‘Bullet Train’ To Zoom Ahead Of Competition As Summer Comes To An End

The summer is having its last stand for big studio movies this weekend with Sony’s Bullet Train, the comic action-thriller starring Brad Pitt. Based on the bestselling Japanese novel by Kōtarō Isaka, the film is set on the world’s fastest train between Tokyo and Kyoto. Pitt plays an assassin who wants to retire but is roped in to get his hands on a briefcase on the train only to discover that various world class assassins are on the same train with interconnected missions. David Leitch (former stuntman for Pitt as well as director of Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, Nobody, and uncredited co-director on the first John Wick) directs, and the large cast also includes Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Brian Tyree Henry.

Bullet Train is Pitt’s first starring role since 2019, which saw Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood (also from Sony) became the rare adult drama blockbuster, with $143 domestic and $375 worldwide (Pitt wasn’t alone in drawing the audience, of course, with co-star Leonardo DiCaprio and writer/director Quentin Tarantino sharing the credit). Pitt didn’t have the same luck with Ad Astra, which released just a few months later and grossed $50.2 million domestic and $127 million worldwide off a $90 million budget, but Pitt remains one of the few names name keeping star-driven, high-budget, original movies alive.

It’s hard to say where Bullet Train will end up in the long run and if it has the horsepower to recoup its $90 million budget. A good comp for the weekend is the Sandra Bullock/Channing Tatum starrer The Lost City, another star-driven original film combining comedy and genre fun, albeit with a different flavor (incidentally, it also featured Pitt in a cameo, and Bullock returns the favor in Bullet Train). That late March release opened to $30.5 million and grossed $105 million domestically, and such a finish wouldn’t be bad for Bullet Train considering the typically strong international skew on Pitt’s films (nearly all of them from the past decade have seen at least 60% of their box office abroad).

If the film opens well, it may be enough to push the overall weekend box office above $100 million after falling under by just $2.3 million last weekend, and this will likely be the last weekend for the next two months that even has the potential to cross that benchmark. The light schedule over the next few months is an unfortunate sign for the box office as a whole, but Bullet Train may benefit by being the only game in town when it comes to big-budget, star-driven Hollywood spectacle. The critical response is just okay at 56% on Rotten Tomatoes, but how audiences react is another story. Most of the world gets the film this week, though it will come later in Japan, South Korea, and Italy, and there is no release date for China.

The other studio release going wide is the comedy Easter Sunday from Universal. In the Jay Chandrasekhar directed film, comedian Jo Koy gets his first starring role as an actor and comic who spends the Easter holiday with his dysfunctional Filipino-American family. Co-stars include Jimmy O. Yang, Tia Carrere, and Tiffany Haddish. We’ve seen few live action comedies break out (or even get released at all) in the pandemic era, and it’s not clear if Jo Koy’s audience and America’s large Filipino community are enough for Easter Sunday to recoup its $17 million budget. No reviews are in yet.

Taking advantage of the quiet month ahead is A24, opening their slasher comedy Bodies Bodies Bodies in New York and Los Angeles this weekend before going wide next weekend. Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Myha’la Herrold, Chase Sui Wonders, Rachel Sennott, Lee Pace, and Pete Davidson star in this tale of rich Gen Z-ers who have a party at a mansion and play a game where one person is assigned as the murderer and the other players have to guess who it is. With plenty of drugs and alcohol as well as a looming storm, things soon go horribly wrong. At 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, critics are loving the Halina Reijn directed film which is based on a story by Kristen Roupenian.

Outside of the new releases, DC League of Super-Pets should come in second place after its $23 million launch last weekend. The hope is that the Warner Animation film will have strong legs a la The Bad Guys, which went from its $24 million opening in April to a $96.7 million finish. That film dropped just 32% in its second weekend for a $16.2 million gross. Nope will likely come in third place, and we’ll see how Jordan Peele’s third film fares in its third weekend after its 58% weekend two fall.

As for Top Gun: Maverick’s climb up the all-time domestic box office, on Wednesday it passed Jurassic World’s $653 million cume to become the 8th biggest domestic grosser ever, and this weekend it will pass Titanic’s $659 million cume for the number seven slot. After that, its crosshairs will be on Avengers: Infinity War in sixth place with $679 million.

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