Box Office: FATE OF THE FURIOUS passes $1B worldwide on quiet pre-season opening weekend

It’s official: Universal has inducted a new member into the billion-dollar club with THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS, F. Gary Gray‘s latest entry in the FAST & FURIOUS franchise. The blockbuster, which followed in the footsteps of James Wan‘s entertaining FURIOUS 7, which took in $1.52 billion internationally, held onto the top spot for its third frame this weekend with $19.6 million domestically while it stands $1.06 billion at the global box currently. The movie itself is indeed a profanely misogynistic mess but there’s simply no avoiding the victory here. On the upside, it may very well allow Gray to make more substantive movies like STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON in the near future.

This is the story that will be dominating all coverage of the box office this weekend but there’s enough reason to take this all with a grain of salt. If anything, the triumph of THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS should serve as a sobering reminder that the monetary take of a movie has exactly zero bearing on the quality of the film, even if that fact has been evident for decades now. And a year will not go by in the future without one or two movies at least crossing the billion-dollar mark, making the speciality of such an honor just a bit diminished in the scope of all this. In other words, the box office story of the year is still the stunning success of Jordan Peele‘s GET OUT, not that another marketed-to-death blockbuster making a prophet despite it’s absurdly gigantic budget.

And below the number one spot, there was plenty to be fascinated by over the weekend at the box office. While James Ponsoldt‘s THE CIRCLE floundered with $9.3 million in total domestically, landing it in fourth place, two unexpected hits have risen from a more targeted marketing landscape with HOW TO BE A LATIN LOVER and BAAHUBALI: THE CONCLUSION landing in the second and third place respectively. The Eugenio Derbez comedy vehicle took in $12 million while BAAHUBALK 2 came in with $10.1 million, and neither were pushed hard in terms of familiar TV marketing placement. They were movies targeted to selective demographics rather than something like THE BOSS BABY, which came in fifth with $9 million in its fourth frame, or THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS, both of which lose their tone and coherence in hopes of hitting as many demos as possible.

Here’s your top five at the domestic box office:

1. ‘The Fate of the Furious’ $19.38M
2. ‘How to Be a Latin Lover’ $12.01M
3. ‘Baahubali: The Conclusion’ $10.13M
4. ‘The Circle’ $9.32M
5. ‘The Boss Baby’ $9.05M

Live-action MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE film gets a December 18, 2019 release date, David Goyer writing!

It’s good news for the live-action MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE remake (and bad news depending on how you feel about the “filmmaker” McG). Sony Pictures announced yesterday that the reboot will be released in theaters on December 18, 2018, but EW reports that the film is also now without a director. The CHARLIE’S ANGELS and TERMINATOR SALVATION filmmaker McG has been attached to the MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE reboot since early 2016, but it appears he’s since fallen off the project.

A live-action take on the popular ‘He-Man’ cartoon has been in development for years now, but has been somewhat cursed. Warner Bros. dropped the property in 2009, but then Sony picked it up and set G.I. JOE: RETALIATION filmmaker Jon M. Chu to direct. That obviously didn’t pan out, and in the meantime Sony has had an army of writers trying to tackle the screenplay.

Per EW, MAN OF STEEL scribe David S. Goyer is now on the screenwriting case as Sony is meeting with potential directors. In 2014 the studio considered filmmakers like Harald Zwart (THE KARATE KID remake), Chris McKay (THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE), and Mike Cahill (ANOTHER EARTH), so possible they’ll go back to that well or maybe they’ll search for fresh blood—McKay is probably out of the running, as he’s currently attached to a live-action NIGHTWING movie at Warner Bros.

It’ll be interesting to see who Sony sets to direct this film, which one imagines will set the expectation for what kind of blockbuster this is meant to be. One could go a variety of ways—skew young and cartoony like the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES movies, or aim for something a bit grittier and ‘Game of Thrones’-esque. It’s no secret that fantasy projects are a gamble for studios—sometimes you get LORD OF THE RINGS and sometimes you get WARCRAFT—but Sony needs a new big franchise badly, so they’ll no doubt put their best foot forward here.

FIGHT CLUB’s David Fincher set to direct Brad Pitt in the zombie epic sequel, WORLD WAR Z 2!

Last month, WORLD WAR Z 2 producer David Ellison said he hoped that the film would be able to land David Fincher to direct. Fincher was first rumored for the gig back in August 2016, but now Variety reports that the notoriously selective director is close to signing on for the film. So what made the pieces fall into place. First, there was star and producer Brad Pitt wooing Fincher for another collaboration. The duo previously teamed up on SE7EN, FIGHT CLUB, and THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, and as both a star and a producer on WORLD WAR Z 2, Pitt would likely be able to protect Fincher from studio interference (a kind of behavior that goes back to their days working on SE7EN when Fincher wanted Kevin Spacey for the John Doe role, and the studio balked at Spacey’s price tag until Pitt backed up his director).

