Moms, it’s time to swap the paperback copy of “Normal People” for a movie ticket. “Book Club: The Next Chapter” opens on the big screen this weekend, and the sequel to 2018’s sleeper-hit septuagenarian comedy is expected to earn $7 million to $10 million from 3,507 North American theaters in its debut.
Focus Features is hoping the film, which reunites the core group of readers in Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen, will bring out the same crowd of older females that powered the first “Book Club” to $68 million domestically and $104 million globally. The original, which was released by Paramount, debuted to $13.5 million.
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The $20 million-budgeted sequel faces a tougher theatrical landscape than the first, with older audiences more reluctant to go to the movies because of the pandemic. But given the built-in awareness that benefits second films in a franchise, it’s surprising that “Book Club 2” is tracking below Paramount’s “80 for Brady,” a similarly lightweight comedy that opened earlier this year to $12.7 million. That film, essentially “Book Club”-but-make-it-sports, starred Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Rita Moreno and Sally Field as best friends whose obsession with Tom Brady brings them to the Super Bowl. “80 for Brady” ended its theatrical run with $40 million. A popular moviegoing cliche is that older crowds don’t always rush out on opening weekend, so Focus Features is expecting “The Next Chapter” to become the de facto choice for moms throughout May and into June.
For “Book Club 2,” analysts are anticipating an especially strong turnout on Sunday for Mother’s Day. It’s aiming for second place on box office charts behind “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” which will dominate again in its second weekend of release. After scoring $118 million to start, the third and final installment in the James Gunn-directed Marvel trilogy is projected to dip by 55%, putting ticket sales at roughly $50 million to $55 million. To date, “Guardians 3” has grossed $138 million in North America and $344 million globally.
Bill Holderman is returning to direct “Book Club: The Next Chapter” from a script he wrote with Erin Simms. The story follows the four best friends as they trade their immaculately designed kitchens for the streets of Italy in order to host a bachelorette party in honor of Fonda’s character, Vivian.
Like “80 for Brady,” Julia Roberts and George Clooney’s “Ticket to Paradise” and, of course, “Book Club” before it, “The Next Chapter” functions as escapist fun. Variety’s chief film critic Owen Gleiberman suggests it’s not the quality of the film, but the legendary actors on screen, that will attract audiences. He wrote in his review, “the first rule of ‘Book Club’ is: Never underestimate the cheeky sentimental old-girl-power irresistibility of ‘Book Club.'”
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