Paramount will open Nickelodeon’s “TMNT: Mutant Mayhem” not on Friday, August 4 but on Wednesday, August 2. It’ll still go head-to-head with Jason Statham and Wu Jing’s “The Meg 2: The Trench” opening that Friday. Moreover, it still won’t get any Imax or PLF screens even for those first two days since those auditoriums will be going to Chris Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” or (if circumstances justify it) Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” or Disney’s “The Haunted Mansion.” However, it’s the latest big theatrical release to opt for an extended Wed-Sun weekend instead of a conventional Fri-Sun debut.
Universal’s “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” decided to open two days early and ended up with a $146 million Fri-Sun frame and a $204 million Wed-Sun debut. Does that mean the film might have nabbed the first $200 million animated opening weekend had it opted for a conventional Fri-Sun frame? Perhaps, since — especially with highly anticipated films — those who showed up on Wednesday or Thursday surely would have shown up on Friday or Saturday had those been the earliest options available. However, Universal knew the Illumination toon would garner strong consumer word-of-mouth and would take advantage of kids already out for spring break.
Paramount choosing to open “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part I” not on July 14 but instead on July 12 is slightly more complicated. Presuming the latest Christopher McQuarrie-directed Ethan Hunt actioner is as crowd-pleasing as “Rogue Nation” in 2015 and “Fallout” in 2018, Paramount surely wants to build buzz and consumer word-of-mouth heading into the traditional Fri-Sun weekend. Moreover, going two days early gives the Tom Cruise flick two extra days of Imax, Dolby and related PLF screens before losing them the next week to “Oppenheimer” and (in perhaps some non-Imax cases) “Barbie.”
To the extent that there is any three-dimensional chess involved, moving the buzzy and kid-targeted “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” animated flick up gives a little less time for Disney’s second attempt at a live-action “Haunted Mansion” to be the de-facto event film for kids. In the pre-COVID days, plenty of films, especially non-tentpole films, would opt for a Wednesday debut so as to build up word-of-mouth before heading into the standard Fri-Sun launch.
Or, as with “Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace,” opening on a Wednesday can spread the wealth so the die-hards don’t crowd out the general audiences. Opening “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” or “Godzilla Vs. Kong” on a Wednesday in the first half of 2021 was also an implicit way of assuring folks they could see the film on its opening jaunt without being in a jam-packed theater full of people.
As for this overall shift to Wednesday openings, it may portend to a trend we saw in the years before COVID, where word of mouth and buzz took slightly more precedence over frontloaded opening weekends. In pre-COVID times that was in the form of nationwide sneak previews for kid-friendly tentpole films like “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” “Bumblebee,” “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” and “The LEGO Movie 2.”
Paramount tried likewise earlier this year with nationwide sneak previews of “Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,” and one cannot argue word-of-mouth didn’t click even if it failed to convert those on the fence or indifferent to the pricy IP relaunch. Of course, moving the Chris Pine/Michelle Rodriguez action comedy from March 10 to March 31, which put it days away from “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” probably didn’t help.
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem,” which drops its second trailer on May 31, is presumably budgeted to where even a performance on par with “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” ($245 million in 2016) would be a big win. However, the film, starring actual teenagers — who recorded together — as the title heroes, needs to be both commercially successful and appropriately crowd-pleasing. 12 years after the Oscar-winning “Rango,” Paramount needs to show they can still make big-deal animated films outside of the “SpongeBob Squarepants” franchise and the “Paw Patrol” films.
See the poster below: