Here’s the big deal: The Wolverine threequel is rated R, the first time ever for the franchise. Ratcheting up a sequel’s rating from a PG-13 rating to an R, is quite uncommon, particularly after the series has established itself with a general audience (that said, there have been various franchises in the past that have tamed their ratings in an effort to grab a greater audience, i.e. 2005’s Fantastic Four moving from a PG-13 to a PG with 2007’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer; also 1984’s Police Academy going from an R to a PG-13 with its 1985 sequel). However the R-rating is a risk well worth taking. As Fox proved with Deadpool, fanboys want more red meat in their superhero movies; previous ones include The Watchmen. Kick-Ass, Blade, 300 and The Punisher.
So will more bloodshed and boobs keep business at bay for Logan?
Hell, no. Stateside, the movie, which is directed by its previous sequel’s helmer James Mangold, is looking to gross at least $65M which would rank as the second best debut in the Wolverine series following its 2009 first chapter X-Men Origins: Wolverine ($85M). Worldwide the Marvel superhero looks to scratch at least $170M, $105M of that coming from all foreign territories save Japan (a new Doraemon movie is opening there — best to stay away from that). Exiting an all-media Los Angeles screening two weeks ago, journos couldn’t be happier with Logan with that heat translating into a 94% Certified Fresh Rotten Tomatoes rating.
However, there’s a chance that Logan will climb higher around the world, the wildcard, natch, being China. Here in the states, it’s the widest R-rated release ever in an estimated 4,071 theaters. Of that its the widest Imax R release at 381, and PLF at 580. Rivals think Logan has a total shot at blowing past $70M. Previews start Thursday at 7PM.
As far as China goes, that market always comes with its own set of vagaries, but it also has a locomotive steaming through in the form of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (The Lego Batman Movie is also opening this weekend, although the original did not release there). Still, we know the Middle Kingdom can be on-and-off. If the current stream of goodwill towards Hollywood pics — i.e. Resident Evil and xXx: Return Of Xander Cage — continues, Logan could claw out a bigger overall opening number sending its foreign debut well past $130M.
China was the top market on 2013’s The Wolverine, finaling at $41M. Last year’s X-Men: Apocalypse grossed $121M in the Middle Kingdom and 2014’s Days Of Future Past picked up $116.5M in the PROC.
Logan also counts great reviews overseas which were first spurred by the world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival. Leading men Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart were in attendance, shining a global media spotlight on the movie, which Mangold said he hoped would reach a wide audience with thought-provoking fare. “It’s important that movies that reference pop culture and are franchises and have large national audiences do something more than sell Happy Meals or T-shirts but make audiences ask questions,” the director said.
Apart from appearing in Berlin, the team traveled to London and did a big junket in Taipei. Overseas, as elsewhere, the title “Logan” has an impact on awareness; it’s not entirely clear this is an X-Men movie, in other words. And while that title and the marketing have been massaged in some cases overseas, once audiences get their claws in, the expectation is that the movie will leg out.
In a sign of prescience among the writing team, issues surrounding the Mexican border were already in the script, Jackman said in Berlin, before the U.S. presidential debates began. There is hope that the story, a darker look at the X-Men universe — which Jackman pitched as “Little Miss Sunshine with Marvel characters and violence,” per Mangold — will resonate in today’s world.
The last time Jackman sprouted adamantium claws in a spinoff, The Wolverine came in low domestically ($132.5M) but was also, at the time, the biggest of the full franchise offshore at $283M. It has since been overtaken by X-Men: Days Of Future Past, Deadpool and X-Men: Apocalypse. Deadpool, given its R rating domestically and the X-Men heritage would seem like a comp, but this movie is likely to have a different demo.
The biggest market overseas on The Wolverine was China, followed by Russia at $22.2M, Brazil at $21.4M and the UK with $21M. Mexico was also a key play. There have been big currency swings in those markets so, as per usual, a grain of salt needs to be taken when comping older dollars to today’s.
Also opening this weekend stateside is Open Road’s teen chick flick Before I Fall (est. projection $3M-$4M at 2,346 venues) and Lionsgate’s faith-based Sam Worthington-Octavia Spencer movie The Shack based on the William P. Young bestseller which has sold north of 10M copies. Rival estimates have the Stuart Hazeldine-directed opening between $10M-$12M at an estimated 2,800 locations. We’ll have more details on those movies later. Previews begin at 7PM on Thursday for both titles.
On March 2nd, The Shack‘s preview in 2,000-plus theaters will be hosted by popular radio personality, Delilah. Moviegoers will be treated to an exclusive interview with Delilah and Young as well as behind the scenes interviews and footage with the cast and a recorded performance by chart-topping country duo Dan + Shay, whose song from the soundtrack, “When I Pray for You,” has become a hit on Country Music charts.
Universal/Blumhouse’s Get Out is projected to ease between -35% to -40% for $20M-$21.6M.