Can ‘Death on the Nile’ and ‘Marry Me’ Wake Up the Box Office on Super Bowl Weekend?

The Big Game usually means few tickets sold. With the pandemic, it will be even fewer

For decades, it has been a given that Super Bowl weekend is a slow one at the box office. Combine that with the ongoing struggles with the pandemic, and business is expected to be even slower despite the arrival of two new wide releases.

Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s “Death on the Nile” is expected to take No. 1 this weekend with trackers projecting an opening of just $11-13 million, less than half of the $28.6 million opening that Branagh’s last Poirot adaptation, “Murder on the Orient Express,” opened to in November 2018.

“Death on the Nile” was greenlit by 20th Century Fox after “Orient Express” grossed $352 million worldwide against a $55 million production budget, but has been idling since the pandemic and Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox delayed its release. (This is the last pre-merger project to hit theaters.) In fact, it’s been idling so long that star Armie Hammer has become a PR liability.

While the Shawn Levy comedy “Free Guy” was a surprise original hit for the studio last summer, other 20th Century releases like “The Last Duel” and “West Side Story” flopped at the box office, leaving it unclear how much of a presence the label will have in Disney’s future theatrical plans beyond James Cameron’s “Avatar” saga.

“Death on the Nile” has received mildly positive reviews, with a 65% Rotten Tomatoes score rating, but considering that “Orient Express” had nearly half of its opening weekend audience come from the 50+ age demographic, this film is likely to suffer the same fate as “Last Duel” and “West Side Story,” which were also developed to appeal to older moviegoers that are still staying home.

Also opening this weekend is Universal’s “Marry Me,” a romantic comedy starring Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson that is projected for a $9-10 million opening. Last November, Universal announced that the film would become the third to be released simultaneously in theaters and on Peacock, joining “The Boss Baby: Family Business” and “Halloween Kills.” It has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 62%.

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Jeremy Fuster

Box Office Reporter • • Twitter: @jeremyfuster