This is going to be a weird weekend, but that would be nothing new since the weekend before Christmas is always a little weird. Lots of potentially big holiday movies with big stars have opened in this frame to less than spectacular openings but went on to do huge business over the holidays with most people being out of school and off work for the week of Christmas and New Year’s. In fact, it’s not uncommon for movies that open this time of year to end up grossing 5 to 7 times their opening weekend, so a movie isn’t dead if it doesn’t deliver opening weekend.
The big movie of the weekend is undoubtedly going to be Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (Paramount), a sequel nine years in the making that reunites Will Ferrell with Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner and director Adam McKay. The original Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was released by DreamWorks in July 2004 and after a decent $28.4 million opening, it went on to gross $84.1 million, which wasn’t bad for a $25 million movie, but it could only be seen as a letdown after Ferrell’s last movie Elf. What happened after that is what’s so amazing about Anchorman as the movie produced by Judd Apatow went on to become a huge cult favorite on DVD and cable, as well as being cited as one of the most quotable comedies. Since that movie, Ferrell and McKay have made a number of other hit comedies including Talladega Nights, while both Paul Rudd and Steve Carell have gone on to become fairly big comedy stars in their own rights, largely due to them appearing in some of the comedies directed by Apatow.
It’s taken a long time for the group to reband for another movie, but there’s probably more demand for a sequel now than there was in 2004, considering how many more people have seen the original Anchorman since then. To promote the movie, Ferrell has been appearing everywhere as Ron Burgundy, on commercials for the Dodge Durango, appearing in character on random local news networks, and even making an appearance with his “Anchorman” castmates on a recent “Saturday Night Live.”
The movie is opening early on Tuesday evening and one imagines there’s enough demand from those who have been waiting anxiously for the sequel that they’ll probably go see it right away rather than wait for the weekend. That is, those who know it’s out earlythe move to Tuesday evening is fairly recent. That early opening is likely to cut into the movie’s potential weekend business, but it should do well enough on Wednesday and Thursday to bring in between $23 and 25 million before the weekend even begins. It should also still fare well enough to take the top spot from the second weekend of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug with somewhere in the low $30 millions, and if the sequel is anywhere near as funny as the original, we could see it pulling in enough repeat business over the holidays to gross up to $160 or 170 million total.
By now, most people are aware how hard it is to make a comedy sequel that can stand up to a beloved classic. Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay have made so many hilarious comedies together since the original “Anchorman,” fans of the original movie deservedly will hold out hope they can pull off one of the few successful ones and most of them probably won’t be too disappointed.
As this one opens, Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy and his wife, Christina Applegate’s Veronica Corningstone are co-anchoring the news in New York City, but when he’s fired and she’s given a promotion, Burgundy is back in San Diego drinking heavily. An offer to be one of the anchors for GNN, the first 24-hour news channel, convinces Ron to reunite his old news team to share in this new venture. Although they’re given the graveyard shift from 2 to 5AM, we soon learn that their inept brand of news reporting is perfect for GNN as their ratings explode.
Burgundy continues to be a character with a lot of potential, and that’s proven quite admirably in this sequel, especially as we see other aspects of Ron’s life such as trying to be a father to his impressionable young son, Walter. Paul Rudd is still sharp as ever playing ladies’ man Bryan Fontana as well. On the other hand, Steve Carell’s weatherman Brick Tamland, who was the heart and soul of the first movie, comes off as a bit of a dud this time. His one joke, random Tourette’s-like exclamations, are only so funny, and even trying to create a romance between Brick and an equally daft woman played by Kristin Wiig fails because it’s such an obvious subplot that drags the movie down.
The problem is that there really isn’t much of an overall story to hold all of the bits together. Ron’s immediate rivalry with fellow GNN newsman Jack Lime (James Marsden) is resolved pretty quickly, so they try to come up with new conflicts for Ron, none which are nearly as funny as the humor in the first half of the movie. When Ron has an accident that takes him off the air, the movie loses a lot of its luster and it becomes apparent the filmmakers had way too many ideas–and not all of them good–that they wanted to cram into what’s likely to be the last we see of Ron Burgundy.
To McKay and Ferrell’s credit, they don’t allow the overtly PC world we currently live in to screw up their chance for some off-color laughs, particularly when it comes to Ron’s relationship with his new black boss, Linda Jackson, played by Meagan Good. Yeah, one of the jokes rips off a classic Mike Myers bit from the “Austin Powers” movies, but it’s obvious that Ferrell is willing to “go there” for the sake of keeping in character as Ron Burgundy and Good ably plays along.
As one might expect, the whole thing builds to a giant battle between different news channels, featuring a number of very funny (and quite impressive) cameos, but the battle is taken so over the top and gets so ridiculously silly that it’s hard to fully enjoy.
