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Friday Box Office: ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ Stumbles While ‘Candyman’ Tops ‘Candyman’

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at January 1, 1970

While nobody was expecting Universal’s Dear Evan Hansen to top the weekend box office in its debut Fri-Sun frame, I was wondering if it might at least pull a chart-topping opening night. As you may recall, there were a few movies at the end of Titanic’s four-month reign at the top of the domestic box office charts that bested James Cameron’s boat epic on Friday night only to fall to second place over the weekend. Alas, Dear Evan Hansen is no Man in the Iron Mask, U.S. Marshals or 20th anniversary rerelease of Grease. The critically drubbed musical adaptation of the Tony-winning Broadway show opened yesterday with just $3.3 million, including $800,000 in Thursday previews. At this point, we’re hoping for a $7.5 million weekend. That would, Covid curve or not, still be a disappointment for the $26 million drama.

However, the film has a poor 33% and 4.8/10 average critic rating but a 93% and 4.5/5 audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. The Ben Platt-starring melodrama, co-starring Juliane Moore, Amy Adams, Kaitlyn Dever and Amandla Stenberg, also nabbed an A- from Cinemascore. Critics and online media folks somewhat declared war on the “problematic” drama (involving an introverted and anxious high schooler who ends up faking a crowdpleasing narrative about having been friends with a recently late classmate). 28-year-old Platt (who originated the role on stage and whose father is one of this film’s producers) took the bulk of the scorn for reprising and admittedly looking more like Channing Tatum in 21 Jump Street than Logan Lerman in The Perks of Being A Wallflower. Yet paying audiences seem to like the film just fine.

This isn’t necessarily a “critics are wrong but audiences are right” screed. When I was a young man, I didn’t take it personally when my local paper panned the latest superhero actioner or slasher sequel. Moreover, I have become weirdly protective of studio programmers and “just a movie” movies in a tentpole/franchise era. Right or wrong, I’ve become increasingly disgruntled at those who would declare holy war on “weird” studio flicks like Book of Henry, Collateral Beauty or, yes, Dear Evan Hansen (with a dash of depiction = endorsement subtext) and then wonder why Hollywood mostly concentrates on franchises and/or makes many of those franchise flicks as vanilla as possible. If we want more unique mainstream theatricals, we can’t react in horror to every non-predigested plot beat or unsympathetic character reveal.

I liked Dear Evan Hansen as “just a movie” trying to walk a tightrope between World’s Greatest Dad social commentary and Wonder-style uplift. I don’t disagree with all the criticisms but too much of it was online snark or acting as if unpleasant feelings or awkward/macabre moments were automatically incorrect. The strong audience scores do offer the mere possibility, however unlikely, that it’ll pull Greatest Showman legs as the only big musical in town amid a slew of franchise-specific tentpoles. Do I think this Benj Pasek and Justin Paul-crafted musical will leg out like Titanic and end up with $100 million domestic? Nope, but if it pulls a 6.66x multiplier (hail Satan?) and passes $50 million domestic, I will have a hearty laugh. Or maybe Occam’s Razor applies, and it’ll crawl past $20 million.

In non-Disney holdover news, Universal’s Candyman earned $1.12 million (-31%) on its fifth Friday for a $2.46 million (-30%) weekend and $56.8 million 31-day cume. That puts it past the adjusted-for-inflation domestic cume of the first Candyman ($25 million in 1992/$56.4 million adjusted). Nia DaCosta and Jordan Peele’s R-rated slasher sequel will pass $70 million worldwide today or tomorrow, which means the $25 million flick should triple its budget by the end. No, that doesn’t even account for whatever it’s earned on PVOD since last Friday, where is it still either above or below F9 in the top two slots at most VOD platforms. That it’s still holding well theatrically qualifies as a win/win and good news for Free Guy which debuts on VOD this Tuesday. Maybe Hollywood can have its cake and eat it too.

Warner Bros.’ Cry Macho earned $720,000 (-30%) on Friday for a $2.46 million (-55%) second-weekend gross and $8.228 million ten-day cume. The movie is pretty good, and WB made a smart move announcing a handful of Clint Eastwood classics (Unforgiven, Dirty Harry, etc.) for limited theatrical re-release to provide a positive Eastwood story last weekend. James Wan’s terrific Malignant earned $440,000 (-47%) on Friday for a $1.4 million (-48%) weekend and $12.2 million 17-day total. Alas. Open Road’s Cop Shop, which I saw and rather liked this week, earned $400,000 (-58%) on Friday for a likely $1.23 million (-47%) weekend and $4.46 million ten-day cume. The Joe Carnahan actioner, starring Alexis Louder alongside Frank Grillo and Gerard Butler, is another example of ignoring the very inclusivity we claim to want unless it’s packaged in a pre-approved franchise.


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