Box office preview: ‘Bullet Train’s’ 2nd weekend takes on multiple new releases, plus ‘Top Gun’ and … ‘E.T.’?

This is going to be an epic weekend at the box office, and yes, I’m being about as sarcastic as I can be in this intro, because this weekend is what we call in the biz… “a complete mess.” Read on for Gold Derby’s box office preview to see what movies will be competing against Brad Pitt‘s latest hit “Bullet Train” as it enters its second weekend.

I honestly have no idea studios were thinking when not one of them said, “Hey, this might be a good weekend to release something we originally planned for later in the year.” Instead, we’re getting a slew of new movies opening moderately – nothing in more than 2,000 theaters – while A24 expands its Gen-Z horror comedy “Bodies Bodies Bodies” into roughly 1,200 theaters to make a concerted play into the softer box office.

One of the more significant movie events this weekend might be the fact that Tom Cruise’s “Top Gun: Maverick” stands a good chance at breaking back into the top five, possibly even the top three. Realizing this, Paramount decided to expand its brand-new record-setter into premium theaters (IMAX, Dolby, etc.) for a “Fan Appreciation Weekend.” More on that below.

A24 did okay this past weekend with Halina Reijn’s young ensemble horror film “Bodies Bodies Bodies” averaging almost $37,000 per theater. With a major nationwide expansion and some recognizable names/faces, such as recent “Saturday Night Live” departee Pete Davidson, it’s likely to break into the bottom part of the Top 10 with $3 to $4 million.

Lionsgate is opening Scott Mann’s thriller “Fall” in nearly 1,400 theaters to directly face-off against “Bodies X3” with its tale of two young women (Grace Caroline Currey and Virginia Gardner) who decide to climb a remote 2,000-foot radio tower… and then get stuck there. It will offer similar thrills as the A24 movie for teen and older moviegoers, and it also stands a good chance of getting into the Top 10, but probably with less than $3 million.

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Before we get into the other new movies, Universal is re-releasing Steven Spielberg’s 1982 blockbuster “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” into 300 IMAX theaters across the country to celebrate the popular family film’s 40th anniversary. I think it could actually take in around $2 million this weekend, which might not be enough to get into the Top 10, but it should still do better than other new movies opening in more theaters.

The third presumably-nationwide release – rumored to be somewhere in the 2,000 theaters range, but I’m not sure I believe that – is Gravitas Premiere’s wacky body-swap comedy, “Mack and Rita,” starring Elizabeth Lail as Mackenzie Martin, a 30-year-old L.A. Insta-fluencer with aspirations toward being an older woman. She gets her wish when she visits a guru (Simon Rex from last year’s “Red Rocket”) who “resets” her into 70-year-old Diane Keaton. Of all the releases, I probably have the least faith in this one, a shame, because it’s Katie Aselton’s first movie as a director in 10 years. It just doesn’t know who it’s meant for, and that might turn off both younger AND older women.

Paramount Pictures also makes a surprising foray into the world of Bollywood this weekend with “Laal Singh Chaddha,” a Punjabi-language remake of the Oscar-winning Tom Hanks epic “Forrest Gump.” There tends to be a fairly dedicated Indo-American audience for all things Bollywood in this country, and with this opening in roughly 450 theaters, the awareness from its source material should drive business up to $1.5 million. Unfortunately, that won’t be enough to get into the Top 10.

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We also get two movies that were generally well-received at Sundance back in January: James Ponsoldt’s coming-of-age drama “Summering” and John Patton Ford’s directorial debut “Emily the Criminal,” starring Aubrey Plaza. Both are getting more moderate releases, while both are also offering something different from other movies in theaters. “Summering” seems to be in roughly half as many theaters as “Emily” (roughly 200), so it probably will end up with under $500,000 this weekend, while Plaza’s crime-thriller is more likely to break out. “Emily” has also received far better reviews, so there’s that, too.

What those who play the box office prediction game will want to keep a close eye on is their picks for third through fifth place. As mentioned above, “Maverick” is expanding and could theoretically jump back up to #3, but then there are three movies that are likely to make between $4 and $5 million. There’s no way of knowing until Sunday, or maybe even Monday, which ones will place fourth and fifth. Good luck!

Check back Sunday to see all the movies above do. After opening with $30 million last weekend, “Bullet Train” will be #1 again with less than $20 million, and that will start a string of weekends where it will be tough for any new movie to make more than that amount. “The Dog Days of Summer” indeed.

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