During the current worldwide pandemic, movie studios are no longer providing box-office figures because theaters have been shut down around the nation and the world. Because we are less interested in the actual figures themselves and more interested in what people are watching over the weekends, each week we will dive into Most Streamed and Bestseller Lists on Fandango, iTunes, Netflix, and Hulu to pinpoint the weekend’s most watched films.
I have been running the above message in italics since last March, and while theaters aren’t open for new theatrical movies yet, we are starting to get actual box-office numbers again, largely from drive-in theaters, which represent most of the moviegoing business being conducted at the moment. It’s a shame most of them ran out of business over the last 30 years, because they are doing very well now.
To wit: Empire Strikes Back is the top movie at the weekend box office, thanks to drive-in theaters. In fact, this is the third different year that Empire has led the box office: In 1980, upon its release; with the 1997 re-release, and now during the 2020 pandemic, when it is occupying most of those drive-in theater screens around the country. It should earn around $500K this weekend, which ain’t bad for a 40-year-old film. Meanwhile, as a sign of how the more things change, the more they stay the same in a pandemic: Even in decidedly lo-fi drive-in theaters, Disney holds all three of the top spots this weekend, with Empire and the re-releases of Marvel’s Black Panther and Pixar’s Inside Out. Disney has apparently come in and chased even the low-budget movies, like Wretched and Becky, out of theaters.
Back in our living rooms, where most of the business is still being conducted, Rod Lurie’s The Outpost (based on the book by CNN’s Jake Tapper) is now dominating both the Fandango and iTunes charts. I’ve seen a lot of promotion for it on Twitter, but that’s probably because I follow Jake Tapper on Twitter. Beyond that, there’s not much to say about the VOD charts this week, as it’s mostly titles we’ve ran across a number of times over the last four months: Trolls World Tour, King of Staten Island, and Mel Gibson’s Force of Nature is doing OK. Honestly, if viewers are really into watching a movie set during a storm, watch Crawl, an alligator film set during a hurricane. It is fantastic, and super fun. Trust me!
There were a couple of other indie flicks released to VOD this weekend that I wish had broken out, and are at least worth mentioning: Relic, the atmospheric horror film starring Emily Mortimer that has scored 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and A24’s First Cow, which sits at 96 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Check them out.
Maybe the two best mainstream films of the summer were also released on streaming platforms this weekend, although neither one of them was Tom Hanks’ Greyhound, which I’m sure is doing well for Apple TV+, even though I thought it was a snoozer [Vince disagrees, and so do most critics (79 percent on RT)]. I am more referring to Hulu’s Lonely Island Groundhog Day movie, Palm Springs, which is hilarious and maybe the best movie I have seen this summer (both Vince and Mike agree, as do most critics, who have given it a 93 percent on RT).
The other is the weekend’s top film on Netflix, Charlize Theron’s Old Guard, which Mike correctly suggests is probably the closest we’re going to get to a summer-blockbuster this summer, although with 81 percent on RT, that’s better than most summer blockbusters. It’s a really fun movie, and I say that as someone who hasn’t been all that impressed, yet, with some of the big-budget Netflix movies, like Bright and Extraction. This one is both very good and very fun.
On Netflix, The Old Guard was followed by The Lorax, the Netflix original Desperadoes, and a 2019 indie horror flick I’ve never heard of called Only. It stars Frieda Pinto, Leslie Odom Jr. (from Hamilton), and Chandler Riggs, the latter of which suggests I should at least see what this movie is about (the smattering of reviews for it give it mostly mediocre marks). Meanwhile, for reasons that elude me, the terrible 2008 Kevin James and Adam Sandler movie I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry is at number five. Adam Sandler does very well on Netflix.
I’m not seeing that much worth mentioning among next weekend’s VOD and Netflix releases, which means it’s probably a good time to catch up on any of the great movies released this weekend you didn’t get around to like: Relic, First Cow, Old Guard, and Palm Springs. Or Hamilton on Disney+. Or, you can head to the drive-in. I think that Beetlejuice is making the rounds in drive-in theaters next weekend.