The Weekend Warrior

The Weekend Warrior: July 15 - 17

Source: Edward Douglas
July 12, 2011

Greetings and welcome back to the Weekend Warrior, your weekly guide to the weekend's new movies. Tune in every Tuesday for the latest look at the upcoming weekend, and then check back on Thursday night for final projections based on actual theatre counts.

If you aren't doing so already, you can follow The Weekend Warrior on Twitter where he talks about box office, movies, music, comic books and all sorts of random things.

Predictions and Comparisons -

UPDATE: Updating our prediction for Harry a bit early since we have the final theater counts for the weekend and it is indeed a record 4,375 theaters. That and the amount of money the movie has made in presales for midnight screenings makes us think that Friday could indeed come very close to the record opening day set by The Twilight Saga: New Moon. We'll update the rest of the numbers later tonight as usual.

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (Warner Bros.) - $142.8 million N/A (Up 4.2 million)

2. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Paramount) - $21.5 million -55%

3. Horrible Bosses (New Line/WB) - $16.4 million -42%

4. Zookeeper (Sony) - $10.5 million -48%

5. Winnie the Pooh (Walt Disney Pictures) - $8.0 million N/A

6. Cars 2 (Disney•Pixar) - $7.5 million -51%

7. Bad Teacher (Sony) - $5.0 million -47%

8. Larry Crowne (Universal) - $3.5 million -45%

9. Super 8 (Paramount) - $2.9 million -40%

10. Monte Carlo (20th Century Fox) - $1.8 million -54%

Weekend Overview

Anyone who thought that we've already seen the summer's biggest movies going by already with Transformers, Pirates or Hangovers, clearly doesn't realize the amount of anticipation that has been building for the last chapter in the ten-year film franchise that started way back in 2001 and has grossed $2 billion domestically and $6.4 billion worldwide.

Many backseat prognosticators have been hailing that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (Warner Bros.) might beat The Dark Knight's opening weekend record because it adds the higher ticket prices for IMAX and 3D, as well as opening during the summer, but there is definitely a limited audience for the movie which is basically the same people who have seen the previous seven movies, not an audience that has grown progressively with each movie like most franchises. Because of this, we expect it to make a play for the opening day record on Friday (including Thursday midnights) but be frontloaded enough that it ends up falling down to a level closer to what Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest opened to five years ago. Even so, it will be the biggest opening this year, and it should go onto be the highest grossing movie as well.

The clear underdog for the weekend is the attempt to bring Winnie the Pooh (Walt Disney Pictures) back to theaters, based on the fact that parents with kids under 8 or 9 years old won't want to scare them with the dark action of the weekend's other alternative. The old-fashioned 2D animated movie will try to entice parents with the nostalgia factor and the short running time will mean that theaters can get a lot of showings from each print, but it's still fighting against the fact that Winnie the Pooh has resided more on DVD than in theaters.

This week's "Chosen One" is Errol Morris' latest doc Tabloid (Sundance Selects), which tells the story of Joyce McKinney, who became the belle of British tabloids after kidnapping a mormon man she was in love with. You can read about that film below.

This weekend last year saw the release of Christopher Nolan's groundbreaking Inception (Warner Bros.) with a solid $63 million opening that didn't really prepare anyone for it to go onto become one of the summer's biggest hits with close to $300 million. Dropping to second place, Universal's hit animated comedy Despicable Me brought in $33 million to bring its total to $118 million. You have to feel kind of bad for Nicolas Cage's The Sorcerer's Apprentice (Walt Disney Pictures), which reteamed him with Jerry Bruckheimer and Jon Turteltaub from National Treasure. It opened on Wednesday and was able to make $7 million before the weekend where it had to settle for third place with a pitiful $17.6 million. The Top 10 grossed $169.2 million but since we expect "Harry Potter" to do 82% of that amount on its own, we should see another weekend up from last year.



Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (Warner Bros.)
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Tom Felton, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Jason Isaacs, Alan Rickman, David Thewlis, Julie Walters, Bonnie Wright, Kelly Macdonald
Directed by David Yates (the last three "Harry Potter" movies; Written by Steve Kloves (all the "Harry Potter" movies except "Order of the Phoenix')
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Rated PG-13
Tagline: "It All Ends" (if only that would be a tagline for the next one of Tyler Perry's Madea movies, huh?)
Plot Summary: Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends Ron and Hermione (Rupert Grint, Emma Watson) and the rest of the good wizards (too many to mention) face their final battle against Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and his Death Eaters (basically whomever is left in the cast not mentioned in the previous parentheses).

Review

Interview with David Yates (Coming Soon!)

Analysis:

What more can we say about "Harry Potter" that we haven't already said in the seven previous times the movies have been analyzed in the nine plus years of this column? After all, when the second half of the seventh installment--not too confusing--comes out on Friday, the "Harry Potter" series will be one of the movie franchises we've covered from the very beginning until the very end. (We should have a contest to see if anyone can guess the other one!)

This is what everything has been building up to ever since J.K. Rowling began her series of popular novels way back in 1997. The series was already up to its fourth volume and had sold millions of copies of the first four books when the first movie came out in November 2001. That went on to gross over $300 million domestically and there's been no turning back as each successive movie has continued that success. The 7th and final book "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" came out in the summer of 2007, just as the 5th movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was being released, and like all the other books, it sold millions of copies worldwide as Rowling's rabid fanbase ate it up. Recently, Rowling announced that she'll be starting a new community website for fans to discuss the books and whatever else she decides to share called PotterMore, which should help keep the fanbase going long after the final movie has left theaters.

We won't get back into the entire box office history of the "Harry Potter" franchise because there's a chart for that (see "Comparisons" below), but they've all generally grossed around $300 million and at this point, an opening north of $100 million is a foregone conclusion. In fact, we think that anything below $125 million would be seen as a disappointment being that the first half of the final chapter (really confusing) opened with that amount in November while school was still in session and without the theoretical ticket sales bump that comes from 3D ticket sales (though it did get the bump from being in IMAX).

The two big differences this time around is that this is the first "Harry Potter" movie to be released fully in 3D, and it's the final chapter, which is huge because many of those who have been waiting for the DVD to watch the movies might actually get of their ass and see the finale in theatres.

The biggest single day for a "Potter" movie was in fact the last movie's opening with $61.7 million and throwing in Thursday midnights, we can see this one surpassing that with a number closer to the opening days for The Dark Knight or The Twilight Saga: Eclipse with $67 to 68 million. Why not higher, you ask? It's certainly not due to runtime because at 2 hours and 10 minutes, the second part of "Deathly Hallows" is still one of the shorter chapters in the series. It still may limit the number of screenings in IMAX 3D which will probably be the first choice for many fans to see the last movie.

The other thing is that there's definitely a limit for the fanbase for "Harry Potter," which hasn't exactly grown that much from one movie to the next. In fact, despite the increase in ticket prices, especially when IMAX was added to the picture, the total domestic gross for a "Harry Potter" movie has only gone over $300 million ONCE since the very first movie, and that was "Half-Blood Prince."

Not everyone was thrilled with the unfinished feeling of "Deathly Hallows" Part 1, which may be why it had the second-lowest ranking among critics on Rotten Tomatoes. (At the same time, it had the highest rating among IMDb Users for the entire series.) Regardless, anyone who saw Part 1 in theaters will see Part 2, and there's a good chance that more people will rush out to see it opening weekend. By comparison, we think that Part 2 will have mostly rave reviews, because they so successfully ended the series in such a satisfying way.

Because of this, we expect a bigger opening and better legs than some of the other movies, mainly because so many of the fans will go see the movie multiple times rather than going through the imminent withdrawal that will inevitably come with there never EVER being another "Harry Potter" movie ever again.

Why I Should See It: They really saved the best for last with an incredible finale.
Why Not: It's all over and we'll never be writing about another "Harry Potter" movie again in this column.
Projections: $136 to 139 million opening weekend and $350 million total.

