In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, American audiences have three new, diverse offerings to choose from as they seek solace or celebration at the multiplex this weekend.
Amy Adams’ sci-fi drama Arrival, which traveled the fall festival circuit from Venice to Toronto with glowing critical reviews, enters approximately 2,200 screens, as does David E. Talbert’s holiday comedy Almost Christmas. EuropaCorp’s horror flick Shut In also debuts at 1,850 locations, rounding out the week’s crop of newcomers invading an already crowded fall slate.
So, can the week’s new arrivals dethrone reigning champion Doctor Strange? Here’s how the Nov. 11-13 weekend box office showdown could play out:
1. Doctor Strange - $42 million
The Sorcerer Supreme took in an impressive $85 million across his first three days in domestic release, leading Doctor Strange to a stellar international total of just under $340 million as of Wednesday. Superhero tentpoles tend to drop around 50-60 percent over their sophomore frame, as did compar like 2015’s Ant-Man (56.5 percent), 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past (64.2 percent), and 2013’s Thor: The Dark World (57.3 percent). But with solid critical backing (and stellar A grade from polled moviegoers on CinemaScore) fueling it, Doctor Strange could wind up falling on the softer side of what genre trends suggest.
2. Trolls - $27 million
Fox’s Trolls enjoyed a healthy opening weekend last Friday, when it debuted to $46.6 million at 4,060 locations. Animated movies typically hold on stronger than their live-action brethren, and, after averaging a rare A grade on CinemaScore, Trolls isn’t going anywhere any time soon. The fantasy film features an all-star voice cast (Justin Timberlake, Anna Kendrick, Gwen Stefani) in a critically-lauded adventure based on the popular line of dolls of the same name. Reading the tea leaves left by similar box office performers (Fox’s Home and Kung Fu Panda 3), Trolls is headed for a dip in the 40-50 percent range.
3. Arrival - $18 million
Amy Adams seldom attracts audiences to the theaters on her name alone, as the actress has registered most of her box office hits as part of an ensemble cast (American Hustle) or a pre-established franchise (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Man of Steel). Arrival is refreshingly new territory for the Oscar-nominee, revolving around a linguist tasked with communicating with extraterrestrials who’ve mysteriously landed at various locations around the world with an indecipherable message for mankind.
Though it’s being marketed as a sci-fi/action hybrid, it’s arguably a far subtler drama that just happens to be set against a backdrop of a tentacle-covered-alien invasion. Subverting expectations might be a good thing when it comes to impressing awards voters (Arrival is predicted by many Oscar pundits to score Adams another nomination with the Academy, as she gives a brilliantly restrained performance), though it isn’t always wise when trying to hold the attention of the general public. Audiences could turn out for the $47 million Arrival on opening weekend, hoping to see the thriller the trailer suggests, but what they’ll end up with (though overwhelmingly praised by movie critics) could spell a big drop next weekend if the film doesn’t fit into the mold of expectation.
4. Almost Christmas - $17 million
Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween is perhaps the most appropriate barometer for which to gauge the potential box office performance of Almost Christmas, a seasonal comedy aiming to capitalize on being released to 2,372 theaters in such close proximity to its titular holiday. Though its opening weekend won’t be as large as Boo!’s, the $17 million film’s ensemble cast (Kimberly Elise, Gabrielle Union, Omar Epps, Oscar-winner Mo’Nique) and timely themes will carry it to a number well above its modest production budget in the weeks ahead.
5. Hacksaw Ridge - $8.5 million
War dramas — especially those of the prestige pedigree released during awards season — have a way of captivating mature audiences, and Mel Gibson’s long-awaited directorial comeback, Hacksaw Ridge, should dip very little across its second weekend in wide release. The film has received glowing reviews from critics and the general public, meaning long legs for the Andrew Garfield-starring, WWII-set film, which tells the story of the first conscientious objector in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
Outside the top five, EuropaCorp’s Naomi Watts-fronted thriller Shut In enters 2,050 locations with a limited marketing push behind it. With no critical reviews online as of Thursday (never a good sign), the film, which is eyeing an overall domestic run in the low teens, should open to a number in the $1-$3 million range, following in the footsteps of something like The Disappointments Room, which debuted to $1.4 million at 1,554 theaters in September.
On the specialty front, Sony Pictures Classics releases its Oscar contender Elle, a psychosexual drama starring Isabelle Huppert whose life takes an unexpected turn after she falls victim to a rape. After its world premiere at Cannes in May, Huppert’s leading performance has been touted as a contender in this year’s tightly-crowded Best Actress Academy Award race. How well the film performs with audiences (Paul Verhoeven’s name as director should fill seats as well) could make or break Huppert’s chances at squeezing into the front half of the pack.
Ahead of its nationwide rollout next Friday, Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, which premiered at the New York Film Festival to middling reviews, also releases as part of a limited engagement on two screens this weekend. The screens at the Cinerama Dome at the Arclight in Hollywood and in New York at AMC Loews Lincoln Square will be equipped to project the film’s much-maligned 4K HD, 120 frames-per-second, 3D format. There are only five screens around the world capable of projecting the film at those specifications, and each domestic location will only show the film on one screen, with Thursday previews beginning the evening before the film’s official debut on Friday.