Box Office: Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum Rom-Com ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ Eyes $12 Million Liftoff

Can good old fashioned star power and solid reviews propel “Fly Me to the Moon” to the top of the box office?

Well, even Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum, whose names appear above the title, are no match for Gru. “Despicable Me 4” is widely expected to top the charts in its second weekend of release, earning more than $30 million. However, “Fly Me to the Moon,” a romantic comedy set against the backdrop of the 1960s’ Space Race, is on track to debut to $12 million. That’s a solid result for a movie aimed at adults, particularly one that’s opening in the midst of summer, a time of year dominated by franchise fare and animated titles.

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However, getting Johansson and Tatum to meet cute in the halls of NASA wasn’t a cheap proposition. “Fly Me to the Moon” cost more than $100 million to make, so it’s probably not going to be wildly profitable during its theatrical run. Apple Original Films, which doesn’t seem to be overly concerned with the whole making money on movies thing, is footing the bill, as it did for other pricey, star-driven ventures such as “Killers of the Flower Moon” and “Argylle.” Sony Pictures is distributing the movie in 3,300 locations, having previously partnered with Apple on last fall’s “Napoleon.”

Greg Berlanti (“Love, Simon”) directs “Fly Me to the Moon,” which follows Johansson as a marketing guru brought in to work on the Apollo 11 spaceflight alongside Tatum’s launch director. Hearts start to flutter before Neil Armstrong’s feet hit the surface of the moon. Critics were on board with the picture, with Variety‘s Peter Debruge calling it “a crowd-pleaser [that] is the rare 21st-century rom-com to boast the brains and heart to support repeat viewing.” That’s good news for Apple, which justifies the cost of a theatrical release as a way to raise awareness for films like “Fly Me to the Moon” before they land on the company’s streaming platform, Apple TV+, where they can be watched and re-watched by subscribers.

“Fly Me to the Moon” isn’t the only newbie hitting theaters. Neon will also offer up “Longlegs,” a horror- thriller with the reliably creepy Nicolas Cage as a serial killer and Maika Monroe as the FBI agent on his trail. Oz Perkins directs the film, which will open in 2,500 locations. Critics praised the picture, giving it a bloody good 94% “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes. Look for “Longlegs” to open in the high single digits.

For theater owners, who gripe that the writers and actors strikes along with the pandemic left them with fewer movies to exhibit, having two wide releases geared at older audiences entering the fray alongside hit family films like “Inside Out 2” and “Despicable Me 4,” is a welcome change. It means they can offer moviegoers something that’s been missing for awhile. A little variety.

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