COMPARISONS



Winnie the Pooh (Walt Disney Pictures)
Starring (the voices of) Jim Cummings, Craig Ferguson, Tom Kenny, Travis Oates, Bud Luckey, Jack Boulter, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Wyatt Hall, Huell Howser, John Cleese (Narrator)
Written and directed by Stephen J. Anderson (Meet the Robinsons) and Don Hall (writer of Meet the Robinsons)
Genre: Animation, Family
Rated G
Plot Summary: Winnie the Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings) is hungry so he goes to his friend Christopher Robin for some "Hunny," but Christopher isn't home, so Pooh and his friends Piglet, Owl, Tigger, Kanga and Roo fear he's been captured by a creature called the "Backson" and hatch a plan to get him back. At the same time, their friend Eeyore has lost his tail, so they need to find it.

Mini-Review: "Winnie the Pooh" may seem a bit "old school" to older kids who have gotten used to photorealistic detail on their computer animation movies, big stars voicing roles and the like, but there's a really good reason why these characters are so beloved, and it's really obvious from this quality animated film that's surprisingly enjoyable regardless of your age.

The plot is super-simple, involving Eeyore losing his tail and his forest friends trying to find him a replacement while also trying to find a missing Christopher Robin, who leaves a note that's misinterpreted that he's been kidnapped. Pooh meanwhile is only concerned about one thing and that's to satisfy his hunger with a big jar of "hunny." All of your favorite characters are present and accounted for, each of them given something to do in the story, so it's not just all about Pooh or Piglet or Tigger.

The film contains some of the sharpest writing you're likely to see in an animated movie this year other than maybe "Rango" with clever wordplay that's delivered perfectly by the voice cast, including the likes of Jim Cummings, who has defined the voice of Pooh for over twenty years. Craig Ferguson doing the voice of Owl is also brilliant voice casting.

One of the more clever aspects of the movie is how the children's book motif is used throughout the film to integrate the words with the characters and even narrator John Cleese interacts with the characters from time to time. It's things like that which really enhance the film's sense of word, while also making it clear how fun it is to read these books with and to your kids, rather than just plopping them in front of a television or movie screen. The lack of the type of bathroom humor and pratfalls that's become the norm in kids' movies these days is also commendable.

The only real gripe about the movie is that it's just way too short even by the standards of enjoying movies that stay in the 80 or 90 minute range, and it's over far too quickly in just over 60 minutes and that's including a decent short film called "The Ballad of Nessie" voiced by Billy Connolly. Otherwise, Disney Animation have done a fine job bringing this character back to the screen with a similar attitude taken by Pixar to create something fairly universal in its appeal. If you are looking for a way to quickly bond with your younger kids, this truly is a wonderful hour of entertainment that will leave you smiling.

Rating: 8/10

Analysis:

Offering a bit of counter-programming for the parents of kids under 8 is this rare 2D animated movie featuring one of the most well-known children's literary characters that isn't named "Harry Potter." Winnie the Pooh was created by A.A. Milne all the way back in the late 1920s and has been a mainstay on television, video and movies ever since. Pooh first made his debut as a full-length feature film star in 1977's The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, but then it would be over 23 years before he'd be back on the screen in 2000, when the characters were revived for The Tigger Movie, opening moderately in February with less than $10 million but grossing $45 million in total. It was followed in 2003 with Piglet's Big Movie, which only grossed half that amount and two years later by Pooh's Heffalump Movie, which did even worse and that would be the last Pooh movie in theaters for six years.

Bringing back Winnie the Pooh are a couple veteran filmmakers at Disney Animation Studios who have worked on movies like the CG Meet the Robinsons and the recent 2D animated The Princess and the Frog, but other than John Cleese as narrator and late night host Craig Ferguson, they don't have the benefits of star power to lure older audiences to see the movie. That said, it does feature the voice of veteran voice actor Jim Cummings returning as the voices of Pooh and Tigger, two voices he has provided going back to 1988.

