May 13, 2020
Hit or Bomb? November 2019 movie predictions
It’s almost November, that time of year reserved for films that are a bit too small-scale to qualify as summer blockbusters, but not good enough for the big holiday and awards season. Here to judge the box office potential of these new releases based solely on viewing the trailers are Jordon Davis, Thomas Stockel, Julie Kushner, and Tyler Peterson.
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Terminator: Dark Fate (November 1)
Linda Hamilton and James Cameron (as producer) return to the Terminator franchise in this entry that pretends everything after Terminator 2 never happened. 27 years after the events of that film, a highly advanced Terminator travels back in time to hunt and kill a young girl (Natalia Reyes), and her only hope for survival is to join forces with a super-soldier from the future (Mackenzie Davis), a battle-hardened Sarah Connor (Hamilton), and the original Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger).
Jordon: Sigh. Just… sigh. What is November? I mean, what even is it? The very end is the start of the Christmas season, but most of it is just so very November. And that’s what this is. There were one or two Christmas hits, but then it all just fell into a hole. TV couldn’t fix it; Batman couldn’t fix it; and I don’t think this movie’s going to fix it, either. No idea of the budget but it’s got to be pretty high. Maybe with international sales, it’ll get somewhere. Domestically, I’d say BOMB.
Thomas S: After watching a detailed recap of this film, I hope it bombs and bombs hard. This movie and everyone associated with it do not deserve a success, not with the half-assed recycling of a beloved motion picture. And it seems judging by the barely fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes, even critics are aware this film is trash. I get the feeling that people are wise to it as well. BOMB.
Julie: Forgive me if this comes across as shallow (which I totally am) and ageist against late-model androids (which I might very well be), but isn’t one of the benefits of being a cyborg (even a mid-’90s model cyborg made from human skin) that you never have to… um… look old? I mean, full disclosure: I still have my first iPhone hidden in a drawer somewhere in my house. It’s admittedly very slow to turn on and makes weird noises sometimes, but it most definitely doesn’t have wrinkles and arthritis! Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s fabulous that they brought back Ahh-nuld and Linda Hamilton to the silver screen in an attempt to reinvigorate this beaten dead horse of a franchise. But in the interest of nostalgic fanservice, shouldn’t they be CGI de-aging, if not Sarah Connor, at least Arnold’s T-800 character? And if we opt not to de-age our stars for cinematic purposes, shouldn’t we be renaming this film Terminator: The Application Process for Social Security and Medicare is a Real Bitch? BOMB.
Tyler: The good name of the Terminator franchise has been dragged through the mud, but I think this movie represents a shining opportunity to cut away the fat and get back to what works. Usually when an older actor returns to a venerable franchise it feels gimmicky as hell, but Linda Hamilton manages to earn her place. It’s very likely this will go down in history as a worthy Terminator entry. Less likely is making its $185M budget back domestically. Minor BOMB.
Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep (November 8)
In this adaptation of Stephen King’s sequel to The Shining, Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) is now an adult and using his telepathic “shining” power to give comfort to the dying, which earns him the nickname of “Doctor Sleep”. He then meets a young girl with similar abilities, and has to protect her from a supernatural cult who want to use her power to make themselves immortal.
Jordon: Oh man, if you thought that Sarah Connor thing was November, this is just the Novemberist movie of November. The book did well, but why is Stephen King’s name in the title? I’ll tell you why: it’s because Stanley Kubrick is dead. The quintessential horror movie of all time directed by one of the greatest directors ever to live that is now a sequel directed by the guy who did Million Dollar Listings: Los Angeles. I just don’t see any way that this can go right. BOMB.
Thomas S: There’s a sequel to The Shining? Huh. Well, looking at the trailers I can’t say I’m all that impressed. Maybe part of it is my bias against Ewan McGregor these days, but I think this movie is gonna BOMB.
