While some might be fighting for parking spots or punching grandmothers in the face for that last widescreen TV on Black Friday, Hollywood is ready to throw down at the multiplex. Five major movies are scheduled to open on a single date, December 21. That’s the Friday before Christmas, which falls on Tuesday. While most think about the holiday season and picture shopping, dining out and spending time with family, it’s also a prime period for theater going, as people want an escape from fighting for whatever this year’s equivalent of a Fingerling is or… you know, their families. To make things even dicier, another contender is hitting screens early on Wednesday the 19th, and those extra days will be rolled over into its Friday grosses, which may give this movie the edge. (And if you’re interested, that opening “weekend” will probably also include Monday and Tuesday, so it will likely be the biggest box office “weekend” of the year, even though technically it’s almost an entire week.)
Before we get down to which soldiers are being sent into battle, let me stress that this WILL change. Once these studios realize how stiff the competition is, they WILL shift these openings around. Mark my word. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two get bumped into next year.
As for which movies are opening on this black-ish Friday, from least likely to succeed to most…
Holmes and Watson
Directed by Etan Coen (‘Get Hard’), this comedic adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s mysteries reunites funny man favorites Will Ferrell and John C. Riley who co-starred in the classic ‘Step Brothers’ and ‘Talladega Nights’. It’s the only outright comedy opening on this date, which gives it an edge against splashier big budget spectacles. But there are already two strong Sherlock Holmes franchises, the hit BBC series and the theatrical movies starring Robert Downey Jr. The last of the latter came out in 2011, which isn’t that long ago, and there is a third picture in that series on its way.
As for ‘Holmes and Watson’, there is ZERO buzz on this movie yet and there’s not even a trailer. Columbia may bank on ‘Holmes and Watson’ as counter programming, but it would not be a surprise if they instead shifted this to early in the New Year to avoid getting gobbled up.
Welcome to Marwen
Next to ‘Holmes and Watson’, Universal’s ‘Welcome to Marwen’ directed by Robert Zemekis and starring Steve Carrell is the other underdog. The trailer, featuring Carrell as a victim of a brutal attack that deals with his post traumatic stress disorder by building a town and populating it with dolls based on himself and people he knows, looks truly beautiful. ‘Welcome to Marwen’ seems like the type of movie that is heartwarming without being overly sappy. But with December turning into June: The Sequel, these G.I. Joes could get stomped. From my understanding, ‘Welcome to Marwen’ is actually complete, so Universal could shift it to an earlier date. Or if they want it considered for next year’s major awards, go with a limited release to qualify and go wide in the New Year.
Alita: Battle Angel
Robert Rodriguez’s ‘Alita: Battle Angel’, produced by James Cameron, looks… how do I put this? This picture might do just as well as ‘Ghost In The Shell’, ‘Æon Flux’, ‘Astro Boy’, ‘Dragonball: Evolution’, ‘The Last Air Bender’, ‘Oldboy’, ‘Speed Racer’ and ‘Deathnote’… you see where I’m going with this, right? I would say move ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ to a different date, except I think it will flop where ever they put it. Is it too late to send it straight to Netflix?
It’s no secret that the ‘Transformers’ franchise is running out of steam. Last year’s ‘The Last Knight’ had the worst performance of the brand. But ‘Bumblebee’ has a few things going for it. For starters, it’s not a sequel to the main line of movies. It’s also not directed by Michael Bay, but rather Travis Knight, who previously helmed the beloved ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’. This could be a turning point for the brand and however it does in the U.S., it’s pretty much guaranteed to make bank overseas, especially in China.
After ‘Justice League’ did so poorly, ‘Aquaman’ might have been seen as a weak bet, but it’s apparent that things at Warner Brothers are changing and this trailer got a great reception when it premiered at Comic-Con (37 million views!). It helps that Jason Momoa’s gregarious depiction of the Sea King in ‘Justice League’ was a lot of viewers’ favorite part of the movie. It remains to be seen how audiences will actually react to the finished film, but so far so good. If initial audiences give this a thumbs up, it will rule.
Except for maybe…
Mary Poppins Returns
Disney is launching this musical early on December 19th, giving it a couple of days of a headstart. Since its Wednesday and Thursday ticket sales will be added into its Friday total, that could allow Mary Poppins and her umbrella to float out of reach of Aquaman and his trident. ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ stars the charming Emily Blunt, who is coming off the success of low-budget horror hit ‘The Quiet Place’ and Lin Manuel Miranda, the wunderkind behind Broadway phenomenon ‘Hamilton’. The only thing working against it is the fact that some believe this to be a remake of the 1964 classic (which it isn’t) and therefore are condemning it on those grounds.
What do you think? Will you be taking in any of these movies on Christmas weekend? Which do you think will win this yuletide tussle?