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‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ to Steamroll ‘Matrix Resurrections,’ ‘Sing 2’ in Holiday Box Office Pileup

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As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. But pandemic or not, it seems ambitious to have seven new movies scheduled to open nationwide in the wake of “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”

That’s right, seven new films — “The Matrix Resurrections” (Warner Bros.), “Sing 2” (Universal), “The King’s Man” (Disney and 20th Century), “The Tender Bar” (Amazon Studios), “A Journal for Jordan” (Sony) and “Licorice Pizza” (MGM) — will make their way to North American theaters around Christmas Day and attempt to lure audiences away from the box office behemoth that is “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”

Cue the voice on the other end of Liam Neeson’s ominous phone call in “Taken”: “Good luck.”

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In non-plague times, it wouldn’t be unusual to slate several new films during the holiday season; the stretch between Christmas and New Year’s is typically the most lucrative time for moviegoing. But outside of comic book adaptations, hardly any pandemic releases have managed to sell a significant number of tickets, and outsized competition for screens certainly won’t help.

Some choose to look optimistically at the range of offerings as a boon for film exhibitors, who went months during the worst of the pandemic without many high-profile movies to offer.

“While there will certainly be casualties, there is no question that — without exaggeration — there is something for everyone,” says Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst with Comscore. “Multiplexes will be bustling with major foot traffic.

One thing is certain: “Spider-Man: No Way Home” isn’t slowing down. Concerns over the rapidly spreading Omicron variant of COVID-19 could result in a pileup for other new movies, but Sony’s comic book epic should again emerge unscathed.

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After collecting a stunning $260 million in its debut, “No Way Home,” the third chapter in Tom Holland’s web-slinging trilogy, has continued to turbocharge the box office. On Monday, the film collected a huge $37 million, which is more than most non-superhero films in 2021 have generated in their entire theatrical runs. Those figures, encouragingly reminiscent of pre-pandemic days, push “No Way Home” to $297 million domestically and put the film on pace to crush the $300 million milestone in record time. Sony’s superhero adventure added another $41.2 million overseas on Monday, boosting international revenues to $383.4 million. Globally, the latest “Spider-Man” movie has generated $680 million and looks to be the first pandemic-era release to cross $1 billion in ticket sales. Even more notably, it would be hitting that benchmark without China, the world’s biggest moviegoing market.

Over the next weekend, “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is expected to generate at least $90 million in its sophomore outing, another exceptional result. After “No Way Home,” the battle for second place will come down to Universal’s animated musical comedy “Sing 2” and “Matrix Resurrections,” which are getting a jump on the weekend by opening on Wednesday.

The fourth “Matrix” installment is targeting a five-day total around $40 million to $50 million from 3,550 venues while debuting simultaneously on HBO Max. The sequel to 2016’s family-friendly hit “Sing,” which is playing exclusively in 3,900 theaters, is expected to generate $40 million between Wednesday and Sunday. Those two films been well-reviewed and could become commercial smashes, but they have their obvious challenges. With plenty of options on the big screen, moviegoers could opt to watch “Matrix” for “free” when it lands day-and-date on streaming. And “Sing 2” caters to parents with young kids, which is a demographic that hasn’t been the most eager to go to the movies while a highly contagious virus continues to wreak havoc.

It’s been nearly 20 years since the Wachowskis’ seminal sci-fi series has last graced theaters. “Resurrections” acknowledges that time gap, picking up two decades after 2003’s “The Matrix Revolutions.” In the latest entry, directed by Lana Wachowski, Keanu Reeves reprises his role as the sleek cybercriminal Neo and Carrie-Anne Moss returns as Trinity — though neither remember each other or their past. However, Neo’s blue-pill reality changes when a new version of Morpheus (portrayed by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) offers him the infamous red pill and reopens his mind to the world of the Matrix.

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Variety’s Peter Debruge had mostly positive things to say about “The Matrix Resurrections,” calling it “a pop-subversive sequel smart enough to realize there’s no reason for it to exist.”

Reviews may be less vital to “Sing 2,” a jukebox musical that instead hopes to entice moviegoers with earworms like Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy,” Kygo and Whitney Houston’s remix of “Higher Love” and Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” Directed by Garth Jennings, the animated comedy tells the story of the optimistic koala Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) and his animal friends (voiced by Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Nick Kroll, Pharrell Williams and Taron Egerton) as they attempt to convince a legendary rock star (voiced by none other than Bono) to perform with them during a concert for a snooty media mogul.

In his review for Variety, Debruge wrote, “If ‘Sing 2’ sounds like a shameless excuse for a bunch of celebrities to perform cover versions of Top 40 hits while animated animals lip-sync the lyrics for our amusement … well, that’s essentially what it is.”

But, hey, that proved to be a winning formula for Fox’s Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Paramount’s Elton John musical “Rocketman.” In other words, don’t underestimate the power of foot-tapping jams on a giant screen enhanced by surround-sound.

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Heading for a fourth-place finish, “The King’s Man” is landing in approximately 3,100 theaters and hopes to collect $15 million to $20 million over the five-day frame.

“The King’s Man” is the third installment in the “Kingsman” film series and serves as an origin story about the independent intelligence agency. Matthew Vaughn directed the period spy action film, which stars Ralph Fiennes and follows a collection of history’s worst tyrants and criminal masterminds as they gather to plot a war to wipe out millions.

