Meryl Streep, Liam Neeson, Taraji P. Henson and Paddington Bear all rushed into movie theatres over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, but Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle still roared the loudest with an estimated $27m in ticket sales, Friday to Sunday.
Jumanji easily remained the no. 1 film in North America despite an onslaught of new challengers, according to studio estimates on Sunday.” The Sony Pictures release is now approaching $300m domestically and, after grossing $40m in China this weekend, a worldwide total of $667m.
Coming closest was Steven Spielberg’s Pentagon Papers drama The Post, starring Streep as Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham and Tom Hanks as editor Ben Bradlee. Twentieth Century Fox is forecasting $18.6m for the weekend and $22.2m for the four-day holiday.
It’s a solid result for The Post in its nationwide expansion following several weeks of limited release. Made for about $50m and fast-tracked after the election of President Donald Trump, The Post is considered by many a timely commentary on the power of the press, and a rebuke of Trump from some of Hollywood’s biggest names.
“It resonates with an older audience because they were around and remember this particular moment in time,” said Fox distribution chief Chris Aronson. “But it really resonates with a younger audience and that’s the segment of the audience that will continue to discover this movie and realise how timely it is.”
Fox and The Post will hope the strong box office results help resuscitate the film’s Oscar momentum. The movie went home empty-handed at last weekend’s Golden Globes and wasn’t nominated by the BAFTA Awards. Oscar nominations voting ended on Friday.
Landing in third was the Neeson thriller The Commuter, a Lionsgate release in partnership with Studiocanal. The modest $13.5m opening for the film — Neeson’s fourth with director Jaume Collet-Serra (Non-Stop, Unknown, Run All Night) — suggested some of the thrill of Neeson’s action-movie period, kicked off 10 years ago with the $145m hit Taken, may be waning.
The star’s last three films — Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House, Silence and Monster Calls — have all disappointed at the box office.
The children’s book adaptation sequel Paddington 2 opened with $10.6m. The film, originally to be distributed in North America over the Christmas holiday by The Weinstein Co., was sold to Warner Bros. after any association with the disgraced Weinstein Co. co-chairman Harvey Weinstein was deemed toxic for the film.
The juggled rollout of the movie — plus the breakout success of Jumanji as the go-to family film — may have hurt Paddington 2. Despite rave reviews, it did about half the $19m debut of its 2015 predecessor.
The R-rated Proud Mary, starring Henson as a hit woman, followed close behind with $10m. Though some accused Sony’s Screen Gems of burying the film (it didn’t screen for critics), the movie drew poor reviews and even criticism from John Fogerty, who accused the film of exploiting the title to his Creedence Clearwater Revival classic.
The plethora of releases, along with a host of awards contenders in limited release (led by Darkest Hour, with $4.5m following Gary Oldman’s Golden Globe win for best actor) pushed the weekend box office to around $190m for the four-day holiday frame, according to Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore.
A box office surprise
Most surprising, though, is that the holiday season holdover powering the January box office isn’t Star Wars: The Last Jedi but Jumanji. The reboot, starring Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Jack Black, has now been the no. 1 film two weeks running after spending its initial two weeks of release trailing The Last Jedi.
“This box office trajectory of Jumanji is somewhat unprecedented and certainly unexpected,” said Dergarabedian. “Right now, it’s the films that have been out there for a while that are inspiring the most enthusiasm and that’s been tough for the newcomers.”
Don’t weep for The Last Jedi. The Disney release, which added $11.3m in its fifth weekend, has grossed $591.5m in the US and Canada, ranking it as the sixth highest grossing film of all time domestically. This weekend, it passed Disney’s own Beauty and the Beast to make it the top global release of 2017 with $1.264bn worldwide.
But, perhaps suffering from effects of a backlash from some fans, The Last Jedi hasn’t inspired the kind of repeat viewing that The Force Awakens did. It’s likely to come at least $700m short of that 2015 release’s global box office. Last weekend, The Last Jedi flopped in China (where Star Wars holds less cultural sway) with $28.7m, or about half what The Last Jedi grossed in its first three days of release in China. A week later, it has already been largely pulled from Chinese theatres to make way for new Chinese releases and Jumanji.
“Presumption is always that a Star Wars movie will be the dominant force in the box office universe pretty much for the entire time it’s in the marketplace,” said Dergarabedian. “But there is a very strong force with Dwayne Johnson. There are other forces at play here.”