Entering the most crowded frame of the summer thus far, four new wide releases — including blockbuster sequel Independence Day: Resurgence — are headed to theaters this weekend, though nothing seems poised to stop Disney’s Finding Dory from claiming the box office crown for a second week in a row.
Here’s how the June 24-26 box office showdown might play out:
1. Finding Dory – $80 million
Without question, Disney’s long-awaited animated sequel Finding Dory will nestle itself comfortably atop the domestic box office for the second straight weekend after grossing a record-setting $135.1 million in its debut, the highest-ever three-day gross for an animated film (unadjusted for inflation).
Finding Dory has already broken the “Curse of the 2016 Sequel,” which saw high-profile continuations like The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Zoolander 2, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, and X-Men: Apocalypse underperform in comparison to their forerunners. Further adding to the studio’s good fortune, another Disney sequel, Captain America: Civil War, passed the $400 million domestic mark last weekend.
Animated films in general typically enjoy less-than-average declines from week one to week two, and Disney/Pixar films tend to fare even better; 13 years ago, Finding Nemo fell a mere 33 percent from its $70.3 million opening, while Inside Out dropped 42 percent from $90.4 million to $52.3 million last summer.
With solid reviews, strong word-of-mouth (it received a promising A grade from audiences on CinemaScore),and double-digit single-day grosses from Monday through Thursday of this week, Finding Dory could very well be on its way to becoming Disney’s third 2016 film to gross more than $1 billion worldwide.
2. Independence Day: Resurgence – $55 million
The aliens who nearly destroyed Earth are back for more destruction nearly 20 years after Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day dominated the box office with a $50.3 million debut in 1996. The 2016 continuation sees major players from the original film’s cast returning for more humans-vs.-aliens action, including Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Vivica A. Fox, and Judd Hirsch.
At 4,068 locations, including 386 IMAX screens, Independence Day: Resurgence is the week’s widest new release. With a handful of reviews trickling in, the film so far stands at 49 percent on Metacritic, which isn’t a good sign for its prospects with film journalists, though when it comes to blockbusters, especially one with a nostalgic kick like Resurgence, audiences don’t seem to care much — just take a look at Michael Bay’s critically-savaged, billion-dollar-grossing Transformers series.
According to Fandango’s Fanticipation indicator, Independence Day: Resurgence‘s pre-release tracking is on-par with last summer’s San Andreas, which premiered to a healthy $54.6 million in its opening weekend. With a budget approaching $165 million alone, Fox took a major (expensive) gamble in producing a sequel this far out from the first film’s release, especially given the market’s relatively cool reception of sequels as of late. Still, the film is tracking for an opening in the mid-$50 million range, which, when coupled with the film’s (likely vast) worldwide grosses (it opens day-and-date with several major international territories), should match the production budget in no time.
3. Central Intelligence – $16 million
The surprise hit of the summer thus far, New Line’s Central Intelligence overperformed with a stellar $35.5 million gross last weekend, cementing the bankable status of its leading men, The Rock and Kevin Hart.
Major comedies typically hold on strong throughout when they debut to solid numbers (Get Hard, Ride Along), especially during summer (look at Spy, Vacation, Tammy, and Trainwreck). While Independence Day: Resurgence might cut into Central Intelligence‘s target audience just a bit, expect a domestic drop in the 40 to 50 percent range for the action-comedy as it likely nears $100 million worldwide by the weekend’s end.
4. The Shallows – $15 million
Though not as cute and cuddly as Finding Dory, The Shallows marks the weekend’s second wide offering revolving around creatures of the deep.
The film’s star, Blake Lively, most recently fronted 2015’s The Age of Adeline to an impressive $42.6 million over a 77-day run. Though she’s not yet been tested as a “major” box office draw, her inherent likability lends itself well to The Shallows‘ already-intriguing premise, as the film focuses solely on her character, a tanned-and-toned surfer stranded alone on a rock in the ocean as a bloodthirsty shark stalks her.
While projections modestly place the film in the $7-10 million range, a low-to-mid-teens gross from approximately 2,800 theaters is far more likely for the horror film, which cost around $17 million to make. As Age of Adaline did last year, The Shallows will likely have long legs as it winds up somewhere in the $40-$60 million range overall. Good word-of-mouth is also probable, as the film’s early reviews (95 percent on Rotten Tomatoes from 22 total scores) indicate a thrilling, seasonally-appropriate summer flick audiences will flock to this weekend and throughout the upcoming holiday frame next week.
5. Free State of Jones – $9 million
Rounding out the top 5 at around 2,815 theaters should be STX Entertainment’s Free State of Jones, starring Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey in his first wide release since 2014’s Interstellar.
The film revolves around the true story of a rebellion within the Confederacy at the height of the Civil War. With a $50 million budget, it seems probable Free State of Jones approaches a minor fraction of that number in its opening weekend, as tracking has it pegged for a gross in the $9-$13 million range. Additionally working againt the film, reviews have thus far been unkind (it stands at 14 percent on Rotten Tomatoes based on 22 reviews).
STX has limited exposure on Free State of Jones, however, as it enlisted several equity partners to cover a significant part of the budget while IM Global distributes the film internationally. Its marketing campaign has largely focused on the movie’s pedigree, with McConaughey fronting a prestige cast that also includes Keri Russell and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, while it was written and directed by four-time Academy Award nominee Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Big).
Outside the top 5, Broad Green and Amazon are releasing the Cannes-debuting horror film The Neon Demon to around 1,000 theaters this weekend. Online buzz, including social media posts, have been relatively soft for the latest directorial effort from Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Only God Forgives), which likely won’t play well with casual audiences, though the Danish filmmaker’s distinct work consistently appeals to a dedicated, adult art house niche. Expect The Neon Demon to pull in around $2 million in its wide debut.