“The Magnificent Seven” and “Storks” are here to save the day. Last weekend, audiences rejected aflurry of sequels to tired franchises such as “Blair Witch” and “Bridget Jones’s Baby,” but help has arrived in the form of Denzel Washington and a band of lovable, baby-delivering birds.
“The Magnificent Seven” should debut to roughly $35 million, easily topping the domestic box office, while “Storks” is on pace to launch to $32 million, according to pre-release tracking. Both films should best last weekend’s winner, “Sully,” with the drama, about the “Miracle on the Hudson” plane landing, slipping to third place with roughly $13 million.
“The Magnificent Seven” reunites Washington with Antoine Fuqua, the director of “The Equalizer” and “Training Day,” two of the actor’s bigger hits. This one adds “Jurassic World” star Chris Pratt to the mix, and should have enough firepower to keep the pair’s hot streak alive. The film is a remake of the 1960 John Sturges western of the same name (itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai”), and centers on a band of gunslingers who must team up to save a mining town from a rapacious industrialist (a mustache-twirling Peter Sarsgaard).
Fuqua has said in interviews that he was motivated to make a new version of the oft-told tale because, “I just wanted to see Denzel Washington on a horse.” Saddle dreams aside, westerns can be a dicey proposition at the box office. They’re expensive to make and they don’t always have a lot of international appeal. For every hit like “Django Unchained” or “3:10 to Yuma,” there’s a “Jane Got a Gun” or “Lone Ranger”-style disaster. But if the genre has been hit-or-miss, Washington has been a remarkably consistent draw. He hasn’t had a film open to less than $20 million since 2007’s “The Great Debaters,” a tiny drama in which he directed and had a supporting role.
Shot for $90 million, “The Magnificent Seven” is backed by Sony Pictures, Village Roadshow, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the latter of which could use a hit. MGM is still smarting after “Ben-Hur,” its costly religious epic, collapsed last summer, losing at least $70 million in the process for the company and its production partners. Earlier this month, the film and television studio reduced its annual profit projections by roughly $50 million.
It appears MGM has found a rescuer in “The Magnificent Seven.” The film has solid reviews and is out-selling “The Equalizer,” according to online ticketer Fandango. That action-thriller bowed in 2014 to $34.1 million. Sony will push “The Magnificent Seven” across 3,665 locations stateside, while rolling it out in such international territories as the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, and Russia.
With “The Magnificent Seven” corralling older crowds, “Storks” will make a play for family audiences. The Warner Bros. release cost $70 million to make, a relatively economical price for an animated film considering that Pixar offerings routinely carry price tags north of $150 million. “Storks” follows a group of birds who once delivered newborns, but have instead been recommissioned to haul packages for an e-commerce giant (shades of Amazon). Andy Samberg, Kelsey Grammer, Jennifer Aniston, Keegan-Michael Key, and Jordan Peele head up the voice cast. “Storks” will land in 3,900 domestic locations and 34 foreign territories, including the likes of Russia, China, and India.
In limited release, Amazon and Broad Green will debut “The Dressmaker” with Kate Winslet. The quirky comedy, about a clothing designer who returns to her small, Australian hometown, will bow across 34 theaters in nine markets, including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.
While Washington and the storks should lift revenues, they also face difficult comparisons with the year-ago period. Over the same weekend in 2015, Sony debuted “Hotel Transylvania 2” to $48.5 million, while Warner Bros. launched “The Intern” to $17.7 million. Even a draw could seem like a victory.