‘Barbarian’ Could Be A Sleeper Hit In Dire Box Office Climate
The box office was up 5.9% last weekend, bolstered by the lure of $3 tickets on National Cinema Day on Saturday, making it one of just two weekends over the past eight weeks where the box office didn’t decline (though it was still the fifth worst weekend of the year). Unfortunately, the numbers will once again fall this weekend, likely below the year’s second worst weekend in the overall box office (January 21-23 with $46 million, around 17% below last weekend’s $55.2 million) but probably staying above the year’s worst weekend (January 28-30 with $34.9 million, around 37% below last weekend). We can expect larger drops than usual given the juiced grosses from National Cinema Day, but we still may see decent holds and openings this weekend. Still, there’s no denying the grim state of the box office. This may even be the third weekend in a row where no film hits $10 million, a modest milestone that only three weekends in the entire 2010s failed to reach but which nonetheless could be a difficult hurdle for most of the next five weekends. Halloween Ends, the next tent pole, is still over a month away, and until then every weekend will be a bleak forecast.

Hollywood’s biggest offering this weekend is Barbarian, a horror film from 20th Century about an Airbnb booking that turns into a nightmare. Zach Cregger (from the comedy troupe The Whitest Kids U' Know) writes and directs, and Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård and Justin Long headline the cast. Critics are loving this one (94% on Rotten Tomatoes) and the post Labor Day slot has been a successful launchpad for horror biggies It, It Chapter Two, and The Nun, so fingers are crossed for Barbarian to bring some relief to theaters amidst the dry spell (and without a discount day gimmick to pack people in this weekend). There is sleeper hit potential, given the acclaim, the buzzy concept, and a trailer that played before The Black Phone, the year’s top horror film with $89.6 million. An optimistic but still reasonable comp is Hereditary, which opened to $13.6 million and grossed $44 million. A double digit opening can’t be expected, but it would certainly be a welcome sign right now, and a $40+ million finish would likely make Barbarian the highest grossing film since Bullet Train.

The Mouse House umbrella’s other release this weekend is the Indian film Brahmastra, which Disney is giving a semi-wide release in domestic markets amidst a large global launch. Co-produced by the Disney-owned Star Studios (recently rebranded from Fox Star Studios), the big budget Marvel-esque fantasy film stars Ranbir Kapoor and sets up a cinematic universe inspired by Hindu mythology. It’s unlikely to play much beyond the Indian audience, but it has a good shot at hitting the top five this weekend, especially with higher ticket prices from its many 3D, IMAX, and other premium large format showings. No reviews are in as of yet.

Also going semi-wide is Medieval, getting a release from The Avenue, the distribution arm of Highland Film Group. The film is being touted as the highest budgeted Czech film to date, and it tells the story of the 15th century Bohemian military commander Jan Žižka. Despite the setting, the film is in English, with Ben Foster in the lead role and Sophie Lowe, Til Schweiger, Matthew Goode, and Michael Caine in supporting parts. Reviews are just trickling in, but the historical action film currently sits at 40% on Rotten Tomatoes.

As for the holdovers, there isn’t much to look out for, but we are likely to see Top Gun: Maverick get beyond yet another milestone. On Monday it passed Black Panther’s $700 million cume to become the fifth highest domestic grosser of all time, and it should remain in fifth place, with fourth place (Avatar with $760 million) being too much of a long shot for this box office juggernaut. However, it still has another rung to climb globally, where it currently stands in 12th place with $1.442 billion. This weekend it should pass Frozen 2’s $1.450 billion cume to become the 11th highest worldwide grosser of all time. That should be its final position, with 10th place (Furious 7 with $1.515 billion) being too far out. Take away the China and Russia grosses (two markets where Maverick didn’t play), however, and Maverick is currently the eighth highest grosser of all time.