But as Variety points out, another motivating factor was the involvement of Paramount’s new chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos. Gianopulos has not officially greenlit WORLD WAR Z 2 yet, but is expected to do so in coming weeks. Furthermore, Gianopulos and Fincher have history. They most recently collaborated on GONE GIRL, Fincher’s last feature film before he decided to pursue TV projects, his latest being ‘Mindhunters’ at Netflix. If Fincher does come on board, he’ll have plenty of time to prep. Production isn’t expected to begin until early 2018, which makes sense since Pitt is slated to start filming on James Gray’s AD ASTRA this July.

While Fincher has been wary of directing a sequel ever since his nightmarish experience on ALIEN 3, all the pieces are in place for him to do something exciting with WORLD WAR Z 2. The first movie was a hit, but not to the point where it created an unshakable foundation. Additionally, giving Fincher a blockbuster and providing him the room to succeed could yield bigger projects for the director down the road. These are ideal circumstances for Fincher even if a WORLD WAR Z sequel seems like an unusual choice at first blush. Here’s hoping it all comes together and we’ve got a new Fincher film in theaters by 2019.

ALIEN: COVENANT prologue connects the dots between PROMETHEUS and COVENANT, film due May 19, 2017!

CAUTION: Spoilers for ALIEN: COVENANT and PROMETHEUS abound:

As part of the ‘Alien Day’ celebration yesterday, 20th Century Fox has released “The Crossing”, a new, official prologue to Ridley Scott‘s ALIEN: COVENANT that not only reveals the fates of Elizabeth Shaw and the android David after the events of PROMETHEUS, but also stars Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender in their former roles. That’s a pretty big deal considering that this sequence is not expected to be part of the finished film, though it does answer part of the question of what Shaw and David have been up to on their spacefaring journey.

But perhaps it reveals too much. Some recent images released by Empire revealed some curious scenes which we assumed were from ALIEN: COVENANT, but at least one of them was actually from this new short film. Here’s what we’re seeing: As David himself explains, only he and Shaw survived the PROMETHEUS expedition. They managed to take one of the Engineer’s ships and, while headed to the alien creators’ home planet, Shaw fixed David up, reattaching his severed head to his body. Since there are 30 years that take place between PROMETHEUS and ALIEN: COVENANT, it’s safe to say that this journey took quite some time, which is at least part of the reason David puts Shaw in hypersleep.

However, while David was left to his own devices, he began studying the Engineers’ culture and history…which led him to make some very rash decisions. Not only has he literally been poking around in various xenomorph specimens, he appears to be the one who rains down biological terror on the Engineers’ home planet as he drops urns full of “black goo” upon the masses, likely transforming the planet into the hostile world it is when the folks aboard the “Covenant” arrive. Pretty spoilery for a prologue video, especially one with finished effects, major movie stars, and a major story point. Methinks this was a scene from ALIEN: COVENANT that was cut and repackaged as a prologue, which works just the same, but raises some intriguing questions.

Starring Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Amy Seimetz, Jussie Smollett, Callie Hernandez, Nathaniel Dean, Alexander England, and Benjamin Rigby, ALIEN: COVENANT opens May 19th.

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE SILVER CHAIR nabs CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER’s Joe Johnston to direct!

The long-developed CHRONICLES OF NARNIA franchise revival is finally taking wing. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER director Joe Johnston has signed on to helm THE SILVER CHAIR, the new NARNIA pic that will kickstart an all-new franchise for Tristar Pictures,the Mark Gordon Company, the C.S. Lewis Company, and Entertainment One. Based on the fourth novel in Lewis’ beloved ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ series, the adapted script comes from LIFE OF PI screenwriter David Magee, and offers the perfect opportunity to soft reboot the franchise with a narrative that follows, not the Pevensie siblings of the first three books (and films), but their cousin Eustace Stubb and his classmate Jill Pole as they set out to rescue Prince Rillian, son of the now wizened King Caspian.

“Joe is a wonderful storyteller who is equally at home in the biggest franchises and the most intimate character pieces,” producer Mark Gordon said (per Variety). “Because C.S. Lewis’ story is iconic and epic, but also tender, personal, and emotional, he’s the perfect choice to bring ‘The Silver Chair’ to the screen.”

The Mark Gordon Company and The C.S. Lewis Company took over the rights from The Walden Group back in 2013, when they first announced plans for a SILVER CHAIR adaptation. The project was picked up by Sony’s TriStar in summer of 2016. When Collider caught up with Gordon a few months before the TriStar deal, he made it very clear that there was no plans to cross over the new iteration of NARNIA with Disney’s previous films. “No, it’s all going to be a brand new franchise,” he told us. “All original. All original characters, different directors, and an entire new team that this is coming from.”