As it stands, “Anchorman 2” has some great commentary on the overabundance of 24 hour “news” and there’s enough quotable quips and laughs to enjoy the movie as a whole–it’s clear that everyone involved gave it their all–but when it goes off the rails and starts getting silly, it has a hard time recovering.
Opening wide in about 2,500 theaters after platforming in New York and L.A. last Friday is David O. Russell’s American Hustle (Sony), his follow-up to the Oscar-nominated Silver Linings Playbook. This one is a period crime-comedy (of sorts) that reunites some of his cast from his last two movies, Christian Bale and Amy Adams from The Fighter and Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence from “Silver Linings,” and adds Jeremy Renner.
While making a comedy about the FBI’s attempt to catch corrupt politicians may seem like a strange movie to make for Russell following the hit Silver Linings Playbook, which grossed $132 million and got Jennifer Lawrence an Oscar, he certainly has made a name for himself among moviegoers that could interest them in the movie in the same way that fans of Ben Affleck were intrigued by Argo. The movie has already gotten a tremendous amount of buzz, winning the top prizes from the New York Film Critics Circle, a fairly finicky group who were one of the first groups to announce their awards, and a week later, it scored 7 Golden Globe nominations. The latter probably helped its solid opening in limited release last weekend, averaging around $115,000 in six theaters, which is definitely a great start, though as we’ve seen with other movies, doing huge business in New York and Los Angeles doesn’t always translate to big business across the nation. For instance, PT Anderson’s The Master averaged $147,000 per theater in five sites, but only went on to make $16.3 million total.
The good thing is that this has the marketing muscle of Sony behind it, who have done a good job selling it as a fun period piece ala Anderson’s Boogie Nights or some of Scorsese’s movies, and one imagines that there’s enough college-age and older movie lovers familiar with Russell’s work that will want to see it. The problem is that this is the same audience that might want to see the “Anchorman” sequel .oh, and a fun little factoid: David O. Russell was an executive producer on the original Anchorman. Since the weekend before Christmas is not one where a lot of people go to movies, we expect this to open lower than it might in any other weekend, probably in the $12 to 13 million range, but it should have a nice bump over the holidays as moviegoers look for new things to see. If it continues to do well during awards season, we could see this one grossing upwards of $80 million.
The second movie expanding nationwide after a limited release is Saving Mr. Banks (Disney), the self-referential telling of the making of Disney’s Mary Poppins with Emma Thompson playing author P.L. Travers and Tom Hanks playing Walt Disney himself. Directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side), the movie opened with $421 thousand in 15 theaters, a much-less impressive average of $28 thousand per theater, although it’s also a much more populist movie than American Hustle in terms of mass audiences, first due to the presence of Tom Hanks, a bonafide box office star, but also due to the Disney brandname. I can definitely see this one finding a pretty big family audience once everyone gathers for the holidays, especially with the awards buzz the movie has already been generating, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the movie’s going to do huge business this weekend as its primary audience will be finishing up work, school or Xmas shopping before the holiday. However well or poorly it does this weekend against so much competition, it’s the type of movie that can find an audience via word-of-mouth, so it should play well over the holidays and if it gets some actual Oscar nominations in mid-January, then it’s likely to bring in upwards of $70 million total.
Opening in more theaters than both movies above is the 3D animated Walking With Dinosaurs (20th Century Fox), based on the popular BBC documentary series that was transformed into a live action spectacular that toured North America from 2007 to 2010. Apparently, BBC Earth was involved with this CG animated movie which tries to create photorealistic dinosaurs on screen so that it looks like a prehistoric nature doc, and yet, somehow, in translation, this just looks like another bad family-oriented animated movie with actors giving voice to the dinosaurs, making it look like a crappy-ass rip-off of “Ice Age,” only with photorealism. As bad as the movie looks, there’s no denying that lots of kids, especially young boys, love dinosaurs, and parents might be convinced that their young ones will want to see this movie, though we don’t think anyone is going to be rushing out to see it in the week before Christmas. Then again, with Frozen being the only other family-friendly animated film in theaters, this could end up making up north of $40 million by the end of the holidays as families with small kids look for things to keep them entertained.
Just to give you an example of what a total mess the weekend before Christmas can be, all we have to do is look back to last year when five movies were given wide releases mere days before Christmas (when three other movies would come out). Maybe it wasn’t too big a surprise that Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey stayed on top with $36.9 million, down 56% from its opening weekend. For whatever reason, Paramount decided to release four new movies this weekend with three of them in wide release. The one that fared the best was Tom Cruise playing Lee Child’s military anti-hero Jack Reacher (Paramount), which settled for second place with a measly $15.2 million in 3,352 theaters, although as we mentioned above, the Christmas holiday means everything has legs and it ended up grossing $80 million total. Third place went to Judd Apatow’s comedy spin-off This is 40 (Universal), starring Paul Rudd and Apatow’s wife Leslie Mann, which brought in $11.6 million in just under 3,000 theaters on its way to $67.5 million total. Then there were some surprising duds in the Seth Rogen-Barbara Streisand road comedy The Guilt Trip (Paramount) which opened weakly with $5.3 million in sixth place, while Disney’s latest 3D rerelease Monsters, Inc. 3D only brought in $4.8 million to take eighth place. Lastly, Paramount’s 3D “concert” movie Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D (Paramount) tanked with just $2.1 million made in 840 theaters and didn’t even make it into the Top 10. Last year’s Top 10 grossed $96.5 million but it didn’t have a potential comedy blockbuster like Anchorman 2 to kick it up a notch, so we think this weekend will fare better.
