'The Killing of a Sacred Deer,' 'BPM,' 'Wonderstruck' vie for specialty dollars

By Joey Nolfi
October 20, 2017 at 07:43 PM EDT
Warner Bros.; Chip Bergman/Lionsgate; Universal Pictures

Get ready for a matchup no one saw coming, because it’s Madea vs. the apocalypse at the weekend box office, as Boo 2! and Geostorm go head-to-head for audience dollars. Can Tyler Perry’s foul-mouthed granny obliterate doomsday itself? Check out EW’s Oct. 20-22 box office predictions below.

1 – Boo 2! A Madea Halloween – $24 million 

With a solid $760,000 pouring in from Thursday night previews, Tyler Perry’s perennial wise-cracking, pistol-packing character at the center of the horror-comedy sequel Boo 2! A Madea Halloween is poised to conjure the same magic as its predecessor did just last year. The debut Boo! film logged an impressive $28.5 million over the same frame in 2016, building on holiday-fueled word-of-mouth while seemingly reaching past its targeted African-American audience on the way to becoming a bona fide commercial success on a modest $20 million budget.

At $25 million, the stakes are slightly higher for Boo 2!, and while the film probably won’t reach the same heights as the first, an opening north of $15 million will solidify the undying affection for a steadfast character staple in the comedy genre, one who first appeared on the big screen over 12 years ago and hasn’t shown signs of slowing since.

2 – Happy Death Day – $13 million 

Last week’s box office champion, the slasher film send-up Happy Death Day is pacing for a relatively soft fall compared to its horror-themed counterparts thanks to the close proximity of the approaching Halloween holiday. Bagging a stellar $26 million on a minimal $4.8 million budget, the fresh take on the aging subgenre is likely in the black already, and teenage audiences have little else to choose from in terms of legitimate, PG-13-rated thrills. Expect a 40-50 percent drop from its debut number in the days ahead.

3 – Geostorm – $12.5 million 

Pitiful reviews and an attractive cast (Gerard Butler, Abbie Cornish, Jim Sturgess, Andy Garcia, Ed Harris) probably can’t save Warner Bros. apocalyptic thriller from an impending doom on the domestic chart, as the expensive, CGI-driven picture (some estimates peg the budget at over $120 million) skipped Thursday previews (typically not a good sign for a film of this size) in favor of going head-to-head with more broadly appealing foes (Boo 2!, Happy Death Day) on Friday. Major disaster epics aren’t the easy sell they once were, as computer effects-heavy actioners that aren’t part of a larger cinematic franchise are difficult to carve a unique lane for in today’s crowded market, and Geostorm won’t buck the downward trend.

4 – Blade Runner 2049 – $9 million 

Though its North American grosses have underwhelmed, Warner Bros. expensive sequel 35 years in the making has amassed a decent (if still disappointing) $162.4 million worldwide as of Thursday, and its week-to-week drops should soften as the film remains one of the best-reviewed genre pictures on the market.

5 – Only the Brave – $8 million 

Thursday previews yielded around $305,000 for the star-studded (Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Connelly, Andie MacDowell) biographical drama about the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a firefighting collective that fought the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona in June 2013; the endeavor ultimately left all but one of its 20 members dead. Generally appealing to older audiences, films like this tend to start small and flex their theatrical staying power in subsequent weeks, as strong word-of-mouth passes through the mature set of ticket buyers.

Outside the top five, the jury’s still out on whether Michael Fassbender’s crime thriller The Snowman can transcend its savage critical reviews for a so-so opening in the $5-8 million region, which seems unlikely as the media narrative surrounding the project, based on characters created by author Jo Nesbø, has largely mocked the film for its unintentionally hilarious marketing campaign. It’s tough to see a scenario where audiences take this one serious enough to fill seats in theaters around the country.

Also opening in wide release is Same Kind of Different as Me, a drama based on Ron Hall’s 2006 inspirational book of the same name and starring Greg Kinnear, Renee Zellweger, Djimon Hounsou, and Jon Voight in a tale of an international art dealer who befriends a homeless man while struggling to maintain his marriage. The film’s source material should provide some foundation for the picture to stand upon this weekend, but it’s likely this one gets lost in the shuffle (expect roughly $2 million) among so many other new wide releases.

On the specialty front, three Cannes competition titles hit limited release this weekend. The first, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer, follows a surgeon (Colin Farrell) who forms a mysterious bond with a menacing teenager (Barry Keoghan) and his lustful mother (Alicia Silverstone). The teen appears to place a curse on the man’s family (Nicole Kidman, Raffey Cassidy), leading to a grim conclusion peppered with deliciously deadpan humor. The film has traveled the festival circuit with substantial buzz, as Lanthimos’ last commanded audience attention with the well-received (and Oscar-nominated) drama The Lobster, also with Farrell in the lead, in 2016, so the art house crowd should turn out to give this one a healthy per-screen average through Sunday.

Julianne Moore and Todd Haynes also re-team for Wonderstruck, an expansive, emotional drama spanning two separate story lines taking place in 1927 and 1977. Based on Brian Selznick’s popular book, the film has earned positive reviews since its bow in competition on the Croisette earlier this year, and prestige audiences never fail to elevate Haynes’ works when they hit a small number of theaters before nationwide expansion.

Finally, Robin Campillo’s stirring AIDS activism drama BPM (Beats per Minute) also aims for a solid per-screen average in the days ahead, riding high on strong reviews and a respectable profile on the fall festival scene (it screened at awards-positioning festivals in Toronto and New York ahead of its theatrical bow).

Check back on Sunday for EW’s full box office report.

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