Chappie should lead the way, though it will likely fall short of $20 million. Meanwhile, R-rated comedy Unfinished Business will almost certainly open below $10 million, which will make this the latest flop for star Vince Vaughn.
Playing at 3,201 locations, Chappie marks the third feature from South African director Neill Blomkamp, who burst on to the scene in a big way with his 2009 debut District 9. Lacking any recognizable faces, District 9 was sold entirely on its unique, impressively-rendered sci-fi world. That strategy worked quite well, and the movie went on to earn $115.6 million at the domestic box office. It was also a hit with critics, and surprisingly scored an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.
The District 9 connection has been a big part of the Chappie marketing campaign, with recent commercials going as far as to actually open with some footage from that movie. While that movie was a huge hit at the time, though, it's unclear if there's all that much goodwill left at this point: there's a chance that Blomkamp's second movie, the so-so Elysium, used up a lot of it to get to its $93 million total.
Chappie has also undergone a bit of an identity crisis throughout its marketing campaign. Originally pitched as a quirky character piece about a misunderstood sentient robot, advertisements eventually pivoted toward portraying it as a high stakes sci-fi action movie not dissimilar to last year's Robocop. That's a more straightforward sell, though it also seems to dilute the movie's unique qualities a bit.
Sentiment toward the movie has taken a pretty negative turn in the past week or so: as of Thursday afternoon, the Rotten Tomatoes score was at a poor 32 percent. With original sci-fi like this, word-of-mouth heading in to opening weekend can absolutely have an impact on the result; in this case, what could have been a $20-million-plus debut will likely wind up a bit lower.
Fandango is reporting that Chappie is selling in line with last year's RoboCop, which opened to $21.7 million. It's more likely, though, that Chappie winds up in the same ballpark as recent movies Focus (2015) ($18.7 million) and Jupiter Ascending ($18.4 million).
Opening at 2,777 theaters, Unfinished Business seems poised to extend Vince Vaughn's recent losing streak.
From 2005 to 2009, Vaughn headlined four comedies that earned $100-million-plus at the domestic box office. In recent years, though, moviegoers seem to be resisting his shtick: The Dilemma, The Watch, The Internship and Delivery Man all wrapped up between $30 and $50 million. His brand has taken such a hit lately that he signed up for a role in the second season of HBO's True Detective, potentially with an eye at kicking off his own "McConaissance."
Fox seems to recognize that Vaughn isn't a slam dunk at the box office anymore, and have instead focused much of the marketing around Dave Franco's character. Franco is coming off supporting roles in a handful of hits—21 Jump Street, Now You See Me and Neighbors—but wasn't really an integral part of the sell on any of those movies.
Regardless of who the lead actor is, though, the movie's biggest problem is that it just doesn't look all that appealing. The business trip premise seems half-baked, and it's hard to imagine many people are eager to think about the horrors of work travel during their time off. Also, while previews do have a few laughs, there aren't any particularly memorable gags. Finally, the movie has been buried by critics (eight percent on Rotten Tomatoes) which definitely isn't going to help.
Fox isn't too bullish on the movie's prospects: they're expecting it to open in the $5 to $6 million range, which would be below Delivery Man's $7.9 million.
Nearly three years after the original Best Exotic Marigold Hotel became a surprise hit, the sequel checks in to 1,573 locations this weekend. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has already gotten off to a strong start overseas, opening to $5.8 million in the U.K. and $3.2 million in Australia.
The first movie opened in limited release back in May 2012—on the same weekend as Marvel's The Avengers—and earned $6.4 million on its first weekend in wide release (Memorial Day). The word-of-mouth sensation ultimately ended its run with $46.4 million, which makes it one of Fox Searchlight's highest-grossing movies ever. It also performed well overseas and continued finding new fans on home video, which made a sequel seem like a safe bet.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel brings back most of the original movie's cast, and adds Richard Gere to the mix. Strangely, though, the movie seems to be geared more around the hotel's owner (Dev Patel) than its eclectic mix of geriatric guests that successfully charmed older audiences the first time around. Still, with a decent marketing push and a fairly wide release, it wouldn't be surprising if this made a run at $10 million this weekend.
Forecast (March 6-8)
1. Chappie - $17 million
2. Focus - $10.1 million (-46%)
3. Marigold 2 - $8.2 million
4. Unfinished Business - $8 million
5. Kingsman - $7.8 million (-34%)
Bar for Success
Chappie ought to be reaching $20 million this weekend, while Unfinished Business gets a pass if it gets to $10 million. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 2 is a bit trickier. To match its predecessor's total, it would need to start off with at least $10 million this weekend. That's probably an unreasonable expectation: a $7 million debut would be fine.
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