At a time when Disney/Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame is still the boss at the box office with a running global total of $2.27 billion, Legendary Entertainment/Warner Bros’ Pokémon Detective Pikachu is looking to push his way in and grab as much as he can with a $50 million–$55 million domestic opening weekend at 4,200-plus theaters, and another $90M-$120M offshore for an average global launch near $160M-plus.
In the U.S. and Canada, Pikachu will have to settle for second as Endgame‘s third weekend eyes $75M-$85M, which would be the second best haul for a third weekend after Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ $90.2M.
The tracking for Pikachu in the U.S. and abroad has raised the eyebrows of many rival distribution executives, with many bracing for a surprise. While it skews family, the hope is that it plays broader, à la Shazam! However, there is a fanbase for Pokemon cemented in recent years by the success of the Pokemon Go mobile app game. In addition, the film’s awareness has been heightened by the comedic attitude of Deadpool‘s Ryan Reynolds (albeit in a PG tone).
Still, there’s a hulking presence in overseas markets with Endgame not expected to plummet after just a 55% dip last weekend. That’s making Pikachu projections a bit dicey. The pic currently counts 71% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. U.S./Canada previews kick off at 4 PM on Thursday and will have premium ticket boosts from PLFs, Dine Ins, Motion Seats, and Drive Ins.
Internationally, Pikachu will release in 62 markets through Friday (Russia is not in the opening suite). The film directed by Rob Letterman bowed early in Japan last weekend, grossing $6.9M locally, though this is not necessarily an indicator market. Despite the popularity of the Pokémon brand in Japan, Pikachu is not expected to overindex there. Part of the reason is that an animated Pokémon pic comes out there every year in July, having done so since 1998. While Detective Pikachu is a live-action hybrid, the market is more in tune with this as a children’s property. There’s also the issue that Hollywood adaptations of Japanese source material can be a tough sell.
China is where Pikachu should take off this weekend, with estimates ranging from $40M-$60M locally. Early Middle Kingdom reaction has been positive, although there are no social scores yet. One codicil here is that we hear some of the big chains are not giving the movie an abundance of showtimes, treating it more like an animated opening meaning evening shows might be hindered. However, with the backing of Legendary on this estimated $150M production, there is some local brawn. Of course, there’s also still the Endgame factor, though the Disney/Marvel juggernaut has naturally slowed this week.
Pikachu should tap into family markets like the Latin American majors. Germany has also been one of the key homes for earlier iterations of the Pokémon franchise put out by Warner Bros.
In terms of game-to-screen comps offshore, we’re looking more at The Angry Birds Movie, which in 2016 opened to $43M in 74 markets (not including China, which bowed to $29M), all at unadjusted rates (it ultimately performed best in China, the UK, Germany, Russia and Brazil). Despite the Rovio game’s popularity, it did not feature a major star like Reynolds.
Warners is also expected to be looking at comps like Bumblebee as a franchise hybrid (China, UK, Korea, Mexico and Indonesia were its ultimate best markets) and 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (China, Russia, UK, Mexico, Brazil). Neither of those had similar rollout patterns so are difficult to size up on a like-for-like basis.
Reynolds has been out promoting Pikachu with the biggest pushes in Japan and China. On April 25, a premiere was held in Tokyo with Reynolds alongside Letterman and stars Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton and Ken Watanabe. Also in April, Reynolds, Smith, Letterman and Newton gathered for fans in Beijing with Chinese actor Lei Jiayin (The Wandering Earth, Crazy Alien, How Long Will I Love U), who voices the titular character in the local version.
Pikachu is not alone this weekend with counter-programming looking to play off Endgame. That didn’t work last weekend for the most part, with STXfilms’ UglyDolls going to the dogs with a $8.6M opening and Lionsgate’s Long Shot going short at $9.7M. Screen Gems’ The Intruder with to its $5M production did alright with $10.85M.
This weekend, United Artists Releasing/MGM will be doing The Hustle, the femme reboot of the 1988 comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. The new pic starring Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson is banking on women of all ages over the Mothers Day weekend with some males for a $12M start. No RT score registered at this point in time. Previews begin on Thursday at 7 PM.
STXfilms is also looking at older moms with their $8M-$9M American Film Market acquisition of eOne’s Poms, which estimates have between $7M-$10M at 2,750 theaters. Pic stars Diane Keaton, Jacki Weaver, Pam Grier, Celia Weston and Rhea Perlman and is about a group of women in a retirement community who start a cheerleading squad. Last year during the third weekend of May, Paramount launched its older-skewing Keaton-Jane Fonda-Candice Bergen-Mary Steenburgen ensemble comedy Book Club to $13.5M; it wound up with a 5x multiple of $68.6M. Poms has no RT score yet. Previews start at 3 PM tomorrow.
Fox Searchlight has Tolkien, which the studio is pushing wider than it usually does at 1,425 theaters (it’s nice having Disney behind you). However, the pic is expected to log in the low-single digits. Dome Karukoski directs from David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford’s screenplay. The pic, produced by Chernin Entertainment, follows the formative years of who would become the famed Lord of the Rings author, with his life during World War I being a big inspiration for his Middle-Earth novels. Previews start at 6 PM on Thursday.