With “A Haunting in Venice” opening on September 15th, you might be thinking, “Didn’t I JUST see Kenneth Branagh as Detective Hercule Poirot?”
And you’d be right. “Death on the Nile” opened in theaters just 19 months ago. It was originally set to set sail in October 2020, but COVID caused it to change course.
Branagh’s second all-star dramatic thriller based on a classic Agatha Christie story was finally released in February 2022 to a $12.9 million first weekend, good enough for first place. Its domestic total was $45.6 million — respectable at the time, as many people (who didn’t experience “Spider-Man: No Way Home”) were still concerned about going to a movie theater.
But that figure was significantly less than the $102.8 million 2017’s “Murder on the Orient Express” made. Still, Branagh and 20th Century Studios (formerly 20th Century Fox) were anxious to bring a third story to life, confirming just weeks after “Nile” opened that a script was written. (Around that time Branagh also finally won an Academy Award for writing personal passion project “Belfast”.)
Clearly The Mouse House believes in Branagh and Poirot to keep this going and give it big screen respect. Disney has sent many 20th Century and Searchlight films to Hulu over the past couple of years. In fact, “Haunting” is only the second 20th Century theatrical release of 2023, after “The Boogeyman”, which earned $43 million in June. And besides “Nile”, the only other 20th theatrical releases of 2022 were “The Bob’s Burgers Movie”, “Barbarian”, “Amsterdam” and “Avatar: The Way of Water”.
Releasing “A Haunting in Venice” on Sept. 15 gives 20th the chance to showcase the trailer for the studio’s sci-fi action drama “The Creator”, which is coming out just two weeks later on September 29th.
“Haunting” was officially confirmed last October. The cast includes Tina Fey, current Best Actress Oscar recipient Michelle Yeoh and a “Belfast” reunion of Branagh, Jamie Dornan and Critics Choice Award winner Jude Hill.
“Haunting” is rated PG-13, though it looks a little darker and more intense than the previous Poirot pictures. 20th may be looking to bring-in a younger, horror fan crowd to try to get a box office cume somewhere between “Nile” and “Express”. “Nile” is a better movie than “Express”, largely thanks to Branagh’s performance and stronger twists and turns in the story. Here’s hoping “Haunting” is just as good or even better. And we’ll see if it does well enough for a fourth chapter to be greenlit. Branagh and 20th may be able to release at least two more before we ever get “Avatar 3”.