Disney’s live-action take of their 1992 half-billion grossing animated hit Aladdin finally takes flight over the Memorial Day weekend frame, and while we’ve typically trumpeted the lofty-end of projections for most global launches, especially Disney’s, we’re going low on this one with $73M-$75M domestic (including Monday’s holiday), and $173M-$175M worldwide.
First to Disney’s credit, they’ve been bold about staking out the Memorial Day period for several years. They have yet to beat their own holiday opening record from 12 years ago, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End ($139.8M). But here’s what has gone on: the Memorial Day period has increasingly become slower as the earlier part of the month (heck, the end of April) has become the official start of the summer season. In addition, in recent B.O. history, Disney, despite its doggedness, has struggled with launching movies over Memorial Day weekend with a string of disasters including 2010’s Prince of Persia, ($37.8M 4-day), 2015’s Tomorrowland ($42.6M), 2016’s Alice Through the Looking Glass ($33.5M), 2017’s tired Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales ($78.4M) and last year’s No. 1 $250M upset, Solo A Star Wars: Story (which squeezed out $103M). Aladdin we hear cost around an estimated $183M, which is just north of Dumbo‘s $170M net production cost before P&A.
Coming away from CinemaCon, rival studio attendees were hating on the Aladdin footage in the room, some saying that Will Smith looked scary as the genie. However, tracking has shown that the Guy Ritchie-directed musical had made progress and skewing toward females, looking better than Disney’s live-action Cinderella particularly in awareness measures, a pic which opened to $68M domestic in March 2015.
Reviews have yet to hit with Aladdin; there’s no RT scores yet. If it’s high, then an $80M+ four-day is within reason, and potentially a $200M global opening as well. But we’ll see about that. Ritchie is in need of a box office redemption after the back-to-back bombings of 2015’s The Man From UNCLE ($13.4M opening, $45.4M domestic) and 2017’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword ($15.3M, $39.1M domestic).
Aladdin will play in 4,400+ theaters (including over 2,700 3D locations, 400 IMAX screens, 700 Premium Large Format screens and 200 D-Box/4D locations) with previews starting tomorrow at 6pm and select fan event screenings at 5pm.
Prince Ali and the Blue Genie hit all offshore markets this session, save Japan, with industry sources eyeing a $100M—$120M overseas start. For China, we have heard three-day opening projections in the market of $10M-$20M. The high end of that range would near the neighborhood of Cinderella and Maleficent, but can still come in lower. Those two films, along with Jungle Book (which did an outsize $50M at unadjusted rates in its China opening) are seen as the best overseas comps.
Overall, in like-for-likes and at today’s rates, Jungle Book bowed to $160M abroad, Maleficent did $107M and Cinderella $85M.
Jungle Book was ultimately an animal at $603M internationally (led by China, UK, India); Maleficent did $517M (led by Japan, China, Mexico) and Cinderella made $342M (led by China, Japan, UK) – all of those are unadjusted finals.
Given the mix of markets that performed at the top of the charts for those three films, comparisons are not so cut-and-dry. The swing will be on China, as well as potentially Korea and the rest of South East Asia. The Middle East is expected to fare well considering the source material, one overseas exec told us. In terms of family markets, Latin America looks primed to embrace the genie and Europe as a whole should put up solid numbers.
While we hear Japan is teed up to play well, Aladdin doesn’t go there in the opening suite. In the UK, this will be a bank holiday weekend (which feeds into half-term school breaks). But it is also a crowded corridor as The Secret Life Of Pets 2 takes its British bow and the Elton John biopic/musical fantasy Rocketman (with an over-15 age rating) is landing fresh off its hot Cannes premiere. Elsewhere, John Wick: Chapter 3 is still playing and adding a couple of key markets, but this is not a demo crossover to be concerned about.
Stateside, John Wick: Chapter 3 via Lionsgate is expected to do an estimated $37M in four days during its second weekend. Through Tuesday, the Keanu Reeves action pic counts $69.1M. Word-of-mouth for Aladdin, we hear, should be a positive factor, particularly where there is holiday play-through.
Turning back to China on Aladdin, Will Smith hasn’t had a major film in the market in several years, although he has traditionally been very popular there (Men In Black 3 did over $77M in the Middle Kingdom back in 2012). There was no local star-studded premiere for Aladdin, though a large-scale mall exhibit went to Tier 1 and 2 cities, and will continue through mid-June. An Aladdin-themed projection show will also play on Shanghai Disneyland’s castle every night from mid-May to early-June. One issue we hear in China is that younger folks may have less interest in Aladdin given that the rest of the cast does not have a big social following in the market.
In terms of other offshore promotion, Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Ritchie and composer Alan Menken made a number of stops on a global tour, including gala/fan screenings at Le Grand Rex in Paris, Odeon Leicester Square in London and UCI Luxe in Berlin. Massoud and Scott showed up at Cinepolis Oasis Coyoacan in Mexico City, and a screening in Amman, Jordan. In Japan, Smith and Menken joined Japanese voice cast in a parade and performed onstage for fans. TV-wise, Scott and Smith both appeared on Graham Norton’s couch and Smith was on Late Night Berlin.
The song “A Whole New World” was covered by local artists in eight countries including Brazil, Korea, Japan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and India. Becky G joined ZAYN in singing and recording a music video of it in Latin American Spanish, as well. Top influencers from multiple European and Latin American markets attended a masterclass with Menken and recorded an Aladdin inspired collaboration music video for the same song.
In Australia, there was a special push at the Grounds of Alexandria from early May, with four zones inspired by Agrabah and Aladdin, including Cave of Wonders and a lamp display. In India, popular rapper/singer Badshah created an inspired-by MV/single “Sai Hai Bro.”
The UK has a giant lamp installation that was placed in Leicester Square for passers-by to make a wish. Smith, on May 10, surprised them with custom responses and emerged from the lamp for a select few. Further, an Agrabah-style food market was hosted today at the Pergola on the roof, offering various cuisines from countries along the Silk Road by renowned UK-based chefs.
In the states, counter-programming which has struggled in the shadow of tentpoles like Avengers: Endgame, Pokemon Detective Pikachu and John Wick Chapter 3, pushes forward.
Sony has Brightburn, an R-rated $6M net James Gunn produced R-rated superhero horror movie which tracking has the potential do north of $12M over four-days, maybe substantially more. Thursday previews start at 7PM at 2,250 locations and expand to 2,605 locations by Friday. The conceit: What if a child from another world crash-landed on Earth, but instead of becoming a hero to mankind, he proved to be something far more sinister? We hear that tracking for Brightburn, starring Elizabeth Banks and directed by David Yarovesky, has made gains in recent weeks, is skewing toward battles, but is battling moderate awareness. However, sometimes genre makes late surges. Reviews are pretty good on this film at 80%. In the wake of the Gunn being bashed by the right-wing last summer, and the whole brouhaha over the firing and re-hiring on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Sony sought to protect this film on the calendar. They originally had it in post Thanksgiving corridor and moved to a summer launch in hope that the pic catches on.
United Artists Releasing has the Annapurna young female high school comedy Booksmart which is leaning female, of course. Directed by Olivia Wilde, pic stars Bernie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever as two academic superstars who on the eve of their graduation realize they should have worked less and played more. The girls try to cram four years of fun into one night. Estimates at 2,500 locations are in the mid-to-high single digits. Thursday previews start at 7PM.