Julie: As a horror film, the original The Shining (based on King’s already successful novel of the same name) had everything going for it, even discounting the Jack Nicholson of it all. It offered basically every flavor of successful horror movie rolled into one film. It had gore. It was a ghost story. It was a psychological thriller starring multiple creepy kids. And it was a serial killer slasher! Because The Shining was all of the things I just described, it didn’t matter whether or not viewers actually read the book on which it was based. Horror movie buffs would see it anyway. But this? This film is basically the creepy kid from The Sixth Sense going through a mid-life crisis, while facing off against a sci-fi equivalent of that sex cult in which the plucky blonde girl from Smallville got embroiled. I hate to say it, but the original source material for this movie is just too old, and the tone of the film is too high-falutin’ for mass appeal. BOMB.
Tyler: This movie looks creepy as hell. The vampires are a weird addition, but that’s Stephen King for ya. The previous trailers I’ve seen downplayed the movie’s connection to The Shining, but now it seems they’re going whole hog with stylistic and narrative callbacks. I think that’ll help it in the long run. HIT.
Charlie’s Angels (November 15)
In this third reboot of the ‘70s TV show, the mysterious Charles Townsend has expanded his security and investigation firm internationally, where it recruits three new angels (Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska) who are guided by multiple Bosleys (Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou, and Elizabeth Banks, who also directs) on a dangerous mission to protect a tech industry whistleblower.
Jordon: No. Just no. The budget was only $50 million and I love Elizabeth Banks (I mean it; I wrote her letters). But absolutely not. I refuse to consider this. Kristen Stewart? Has it been proven that she can even act? Maybe if the Angels broke into several a capella mashups, I would be onboard. Otherwise, just like Bill Murray after the last reboot, I am out. BOMB.
Thomas S: It BOMBs, and BOMBs hard.
Julie: Well, this is new. Usually a music video and a soundtrack are used by marketing departments to promote a slick and high-budgeted but thinly-plotted action film. Here we have a slick and highly-budgeted but thinly-plotted action film whose purposefully vague trailers seem specifically designed to promote the soundtrack streaming on Spotify, a music video on YouTube, and… do nothing else whatsoever! I mean, I guess there are guys out there who were really into Bella from the Twilight films as teenagers (ones who never read the tabloids, and therefore still think as early 20-somethings that they have a shot with her). And they might see this movie, because Kristen Stewart doesn’t seem to wear very much in it? For everyone else, BOMB!
Tyler: What does a genuine female power fantasy look like in the year 2019? According to this trailer, it looks like a bunch of #GirlBosses looking hot, jet-setting to exotic locales, wearing lots of glam outfits, beating up the mean men, getting tipsy with the squad, and just generally #crushingit. Pretty similar to what it looked like in 2011, and 2000, and in the 1970s, only without the proprietary social media syntax. Women are sold this kind of thing because they’re told it’s empowering, and yet I can’t help but notice we’ve been doing it for 40 years and women still lack power. It really underscores what a hollow thing the whole “empowerment” phenomenon is. It’s the feminist equivalent of getting “paid in exposure”. But hey, you can’t say the franchise hasn’t evolved; one of the Angels is gay now, maybe! I just don’t see this taking off, because as far as female power fantasies go in 2019, we’ve already got Midsommar. Oh yeah, and Terminator: Dark Fate. BOMB.
Frozen 2 (November 22)
Elsa the Snow Queen and her sister Anna are back for a new adventure far from the kingdom of Arendelle, and they bring their friends Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven along with them. I’d add more here, but do fans of the first movie really need to know more than that to be sold on seeing this one?
Jordon: Okay, now we’re back in real movie territory. I have to admit, having watched the trailer, I have no idea what this movie is about. Just from the trailer, I can’t even figure out if it’s a musical. I do know that almost the entire original cast is back (they got a new Hans), the same production team is back, and the studio releasing it is Disney. They will make their money back on Underoos licensing alone. But before that, this will be a gigantic HIT.
Thomas S: I predict a mild HIT at best, but only because it’s the only children’s film that gets released this month.
