Will Tampa Bay's 'The Infiltrator' be a blockbuster? Probably not and here's why

Red-hot actor Bryan Cranston headlines The Infiltrator, but that still likely won't make the movie a blockbuster. The movie is set in Tampa Bay and was partially filmed here. (Liam Daniel/Broad Green Pictures via AP)
Red-hot actor Bryan Cranston headlines The Infiltrator, but that still likely won't make the movie a blockbuster. The movie is set in Tampa Bay and was partially filmed here. (Liam Daniel/Broad Green Pictures via AP)
Published July 15, 2016

Tampa Bay is buzzing this week about The Infiltrator, the Bryan Cranston movie that opened in theaters nationwide Wednesday and will compete with other summer flicks for moviegoer dollars this weekend.

With a red-hot actor like Cranston and a crackling story line set around Tampa Bay, the movie is sure to be a blockbuster that brings our beloved bay area in front of millions of moviegoers nationwide, right?

Not so much., which predicts and tracks how much money movies make, says The Infiltrator may make around $6 million, a fairly light opening that likely will put it near the bottom of the Top 10 movies in North America this weekend.

"Bryan Cranston headlines the drug trafficking drama The Infiltrator, which aims to offer older men something to see," editor Gitesh Pandya writes on the site. "The R-rated film … has some good starpower for this age demo; however, reviews have been mixed so excitement levels will only go so high."

The prediction is even more dour at which predicts an opening of only $4 million and a No. 8 ranking.

So why won't The Infiltrator be a big hit? Here's what's working against it.

• It's only opening in about 1,600 theaters. The Ghostbusters reboot also is opening this weekend in about 4,000 theaters and likely will make $50 million or more. The Secret Life of Pets, which made more than $100 million last weekend, is in a whopping 4,400 theaters and could repeat as box office champ. With less than half as many theaters, The Infiltrator just won't be available to as many moviegoers.

• It has received mixed reviews. It's currently rated 64 percent "fresh" on the movie rating website Rotten Tomatoes, meaning about one-third of the 80 critics who reviewed the film didn't like it. The Infiltrator's target audience is generally older and more sophisticated. In other words, they read the news and rely on movie reviews from critics to help them choose what to see in theaters. If the movie had a fresh rating near 90 percent, it would lure more of those people to theaters.

Related: What critics around the country are saying about 'The Infiltrator'

• Yes, Cranston is one of the hottest actors on the planet right now, but he doesn't have a history of carrying movies in which he is the featured player, and TV audiences don't always follow their favorite stars to the movies. Cranston got an Oscar nomination last year for Trumbo, but that movie couldn't even make it to $8 million before it left theaters. That film had a more Hollywood-insider storyline that probably didn't play well outside of the East and West coasts, but it had better reviews than The Infiltrator and Cranston's best actor nomination gave it more legs, yet it still puttered out in single digits. Yes, Cranston has starred in big money-makers like Godzilla and Argo, but he has been supporting players in those movies, not the lead.

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• It opened on a Wednesday instead of the traditional Friday opening. It made nearly $775,000 on Wednesday night, but that midweek opening probably will suck a couple million from its weekend gross, which otherwise could have landed the movie in the top 5 and generated a little more buzz.

Previous coverage: Going to see 'The Infiltrator'? Here are the spots around Tampa Bay that show up in the movie

So how much money will The Infiltrator ultimately make in its opening weekend?

I don't mean to be a homer, but I'm a little more bullish on its prospects and think it could make $8 million and, if word-of-mouth is good, make its way to perhaps $30 million from North American theaters by the time its theatrical run ends. That doesn't exactly make it a hit like Tampa Bay-set Magic Mike, but it won't be a total dud.

Related: Steve Persall review: Bryan Cranston dominates in evocate crime drama 'The Infiltrator'

Why do I think it will beat expectations?

There haven't been many movies for mature audiences so far in a summer packed with superheroes and needless sequels, so there's some pent-up demand. I think people will overlook tepid reviews for a thinking-person's crime thriller, and Pablo Escobar storylines seem to be resonating in pop culture right now, including on the TV series Narcos. The cast has some diversity to it, so the film could reach into wider audiences. The trailers are exciting. Walter White fans will relish seeing Cranston push his good-guy/bad-guy buttons again. And I think this could help the film skew younger than many expect.

Still, The Infiltrator won't be a blockbuster and will need help from overseas markets and other platforms to make back its reported $47.5 million budget.

We'll just have to hope Cranston gets another Oscar nomination to keep it — and us — in the spotlight.

Chris Tisch, business editor of the Tampa Bay Times, can be reached at Follow @christisch1.