Box-Office Preview: ‘Morbius,’ Despite Terrible Reviews, Could Score

April could have three films opening to over $50 million, but it’s still not enough to match April 2019.

For the first time since last October saw “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” “No Time to Die,” and “Dune,” April will produce three releases that may pass $100 million in domestic grosses: “Morbius” (Sony), “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” (Paramount), and “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” (Warner Bros.), all of which have a chance to open over $50 million.

That could go a long way toward reducing the current box-office imbalance that has “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “The Batman” responsible for 57 percent of the domestic box office. For 2022 through March 31, box office totals about $1.325 billion. In 2019, the first three months represented $2.5 billion.

The business desperately needs consistent performance from a wider range of films, and in quicker succession. April will present nine wide-release films, many (but not all) based in franchises.

First up is “Morbius.” The third film in Sony’s “Spider-Man” spinoff universe (after the two “Venom” titles) opens April 1, 21 months after its initial planned date. It was most recently set for January, but faced another delay due to Omicron and the preservation of “Spider-Man” screens.

No one expects it to approach the $80 million opening of “Carnage” last October (itself a shock; Sony suggests $40 million as likely). Initial reviews are dreadful, but “Carnage” was largely panned as well. The studio again predicts $40 million, per sources, which suggests it believes there is some chance of $50 million or more.

in February, 2020, the first “Sonic the Hedgehog” was the last film to open above $50 million pre-Covid. It grossed nearly $150 million before theaters shut down a month later, then enjoyed major PVOD success. The second rendition of a successful animated family film often opens equal or ahead of the first. The lack of family alternatives since “Sing 2” should propel the April 8 opening of “Sonic 2” to above $50 million, followed by a strong and sustained run.

The following week is Easter weekend and the opening of the third film in the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise. The prior films opened the weekend before Thanksgiving in 2016 and 2018, both to over $60 million. For “Dumbledore,” $50 million seems doable.

Other openers include Michael Bay’s lower-budget “Ambulance” (Universal) with Jake Gyllenhaal, which already opened overseas to mixed results. It goes April 8 domestically. Also due from Universal April 22 is “The Bad Guys,” from Dreamworks Animation, also open already elsewhere.

“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent”

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Lionsgate has Nicolas Cage in “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” on April 22. The film premiered at SXSW to stellar reviews and momentum for its star after “Pig” became a big VOD hit last fall. Also aided by reviews will be the expansion of SXSW opener A24’s “Everything Everywhere All at Once” on April 8. Focus has Robert Eggers’ highly anticipated “The Northman” April 22. All are strong additions to an otherwise conventional schedule.

Wrapping up the month is “Memory” (Open Road). Yet another Liam Neeson thriller, these have begun to see sharply diminishing returns.

All told, a rough guess for the month is $600 million-$650 million. That would better March’s $575 million, even with “The Batman.” It would be only a small relative improvement against 2019 with its late-April opening of “Avengers: Endgame,” which contributed $427 million in just five days. This year, Disney returns to opening its early-summer Marvel title the first weekend of May with “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.”

No April openings have a same-day streaming alternative. Most, including “Morbius,” “Sonic,” and “Beasts,” will likely have at least 45-day windows. That’s critical for theaters that are anxious to restore the idea that home availability isn’t immediate.

May has “Doctor Strange” and “Top Gun: Maverick” (Paramount), both of which cover open over $100 million, but April is the opportunity to get more people back in the moviegoing habit. Maybe this time, momentum can be sustained.

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