That leaves “American Underdog,” which is aiming for $7 million to $10 million from 2,700 cinemas, and “A Journal for Jordan,” which is projected to make $7 million or less from 2,500 locations. Since “The Tender Bar” is being released by Amazon Studios, the company likely won’t report box office grosses. And “Licorice Pizza,” the latest feature from director Paul Thomas Anderson, is only expanding its footprint nationally after playing in select theaters in N.Y. and L.A. in recent weeks.

A traditional crowd-pleaser akin to “The Blind Side,” the Lionsgate sports drama “American Underdog” stars Zachary Levi, Anna Paquin and Dennis Quaid and recounts the true events of the Los Angeles Rams quarterback Kurt Warner, who went from stocking supermarket shelves to becoming two time NFL MVP, Super Bowl champion and a hall of fame quarterback.

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Denzel Washington directed “A Journal for Jordan,” based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book about Charles Monroe King, a 1st Sergeant who is deployed in Iraq and keeps a journal of love and advice for his infant son. Sharing the diary with her child, his fiance Dana Canedy reflects on her unlikely yet powerful romantic relationship with King. The film cost $25 million.

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Former HBO Exec Len Amato Joins MasterClass as Chief Content Officer

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Len Amato, a 13-year veteran of HBO, joined MasterClass as chief content officer at the company that sells subscriptions to celebrity-led online courses.

In the new role, Amato will head up MasterClass’ content organization and help lead content innovation, strategy and development of class launches. He reports to David Rogier, founder and CEO of MasterClass.

Amato formerly served as president of HBO Films, Miniseries and Cinemax before he departed in late 2020. Most recently, Amato was an executive producer on HBO’s upcoming limited series “The White House Plumbers” through his production company Crash&Salvage, where he will continue to produce independently.

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MasterClass provides access to more than 150 online courses led by experts and celebs including James Cameron, Shonda Rhimes, Ken Burns, Jodie Foster, Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, Nas, Gordon Ramsay, Bob Iger, Metallica, Issa Rae, RuPaul, and Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. An annual membership to MasterClass starts at $180/year.

“Len has been a pioneer in creating premium, original content, and I’m thrilled to welcome him to the team,” Rogier said in a statement. “His passion for storytelling, proven leadership and ability to attract talent will help us expand and innovate, providing even more ways to transform our members’ lives through our content.”

“MasterClass is setting a new standard for premium content with its cinematic value and ability to intimately connect world-class instructors with its members,” Amato said. “I’m excited to continue to democratize learning by bringing these stories to life in new ways and scale the impact of our content.”

Amato joined HBO in 2007 as a senior VP and was promoted to president of HBO Films the following year. Under his leadership, HBO Films earned best television movie Emmys for originals including “Grey Gardens,” “Temple Grandin,” “Game Change, “Behind the Candelabra,” “The Normal Heart” and “Bessie.”

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Prior to joining HBO, Amato served as president of Spring Creek Productions. His producer and executive producer credits include “Analyze This” and “Analyze That,” “Possession,” “Deliver Us From Eva,” “Rumor Has It,” “Blood Diamond” and “The Astronaut Farmer.” Amato also was story editor for Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Productions. He started his film career in New York as a story analyst for various independent producers and studios. Prior to his career in the film industry, Amato was a musician and actor.

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Music Industry Moves: FKA Twigs Partners With Atlantic Records

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Along with her “Caprisongs” mixtape on Friday came the news that FKA Twigs has “partnered with Atlantic Records for this next exciting phase of her art,” according to the announcement. In the U.K., she will continue to release music via the Young label (formerly Young Turks) through Beggars Group.

“FKA twigs is the kind of artist you dream of signing — one with truly original vision, voice, and presence,” said Atlantic chairman-COO Julie Greenwald.  “She’s among the most compelling talents, always pushing her creative envelope to deliver emotionally honest music that’s both intensely personal and universal. We’re thrilled that she’s chosen Atlantic to be her home as she continues on her fantastic musical adventure.”

“The progression of FKA twigs’ music over the past decade has been extraordinary,” said chairman-CEO Craig Kallman. “She’s never content to stay in one place – constantly crossing musical boundaries, embracing fresh sounds, telling new stories, and exploring what’s next. An amazing vocalist, songwriter, lyricist, and producer, she’s barely scratched the surface of her potential, and we’re incredibly excited to see what she’ll be bringing her fans in the years to come.”

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+ Artist-services company AWAL has promoted Jennifer Kirell to senior vice president of catalog & retail marketing. Based in New York, she will report directly to Ron Cerrito, president of AWAL North America, and oversee and support artist and label partners. Prior to joining AWAL, Kirell spent 11 years with Sony Music Entertainment at Legacy Recordings, where she led global marketing campaigns and audience development strategies for artists including Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Johnny Cash and others. Cerrito said, “Jennifer is a goal minded, follow-through obsessed, results oriented, serial over achiever with a deep understanding of modern music marketing.  She is also a thoughtful leader and people manager. We are proud Jen is a member of our executive team and look forward to continuing to redefine catalog and retail marketing into the future.”

The 2021 deal that saw Kobalt selling AWAL to Sony for $430 million remains under review by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority.

+ RCA Records has named Alex John director of publicity. She joins after two years at Red Bull Records, where she worked with Blxst, the Aces and producer WondaGurl. Over the course of her seven years in the business has also worked for Listen Up (where she worked with Martin Solveig, Kevin Saunderson, Jamie Jones and others), FYI Brand Group (Jhené Aiko, Tyga, DJ Khaled) and M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment (Sprite, Coca-Cola, WAV Media).

 

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