Box Office Preview: Three Very Different Movies Take on Oz

With Oz The Great and Powerful still running rampant over the box office, three new movies open this weekend, hoping to take advantage of the number of schools on spring break to do better business than other movies released over the past few months. There’s a good chance that at least one of them will best “Oz” but there may even be two big weekend hits.

The Croods (DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox)
Starring (the voices of) Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, Cloris Leachman
Written and directed by Chris Sanders (How to Train Your Dragon, Lilo & Stitch), Kirk DeMicco (Space Chimps) with John Cleese
Genre: Animated, Comedy, Family
Rated PG
Tagline: “Meet the first modern family.”
So far, 2013 hasn’t been a particularly impressive year for animation, maybe because we haven’t had any movies from the Big 3 animation studios, which changes this weekend as DreamWorks Animation releases their first movie of the year with an animated family comedy for those who seem to have forgotten about the existence of “The Flintstones.”

Yeah, their latest idea, which originated with Monty Python’s John Cleese, doesn’t feel very original but it does follow the studio-that-Katzenberg-built’s normal modus operandi by having big name stars providing the voices and in this case, they have superstars Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds and Nicolas Cage. Well, two of three, as they say…

The Croods is being released in mid-to-late March to take advantage of schools that are on spring break, which follows the pattern of previous DreamWorks Animation releases Monsters vs. Aliens, which opened with $59 million in March 2009, and How to Train Your Dragon, which opened with $43 million a year later. The thing is that this is the first of DreamWorks Animation’s films to be distributed and marketed through 20th Century Fox, which has had a good amount of success with their own animated fare including the four “Ice Age” movies, Rio and Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who, all of which have been very competitive with DreamWorks Animation’s releases.

With many schools on spring break, that should help The Croods open well on Friday although it will be facing the Disney powerhouse Oz The Great and Powerful that’s still bringing in business and could keep The Croods from opening in the over-$40 million range that’s been standard practice for March animated releases. The other problem is that the movie will probably not appeal to guys as much as it does mothers and daughters, helped by the casting of Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds, but being a movie about a family will certainly help it generally do well among families with kids, if not the teenage and older audience.

With few family movies opening in the coming weeks, The Croods could have some decent legs, especially over the long Easter weekend, although we don’t think this is going to fare as well as some of DreamWorks Animation’s other offerings and there’s a lot of other choices for moviegoers in the coming weeks.

Weekend Est.: $38 to 42 million; Est. Total Gross: $125 million

Olympus Has Fallen (FilmDistrict)
Starring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Dylan McDermott, Ashley Judd, Melissa Leo, Rick Yune
Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Brooklyn’s Finest, Shooter); Written by Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt
Genre: Action, Thriller
Rated R
Tagline: “When Our Flag Falls, Our Nation Will Rise”

5.5/10 Review

This has been an interesting year for action movies with a number of veteran action stars headlining outright bombs, and the fact that Bruce Willis’ 5th outing as John McClane in A Good Day To Die Hard failed to do the amount of business most expected is not a good sign for a movie that’s taking all of its cues from the “Die Hard” series.

It’s even more interesting that this knock-off about North Korean terrorists attacking Washington D.C.–harking back to last year’s Red Dawn remake–is that it’s the first of two movies released this year that involves the White House being invaded with no less than director Roland Emmerich batting clean-up on his similarly-premised White House Down over the summer.

While that one might have the more impressive casting of Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx, this one isn’t so bad with two Oscar winners in the cast, but the real star is Gerard Butler, who hasn’t had a hit in quite some time. In fact, going by his last few movies–Chasing Mavericks, Playing for Keeps and Machine Gun Preacher–Butler’s career as a box office star may be over unless he can get a hit. Fortunately, Olympus Has Fallen is more in vein with the grittier action movies on which Butler established himself, most notably with Zack Snyder’s 300, and Butler’s male fans have probably been waiting for him to return to this kind of heroic role.

Things haven’t been going much better in Aaron Eckhart’s career since he played a prominent role in Christopher Nolan’s record-setting The Dark Knight. He hasn’t really capitalized on that with the only semi-hit being 2011′s Battle: Los Angeles, which was surrounded by indies like Towelhead, Rabbit Hole and The Rum Diary, and the romantic bomb Love Happens with Jennifer Aniston.

What may surprise people is that the real draw for the film is likely to be Morgan Freeman, who has played the President and God before but is taking a smaller role as the Speaker of the House in this one, but his presence will give the movie a lot more credibility, especially among older moviegoers. The cast also includes Angela Bassett, Dylan McDermott, Ashley Judd (who previously appeared with Freeman in the hit Alex Cross thriller Kiss the Girls) and Oscar winner Melissa Leo, plus it’s the return to bigger-budget movies for director Antoine Fuqua, who famously directed Denzel Washington to an Oscar win roughly ten years ago.

What’s odd is that this looks like a pretty big budget action movie, yet it’s being released by FilmDistrict, a relatively small and new distributor who is still able to get this into over 3,000 theaters. One might wonder how they will succeed with a genre where bigger studios like Warner Bros, Fox and Lionsgate have failed, but it’s been a good amount of time since there’s been a movie geared directly towards guys, especially teen and older guys looking for a bit of escapist excitement and the premise of a White House takeover is clearly strong enough to warrant two movies. The R rating may limit the audience, keeping younger teens out, and unfortunately, the movie has to take on the release of G.I. Joe: Retaliation next week which has a much stronger cast and namebrand value, so it’s really all about opening weekend for this one and a 50% or larger drop next weekend won’t be much of a surprise.

Weekend Est.: $21 to 23 million; Est. Total Gross: $55 to 58 million

Admission (Focus Features)
Starring Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Michael Sheen, Wallace Shawn, Gloria Reuben, Nat Wolff, Lily Tomlin
Directed by Paul Weitz (In Good Company, About a Boy, Being Flynn and more); Written by Karen Croner (One True Thing)
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Rated PG-13
Tagline: “Let someone in” (Like who? A vampire? Room service? What a weird tagline.)

8/10 Review

Video Interview with Paul Weitz

Video Interviews with Tina Fey & Paul Rudd

What else could possibly be offered as counter-programming to a family comedy and an action thriller than a romantic comedy that will try to bring in the single women without kids who have no interest in an action movie? This isn’t your typical romantic comedy though, because it’s a smarter academic comedy set in the world of university admissions, based on a book and directed by Paul Weitz, who had early hits with American Pie, About a Boy and In Good Company.

The big draw for the movie is clearly going to be Tina Fey, who has just wrapped up seven seasons of her popular and successful NBC show “30 Rock” and is now ready to move onto other projects. In the seven years since she was the head writer on “Saturday Night Live,” Fey hasn’t made too many movie appearances, first getting attention for the 2004 Lindsay Lohan high school comedy Mean Girls ($86 million gross) but only doing three live action comedies since then – 2008′s Baby Mama with her good friend Amy Poehler ($60.5 million), Ricky Gervais’ The Invention of Lying in 2009 ($32.7 million) and then the hit comedy Date Night with Steve Carell in 2010, which grossed nearly $100 million.

Having been three years since Fey’s been on the big screen will certainly help make Admission a draw for her fans, and she’s paired with Paul Rudd, who is also popular among the ladies even if his career hasn’t been nearly as strong. Since Rudd starred in Judd Apatow’s two early hit comedies The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, his career has been up and down with hits like Role Models and I Love You, Man and disappointments like Our Idiot Brother and Wanderlust. He recently took over the lead along with Leslie Mann in Judd Apatow’s This is 40, released over the holidays last year, and that topped out at $67 million, which is on par with Rudd’s biggest solo hits.

This is one of Focus Features’ rare wide releases, being shipped out into roughly 2,100 theaters, and they’ve really been stepping up their marketing to get the movie out there, focusing mainly on the romantic chemistry between Fey and Rudd. This is a very different type of movie for Focus, one that has far more mainstream appeal, although they’ve yet to open a movie over $20 million and being in fewer theaters than most major studio rom-coms may limit the audiences a bit. The subject matter of college admissions might also put off some audiences because it is trying to be a little smarter than the average rom-coms we tend to see. (It’s a little worrisome how quickly the marketing turned to using interviews with the cast in the commercials—never a good sign.)

Because the marketing’s not taking advantage of the smarter writing and premise, it could lose some of the more discerning big city audiences who expects better from Fey after “30 Rock,” but it should still be a primary choice for women 20 and over this weekend over some of the other choices, which should help it have a solid opening though it will likely do more business from word-of-mouth after opening weekend.

Weekend Est.: $9 to 11 million; Est. Total Gross: $35 million

Also expanding nationwide this weekend is Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers (A24), starring Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and James Franco, which opened in three theaters last weekend and took in $270,000, a fantastic $90,000 per location. Clearly taking advantage of the number of college students actually on spring break, as well as the number of former “High School Musical” and “Wizards of Waverly Place” fans now old enough to get into R-rated movies, it should benefit from the same factors this weekend as it expands into over 1,000 theaters. Even with such a great expansion, we can’t forget that Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master (also from Annapurna Pictures), averaged $147,000 in 5 theaters before expanding nationwide a week later to only bring in $4.4 million and $16.3 million total. The premise and cast of Spring Breakers should help it fare better than that, and though business may be dissipated by the wider expansion, the lack of strong movies in the bottom of the Top 10 should allow it to make a play for 6th or 7th place with between $5 and 7 million depending on how well the marketing translates outside large cities.

This weekend last year saw the release of what would be the beginning of a new franchise phenomenon as The Hunger Games (Lionsgate), starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth, opened huge with $152.5 million, making it the third-biggest opening of all time. (Over the summer, two movies surpassed that amount.) It would go on to gross over $400 million domestically, quite a bit more than the highest-grossing movie in the “Twilight Saga” to which it had been compared repeatedly, and currently, The Hunger Games is the 13th-highest grossing movie domestically. For the second weekend in row, a moderately released movie broke into the Top 10 as the indie drama October Baby (Samuel Goldwyn Films) scored $1.7 million in 390 theaters to take eighth place. With the help of The Hunger Games, the Top 10 at the box office grossed over $200 million, which would be impossible for this week’s offerings to surpass even if they do much better than we’ve predicted.

This Week’s Updated Predictions -

1. The Croods (DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox) – $41.5 million N/A (up .5 million)

2. Olympus Has Fallen (FilmDistrict) – $22.5 million N/A (Up .2 million)

3. Oz The Great and Powerful (Walt Disney Pictures) – $21.8 million -47%

4. Admission (Focus Features) – $10.0 million N/A

5. The Call (TriStar Pictures) – $8.4 million – 50% (down .1 million)

6. Spring Breakers (A24) – $6 million +1,888 %

7. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (New Line/WB) – $5.4 million -48%

8. Jack the Giant Slayer (New Line/WB) – $3.5 million -45%

9. Identity Thief (Universal) – $2.7 million -35% (down .2 million)

10. Snitch (Summer Entertainment) – $1.9 million -46%

Too many limited releases this weekend, not enough time to watch them and decide on a “Chosen One” although the first three are all decent choices.

Chris O’Dowd from Bridesmaids and “Girls” stars in Wayne Blaire’s The Sapphires (The Weinstein Company), based on the true story of four young Australian Aboriginal girls singing in a girl group who are booked by their manager (O’Dowd) to travel around Vietnam entertaining the U.S. troops in Vietnam in 1968. It opens in select cities on Friday.

Review

Viggo Mortensen stars in the Argentine thriller Everybody Has a Plan (Twentieth Century Fox International) as Buenos Aires doctor Augustin Souto who has become frustrated with his domestic life so he decides to adopt the identity of his twin brother Pedro, returning to their childhood home in the Tigre delta and unwittingly becoming caught up in his brother’s criminal life.