Winnie the Pooh is a character who has been around long enough that millions of parents and grandparents know who he is, and Disney is taking an interesting approach by marketing the movie to play up to the nostalgia adults will have for the character in hopes they'll want to share that love with their kids.

Clearly opening against a much higher profile movie like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows might not bode well for Pooh's return, but the "Harry Potter" movies have gotten so dark they're less "kids' films" than they were when they started out ten years ago. That means parents with smaller kids will not be able to take them, and might be looking for more kid-friendly fare, which Winnie the Pooh's G-rated fare provides. Opening against the second weekend of Zookeeper shouldn't mean much, nor will having the fourth weekend of Cars 2, although it's likely to end up somewhere between the two.

One big difference between this and the last three Pooh movies is that this one is being released in the middle of summer, which means it can do more business on Friday and Sunday, because school is out. Since the main audience that will go see this are parents with young kids i.e. stay at home moms can see it on Friday or they can wait until the following week, there won't seem like a rush.

The movie is only an hour long which offers both positive and negative elements to its chances. Because its short, theaters will be able to play the movie more times per print than they might normally, but that short running time might feel like a bit of a rip-off. Parents might often take their kids to movies to keep them quiet for a few hours and usually 80 to 90 minutes is a good running time that will keep kids entertained but not bored. Winnie the Pooh is roughly 60 minutes including a short film, and it does seem like a bit of a rip-off to be paying full ticket prices for such a short movie.

Why I Should See It: Winnie the Pooh is one of the most beloved literary and animated characters among kids, and they've made a movie that appeals to
Why Not: We waited six years to get a Winnie the Pooh movie that's less than an hour long?!
Projections: $7 to 9 million opening weekend and $25 million total.

COMPARISONS



THE CHOSEN ONE:

Tabloid (Sundance Selects)
Starring Joyce McKinney
Directed by Errol Morris (The Fog of War, Standard Operating Procedure, Fast, Cheap & Out of Control, The Thin Blue Line)
Genre: Documentary
Rated R
Tagline: "There are two sides to every story. Somewhere in the middle is the truth." (This isn't the real tagline but it's a line from the movie that would certain work.)
Plot Summary: Joyce McKinney, a former Miss Wyoming, falls for a Mormon man named Kirk Anderson, but when he is taken by the church to England, she follows him with the plan of kidnapping him and getting him away from the cult-like church. The seediness of the story captures the attention of British tabloids like the Daily Mirror as Joyce turns into a media darling, though she still attests to this day that they ran off together because they were in love.

Video Interview with Errol Morris (Later this week)

It's doubtful Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Errol Morris could have gone further in the opposite direction for his follow-up to Standard Operating Procedure, a movie about the torture of Iraqi prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison, than with this portrait of a woman who captured the fancy of the British tabloids during the late '70s when she kidnapped a mormon alder, took him to a cottage in the English countryside and... well, that's where the story gets a bit hazy. It's not just that Joyce McKinney tracks down and kidnaps her ex-boyfriend Kirk Anderson, but she somehow gets away with it, escapes from England and returns home, while the tabloids try to find out everything they can about this mystery woman. Eventually things die down until Joyce reappears when she gets her dog "Booger" cloned in Korea, and that's where the story gets even crazier.

Morris gives McKinney a forum to tell her own story, using his normal M.O. of asking his questions from off-camera, but it's quite clear from the interview she's either crazy or a pathological liar, not that the testimonials from the two tabloid reporters who covered the story does much to make one think their take on her story is more valid. It's a classic case of he-said-she-said where the story is being told different ways and neither seems to be altogether true. It doesn't really help that Joyce seems quite loopy, but that's one of Morris' strongest attributes as a filmmaker is that he's able to tell a story without passing any sort of judgments on his subjects even if it's clear they're crazy or lying.

