Can “Mean Girls” make fetch happen at the box office?
Paramount’s new take on the teen classic is aiming to generate $30 million from 3,800 North American theaters over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. The studio projecting a debut in the high $20 million range. Those ticket sales would, indeed, be fetch because “Mean Girls” cost just $36 million to produce. It was originally commissioned to stream on Paramount+, but executives opted to release the film theatrically after audiences responded enthusiastically during test screenings.
The Plastics 2.0 won’t be the only newcomers to keep movie theaters bustling over the holiday frame. Amazon MGM’s “The Beekeeper,” an action thriller directed by David Ayer and starring Jason Statham, is expected to score a solid $17 million to $19 million over the four days. Another new release, Sony’s biblical comedic drama “The Book of Clarence,” is aiming for $7 million between Friday and Monday.
“Mean Girls” is adapted from the 2018 Broadway musical, which is adapted from the 2004 movie, which is adapted from the 2002 book “Queen Bees and Wannabees.” Although Tina Fey returned to write the screenplay (and reprised her role as North Shore math teacher Ms. Norbury), the movie musical has a tough act to follow (creatively speaking; the film seems well positioned financially based on initial projections). The original, starring Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams and Amanda Seyfried as teen royalty, is an insanely quotable touchstone that taught a generation that butter is not a carb and turned Oct. 3 into a national holiday.
Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr. directed “Mean Girls,” starring Angourie Rice as Cady Heron, Reneé Rapp as Regina George and Auliʻi Cravalho as Janis ‘Imi’ike (née Ian). The movie centers around Cady Heron, a once “home-schooled jungle freak” — Regina George’s words, not ours — who attempts to navigate the terrifying world of high school cliques.
“The Beekeeper” is hoping to work as counterprogramming to “Mean Girls.” Statham stars as Adam Clay, a former operative who sets out to exact revenge after his friend falls for a ruinous phishing scam and dies by suicide. Reviews are under embargo but Statham has described the film as “sophisticated and cool, full of heart and excitement.” Amazon MGM didn’t produce or finance “The Beekeeper,” so the studio is only on the hook for the cost of booking the movie in theaters.
Jeymes Samuel (“The Harder They Fall”) wrote and directed “The Book of Clarence,” which counts Jay-Z among its producers. LaKeith Stanfield plays the titular Clarence, a down-on-his-luck man who tries to capitalize on the rise of Jesus Christ by claiming to be a new Messiah sent by God. Fans of faith-based cinema are considered an underserved demographic, but Sony is taking a gamble on whether those audience members will watch Scripture stories laced with profanity.
“The Book of Clarence” will ideally skew secular because it carries a $40 million price tag and requires a modest turnout to justify its budget. Variety’s Guy Lodge praised the film, writing in his review that “Biblical cinema could use more messengers with Samuel’s eccentricity and daring, alive to the limitations and biases that have hitherto made for such a stylistically uniform genre.”
Elsewhere, Disney is bringing “Soul” to theaters for the first time. It’s one of three Pixar films — “Turning Red” and “Luca” are the others — that launched on Disney+ during the pandemic and will now play in cinemas in 2024. Disney is not expecting to ignite the box office by bringing these Pixar films to multiplexes two-to-three years after they premiered. In fact, “Soul” will remain on Disney+ as the Oscar-winning existential animated drama makes its way to 1,300 North American locations this weekend.
But the studio is hoping that audiences will begin to reassociate Pixar movies with the big screen after families were, in the words of the animation empire’s president Jim Morris, trained to watch those movies on streaming. For theater owners, it’s an opportunity to populate marquees with something new(ish) and offset a sparse release calendar.