Interview with Viggo Mortensen

Adam Leon’s Gimme the Loot (IFC Films) is centered around two Bronx graffiti writers, Malcolm and Sofia, who plot to get revenge on a rival gang by “bombing” the Mets’ Home Run Apple at Citifield, a goal of taggers for 20 years, as they spend two days trying to raise the money for their scheme.

Adrien Brody, Rob Schneider, Michael Rodriguez and Lindsay Lohan are some of the stars appearing in Vince Offer’s sketch comedy movie InAPPropriate Comedy (Freestyle Releasing)–because Movie 43 did so well. This one opens in roughly 250 theaters on Friday.

Opening yesterday (Monday) at New York’s Maysles Cinema is Renate Costa Perdomo’s documentary 108 (Cuchilo de Palo) (Icarus Films) about Rodolfo Costa who was discovered dead in his Paraguay home, having amassed a small fortune and a secret life on the president’s “108″ homosexual blacklist that had ruined may lives and careers.

The French-Canadian comedy Starbuck (eOne Films), which was a huge box office hit in Canada and its director Ken Scott is already in production on an English language remake starring Vince Vaughn called Delivery Man, will be released on October 4. The original French language movie stars Patrick Huard as David Wozniak, a 42-year-old screw up who earned money when younger as a sperm donor, only to learn that he’s become the biological father of 533 children, roughly a third of whom now want to find out the identity of their true father.

Jamie Chung (Sucker Punch) stars in Eden (Phase 4), based on the true story of a Korean-American teenager kidnapped in New Mexico and forced into the life of a sex slave in Las Vegas by a group of thugs, masterminded by a federal marshall played by Beau Bridges. The human trafficking drama opens at the Film Forum in New York on Wednesday.

Minnie Driver stars in Marc Evans’ Hunky Dory (Variance Films) playing a high school drama teacher who tries to get her class fired up by staging a glam rock version of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” with the soundtrack featuring the music of Bowie, the Beach Boys, ELO and more.

Sally El Hosaini’s drama My Brother the Devil (Paladin) stars James Floyd as Rashid, a young Arab running with the gangs of London’s Hackney neighborhood, whose younger brother Mo looks up to him and wants to join the gang life.

The Korean crime thriller New World (Well Go USA Entertainment) stars Oldboy‘s Choi Min-sik as the police chief who has launched an anti-crime initiative called “New World” to help undercover office Ja-sung (Lee Jung-jae) who has infiltrated the Goldmoon crime syndicate to become the boss’ right hand man. But the crimeboss Jung has hired hackers to search the police database to find the mole as the two sides of the law get involved in a game of wits.

Lastly, Bradley Leong’s romantic comedy Dorfman in Love (Brainstorm Media) stars Sara Rue (“Malibu Country,” “Rules of Engagement”) as an L.A. woman stuck taking care of her parents (including Elliot Gould as her father) who has a chance at finding love when catsitting for a male friend not interested in her introduces her to a better prospect.

Three other movies I didn’t get a chance to see you can learn more about by clicking on the titles below:

Danny Mooney’s romantic drama Love and Honor (IFC Films) starring Liam Hesworth (The Hunger Games) and Aimee Teegarden (“Friday Night Lights”)

Matt Orlando’s horror-thriller A Resurrection (Archstone Distribution) starring Mischa Barton

Plus the animated Silver Circle (Hybrid National)

Next week, the month of March goes out like an angry lamb with Little Bo Peep: Sheep Wrestler directed by Michael Bay. If only…

In fact, we actually will finally get the long-delayed action sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Paramount), starring Channing Tatum, Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis. Andrew Niccol takes on Stephenie Meyer’s non-”Twilight” novel The Host (Open Road Films), starring Saoirse Ronan, and Tyler Perry’s Temptation (Lionsgate).


You can read stuff like this and regular box office, awards and festival coverage on the new Weekend Warrior Blog and to keep up with the latest articles and posts, you can follow us on Twitter.

Copyright 2013 Edward Douglas

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