Disney’s first CHRONICLES OF NARNIA film, THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, was a box office success grossing $745 million worldwide. Its sequel, however, landed to tepid box office results, earning only $419 million in 2008, and Disney subsequently dropped the franchise. Fox 2000 picked it up with THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER, which kept the original cast intact and failed to match its predecessor with $415 million, which is when Fox 2000 pulled the plug. Now, THE SILVER CHAIR is looking to give NARNIA a proper relaunch with the aim to turn it into a hit international franchise again. Johnson, who has worked as a sort of journeyman studio director over the last few decades, is a fitting choice with a track record for solid family-friendly adventures including HONEY I SHRUNK THE KIDS, THE ROCKETEER, and JUMANJI.

Ewan McGregor cast as CHRISTOPHER ROBIN, A.A. Milne’s son, in live-action ‘Winnie the Pooh’ film!

After setting a 2019 release date for THE LION KING yesterday, Disney is casting up yet another one of its upcoming live-action remakes of animated classics. Per THR, Ewan McGregor is in talks to star in CHRISTOPHER ROBIN, otherwise known as the live-action ‘Winnie the Pooh’ movie. The film picks up with the titular character as an adult businessman who’s now lost all sense of imagination and is instead focused on his work…that is until Pooh shows up at his door one day with a new adventure. It’s basically a HOOK remake.

This film was really interesting when it began, as Disney tapped indie filmmaker Alex Ross Perry to write and direct. Then last fall the Mouse House instead put FINDING NEVERLAND filmmaker Marc Forster in the director’s chair and brought in Oscar-winning SPOTLIGHT and UP co-writer Tom McCarthy to pen the script. Now, in addition to McGregor’s potential casting, THR reports that Oscar-nominated HIDDEN FIGURES co-writer Allison Schroeder has been brought in to take yet another pass at the screenplay.

McGregor has been a busy bee as of late, and this won’t be his first live-action Disney remake. He played Lumiere in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, which opened last month and has now grossed over $1 billion at the box office. The wildly talented actor is currently wrapping up filming on the third season of FX’s ‘Fargo’ and is attached to star in LIKE CRAZY and EQUALS filmmaker Drake Doremus’ next film ZOE opposite Lea Seydoux. Fans have also been clamoring for Lucasfilm to make an Obi-Wan spinoff STAR WARS movie, something McGregor has said he’d be open to, but thus far that’s still just a fan-generated idea.

Disney is really ramping up its live-action remake slate after finding huge success with films like BEAUTY and THE JUNGLE BOOK. Next year will see the release of MULAN and possibly Guy Ritchie’s ALADDIN, while Tim Burton is gearing up to start filming on DUMBO soon. And with McGregor’s potential casting, it sounds like CHRISTOPHER ROBIN may be a priority as well.

RIP Johnathan Demme (1944-2017), director of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

It is with great sadness that I share the news that legendary filmmaker Jonathan Demme has died at the age of 73. Per IndieWire, the Oscar-winning director passed away from esophageal cancer and complications from heart disease, for which he was originally treated in 2010 and suffered a recurrence in 2015. He is survived by his wife, the artist Joanne Howard, and their three children.

Demme was, honestly, one of the most versatile filmmakers who ever lived. He first broke into the business in the early 70s working with producer Roger Corman and directing films like CAGED HEAT and CITIZENS BAND. In the 80s, Demme delved into action romcom territory with SOMETHING WILD as well as the comedy MARRIED TO THE MOB, while also helming one of the greatest music documentaries of all time: the Talking Heads concert film STOP MAKING SENSE.

In the 90s, of course, Demme really soared. He won the Best Director Oscar for 1991’s masterful THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, which is one of only three films to win Director, Picture, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay, not to mention the only horror film to ever win Best Picture. Demme then followed that up with 1993’s tremendous PHILIDELPHIA, which at the time was something of a controversial decision. The drama tackled the AIDS epidemic at a time when there was still great stigma surrounding the disease, and it’s a testament to Demme, Tom Hanks, and an admittedly reluctant Denzel Washington that they made a push to make this film and bring AIDS and the LGBT community to the forefront of the conversation. The movie won Tom Hanks a Best Actor Oscar.

In the subsequent years, Demme stretched his talents on a variety of films to varying degrees of success, such as the CHARADE remake THE TRUTH ABOUT CHARLIE and the thriller THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE. Demme returned to form in 2008 with RACHEL GETTING MARRIED, and his most recent narrative feature was the lighthearted 2015 film RICKI AND THE FLASH.