This Week’s Updated Predictions –
UPDATE: I’ve changed my mind on a couple things going into my mid-week update, the first one being that I don’t think Anchorman 2 will beat The Hobbit in its second weekend going by its rather weak $8.1 million opening on Wednesday, although Will Ferrell’s comedy should still bring in $30 million or more. I’m also a little more bullish on David O. Russell’s American Hustle, because the buzz for the movie has certainly grown due to the pervasive marketing, which may help it give Disney’s Frozen a run for third place. Likewise, I feel that both Saving Mr. Banks and Walking with Dinosaurs should fare better than my earlier in the week predictions, although being the last weekend before Christmas, holiday shopping will still take precedence for most Americans, softening all the numbers. One addition to the weekend is the Bollywood action-thriller Dhoom 3, which opens in 236 theaters and considering the success of the previous two chapters in the franchise, we think this should fare well enough to break into the lower end of the Top 10. Philomena will be vying for tenth place against Thor: The Dark World but that loses a lot of theaters on Friday and probably will drop out of the Top 10.
1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (New Line/WB) – $32.5 million -56% (up .5 million and one place)
2. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (Paramount) – $31.2 million N/A6% (down 2.3 million and one place)
3. American Hustle (Sony) – $15.2 million N/A (up 3.2 million and one place)
4. Frozen (Walt Disney) – $15.0 million -34% (up .2 million but down one place)
5. Saving Mr. Banks (Disney) – $10.1 million N/A (up .4 million)
6. Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas (Lionsgate) – $8.5 million -47% (same)
7. Walking with Dinosaurs (20th Century Fox) – $8.0 million N/A (up 1.2 million)
8. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Lionsgate) – $7.2 million -51% (up .7 million)
9. Dhoom 3 – $2.2 million N/A
10. Philomena (The Weinstein Company) – $1.4 million -25%
Spike Jonze returns with his fourth film Her (Warner Bros.), starring Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore Twombly, a lonely divorced writer living in Los Angeles who tries out a new advanced operating system with its own artificial intelligence. Ted soon learns that “Samantha” is more than just a relaxing voice (provided by Scarlett Johannson) as the two of them start to have an unconventional relationship. Also starring Amy Adams, it opens in select cities on Wednesday and nationwide on January 10.
Oscar-winning Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) returns with The Past (Sony Pictures Classics) starring The Artist‘s Bérénice Bejo and Ali Mosaffa as a couple who reunite in Paris after a four-year separation in order to finalize their divorce proceedings so she can marry her new boyfriend (Tahar Rahim). The Cannes Film Festival prize winner opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.
Filmmaker Joe Swanberg (Drinking Buddies) releases his third movie of the year, All the Light in the Sky (Factory 25), this one starring “Hung” star Jane Adams (who co-wrote the screenplay) as an actress facing the realities of aging in an industry where youth and beauty is paramount, which is made more obvious when her niece (Sophia Takai) comes to stay for a weekend. It opens in New York on Friday.
DJ turned filmmaker Quentin Dupieux (Rubber) returns with his new comedy Wrong Cops (IFC Films) about a group of bad cops in a future where crime is almost non-existent who try to dispose of a body they accidentally shot. Featuring another eclectic cast that includes Marilyn Manson, Grace Zabriskie and Agnes Bruckner, it opens in select cities and on VOD on Friday.
Oeke Hoogendijk’s four-hour two-part documentary The New Rijksmuseum looks at the 10-year renovation of the Amsterdam museum first built in 1895. It opens at New York’s Film Forum on Wednesday.
Next week, it’s Christmas time and we get FIVE (!!) more new movies on Christmas Day including Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio’s fifth collaboration, The Wolf of Wall Street (Paramount); Ben Stiller stars in and directs the fantasy-adventure The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (20th Century Fox); Jake LaMotta (aka Robert De Niro) and Rocky Balboa (aka Sylvester Stallone) face-off in the boxing ring in the comedy Grudge Match (Warner Bros.); Keanu Reeves goes on an adventures with 47 Ronin (Universal); and the concert movie doc sequel Justin Bieber’s Believe (Open Road).
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Copyright 2013 Edward Douglas