It’s Shyamalan Vs. G.I. Joe As Old & Snake Eyes Open
This week sees two new wide releases hit theaters, Snake Eyes and Old, and after last week’s expectations-smashing debut for Space Jam: A New Legacy, we feel like anything could happen at the box office. Many expect the top spot to be taken by Snake Eyes, the latest entry in the G.I. Joe franchise, but there could be an upset from Old, M. Night Shyamalan’s new supernatural mindbender, which is outrunning Snake Eyes in IMDb page views. They look like solid bets for the top two, and it should be noted that both are theatrical exclusives, but if they have sub-par performances and Space Jam holds strong, we could see the order of things shaken up. Whether or not the current uptick in Covid-19 cases impacts the box office this weekend is another open question.

Paramount’s Snake Eyes is the origin story of its title character which comes from the G.I. Joe series. After Ray Park played Snake Eyes in 2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and 2013’s G.I. Joe: Retaliation, we now have Henry Golding of Crazy Rich Asians-fame stepping into the role. The film is more reboot than spinoff, with none of the stars from the earlier G.I. Joe films returning, and Snake Eyes is noticeably lower wattage in the acting department. Gone are big names such as Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, and Dwayne Johnson, and of the characters that return you have Andrew Koji as Storm Shadow (previously played by South Korean star Lee Byung-hun), Úrsula Corberó as Baroness (previously played by Sienna Miller), and Samara Weaving as Scarlett (previously played by Rachel Nichols).

Robert Schwentke (Red, The Divergent Series: Insurgent and Allegiant) is in the director’s chair for this outing. The Joe films have not been major blockbusters, though their grosses look rather enviable for the Covid-era. The first film opened at $54.7 million, closed at $150.2 million, and netted $302.5 million worldwide, but these are not great numbers against its $175 million budget. The second film was an improvement, making $375.7 million worldwide on a $130 million budget, though its box office declined from the first film in the U.S., with a $40.5 million opening weekend and a domestic run of $122.5 million. Snake Eyes’ $88 million budget would give the film a bigger profit margin if the box office came in the range of the first two, but neither the franchise nor the stars are major draws, and that’s on top of the major handicap of the pandemic.

Snake Eyes will likely open to less than half of G.I. Joe: Retaliation’s $40.5 opening weekend. International will be key for the film, but it does not have a release date in China, which was the largest foreign territory for Retaliation ($53.8 million), and theater closures in Southeast Asia are also a downer. The good news is that the reviews are looking better than the first two G.I. Joe Films (34% and 29% on RottenTomatoes, respectively). Only a limited number of reviews are in so far, but its 52% Tomatometer is high for the series and many critics have noted that the film is an improvement.

Universal is competing for the top spot with Old, another modestly budgeted psychological thriller from M. Night Shyamalan. Old looks to be right in Shyamalan’s wheelhouse, with its "Twilight Zone"-esque high concept, based on the graphic novel "Sandcastle," by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters, about a family that finds themselves rapidly aging on their secluded beach vacation. Gael García Bernal is the biggest name in the cast, but Shyamalan remains one of the few directors whose name can pull in a crowd. Also starring are Vicky Krieps, Alex Wolff, and Rufus Sewell.

Shyamalan has been on a hit streak ever since he gave up trying to make big blockbusters with diminishing returns (e.g. The Last Airbender, After Earth) and went back down to earth. His last three films The Visit, Split, and Glass cost $5 million, $9 million, and $20 million respectively, and they grossed $98.5 million, $278.5 million, and $247 million worldwide. The Visit opened to $25.4 million domestically while Split and Glass both opened to $40 million. Old’s prospects are hard to predict, and it could become Shyamalan’s lowest wide opener (a distinction currently held by Lady in the Water, which opened to $18 million). However, even if it doesn’t match the recent Shyamalan films, it should have an easier time turning a profit than most releases this summer, and it could very well surprise us. Reviews are still making their way in, but Old is currently at 61% on RottenTomatoes which is somewhere in the middle for Shyamalan, who is no stranger to mixed reviews.

Space Jam: A New Legacy is slated to round out the top three, though in what position we can’t say with certainty. In fourth we should see Black Widow, which will cross $150 million. Depending on how Black Widow holds, we might be able to determine the summer’s top domestic theatrical grosser as we see if it has the legs to catch up to F9 or not.

Some new limited releases in the mix are Settlers, the British sci-fi film from IFC, and Roadside’s Joe Bell, which stars Mark Wahlberg in a rare indie film appearance. On the documentary front is All the Streets Are Silent from Greenwich, about New York’s hip-hop and skateboarding culture in the 80s and 90s.