March is turning out to be a busy month. With a large number of anticipated films opening for general release this week, figures have shown some surprises at the domestic and international box office. The contenders are Pacific Rim: Uprising, A Wrinkle in Time, Isle of Dogs, Unsane, and Ready Player One.
Pacific Rim: Uprising has in fact been able to beat Black Panther‘s six-week streak at the box office. A Wrinkle In Time has been something of a flop for Disney, although Ready Player One is yet to receive a general release in the UK it promises better. Elsewhere, Isle of Dogs and Unsane are both exhibiting this week, and a number of smaller films are out for release. The figures are in and the general public has decided their favourites.
Pacific Rim Sequel Dethrones Black Panther
Most anticipated this weekend was the adrenaline-pumped Pacific Rim: Uprising. Taking $2.4m at the US box office on Thursday night, it somewhat underperformed with a mediocre $10m on Friday night. However, despite an unpromising start it has managed to dethrone its rival, overall taking $25m at 3708 North American screens while Black Panther took $16.7m in total over the weekend.
The first of the Pacific Rim instalments were noted for the way in which Oscar-winning Guillermo Del Toro brought humanity to an action franchise — capitalising on the appearance of Idris Elba, among others. Featuring Scott Eastwood and Star Wars’ John Boyega (whose character is based on Elba’s), the latest film reunites characters a decade in the future against a new threat. A co-production headed up by Universal Pictures, Pacific Rim: Uprising did indeed set out to take some of the highest box office takings this weekend, almost certainly due to its proximity to the superhero genre: aimed at the same demographic, it is essentially a cathartic Friday-night action adventure, and this stands in its favour as it faced up against other studio heavyweights.
A Wrinkle In Time disappoints Disney
Released in the UK this weekend, Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle In Time was just as hotly anticipated and also under global scrutiny due to its stellar cast: Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine and Zack Galafinakis headline, among others. Based on the novel of the same name, Disney has sailed away with the rights and marketed a larger-than-life children’s feature offering time travel, a relationship with an estranged father, and an Alice-in-Wonderland-style coming of age story. The spectacle looked promising, another magical addition to the Disney conglomerate. However, since its release several weeks ago in the US, it has been criticised as something of a box office flop: it received only $1.3m the day it opened and reached a humble $35m for its opening weekend. Considering Star Wars: The Last Jedi opened with $450m on its opening weekend in December, these figures are peanuts for Disney.
Isle of Dogs: surprise success for Anderson
From blockbuster to arthouse, there has been a lot of variety in the features released this weekend. Given that Wes Anderson’s films were often aimed at independent picture houses, the success of his two most recent films (Fantastic Mr Fox and Oscar-winning The Grand Budapest Hotel) have really propelled his work into the mainstream. Isle of Dogs has already had extensive criticism levelled at it for its ‘cultural appropriation’ of Japan, although this is open to debate since Anderson has hired Japanese personnel (including Yoko Ono herself) and has put a lot of thought into the animation process and therefore the world in which he has created. Indeed, this film has been years in the making and has received a lot of publicity due to dog-friendly screenings, urged by Jeff Goldblum and Bill Murray, taking place across the US and the UK. Earning $1.7m this weekend, it outperformed Anderson’s earlier features and held up a solid performance across 27 screens. It has yet to be released into the mainstream multiplexes in the UK, meaning that its international gross should improve on the domestic takings.
Unsane gets better reviews than audience ratings
Unsane, Steven Soderbergh’s latest creation, features a host of talent including Joshua Leonard and Juno Temple. Resembling Lynne Ramsay’s PTSD thriller You Were Never Really Here (released last week, but targeted at picture-houses and unfortunately falling off the radar with multiplex saturation bookings), it has gone down as well as might be expected, taking only $3.71m this weekend. Despite (or maybe because of) its low budget and the fact that it was shot entirely on an iPhone, a form of cinematic experimentation, this doesn’t promise the highest production values, and unfortunately many were disappointed with this big screen movie that didn’t pull off the look.
Other releases this weekend
A handful of other films were also released this weekend. Babak Najafi’s Proud Mary arrived at UK cinemas on Friday, but it is doubtful how well this Jackie Brown-esque heist it is going to hold up against other production giants and their releases. Smaller films such as this are certainly going to be worth watching later in the week after the initial cinemagoing waves have subsided.
Ready Player One: what will spectators have to say?
And finally, what we’ve all been waiting for. Ready Player One has generated a lot of hype since its trailer was released last autumn, and at advance screenings such as SXSW many have praised the film. It has received somewhat mixed reviews from critics, who have suggested that the story has been oversaturated by pop culture references, indulging itself in popular nostalgia. Soon we will be able to see for ourselves whether the film matches these criticisms or holds itself as another epic of Spielberg proportions. Warner Bros. can continue to ride on the success of Tomb Raider, which opened for general release last weekend, but will no doubt be receiving a bonus on their monthly paycheck for this latest release, due 28th March.
Ultimately, the box office takings provide the real answers to which features prove most popular over the course of the weekend. The combination of big-budget, experimental and smaller arthouse films debuting have proven that the numbers can’t be predicted – it’s almost impossible to tell which will be a favourite with audiences, let alone critics, until they’re out for exhibition. Let us know which films you saw this weekend and what you think of them via the comments below!