The timing of the movie couldn't be perfect, because we see how really sleazy the British tabloids were back in the '70s and how it's actually gotten quite a bit worse, although now they seem more focused on outing politicians and celebrities rather than making stars out of normal people. That said, when seemingly legitimate news outlets are covering every aspect of stories about normal people, that thin line between tabloid journalism and infotainment is removed irrevocably, and that's something quite evident from how the tabloids focus so much of their print space on Joyce McKinney, both to build her up as a celebrity than to take her down once they have.

Although Tabloid is a documentary that takes a far more light-hearted approach than some of Morris' other recent work, it's still just as layered and thorough in terms of getting to the heart of a story and leaving you thinking afterwards. It's not as obvious whether Morris was trying to shine a negative light on the tabloids or on the Mormons or neither, because it's very much a movie that can just be enjoyed as entertainment, which also makes it far more accessible to a wider audience than some of his other work.

Tabloid opens in select cities on Friday. You can find the full theatrical listings on Facebook.

Also in Limited Release:

Director Wayne (The Joy Luck Club) Wang directs this adaptation of Lisa See's Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (Fox Searchlight), two parallel stories of friendship between two women, one that takes place in 19th Century China and the other set in present day, both starring Hong Kong superstar Li Binbing and Jeon Ji-Hyun (Blood: The Last Vampire). The story in the past involves 7-year-old Snow Flower and Lily who are matched as "laotong" sisters, although their lifestyles eventually pull them apart; in present day Shanghai, Nina tries to find out why her friend Sophia has taken a fall having not seen her in months. The film opens in select cities on Friday.

The Undefeated (ARC Entertainment) is Stephen K. Bannon's documentary about former Alaska governor and 2010 Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Not sure there's anything more that needs to be said about that; it opens in places like Dallas, Denver, Oklahoma City, Phoenix and other cities where Democrats wouldn't be caught dead.

Joshua director George Ratliff's Salvation Boulevard (IFC Films), based on the novel by Larry Beinhart ("Wag the Dog"). It stars Pierce Brosnan as evangelical preacher Dan Day who has everyone in the small American town in the palm of his hand, but has a former follower named Carl (Greg Kinnear) who starts questioning the pastor's integrity when he sees something. Also starring Marisa Tomei, Jennifer Connelly and Jim Gaffigan, the cynical comedy opens in select cities on Friday.

Oliver Schmitz's Life, Above All (Sony Pictures Classics) is a South African drama about a 12-year-old named Chanda, whose baby sister and her mother gets seriously ill, leaving her to take care of her younger brother and sister, while gossip around town gets the family ostracized by the community. Based on Allan Stratton's novel "Chanda's Secrets," it opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

French filmmaker Julie (Since Otar Left) Bertucceli's romance drama The Tree (Zeitgeist Films) stars Charlotte Gainsbourg (Antichrist) as a woman living in the Australian outback, trying to raise four young children after the death of her husband. Her youngest, Simone (Morgana Davies) thinks her father is whispering to her through the fig tree that looms menacingly outside their house. It opens in New York at the Village East Cinemas and Beekman Theater on Friday and in Los Angeles on July 22.

Colin Hanks stars in Gil Cates Jr.'s Lucky (Phase 4 Films) as a man who has the winning ticket for the Iowa State lottery, something he took off the body of the dead girl in his closet. With newfound riches, he goes after his life-long crush Lucy (Ari Graynor), but will having all that money make up for the fact that he's a serial killer? The only way to find out is to see the movie when it opens in New York and L.A.

Justin Lerner's Girlfriend (Elephant Eye Films) stars newcomer Evan Sneider (who has Down Syndrome) playing a young man with Downs Syndrome named Evan who lives with his mother (Amanda Plummer) in a poor town. After she dies, he uses the money he inherits to try to woo a single mom named Candy, he's been in love with since high school, as she tries to get her abusive ex-boyfriend (Jackson Rathbone) out of her life. It opens in New York at the Quad Cinemas.



Next week, the month of July motors along with the last of the summer superhero movies Captain America: The First Avenger (Marvel Studios/Paramount), starring Chris Evans and Hugo Weaving, and the latest R-rated comedy Friends with Benefits (Screen Gems/Sony), pairing Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis.




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