avengersfeature

Box Office Brasserie:
Movie News For Movie Lovers

Time to get your groove on; summer has officially arrived stateside.  Yes, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” finally rolls out here in North America after obliterating cinemas overseas with $201M last weekend in 44 markets—up 44% versus the original “Avengers.”

Those kinds of numbers can mean only one thing: “Age of Ultron” is setting up to play like a traditional sequel, not just an afterthought.

Guess Marvel didn’t get the memo about saturating the market with superhero movies, because many, including myself, were wondering if 2012’s record-breaking debut of $207M was merely a product of the previous solo Marvel flicks coming together to deliver a super powered punch at the box office.

It certainly did, grossing $1.5 billion worldwide, and the thing is, this one may just be even mightier. Hulk smash record books! Marvel’s mightiest will easily eclipse the $895M it earned abroad, likely hitting $1 billion and then some; the question is can it top $600M+ in the U.S. and Canada.

Hype and awareness are soaring (which is part of the reason Marvel has continued to debut their films internationally before domestically) and with “Age of Ultron” as the sole new wide release this week and only Reese Witherspoon’s comedy “Hot Pursuit” next week, there’s going to be a massive cleanup in theater aisles across the country as everyone, yes everyone, will see this super-sized sequel.

Marvel already has the top two debuts domestically with “Avengers” at $207M and “Iron Man 3” with $174M. After this weekend they’ll own the top three: the question is, will it be the #1 opener of all time? Flexing their muscle in 4,200+ theaters…I’m guessing the answer is a definitive, “hell yes.”

Like the “Fast & Furious” series (which currently has “Furious 7” at $1.3B worldwide) “Avengers” has yet to hit top speed. That’s pretty remarkable, and very good news for “Ant-Man” later this summer. I’m gonna mainline the kool-aid here and go with $222M.

Marvel’s films truly redefine what is possible opening weekend, and this new threshold will probably give us all a good idea of the maximum box office a film can unleash in a debut. Certainly no film in recent memory has arrived with more hype, more advertising partners, and more merchandising support.

That said, just wait seven months for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Just another Disney film. Can anyone compete with them anymore? Does anyone even try? Don’t answer that question, it’s rhetorical.

With Iron Man and friends dominating darkened theaters, Fox Searchlight offers up a beacon of light for arthouse audiences with their adaptation of “Far From the Madding Crowd.”

***

WEEKEND ESTIMATES

1. Avengers: Age of Ultron – $222M

2. Furious 7 – $10M

3. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 – $9.5M

4. Age of Adaline – $8.5M

5. Home – $6M

***

CHINCY CUT OF THE WEEK: Freestyle’s “Chocolate City” (May 22, 2015)

What’s the opposite of a Golden Ticket? Because this certainly isn’t a sequel to “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” But yes, there’s a real movie out there coming to theaters called “Chocolate City,” and no, it’s not a porn. At least I don’t think it is. Use your discretion if you’re planning to see it. And, as always, buyer beware. Otherwise known as…”Black Magic Mike.” You know, for the African American crowd…because they were clamoring for this.

***

CHOICE CUT OF THE WEEK: Paramount’s “The Little Prince” (2015 TBA)

While this has been adapted previously, this is the first animated feature from Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s beloved book. The very talented Marc Osborne (“Kung Fu Panda,”) directs.

***

PRIME CUT OF THE WEEK: Universal’s “Black Mass” (September 18, 2015)

Just write in Johnny Depp’s name now for Best Actor this year…at the very least put him on the ballot. This looks like another amazing transformation by Depp, and could help dispel the notion that September is just a wasteland of undesirable films.

***

CHILLY CUT OF THE WEEK: Paramount’s “Area 51” (May 15, 2015)

Oren Peli, the director of the original “Paranormal Activity,” is back with more low-budget scare tactics. This will be in theaters and On Demand simultaneously. Actually looks pretty fun.

***

SILLY CUT OF THE WEEK: Universal’s “The Visit” (September 2015)

M. Night Shyamalan cooks up a Hansel and Gretel remake…even though we never asked for one.

***

WB SHAKES UP RELEASE SCHEDULE

After trotting out all their stars Magic Mike-style (no, Channing Tatum’s crew didn’t do an adult review) for their upcoming 2015 slate of films at CinemaCon in Vegas this past week, Warner’s also decided to mix it with its calendar of future releases.

The biggest move of all was moving Joe Wright’s “Pan” from July to October, clearing the way for “Pixels,” “Paper Towns,” and “Southpaw,” which were all set for July 24. While the move is a bit surprising this close to the release, it seems it had more to do with summer competition, rather than reshoots or Warner’s getting cold feet.

Truth is, the trailer looks outstanding, and while “Pan” should play well through the fall given the light competition, it probably would have better served audiences over the holidays where family fare is a premium and there is definitely room for one more this year.

Warner’s also announced that “The Lego Movie” sequel will arrive May 18, 2018 (pushed up a week) and that 2017 will see two Lego flicks– “The Lego Batman Movie” drops February 10, while “Ninjago” hits theaters September 22 (pushed back a year).

 ***

UNIVERSAL TIES DOWN ’50 SHADES’ FRANCHISE, REVS UP ‘FURIOUS 8’

It’s no surprise Universal is whipping (sorry, had to) out a sequel and threequel to the soft-core erotica series based on the book saga from E.L. James’ novels, considering “Fifty Shades of Grey” went all the way at the box office, making an eye-popping $568M worldwide. With a budget of $40M, the only surprise here is that they didn’t already greenlight the reboot.

Paul is dead. We know.  But Vin Diesel isn’t. So yes, “Fast & Furious” is far from over. And to tell you the truth, “Furious” will likely continue with or without him in the future, as this is a Frankenstein franchise that will likely walk the earth long after you and I are gone.

With “Furious 7” becoming just the third film behind “Avatar” and “Titanic” to gross $1 billion internationally, “Furious 8” was a foregone conclusion. It’s currently slated to be unleashed April 14, 2017.

No idea what continents Diesel and Co. will jet set to (Is there any place they haven’t been except Antarctica?), but considering the film has become the #1 film ever in China with $323M in just 15 days of release, look for the crew to be exported there for a brief stop, if not for the entire film. Hollywood wisdom: never go to Chinatown, but always go to China.

***

SONY STICKS WITH SPIDER-MAN

We all know the recent trouble at Sony studios, and despite their lack of summer firepower—“Aloha” and “Pixels” (yes, that’s it, folks)— and their general lack of anything exciting on their upcoming schedule, they keep teasing everyone with the Webslinger, this time offering another Spidey flick on July 20, 2018. Yes, just one year after the reboot arrives July 28, 2017.

But get this: it’s animated. Why are you laughing? Seriously, wait ‘til you get a load of this: the Lego dudes, Chris Miller and Phil Lord, are directing. Normally, this would be where I scoff at Sony for doing a stunt like this, but with Miller and Lord aboard, “Animated Spider-Man” certainly has promise, although they better get that “Sinister Six” flick figured out, because that will bring some serious buzz.

***

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.

***

Image Courtesy of Marvel; Poster Design by BLT Communications