This weekend is all about the next one. The last weekend of April means next week is the annual May Marvel release — here, it’s Disney’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” And that means rival studios are in duck-and-cover mode, clearing a path that extends a week in advance.
So, expect to see “The Fate of the Furious” (Universal) repeat for a third time at #1, with around $20 million gross. By Sunday, “Fate” will be around $190 million domestic on worldwide gross of $1 billion — a record-low domestic share for a film reaching these heights.
Meanwhile, “Guardians” will open in most of Europe and other territories (but not China, Japan, or Russia) ahead of its domestic May 4 debut. Going abroad first not only emphasizes the increased dominance of the international market in studio strategies, but it also can spike already-strong domestic interest.
We’re glad to have that to look forward to; this weekend could be among the lowest this year, thanks to the swift falloff from “Fate” and a paucity of strong new releases. While studios could use this period to shine with less competition, the early-May Marvels create a negative halo effect: These films comprise four of the top-eight openers in history, and no one wants to look bad against that. So we see few promising titles in the weeks before, and even sometimes after.
“The Circle” (STX) is the only wide (3,000+ theater) release this weekend. A dystopian cyber thriller based on the novel by Dave Eggers, it stars Emma Watson, who’s currently soaring in “Beauty and the Beast.” With a cast that also includes Tom Hanks and the last performance by Bill Paxton, it’s director James Ponsoldt’s most expensive production. His prior films have been well reviewed (“The End of Tour,” “The Spectacular Now,” “Smashed”), but reviews have been delayed for this. STX is handling U.S. distribution as part of its deal with France’s EuropaCorp.
“The Circle” likely can’t count on much more than $10 million for the weekend. That could be good enough for second spot, but for any hope of a hold lies with luring younger female viewers. Adults currently have significant alternatives like “The Gifted, “The Lost City of Z,” “The Promise” and “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” among others.
“Fate” has possible competition as top opener in Lionsgate/Pantelion’s “How to Be a Latin Lover,” starring Mexican comic Eugenio Derbez. This bilingual American production opens in over 1,000 theaters, compared to the 348 for his 2013 “Instructions Not Included.” That comedy stunned by opening to almost $8 million and ultimately a $44 million domestic take, which made it both the biggest Mexican film ever in the U.S. as well as the best Spanish-language hit. So with the wider release, $10 million or higher would not be a shock.
Jason Blum’s microbudget horror label BH Tilt is back with “Sleight,” a Sundance 2016-premiered thriller about a budding African-American magician. An acquisition rather than an in-house production, it will open in about 550 theaters with likely modest results.