Forecast: Bombs Away for 'Mortdecai,' 'Strange Magic'
by Ray Subers
January 22, 2015
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Opening at 2,648 locations, Mortdecai will likely be Johnny Depp's latest misfire at the domestic box office. He stars as the title character, a "debonair art dealer and part time rogue" who goes on a mission to recover a stolen painting.
Marketing has positioned the movie as a broad slapstick comedy, and there's been a heavy emphasis placed on Mortdecai's silly-looking mustache. That includes a series of posters that feature each of the main stars, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Olivia Munn, wearing a similar mustache. While this quirky choice has helped differentiate the movie, it seems too slight to really translate in to ticket sales.
In general, this is a pretty odd project. It's adapted from a series of novels by British author Kyril Bonfiglioli, which were originally published in the 1970s; while they surely have some fans, this does seem to be fairly obscure source material. At the same time, the marketing campaign is strangely assuming a certain degree of familiarity with the character. This issue is discussed at length in a fun piece over at Vulture titled "What the Hell is Mortdecai?"
Ultimately, Mortdecai will live or die on whether or not there are still moviegoers who are interested in Johnny Depp's schtick. Dark Shadows and The Lone Ranger missed the mark, while The Rum Diary and Transcendence were outright flops. Mortdecai seems even less appealing that Transcendence, which managed to earn $10.9 million on opening weekend last April; look for Mortdecai to take in less than $10 million this weekend.
While it's going to be a bomb in the U.S., Mortdecai could save some face overseas, where Depp remains quite popular (even Transcendence managed to earn $80 million). The movie had two major international premieres this week—one in Berlin, one in London—and this type of broad, physical humor tends to play well in non-English-speaking countries.
Animated movie Strange Magic seems poised for one of the worst openings ever for a movie playing at over 3,000 locations (it's at 3,020 this weekend). The movie is "from the mind of George Lucas," who says it was inspired by William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. In style, though, it feels more reminiscent of 2013's Epic, which also featured tiny woodland fantasy creatures in some kind of conflict.
The Strange Magic marketing material is remarkably incoherent; it's difficult to identify the heroes and villains, and nearly impossible to figure out what they're fighting over. There is some humor included that may appeal to very young children, though it's likely that many parents try to direct their kids toward Paddington instead (which has received great reviews and strong word-of-mouth).
While Disney is distributing the movie, their brand is completely absent from the marketing campaign. The movie therefore calls to mind other off-brand fantasy animation efforts like Happily N'Ever After, Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil and Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return. All of those titles opened below $7 million; it's possible that Strange Magic winds up a bit higher, though it would be very surprising if it hit $10 million.
First-time distributor Cinelou Films is releasing Cake at 482 locations this weekend. Star Jennifer Aniston has spent the past few months angling for an Oscar nomination for her role here, though she wound up missing the cut; still, her aggressive campaigning has generated a ton of press around a movie that may have otherwise flown completely under the radar. This will likely open in the $1 to $2 million range this weekend.
Meanwhile, Roadside Attractions is releasing Mommy in to eight locations, and Focus is releasing Black Sea at five. It would be somewhat surprising if these movies reached $100,000 this weekend, though it's not impossible, either (particularly for Mommy, which has very strong reviews).
After earning just under $7 million over the past three months in limited release, Whiplash finally expands nationwide this weekend (a theater count isn't currently available, though it's expected to be around 1,000). The timing coincides with the movie recently receiving five Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor (J.K. Simmons, who also just won a Golden Globe). Look for Whiplash to add at least $1 million to its total this weekend.
Forecast (Jan. 23-25)
1. American Sniper - $56 million (-37%)
2. The Boy Next Door - $18 million
3. Paddington - $13.1 million (-31%)
4. The Wedding Ringer - $10.7 million (-48%)
5. Mortdecai - $7.5 million
6. Strange Magic - $6 million
Bar for Success
The Boy Next Door and Mortdecai are in fine shape if they hit $15 million. Meanwhile, Strange Magic gets a pass at $10 million.
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