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Hail, Yeah!
It’s Time For Some Box Office Heat

Box Office Brasserie: Movie News For Movie Lovers

With the cruelest month now firmly in our rearview mirror, February trots out a trio of new pictures—Coen Bros’ “Hail, Caesar!,” Nicholas Sparks’ “The Choice,” and the Jane Austen zombie mash-up, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”—in hopes of zapping those winter blues and firing up some box office heat.

Although an interesting troika, none look to have the swag to swat “Kung Fu Panda 3” from the top spot, as DreamWorks Animation’s latest debuted with $41M last weekend and should easily meditate upon this truth: a $20M+ second weekend.

George Clooney headlines “Hail, Caesar!” which features an always-impressive Coen cast, including Josh Brolin, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson, and Ralph Fiennes. The $22M PG-13 romp is set in 1950s Hollywood—literally a perfect perch for the Coens to pop off their trademarked comedy song and dance.

In 2,200+ theaters, look for this to lead the newbies and score upwards of $13M this weekend.  Interestingly, that would be the Coens’ 3rd best wide debut ever, as they’ve only had five previous films open outside limited or exclusive release.

And believe it or not, their only $100M+ hit domestically is 2010’s “True Grit.” This will be their first Universal release since 2003’s “Intolerable Cruelty,” which ended its run with a disappointing $35M in North America, yet managed $120M worldwide.

Look, I know zombies are all the rage: “Zombieland” was awesome, “Warm Bodies” was slightly visionary and “World War Z” was pretty cool, too. And not to mention the fact that  “The Walking Dead” is now a veritable franchise on AMC.

That’s probably why Seth Grahame-Smith’s “PPZ” was greenlit at all, despite the fact that his other horror mash-up, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” tanked, debuting with just $16M. Domestically speaking, it was dead on arrival, but it wasn’t dead and buried, as it grossed $116M worldwide with a price tag of $70M.

That’s not a great profit margin, sure, but that’s likely the reason “PPZ” carries a negative cost of just $20M. Not too shabby. However, I still don’t see Jane Austen book clubbers clamoring to see this, or traditional zombie fans. Hipsters…yes…by the droves. However, that may only account for around $10M…or less…even though it creeps into 2,800+ theaters.

Nicholas Sparks is a name synonymous with what many would call sappy love stories. And for a while there, Hollywood was completely smitten with the lovey-dovey flicks he dished out. “Dear John,” “The Notebook,” “Safe Haven,” “The Lucky One,” and “The Last Song” were all sizable hits; however, his last endeavors, “The Best of Me” and “The Longest Ride,” were as forgettable at the box office as their titles.

“The Choice” seems destined to hit that low mark, too, as Lionsgate hasn’t done much in the way of campaigning, even though the PG-13 flick is debuting in 2,600+ theaters. Might do $8M, but on the plus side, Valentine’s is around the corner, and for those looking for sap without cynicism, this is really your only choice, as both of next weekend’s releases, “Deadpool” and “How to Be Single,” are heavily shaded in that department.

In limited release, Weinstein rolls out “Regression” starring Ethan Hawke and Emma Watson. Why? Nobody knows. Is it good? Nobody knows. (5% on Rotten Tomatoes.) It’s in 100 theaters, though. Somebody does know that. Even the trailer makes it a maybe for $1.50 at Redbox. Can’t see anyone spending $10 to go see this one.

And besides, nobody will be watching movies on Sunday…it’s the Super…er…Biggest Football Game Ever Day. And yes, that basically translates to a national holiday in the United States…where we eat, eat, watch football, and eat some more.

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WEEKEND ESTIMATES:

  1. Kung Fu Panda 3- $24M
  2. Hail, Caesar!- $13M
  3. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies- $10M
  4. The Revenant – $9M
  5. The Choice- $8M

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PRIME CUT OF THE WEEK: Warner’s “Keanu” (April 29, 2016)

Key and Peele are about to be HUGE movie stars. This is how you make your big screen debut…with a movie that’s actually hilarious. Let’s just hope they stay away from 80s reboots. Although, that said, I’d totally be down for another “House Party” if they go that route.  I mean, as long as Kid N’ Play have extended cameos.

They say never work with animals–welp, they were wrong!

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CHINTZY CUT OF THE WEEK: Europacorp’s “Nine Lives” (August 5, 2016)

Kevin Spacey…like you’ve never seen him before. Um. Like you never want to see him again. And now he’s trying to convince everyone Relativity Media is on the up-and-up, too? Will the real Kevin Spacey please stand up? This is obviously an evil clone trying to ruin the reputation of the real Kevin Spacey. This is a massive conspiracy. For the love of Keyser Soze…we must get to the bottom of this.

They say never work with animals–welp, they were right! There hasn’t been anything this offensive in theaters since “Look Who’s Talking Now!”

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“Hail, Caesar!” Poster Courtesy of Universal Pictures; Poster Design by The Posterhouse

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Jeff Bock, NewsWhistle’s movie editor, is the senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at Jeff@NewsWhistle.com.