After three weeks of mostly "Avengers"-fueled windfalls for the box office, the market is starting to slow down again heading into Memorial Day Weekend. Disney might be able to boost numbers again next week with "Aladdin," but for now, Lionsgate is hoping to win over audiences looking for a more mature action flick with "John Wick: Chapter 3 -- Parabellum."
The return of the Keanu Reeves revenge series comes as Lionsgate tries to rebuild after two years of box office frustration. 2018 saw domestic grosses plummet to $388 million, and new heads Joe Drake and Nathan Kahane have set out to rebrand Lionsgate as a studio that can be a haven for creators, particularly those with original ideas.
The "John Wick" series has stood as a prime example of that image. At a time when franchises from pre-existing IP dominate the charts and watercooler talk, "Wick" has become an acclaimed series with a devout cult following thanks to the combined work of Reeves' performance, Chad Stahelski's direction, and creator Derek Kolstad's screenplays. The first "John Wick" made $88 million ($43 million domestic) against a $20 million budget in 2014. Three years later, "John Wick: Chapter 2" nearly doubled that total with $171 million grossed ($92 million domestic).
Now, critics are saying that "Chapter 3" is the best "Wick" yet, with reviews currently giving the film a 95% score on Rotten Tomatoes. With a well-earned R rating for its graphic violence, there's a ceiling on how much it can earn; but "Chapter 3" is currently projected for a $37-39 million opening, and tracking could rise into the $40 million range later this week.
By comparison, "John Wick: Chapter 2" earned an opening of $30.4 million in February 2017. Lionsgate is also projecting that "Chapter 3" will have the highest opening in the series, with studio estimates slightly more conservative in the low $30 million range.
Should "Chapter 3" leg out to over $100 million domestic, it will be the first Lionsgate release to hit that mark since "Wonder" back in November 2017. The studio has had a few modest successes over the last few months, most notable the $74 million theatrical run of "A Madea Family Funeral." But last month also saw the studio's remake of "Hellboy" flop terribly with $21.8 million grossed against a $50 million budget before marketing.
Picking up immediately after the events of "Chapter 2," "John Wick: Chapter 3 -- Parabellum" sees the world's deadliest assassin on the run after his vengeful actions led to his excommunication from the international brotherhood of hitmen. With a $14 million bounty on his head and every assassin in the world on his heels, John must find a way to survive with only one ally: a fellow assassin and old friend named Sofia (Halle Berry.) Laurence Fishburne, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick, Anjelica Huston, and Ian McShane also star.
Also releasing this week is Universal/Amblin's "A Dog's Journey," the sequel to "A Dog's Purpose." Directed by Gail Mancuso, the film is projected to open to $10-14 million, lower than the $18 million opening earned by "A Dog's Purpose" in January 2017.
The sequel continues the adventures of Bailey (Josh Gad), a reincarnating dog who found his way back to his first owner, Ethan (Dennis Quaid) at the end of the first film. Now, at Ethan's request, Bailey begins a new life helping his old owner's daughter, CJ (Kathryn Prescott).
Finally, there is Warner Bros.' teen drama "The Sun Is Also a Star," Ry Russo-Young's adaptation of Nicola Yoon's novel about a quantum physics student whose blooming relationship with a classmate is challenged after her family faces deportation threats. The film is expected to open outside the top five this weekend with a $6-8 million opening.