Box Office: ‘The Bad Guys’ Poised to Snag No. 1 From ‘Fantastic Beasts 3’

In a crowded weekend at the domestic box office that includes northmen and fantastic beasts and Nicolas Cage — oh my! — “The Bad Guys” has risen above the competition. The DreamWorks Animation film is projected to take the weekend’s top slot in its opening.

Universal’s “The Bad Guys” is projected to open to $25 million from 4,009 locations — more than enough to land at No. 1. Although that figure is a ways away from the film’s production budget of $70 million, it’s a promising start for a prospective first entry in a family-friendly franchise. “The Bad Guys” is already exceeding box office projections, which had predicted an opening weekend between $15 million and $20 million. That would’ve placed the film in a tight battle with theatrical holdovers “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” and “Sonic the Hedgehog 2.”

Reviews have been largely favorable for “The Bad Guys,” with the DreamWorks production currently holding an 85% approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Variety’s Guy Lodge wrote that director “Pierre Perifel’s cartoon romp may be a trifle, but it’s still DreamWorks Animation’s most appealing offering in several years.” Audience reactions have also been strong, with general moviegoers bestowing a glowing “A” grade on Cinema Score to the film.

With no kid-friendly animated movies on the calendar until Pixar’s “Lightyear” in June, “The Bad Guys” has a lot of runway to capitalize on strong word-of-mouth in the coming weeks.

With “The Bad Guys” taking the top slot, the weekend’s two other new wide releases — “The Northman” and “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” — look to land at fourth and fifth.

“The Northman” is projected to earn $12.5 million from 3,865 locations. That’s on the higher end of openings for Focus Features, but, then again, “Northman” is far from the typical Focus release. The production budget on director Robert Eggers’ viking action epic reportedly ballooned to $90 million due to COVID-19 precautions and delays (though insiders believe that figure lands closer to $70 million after tax credits are factored in). Focus has given “Northman” a hearty promotional spree, with numerous TV spots, and the film is ultimately landing at the higher end of its weekend projections.

Critics have been roundly approving of “The Northman,” though Variety chief film critic Peter Debruge called it “ultimately rather dull and hardly any fun.” Audiences have been less receptive, with the film landing a so-so “B” grade on Cinema Score, though that shouldn’t be a surprise for a lengthy, bullishly stylized piece of hyperviolence.

With so many films vying for moviegoers’ attention, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” an action-comedy starring Nicolas Cage as himself, finds itself behind the competition. The Lionsgate release is coming in at the lower-end of projections, targeting a debut of $7 million from 3,036 locations. It’s not an encouraging start for a movie that played like gangbusters at the SXSW Film Festival only a month ago.

While several studios were selling off films to streamers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lionsgate elected to hold onto “Unbearable Weight” for a theatrical run. The comedy carries the bearable weight of a hardly massive $30 million production budget. The studio will have to rely on solid word-of-mouth and a strong run in rentals to land solidly in the black.

The bottom has all but fallen out for Warner Bros.’ “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.” After debuting to a franchise-low $43 million last weekend, the “Harry Potter” spin-off threequel took in $4.1 million from 4,245 locations on it second Friday, representing a calamitous 79% drop-off from its opening day. That’s an out-and-out collapse for a prospective tentpole, much less one carrying a production budget of $200 million. It would take a stunning turn of events for the film to finish above $100 million on domestic charts.

Warner Bros. execs were waiting to weigh box office figures for “Secrets of Dumbledore” before giving the greenlight to the planned fourth and fifth entries in the prequel series. With enthusiasm around the wizarding world spin-off rapidly diminishing, the studio may now have to rethink a franchise that is supposed to behave like a crown jewel.

The third “Fantastic Beasts” is landing at No. 3 behind Paramount’s “Sonic the Hedgehog 2.” The SEGA sequel is projected to earn $15.9 million in its third weekend, continuing a mighty theatrical run. The film should expand its domestic cume to $146 million through Sunday, which puts it right outside the final $148 million total of its 2020 predecessor.

More to come…

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