Hiram Garcia ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’

‘Richard Jewell’ could mark one of worst nationwide openings of Clint Eastwood’s directing career and the lowest in two decades. ‘Black Christmas’ is also getting scrooged.

Sony’s year-end event pic Jumanji: The Next Level is off to a merry start at the pre-holiday box office, where it grossed $19.4 million on Friday for a revised weekend debut of $50 million or more, ahead of expectations.

The Dwayne Johnson-Kevin Hart sequel will have no trouble topping the chart despite a crowded marquee that includes new offerings Richard Jewell, from director Clint Eastwood, and slasher remake Black Christmas, both of which are in serious trouble.

Jumanji‘s Friday haul included $4.7 million in Thursday previews. Heading into the weekend, Sony erred on the side of caution in predicting a $35 million domestic opening, while most thought it would open to $40 million-$50 million. The film earned an A- CinemaScore from audiences.

With the holidays approaching, mid-December isn’t known for huge openings, outside of the recent Star Wars pics. Rather, titles count on strong multiples throughout the Christmas to New Year’s stretch, when kids and college students are sprung from school.

This time out, Jumanji opted to bow a week before Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, whereas Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle rode into theaters Dec. 20, 2017 with a $36 million domestic debut a week after Star Wars: The Last Jedi opened to $220 million.

Heading into the weekend, both Black Christmas and Richard Jewell were expected to open in the $10 million range, if not higher.

As it stands now, Richard Jewell may only take in $5.2 million despite an A CinemaCore, making it one of the worst nationwide starts ever for a pic directed by Eastwood, and the lowest in a two decade, not adjusted for inflation. The film grossed $1.6 million on Friday to place No. 4 behind Jumanji 2, Frozen 2 and Knives Out.

Richard Jewell recounts the real-life story of the security guard, played by Paul Walter Hauser, who was initially celebrated as a hero for saving lives after a bombing during the 1996 Summer Olympics, then vilified when he became an FBI target and was reported as a suspect by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In recent days, Eastwood’s biographical drama became engulfed in controversy after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution objected strenuously to the pic’s portrayal of the late journalist Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde), who in the film seduces an FBI agent and is implied to have sex with him in order to get information.

On Thursday, Wilde weighed in on Twitter. “Contrary to a swath of recent headlines, I do not believe that Kathy ‘traded sex for tips.’ Nothing in my research suggested she did so, and it was never my intention to suggest she had. That would be an appalling and misogynistic dismissal of the difficult work she did,” she said.

In a statement earlier this week, Warner Bros. said, “It is unfortunate and the ultimate irony that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, having been a part of the rush to judgment of Richard Jewell, is now trying to malign our filmmakers and cast. Richard Jewell focuses on the real victim, seeks to tell his story, confirm his innocence and restore his name. The AJC‘s claims are baseless, and we will vigorously defend against them.”

Black Christmas — timing its opening to Friday the 13th — earned $1.8 million on Friday for a projected debut of $4.5 million. The good news: the Universal and Blumhouse microbudgeted pic cost a reported $5 million to make before marketing.

The film is the second remake of the 1974 cult horror classic about a cadre of sorority sisters who must fend off a campus killer during the deserted holidays. Imogen Poots, Aleyse Shannon, Lily Donoghue, Brittany O’Grady, Caleb Eberhardt and Cary Elwes star in the Sophia Takal-directed pic, which earned a D+ CinemaScore.

With awards season in full swing, two-high profile open in select theaters at the specialty box office: Jay Roach’s Fox News sexual harassment saga Bombshell, produced by and starring Charlize Theron alongside Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie; and Josh and Benny Safdie’s Uncut Gems, starring Adam Sandler.

Uncut Gems (A24) opening in five cinemas in New York and Los Angeles, is headed for a sensational location average of $120,000, followed by an equally impressive $90,000-plus from four theaters for Bombshell (Lionsgate).

Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life is also debuting in N.Y. and L.A. this weekend, albeit to soft numbers.

FRIDAY AM UPDATE: Sony’s Jumanji: The Next Level delivered an impressive $4.7 million from Thursday previews, which began at 4PM in 3,778 locations, putting it well on pace to meet our $45 million forecast if not more. A look at films that delivered similar preview grosses shows Dark Phoenix as the lone standout to gross $5 million from preview showings only to deliver a $32.8 million three-day.

Universal and Blumhouse’s Black Christmas, however, delivered a light $230,000 from previews beginning at 7PM in 2,100 locations.

We’ll take a closer look at things tomorrow morning once Friday estimates come in. For now you can check out our weekend preview below.

