Deadline is reporting that Warner Bros. Discovery is sending Channing Tatum’s Magic Mike’s Last Dance to theaters. Jason Kilar had greenlighted the film as an HBO Max premiere. David Zaslov’s emphasis on theatrical (and present-tense revenue in general) has shifted the priorities. As hoped during the last WB release musical chairs, the film will open wide on February 10, 2023. That’s A) Super Bowl weekend and B) just under a year after Tatum’s military dramady Dog overperformed with a $17 million Fri-Mon debut. The $15 million MGM release would leg out to $61 million domestic and $85 million global. Dog remains one of the few unmitigated original (or new-to-you adaptations), star-driven, non-franchise hits of the Covid era alongside The Lost City, Everything Everywhere All At Once and Where the Crawdads Sing.
Magic Mike opened in June of 2012 alongside Seth MacFarlane’s Ted. The talking teddy bear comedy opened with $54 million, eventually earning $218 million domestic and $550 million worldwide, affirming Mark Wahlberg’s butts-in-seats value. Steven Soderbergh’s $7 million economic mobility drama opened with $39 million on its way to $113 million domestic and $168 million. So, yes, there was reason to be optimistic about the theatrical future of ‘the movie’ before Hollywood spent the next decade learning all the wrong lessons from The Avengers. It was the caper of a triple whammy for Channing Tatum, after years to trying to parlay his Step Up matinee idol status into bankability, following The Vow and 21 Jump Street in early 2012. Like Patrick Swayze, Tatum is more valuable as a lover (Dear John) than as a fighter (White House Down).
It is ‘exhibit A’ when I talk about Warner Bros.’ unmatched ability to open less-conventional event movies into genuine smash hits. Think, offhand, Gravity, The LEGO Movie, American Sniper, It, Crazy Rich Asians, A Star Is Born, Joker, Dune and Elvis. Magic Mike XXL (directed by Gregory Jacobs) earned $66 million domestic and $118 million worldwide in summer 2015. That was still eight times its $14.5 million budget and a decent 70% retention. Yes, that was back when more audiences went to the movies just to go to the movies and those regular (or irregular) moviegoers went to a greater variety of films. Nonetheless, franchise nostalgia and related crowd-pleasing appeal could make Magic Mike’s Last Dance into something approximating a theatrical hit. If not, well, a theatrical release only makes a movie more valuable on PVOD and HBO Max.
Magic Mike’s Last Dance will be penned by Reid Carolin with Jacobs returning to produce alongside Caroli, Nick Wechsler and Peter Kiernan. Channing Tatum stars alongside Salma Hayek, Caitlin Gerard and Gavin Spokes. Beyond that, theatrical is so on the ropes that we must be happy when what previously might have been mere IP exploitation gets made and ends up with a conventional theatrical release. That said, both Magic Mike movies were pretty good, and Tatum doesn’t need the money. We’ll assume that the threequel will artistically justify itself. It further affirms that Zaslov wasn’t lying when he discussed a conventional 15-25-film theatrical slate instead of a slew of HBO Max originals. The unknown future rolls toward us. But if a cold, data-driven corporate executive can learn the value of theatrical releases, maybe we can too.
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