Hit or Bomb? December 2019 movie predictions
It’s the Christmas movie season, where studios typically roll out lots of big blockbusters and awards bait, but much like two years ago, the release schedule is pretty light this year, because the assumption seems to once again be that Star Wars will own the month. Here to answer the confounding question of whether or not Rise of Skywalker will make money are our box office gurus Thomas Stockel, Tyler Peterson, and Rick Lewis.
Jumanji: The Next Level (December 13)
The whole gang from the first movie gets pulled back into the Jumanji video game to be represented again by the same avatars (Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan), but this time the rules have changed: the kids have not only switched avatars, but a couple of kindly old grandpas (Danny DeVito, Danny Glover) have gotten sucked into the game along with them.
Thomas S: I should have known a sequel was coming, and honestly I don’t mind one damn bit. The last Jumanji movie might have upset “purists” who thought the sequel bastardized their beloved film (trust me, I know people like that), but for me I never held the first movie in such high esteem that I placed it on a pedestal. And unlike other sequels that proved to be a massive dud (I’m looking at you, MIB II) by playing it safe, Welcome to the Jungle tweaked the formula and gave us a fun time. With the addition of new characters and a plot that looks just different enough from the last film to make it intriguing, I predict another HIT.
Tyler: Jumanji: The Next Level provides all the things we’ve come to love and appreciate from the Jumanji franchise: annoying children, hideously fake CGI animals, mindless kiddie adventure with nuggets of weirdly traumatizing imagery, and a release date smack in the middle of Christmas break, perfect for getting the kids the hell out of the house for two hours. Did you like Jack Black doing a girl voice? Then you’re going to love Jack Black doing a black voice! HIT.
Rick: The only reason I watched the first one is because I was with family and my 14-year-old niece got to pick the movie. And it was absolutely hilarious. I shocked myself by loving it. The Rock is at his comedic best when he’s only supposed to have the maturity of a 16-year-old boy, and come to think of it, same with Kevin Hart, so making that the actual, literal point of their characters worked brilliantly. And there’s so little spoofing of modern video games in Hollywood, despite the fact they’re so ripe for it, possibly because today’s producers are too old to have much personal understanding of their ridiculous dynamics and tropes. It’s an untapped target for comedy finally getting its due. The only thing that bugged me was Kevin Hart being the butt of so many small guy jokes, just as he is in all his movies, despite the fact that the dude’s arms are jacked; he’s just short, which is not quite the same thing as being a shrimp. Anyway, I’m excited for the sequel. Do I think they’ll recapture the same magic? Nah, but it’ll come close enough to be a HIT.
Richard Jewell (December 13)
Clint Eastwood continues cranking out his annual “based on a true story” efforts with the infamous tale of a security guard (Paul Walter Hauser) who discovers a bomb during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and then finds himself falsely accused by the FBI and the media of being a terrorist.
Thomas S: I remember watching this play out on TV, and to be honest for years I thought Jewell was the bomber. It goes to show how easy it is for accusations to stick and retractions to, well, gain no traction. In an era where the media jumps at any chance to grab a headline without caring about the consequences, Richard Jewell seems very timely. But will it be enough to garner an audience? Well, the ’90s are now officially nostalgic, and Clint does have a following, so I predict a minor HIT.
Tyler: As much as I might wish he would, Clint Eastwood will never voluntarily retire. Why should he? The man is better than any other filmmaker working today at tickling the boomer dad sweet spot. A fat, cop-loving, flyover-country schlub who thwarts an act of terrorism only to be falsely accused and pilloried by the mainstream media (for seemingly no other reason than accidentally conforming to an urbanite’s stereotype of a lone-wolf domestic terrorist) is such a pure distillation of boomer id that one marvels Clint Eastwood didn’t invent him. HIT.
Rick: Are you telling me Clint Eastwood didn’t take our advice and retire? BOMB.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (December 20)
The last remnants of the Resistance (Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, repurposed footage of Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams returning to the franchise for the first time in 36 years) face off against Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the First Order one last time, while the ancient conflict between the Jedi and the Sith reaches its conclusion and finally brings the nine-part Skywalker saga to an end.
