Who Will Save the Whale?

Box Office Brasserie: Movie News For Movie Lovers

Nope. There’s still over a week until “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” lights up theaters from coast to coast. So you’ll just have to keep playing with your action figures until then. Why not take up a cause in the meantime? Like saving the whales. Speaking of that…

Ron Howard has directed over 20+ films spanning the gamut as far a genre goes—he’s done thrillers (“The Da Vinci Code,” “Ransom”), big-budget dramas (“Backdraft,” “A Beautiful Mind”), sci-fi (“Apollo 13,” “Cocoon”), sweeping romantic dramas (“Far & Away”) and comedies (“Parenthood,” “Splash”).

But over the last decade, outside of Howard’s adaptations of Dan Brown’s novels, his films really have struggled to find an audience, including last year’s misfire, “Rush,” also starring Chris Hemsworth, as well as his recent flicks “The Dilemma,” “Frost/Nixon,” and “Cinderella Man.”

In fact, he’ll be retreating to “Inferno” next, competing his  Dan Brown trilogy, which is slated for release October 14, 2016.

His latest, “In the Heart of the Sea,” which goes at it alone in wide release this weekend, launched overseas ahead of its stateside debut this past weekend, hitting rough waters, as it debuted with just $18.5M in over 9,500 theaters.

Based on the true story that inspired Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, the costly $100M film will have to stay afloat much longer than anticipated, as it didn’t exactly wow audiences or critics. And without awards recognition and exemplary reviews, adult dramas have struggled mightily as of late.

Just ask Angelina Jolie. Her film, “By the Sea,” which stars her and hubby Brad Pitt, has grossed just $500k in four weeks, and plans for a wide release have been sunk by Universal. That’s one of the lowest grossing films released by a major studio this year, and features two of the most well-known actors in the world.

Hemsworth is front and center in “The Heart of the Sea”; however, he isn’t on the poster like he was for Howard’s “Rush.” Instead the studio opted for the beastly white whale. That’s no surprise, considering outside of The Mighty Thor, he hasn’t become a major box office draw as many had once expected.

In 3,050+ theaters, “In the Heart of the Sea” only needs to open with probably $11M to be the #1 movie this weekend, and 3D and IMAX should help push it towards the realm of $15M. That said, don’t be surprised when it opens with $12M.

Still, the whale of a tale really has only one week to showboat, as the pull of “Star Wars” will no doubt draw the PG-13 drama into a proverbial box office Sarlacc Pit once “The Force Awakens” obliterates everything else next weekend.

In exclusive release, Paramount attempts to cash in on the fall of the banking empire in Adam McKay’s real-life drama, “The Big Short.” McKay, known for straight-up comedy films like “Anchorman,” “Talladega Nights,” and “The Other Guys” still mines the comedy gold here, however, under the guise of drama.

No one can touch this cast, which includes Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, and Melissa Leo, plus the reviews so far have been very solid. That should help it sustain until it goes wide over Christmas, although word-of-mouth will also be key here.

Doubtful this has what it takes to hit $100M+ domestic like most of McKay’s films, but with a tidy budget of $28M (which any hedge fund manager would appreciate), it doesn’t really have to. A moderate hit should be enough for this to get out of the red.

In limited release, Jared Hess, the creator of the supremely-awesome “Napoleon Dynomite” and slightly-awesome “Nacho Libre,” returns with “Don Verdean,” a comedy of competing faith-based ministries gone awry, featuring an impressive cast including Danny McBride, Sam Rockwell, Amy Ryan, Jermaine Clement, Leslie Bibb, and Will Forte.

The PG-13 comedy is being distributed by Lionsgate Premiere, which hasn’t had much success with their releases “She’s Funny That Way,” Eli Roth’s “Knock Knock” and “The Heist,” all which had big name stars, but faltered in limited release.

Until next week, when that slightly anticipated, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” takes over the known galaxy.  Oh, you know, just the start of another gazillion-dollar empire for Disney. $208M is the number to beat. Let’s start there. Until then, may your lightsabers be bright and your faith in the force, steadfast.



  4. KRAMPUS – $8M
  5. CREED – $8M


CHOICE CUT OF THE WEEK: Warner’s “The Nice Guys” (May 20, 2016)

Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe make an odd pair, which is why this looks like it will work so well. Shane Black writes and directs, and is a welcome return to the skuzzy detective world of his past:  “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” “The Long Kiss Goodnight,” and, of course his screenwriting debut, “Lethal Weapon.”


PRIME CUT OF THE WEEK: Netflix’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2” (Feb. 26, 2016)

Netflix hasn’t quite figured out theatrical releases yet, as their initial offering, “Beasts of No Nation,” received excellent reviews, but died an unspectacular death in theaters, when it was released earlier this fall.

Now they try with a known commodity, a sequel, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny,” directed by acclaimed stunt coordinator Woo-Ping Yuen, is scheduled for select IMAX screens this spring, as well as through their streaming service.

This looks like a cut above as far as kung fu flicks go, except for the awful musical choice in the background that feels like you started watching the trailer and left your Spotify on. Bad Moon Rising? Really? Great song. Totally out of place here.

Let’s hope the film, which brings back Michelle Yeoh and features Donnie Yen (“IP Man”), lives up to Ang Lee’s original, which grossed an astounding $213M worldwide 15 years ago, and was nominated for Best Picture.


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.


“In the Heart of the Sea” Poster Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.; Poster Design by Works ADV