivals, is presumably an attempt to tightly control the film’s box office coverage. Warner Bros. was similarly opaque in the lead-up to Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” which was not the first but certainly the most expensive film to debut in the wake of COVID-related theater closures. Warner Bros. didn’t respond to Variety’s request for comment.
For the hopeless romantics, there’s no shortage of love stories on the big screen. “Titanic,” one of James Cameron’s several $2 billion-grossing blockbusters, is aiming for double digits as it sails to 2,400 Imax screens. Based on those estimates, the ill-fated romance of Jack and Rose is looking like it’ll outpace the recent re-release of “Avatar,” one of those $2 billion blockbusters from Cameron. The first trip to Pandora, which still ranks as the highest-grossing film in history, generated $10 million in North America and $20.5 million internationally during its theatrical re-issue last fall.
There’s a chance this is the weekend that “Avatar: The Way of Water,” another one of those $2 billion blockbusters from Cameron, overtakes “Titanic” as the third-biggest movie in history. “Avatar 2” has grossed $2.176 billion to date, while “Titanic” has generated $2.94 billion. Either way, it’s a good time to be James Cameron.