Super-heroes still dominate at the box office. That lesson came through loud and clear last week as Captain America: The Winter Soldier broke records at Cineplex's across the country. This weekend the iconic comic star has a trio of films in the hunt for the top spot, but the odds are good the Captain won't be dethroned.
If any film can top Winter Solider, it's going to be Fox's (NASDAQ:FOXA) Rio 2. It's been a good year so far for kid flicks with The Nut Job and The Lego Movie doing a number on the box office. Although as proven the other week with Muppets Most Wanted, nothing is guaranteed. Fox will look to avoid that trap with Rio 2, the sequel to the 2011 hit with a vocal cast including Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, and Jamie Foxx.
The animated comedy will likely draw around $40 million, about what the original pulled a few years ago. As before the additional upcharge of 3D will help boost Rio 2's revenue, but this one's largely going to see business from families who flocked to the first one. Some estimates have it coming in a little higher and that could end up putting it in a tight race for the top with Winter Soldier, which is expected to drop by at least half from last weekend's $95 million debut. Rio 2 is lighter in tone and at least a half-hour shorter, both of which should help attract the younger set.
Fox (and partner DreamWorks Animation) has recently been down this road -- just last month the pair's Mr. Peabody and Sherman hit theaters. Many analysts point to that film as the reason for Muppets' soft opening, as the market was saturated with kid pics (which usually isn't a bad thing). Here though between Lego and Peabody parents looked like they wanted a break and that affected Kermit and friends. Don't expect that to be the case again this weekend, but the odds are still better for a second place opening.
It's only April and Kevin Costner's already had two films come out, with two more to come. The next pic is Draft Day, which has the Oscar winner revisiting his sports movie roots. Costner's had a lot of recent misses, but he knows how to do sports films (and Westerns). Here he plays the general manager of the Cleveland Browns who must navigate the always tricky NFL draft. With footage shot during last year's NFL draft, the movie has a sense of realism to it and that's help sell football fans on the premise.
This won't make a ton of money, but it doesn't have to in order to be a hit. Draft Day is aimed squarely at male sports fans; if anyone else shows up, it will be a pleasant surprise for distributor Summit (a subsidiary of Lionsgate (NYSE:LGF-A). Early projections have the movie earning around $11 million to $13 million, in line with the $12 million Costner's 3 Days to Kill earned in February and just a hair less than the $15 million Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit did in January.
Both of those movies under-performed, but they carried somewhat loftier expectations since they were marketed to a wider audience...this one's very niche. Draft Day is also sporting better reviews with many critics suggesting this could help Costner begin to reverse his downward box office spiral.
The biggest wildcard of the weekend is Relativity's Oculus. The horror film, which is fronted by two lesser-known actors (Karen Gillian and Brenton Thwaites), centers on a woman who is determined to prove her recently released from jail brother was framed for his crime by a supernatural phenomenon. It's a horror film...it doesn't have to make sense.
The interesting part though is that it's registering with critics who are getting behind the film, which is co-produced by WWE Films (NYSE:WWE).
Horror films were BIG business in 2013, but this year not so much. Relativity, which incidentally was behind Costner's disappointing 3 Days, is hoping to reignite the fright fest in theaters, and tracking on Oculus has it around $13 million to $15 million, which would be a nice first week showing. It wouldn't be the same level that the Evil Dead remake did around this time last year (with $25 million), but right now the industry seems to be OK with baby steps.