Will ‘Detective Pikachu’ Be Super Effective Against Disney’s Box-Office Domination?

Warner Bros. is trying to launch a new franchise between “Avengers” and “Aladdin”

Last Updated: May 11, 2019 @ 12:02 PM

With “Avengers: Endgame” well on its way to passing “Avatar” as the biggest box-office hit ever, Disney’s already firm grip on the box office has squeezed even tighter. Now it’s time to find out if the rest of Hollywood can find its own success this summer against the growing media behemoth, starting this weekend with Warner Bros./Legendary’s “Detective Pikachu.”

Movies based on video games have generally had a reputation for poor reviews and, aside from a few exceptions like “Resident Evil,” weak numbers at the box office. But “Detective Pikachu,” the first live-action film based on “Pokemon,” could buck that trend. Trailers for the film have built incredible social-media buzz thanks to the film’s CGI interpretations of various beloved Pokemon, as well as Ryan Reynolds’ voice performance as the electric mouse sleuth. Reviews have also been positive with a 71% Rotten Tomatoes score.

But with the cultural zeitgeist still centered heavily around “Avengers,” will “Detective Pikachu” get caught in Marvel’s undertow? Trackers are split in how they think the film will perform, with one projecting an opening in the mid-to-high $50 million range while another projects an opening in the $70 million range that would put it within reach of taking the No. 1 spot from “Avengers.”

But even if it takes that top spot, there’s a chance that “Detective Pikachu” may be a front-loaded release. While hardcore “Pokemon” fans — particularly millennials who grew up with the video game — may show up on opening weekend, casual moviegoers may split off to other major releases coming out later this month, such as “John Wick: Chapter 3” for adult moviegoers and “A Dog’s Journey” and “Aladdin” for female and family audiences. It will take strong word of mouth for a $200 million domestic run to be assured.

“It just seems to me like Pokemon isn’t being marketed as a family film,” said Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock. “It’s being marketed as something for teens and young adults, particularly males in those demographics. I have a hard time seeing younger kids or older parents having as much interest as they would in Pixar or Illumination films.”

“Detective Pikachu” follows Tim (Justice Smith), a disillusioned youth who gave up on his dreams of becoming a Pokemon trainer after his father went missing. His life is changed when he encounters a Pikachu (Reynolds) whom only he can communicate with, and who pushes Tim to find his father. Kathryn Newton, Ken Watanabe and Bill Nighy also star in the film, which is directed by Rob Letterman.

Also releasing this weekend are two films with women in the leading roles. First is United Artists/MGM’s “The Hustle,” a remake of “Bedtime Story” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” starring Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson as two scorned women who scheme to con the men who wronged them. The film is projected for an $11-12 million opening, with some trackers projecting a $14-15 million start.

In the upper range, “The Hustle” would match the $14.2 million opening for Wilson’s last film, “Isn’t It Romantic?” Alex Sharp and Dean Norris also star in the film, which is directed by Chris Addison.

Finally, STX will try to reach out to older audiences looking for a blockbuster alternative with “Poms,” a comedy starring Diane Keaton, Jacki Weaver, Pam Grier and Rhea Perlman as a group of women in a retirement home who decide to start a cheerleading squad. The film is projected for a $7-10 million opening.

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