‘Jungle Cruise’ To Lead, Counterprogramming ‘Stillwater’ and ‘The Green Knight’ To Open Soft
It’s a busy weekend at the box office, with three new wide releases: Jungle Cruise from Disney, Stillwater from Focus, and The Green Knight from A24. Jungle Cruise should have a steady lead this weekend, while the other newcomers, which offer solid counterprogramming as adult fare, will likely be in the single digits, with some of the previous weeks’ holdovers likely coming in between. With Covid-19 cases at their highest point since April and projected to keep increasing, we may see lower openings and bigger drops than expected, though the box office remains hard to predict either way.

Based on the beloved Disneyland ride, Disney’s long-in-development Jungle Cruise stars Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt in a hopeful franchise starter in the mold of Pirates of the Caribbean, with the plot centered around finding the Tree of Life. The adventure film takes the low-key charms of the ride and juices them up with plenty of action, supernatural elements, and CGI creatures under the guidance of director Jaume Collet-Serra, who as director of Non-Stop and The Shallows knows his way around a thrill ride (he is also directing the upcoming Dwayne Johnson starring DC film Black Adam). At 64% on RottenTomatoes, the reviews aren’t bad, but they note that the film is derivative.

Opening in over 4,200 theaters, Jungle Cruise is another day and date debut for Disney+, where it’s available for $30. Expectations would have been high for the $200+ million budget film had it opened in July 2020 as scheduled. In the current environment, they’re more muted. The first Pirates of the Caribbean opened to $46.6 million in 2003, not quite blockbuster numbers by today’s standards, but the film ran a marathon rather than a sprint, and it finished at $305.4 million domestically. Jungle Cruise is unlikely to open to those numbers even if you combine its theatrical and streaming grosses, and having Pirates’ legs is out of the question, but it has potential to perform better internationally. Jungle Cruise is releasing in most major territories, though there are still many restrictions in place, and like other recent blockbusters it remains undated in China.

Stillwater is director Tom McCarthy’s first theatrical film since the Best Picture winning Spotlight in 2015. The thriller stars Matt Damon as a blue-collar father who goes to France to help his daughter (played by Abigail Breslin) who is wrongfully imprisoned. Opening in 2,531 theaters after its premiere at Cannes earlier this month, Focus is positioning Stillwater as a specialty box office title. Spotlight was McCarthy’s best grossing film, making $45 million domestically despite never having a single weekend above $6 million. Stillwater could potentially take a similar path, with a soft opening but long legs.

Stillwater doesn’t have the same prestige or awards buzz as Spotlight -- the reviews are good but unexceptional (67% on RottenTomatoes compared to Spotlight’s 97%) -- but it does have a star, and it also has little competition in the adult drama space for the rest of the summer. It sticks out from this summer’s blockbuster, franchise, genre, and family fare, and it’s a theatrical exclusive.

Also standing out in the marketplace is The Green Knight, which A24 is launching in 2,400 theaters. The medieval fantasy retells the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, with Dev Patel playing Gawain, the nephew of King Arthur. Also starring Alicia Vikander and Joel Edgerton, The Green Knight is directed by David Lowery, whose eclectic career has included Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Pete’s Dragon, A Ghost Story, and The Old Man & the Gun.

At 92% on RottenTomatoes, it’s neck and neck with A Quiet Place Part II for the best reviewed wide release of the summer. A24’s previous film Zola was also acclaimed, but that didn’t translate to box-office success, making just $4.1 million since it launched on June 30. The Green Knight may be able to top that in one weekend, but it may be too esoteric to go much further. Surprisingly, the film had a last minute delay in the U.K., where it was scheduled for August 6 but was pulled due to concerns of Covid impacting the box office.

In limited release is Nine Days, the well-reviewed (82% Tomatometer) supernatural drama starring Winston Duke and Zazie Beetz and picked up by Sony Pictures Classics at Sundance 2020. IFC is releasing the Errol Morris produced doc Enemies of the State in theaters and on VOD.