WEEKEND PREVIEW: The holiday season is well underway, with Frozen II leading the charge by a wide margin, currently serving as the only holiday release to top $100 million so far. However, Ford v Ferrari should soon reach that milestone and this weekend’s release of Sony’s Jumanji: The Next Level will also be expected to top that figure and more. This weekend also sees the release of Universal and Blumhouse’s holiday horror remake Black Christmas and Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell, the latter representing yet another adult-targeted feature as several have been released over the last month.

Looking at a #1 finish is Sony’s release of Jumanji: The Next Level, the sequel to the breakout hit of 2017, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which debuted just before Christmas two years ago and went on to gross over $400 million domestically, serving as Sony’s largest domestic release of all-time. This year Sony is getting an even larger head start on Christmas weekend, not to mention a little distance between it and next week’s release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which is important to note considering the first Jumanji debuted after the release of 2017’s The Last Jedi. Studio expectations this weekend are for an opening around $35 million from over 4,200 theaters, while industry estimates are much higher, anticipating a debut anywhere from $40-50+ million. So what will it be?

A look at IMDb page view data shows Jumanji performing similarly to Godzilla: King of the Monsters over the two weeks leading up to release. That film debuted with over $47 million earlier this year, though it was a summer release, which makes the comparison a bit difficult. Looking at films such as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Goosebumps 2 and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald are also imperfect based on a variety of factors, which is making even a remote, apples-to-apples comparison difficult.

That said, IMDb page view performance is suggesting a performance closer to studio expectations and the lower end of industry expectations, which has us projecting a $45 million opening this weekend. While the film could very well outperform our forecast, the big question either way will be whether or not it will have the same kind of legs as the original, which played for a whopping 53 weeks. Our first indication as to how it will perform domestically will come tomorrow morning following preview showings, which begin today at 4PM in over 3,780 locations.

Disney’s Frozen II will slide to second in its fourth weekend in release, following three straight weekends at #1 and the film set to top $365 million this weekend. Right now we’re looking for a drop around -40% and a $21 million three-day gross. Should our forecast hold, expect a domestic cume around $368 million or so come Sunday afternoon.

Third place could be a bit of a battle between the week’s two other new wide releases, both of which are expected to deliver around $10 million or so this weekend. We’ll begin with WB’s release of Clint Eastwood‘s Richard Jewell, which will open in 2,502 locations and, based on IMDb page view data, is pacing a bit behind Eastwood’s two 2018 releases, The 15:17 to Paris and The Mule, though not by so much that we’re expecting it to falter this weekend. In fact, it has shown a level of consistency that has us expecting a three-day performance right around $11 million, which we expect will be enough to edge Universal’s Black Christmas.

Universal’s release of Blumhouse’s Black Christmas is the latest remake of the 1974 holiday horror, which was last remade 13 years ago. Timed for a Friday the 13th release, this latest version will launch in over 2,600 locations and the studio is anticipating a performance right around $10 million, which mostly lines up with our expectations. A peek at IMDb page view data shows the film pacing closest to the early year release of Happy Death Day 2U, which opened with $9.5 million. However, in comparison to 2015’s Krampus, Black Christmas is opening in 300 fewer locations and is dramatically trailing that film, which opened with $16 million from over 2,900 locations, in terms of IMDb page views over the two weeks leading up to release. Of course, Blumhouse produced the film for a reported $5 million, which leaves a lot of room for profit as they look to double that figure over the first three days of release alone.

Rounding out the top five, look for Lionsgate’s Knives Out to dip around 38% for a three-day just shy of $9.5 million, which would push the film’s domestic gross toward $80 million as it enters its third week in release.

Elsewhere, this weekend also sees the limited release of Lionsgate’s Bombshell, A24’s Uncut Gems and Terrence Malick‘s A Hidden Life, all of which will be looking to pique audience interest and generate some strong word of mouth as not only box office hopefuls, but as awards season contenders.

This weekend’s forecast is directly below. This post will be updated on Friday morning with Thursday night preview results followed by Friday estimates on Saturday morning, and a complete weekend recap on Sunday morning.

  • Jumanji: The Next Level (4,227 theaters) – $45.0 M
  • Frozen II (4,078 theaters) – $21.0 M
  • Richard Jewell (2,502 theaters) – $11.0 M
  • Black Christmas (2,625 theaters) – $10.5 M
  • Knives Out (3,413 theaters) – $9.5 M
  • Ford v Ferrari (2,895 theaters) – $3.8 M
  • Queen & Slim (1,560 theaters) – $3.7 M
  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2,855 theaters) – $2.9 M
  • Dark Waters (2,110 theaters) – $2.7 M
  • 21 Bridges (1,533 theaters) – $1.3 M