Box Office: John Krasinski’s ‘IF’ Aims to Impress With $40 Million Debut – Variety

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“IF,” a fantasy-comedy from director John Krasinski and star Ryan Reynolds, looks to collect a promising $40 million in its box office debut.

Based on projections, “IF” — short for imaginary friends — is tracking to land at least $35 million and as much as $45 million from 4,000 North American theaters. At the higher end of estimates, those ticket sales would mark a solid start for a live-action PG family film that’s not based on an existing property. But the movie cost $110 million, so it’ll need to resonate globally to justify its price tag. Ahead of its domestic release, “IF” opened last weekend in two overseas markets, France and Belgium, where it’s earned $3.7 million to date. It lands this week in 56 additional international territories.

Krasinski wrote, directed, prodiced and stars in “IF,” which follows neighbors Cal and Bea (Reynolds and Cailey Fleming) with the ability to see other people’s imaginary friends. While Bea’s dad (Krasinski) is in the hospital, she teams with Cal to reunites abandoned IFs with their former kids. The IFs are voiced by a star-studded ensemble of Steve Carell, Matt Damon, Maya Rudolph, Emily Blunt, Bradley Cooper, Jon Stewart and George Clooney. Reviews have been mixed, with Variety’s Tomris Laffly calling it “a sweetly old-fashioned yet messily conjured children’s tale that sadly falls short of its thematic ambitions.”

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However, critical sentiments may not matter to parents with young children — as evidenced by current box office projections. Theater owners have stressed there’s huge demand for films aimed at family audiences — and “IF” could fill the void that’s been left by the latest kid-friendly offering, “Kung Fu Panda 4,” in early March. “I wish Hollywood would give us a good family show every month,” one Kentucky-based exhibitor recently told Variety. “Waiting three months to take your kids to the movies is too long.”

Though “IF” is expected to lead in North America, it’ll be joined on box office charts by two fellow newcomers, the Amy Winehouse biopic “Back to Black” and Lionsgate’s new horror series “The Strangers: Chapter 1.”

From Focus Features, “Back to Black” is aiming for $4 million to $6 million from 2,008 locations in its domestic debut. Sam Taylor-Johnson directed the R-rated film, an intimate look at the life and career of a destructive musical genius. Marisa Abela plays Amy Winehouse, the British singer-songwriter who catapulted to fame with hits like “Back to Black” and “Rehab” and died of alcohol poisoning in 2011 at age 27.

Focus acquired the film in the U.S. and several international territories for less than $20 million. “Back to Black” has already grossed $34 million overseas.

Critics didn’t like the movie (it has a 40% on Rotten Tomatoes) but have overwhelmingly praised the performance of Abela, who did all her own singing. In Variety’s review, chief film critic Owen Gleiberman wrote that she “nails Amy Winehouse in every look, mood, utterance, and musical expression.”

“Back to Black” looks to trail behind “The Strangers,” which is targeting $7 million to $9 million from 2,800 venues in its first weekend of release. The movie cost $8.5 million, so it should be well positioned in its theatrical run. Lionsgate intends to turn “The Strangers” into a standalone trilogy — separate from the studio’s 2008 thriller of the same name, starring Liv Tyler — with Chapters 2 and 3 to follow. The first installment centers on a young couple (Madelaine Petsch and Froy Gutierrez), who are forced to spend the night in a remote cabin after their car breaks down in an eerie small town. Naturally, they are terrorized by masked strangers with seemingly no mercy or motive.

Elsewhere, last weekend’s champion “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” aims to add $23 million to $26 million in its second outing. So far, the fourth chapter in the “Apes” reboot franchise has generated $62 million domestically and $135 million globally.

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