The third film in Kenneth Branagh’s Hercule Poirot franchise, A Haunting in Venice, should have enough gas in its tank to secure a spot atop the charts this weekend.
It appears we are in that period at the box office where the big summer movie season has come and gone, and the big films that will fill out the remainder of the year are still on the horizon. It is generally mid-September when there is a bit of a lull. Last year, Tristar Pictures trotted out their Viola Davis starring The Woman King, which was able to grab a solid $25.1 million debut, while the quite excellent horror film Barbarian (which still hasn’t seen a physical media release, get on that 20th Century Studios aka Disney) saw a solid second-weekend decline of just 38.3%.
This year, 20th Century Studios will try their hand at a new type of scare with the Kenneth Branagh adaptation A Haunting in Venice, the third film in his Hercule Poirot franchise that dates back to 2017’s star-studded Murder on the Orient Express. That film had some genuine heat behind it and would garner a respectable $28.6 million opening on its way to a solid $102.8 million domestic total ($352.7 worldwide). Of course, his second foray into Agatha Christie territory wouldn’t be as lucky. Not only did Death on the Nile have to contend with the ongoing Covid 19 pandemic and the public’s uncertainty about returning to theaters, but it also had to deal with a lead star, Armie Hammer, whose off-screen exploits made watching him on the big screen nearly impossible for many to stomach. The film would open with just $12.8 million on its way to a dismal $45.6 million domestic total ($137.3 million worldwide).
With those numbers, it seemed that we may be done with the exploits of the famed detective on the big screen, but winning an Oscar can do a lot for a person. For Kenneth Branagh, who would win Best Original Screenplay at the 94th Annual Academy Awards for his tremendous coming-of-age drama Belfast, it meant that a studio who may have written him off after the misfire that was Death on the Nile was suddenly back to being interested in what the newly minted Oscar winner wanted to do next.
The studio would agree to fund his next Poirot mystery, this time adapted from the lesser known Agatha Christie novel Hallowe’en Party, but gave him a smaller budget than the previous films reported $100 million. So the question now is: Can A Haunting in Venice recoup its $60 million budget plus marketing costs? It will be an uphill battle as Haunting is currently tracking to open in the low to mid-teens. Some see it as low as $12 million, while others think this third outing for the mustachioed sleuth can hit the $17 million mark. I think the smart money is to split the difference and call this one at around $15 million. Hopefully, word of mouth can propel this one over the next few weeks as it is garnering the strongest reviews of the series, that is, if we actually believe Rotten Tomatoes!
We could see a fight for first place depending on how much of a tumble The Nun II takes. Last week saw the Conjuring Universe film open with a solid $32.6 million but horror movies tend to be severely front-loaded. The last film in the series, The Nun, saw a second-weekend decline of just over 66%. This one got slightly better reviews and launched a bit softer, so its hold may actually be a bit better than its predecessor. I still see at least a 60% decline, putting The Nun II’s second week in the $12-$13 million range.
From there, we are really just looking at box office holdovers such as The Equalizer 3, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3, and Barbie, which saw its PVOD debut this past Tuesday, to round out the top five.
Coming out in limited release this weekend, before going wide on September 29, is Dumb Money, which I enjoyed seeing last night and found to be an extremely compelling film. It delves into something most people have heard of over the past few years: the Game Stop stock prices and how a group of internet investors, or Dumb Money as rich stock people call them, took a hedge fund to task for trying to short that stock. Essentially, the hedge fund tried to make money on the company’s failure, which caught the attention of some everyday traders who then bought stock in the company, driving up the price and beating the hedge fund people at their own game. The film goes into the depths to which these hedge fund people went to make sure they didn’t lose their profit while the little guys: your nurses, college students, and even a Game Stop employee, were able to, for a brief moment, make the big guys panic. I found the film to be endlessly enjoyable, with some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. I appreciated that the film, although dealing with a serious topic, didn’t take itself too seriously. You can check out our own Chris Bumbray’s 7/10 review out of the Toronto International Film Festival here.
Will you be heading to theaters this weekend? If so, let us know what you plan on seeing in the comments, and don’t forget to check back on Saturday when we have a brief update on where the numbers are heading.
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