Julie: Okay, first off, HIT right off the bat, because the entirety of Generation Z is going to see this movie, even if it features nothing more than two hours of Elsa and Anna staring into a mirror and experimenting with different Instagram filters for two hours. Obvious box office predictions aside, I was pleasantly surprised by how dark and adult this film seems to be in comparison to its predecessor. That works for me. After all, Frozen came out in 2013. A lot of the tiny tots who saw it back then while sitting in their parents’ laps eating Sour Patch Kids are full-blown teenage hormone machines right now. The Harry Potter series did the same thing with its franchise and did it very successfully (if you recall, The Chamber of Secrets was all fart jokes and whoopie cushions, but by the time The Half-Blood Prince came around, Harry and his friends were contemplating S-E-X with one another!). To that end, I for one absolutely appreciate Elsa’s whole “magic is addictive and maybe making me evil” arc. First, because it reminds me of Dark Willow on Buffy. And second, because its way closer to Frozen’s Snow Queen origins than the original film ever was. Let’s remember: the Snow Queen used a broken mirror to stab children in the eyes and brainwash them into being depressed and doing very bad things. In short, this one will do just fine at the box office. But maybe Disney should consider bumping up the rating to a PG? In either event, HIT… again.
Tyler: Usually sequels to animated Disney movies get dumped to direct-to-video. This feels less like a movie and more like a huge glittering monument to Disney’s conquests. Their dominance is unprecedented. They are beyond the laws of nature and nature’s God, able to manipulate the movie market as they see fit. The arrival of Frozen 2 isn’t without a certain ominousness because we know that it’s just the opening salvo of a fully armed and operational megalopoly. But damn, if that animation doesn’t just pop. HIT.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (November 22)
Based on the true story of how a jaded reporter (Matthew Rhys) is assigned to write a profile of children’s TV host Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks), who breaks through the reporter’s cynicism and changes his entire perspective on life.
Jordon: I have a theory, and it goes like this: in a small closet way down in the basement at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, they have a couple hundred Oscars and they’re all pre-marked “Tom Hanks”. Of course this movie will be a HIT. Josh Baskin is playing Mr. Rogers. Astronaut Jim Lovell, gay lawyer Andrew Beckett, WWII Captain John H. Miller, Forest Freaking Gump—they’re all playing Mr. Rogers. It already has a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. Send those nerds from PricewaterhouseCoopers down to the basement to get another Oscar. In case I didn’t make myself clear, this movie will be a HIT.
Thomas S: There’s no doubt that Tom Hanks is one of his generation’s greatest actors and his being cast as arguably the most beloved children’s entertainers in history is a no-brainer. I predict this movie is going to be a HIT.
Julie: Let me start by reminding everyone that Fred Rogers died in early 2003. So anyone who recalls Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood TV show as a seminal aspect of their childhood is by definition no longer a young’un. And that fact makes the nostalgic audience of this film significantly smaller than it would be otherwise. But that may not matter from a pure box office standpoint. After all, apart from the likely significant salary Tom Hanks’ received to play the lead role, this film looks like it cost virtually nothing to make. And Tom Hanks will obviously get awards buzz for it. That’s a given. So I figure it’ll stay in the theaters for a long time, and maybe even have two runs (the initial, and a re-release once it gets nominated for Oscars, SAG Awards, Golden Globes, and what have you). Through it all, this “small” film will slowly but surely collect enough box office dough to classify it as a modest but definitive HIT.
Tyler: Okay, I really hate this. Watching this trailer gave me a full-body skin crawl like the itch I get in my teeth when I eat too much candy. It’s clickable online inspiration porn taken to its logical conclusion. It’s fake feeling, manufactured sentiment. The residue of genuine feeling, hoovered up and mechanically separated and processed and sold back to you in a shrink-wrapped package for you to gorge on. Unmistakable HIT.
How’d we do on last month’s predictions?
Budget: $55M | Earnings to date: $278M | Projected total earnings: $315M
Prediction: 100% said HIT (4 of 4)
Zombieland: Double Tap
Budget: $48M | Earnings to date: $47M | Projected total earnings: $65-70M
Prediction: 100% said HIT (4 of 4)
The Addams Family (2019)
Budget: $40M | Earnings to date: $73M | Projected total earnings: $95-100M
Prediction: 75% said HIT (3 of 4)
Reality: Dun-dun-dun-dun HIT HIT
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
Budget: $185M | Earnings to date: $66M | Projected total earnings: $100-110M
Prediction: 25% said HIT (1 of 4)
Reality: Mirror, Mirror, on the BOMB
Budget: $138M | Earnings to date: $43M | Projected total earnings: $50M
Prediction: 25% said HIT (1 of 4)
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).