Thomas S: Yeah, this one will make money. The franchise doesn’t deserve it, but it will be a HIT. Now excuse me while I go find a friend who has Disney+ so I can go watch the first four episodes of The Mandalorian.
Tyler: It’s cool we’re finally getting a movie about the Strategic Defense Initiative, but the historical accuracy on display here is questionable at best, and what the hell is a Skywalker? I will say though, they cast Reagan perfectly. HIT.
Rick: Fucking Poe doesn’t get enough grief for singlehandedly destroying the Resistance with his bullshit because Leia’s plan would have 100% worked if Poe didn’t accidentally expose Leia’s plan during his team’s secret mission/actual pointing-guns-at-the-vice-admiral mutiny that everyone (or at least everyone who survived, all six of them) fucking shrugged off for no fucking reason. I may still be working through some things from that last movie. Anyway, predicting a HIT here is kind of pointless and boring, so here’s an different question and prediction. The Last Jedi‘s $620 million domestic haul was actually a huge step down from The Force Awakens‘s $936 million… so will the downward slide continue, or can Episode IX turn it around? I predict this one will come in somewhere in the middle.
Cats (December 20)
The legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber musical comes to horrifying life as an all-star cast (Taylor Swift, Idris Elba, Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, and many more) gets slathered in CGI makeup that turns them into felines who have to choose which of them will get to ascend to Heaven… er, I mean, the “Heaviside Layer”.
Thomas S: I’ve seen this musical three times, put on by three different companies. I love the music and the musical. All that being said, at no time was I ever asking for this freaky live-action adaptation. And I don’t think anybody else was either. Granted, Hollywood is doing the smart thing by limiting the number of musicals they release to maybe one a year, but this time out it’s gonna BOMB.
Tyler: I’m not a “theater person”. The last play I saw or was interested in seeing was Young Frankenstein: The Musical. My partner, however, is a “theater person”, and since the first trailer dropped, she’s been talking a lot about the fever nightmare that is this trailer. As horrible as mo-cap looks, I fail to see how you could consider it bizarre in comparison to literally every single other thing about the play Cats. This is a play where furries named Rumpleteazer and Skimbleshanks prance around hornily and sing songs about going to Heaven. You’re saying the CG is what makes it a bit much? This is what I really think will doom Cats: its aesthetic is such a singular one that if you’re gonna make it into a movie, you either have to either keep the budget manageable, or find some way to reach across the aisle to non-fans. Tom Hooper did neither. He spent the GDP of a small country creating an ickier version of a play that 90% of the world knows only as a punchline. Time to scoop the litterbox, someone left a big BOMB in it.
Rick: Rumor is the production budget somehow swelled to an oops, golly, how’d-that-happen $300 million, which only gets more hilarious when you realize it’s opening the same day as Star Wars. These creepy kitties are going to be roadkill. BOMB.
How’d we do on last month’s predictions?
Budget: $100-150M | Earnings to date: $289M | Projected total earnings: $450-500M
Prediction: 100% said HIT (4 of 4)
Reality: Let HIT gooooooooo!
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Budget: $25-45M | Earnings to date: $35M | Projected total earnings: $55-60M
Prediction: 100% said HIT (4 of 4)
Reality: Can you say HIT
Budget: $45M | Earnings to date: $30M | Projected total earnings: $32M
Prediction: 25% said HIT (1 of 4)
Budget: $48M | Earnings to date: $17M | Projected total earnings: $20M
Prediction: 0% said HIT (0 of 4)
Reality: Every time a BOMB rings
Terminator: Dark Fate
Budget: $185M | Earnings to date: $61M | Projected total earnings: $63M
Prediction: 0% said HIT (0 of 4)
Reality: Ah’ll be BOMB
Final Score: 5 right, 0 wrong
How movies are judged:
- The Agony Booth judges a movie to be a HIT if we project that it will significantly exceed its production budget in domestic (U.S and Canada) box office earnings. Our rule of thumb is +20%, but this may slide up or down based on the marketing budget.
- The Agony Booth only considers domestic box office total, because the share of international ticket sales that ends up with the studio varies not just from studio to studio, but often from movie to movie (although this is less true than it used to be).