‘IF’ Is the Sort of Film the Box Office Hasn’t Had in Years

This weekend’s top film at the box office will likely be Paramount’s “IF,” an original family film directed by John Krasinski that is the kind of offering that hasn’t been in theaters in many years.

In some respects, it is much like numerous family films you’ve probably seen TV spots for: silly CGI-animated creatures voiced by A-listers cavorting in a live-action world with a bewildered human protagonist, played this time by Ryan Reynolds, the Wrexham AFC co-owner and soon-to-be 2024 summer box office king.

What sets “IF” apart is that all the recent live-action/CGI hybrid family films at the box office have been based on a franchise. “Sonic the Hedgehog,” “Peter Rabbit,” “Paddington,” “Detective Pikachu” and “Clifford the Big Red Dog” are just some of the IP that fall into this category.

“IF,” on the other hand, is an original screenplay, and to find an original live-action/CGI family film to compare it to, one must go all the way back to 2011 with the Universal film “Hop,” which opened to $37.5 million at Easter before inflation adjustment and grossed $184 million worldwide against a $63 million budget.

Family films that have original screenplays have had a hard ceiling on their box office performance. Disney/Pixar’s “Elemental” has performed the best, rallying from a Pixar-worst $29.6 million opening to gross $154 million domestic and $496 million worldwide.

Universal/Illumination’s “Migration” was also a slight success with $127 million domestic and $297 million worldwide against a $70 million budget this past winter. Then there are films like Disney’s “Wish,” which carried a tentpole budget and made less than “Migration” with $255 million worldwide.

“IF,” with its reported $110 million budget, is a roll of the dice for Paramount. Sequels to franchises like “Kung Fu Panda” and “Minions” and video game adaptations like “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” and “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” have ruled the roost. But Paramount is hoping it can attract families without the advantage of having familiar characters that kids will recognize instantly.

Right now, it’s looking like “IF” won’t make too much of a splash. Pre-release projections for trackers are topping out at a $40 million opening, but exhibition sources and rival distributors tell TheWrap they believe that $35 million is the ceiling for “IF” this weekend.

What could help defy those lower expectations? The one thing that could is the two-month gap between “IF” and the last family film in theaters, “Kung Fu Panda 4.” Paramount is banking on that lack of child-friendly offerings to create a hunger among families to head out to the theaters as schools start their summer breaks in the coming weeks.

That inertia will also have to overcome tepid reviews, as early critical notices for “IF” have led to a 58% Rotten Tomatoes score at time of writing. We’ve seen family films like “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” overcome mixed reviews for box office success; but again, those films had the advantage of an appealing IP to help develop that critic-proof status.

Building up strong word-of-mouth is also critical for “IF,” because it will face direct competition on Memorial Day weekend from Sony Pictures Animation’s “Garfield,” which stars Chris Pratt as Jim Davis’ famous lasagna-loving comic strip cat.

While “Garfield” hasn’t maintained the pop culture clout it once held in the 90s and 2000s, it’s still a fully animated movie that will be competing for families’ attention during the critical late May holiday period. With families gravitating to what they know when deciding whether to spend $50 or more for four movie tickets — not including popcorn and soda — “IF” will need to stand on its own merits to leg out.

“Back to Black” and “The Strangers — Chapter 1” Also Hit Theaters

Meanwhile, two other wide releases will have marginal contributions to this weekend’s overall grosses. Focus Features’ “Back to Black,” a biopic about the famed singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse, is projected for an opening weekend of $3-6 million from 2,000+ locations.

Starring Marisa as the late “Rehab” singer, “Back to Black” is suffering from negative reviews with a 39% Rotten Tomatoes score. But as we’ve seen with “Bob Marley: One Love” earlier this year, music biopics can still find success if they win over the fans of the musician being featured.

That is what Focus is counting on, as “Back to Black” has grossed $34 million so far overseas, including $13 million in Winehouse’s native United Kingdom, where StudioCanal is handling distribution. Focus has licensed the film out to foreign distributors in other territories, helping lower the break-even point for the film.

Finally, Lionsgate is releasing “The Strangers — Chapter 1,” the start of a reboot trilogy to Bryan Bertino’s 2008 slasher film. With a microbudget of $8.5 million before costs for a digital-first marketing campaign, “Strangers” should be able to get in the black as it is projected for a $7-9 million opening from 2,800+ theaters.

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