The Weekend Warrior: Neighbors, Legends of Oz, Moms’ Night Out

I’d love to say that now we’re into the summer movie season, everything is going to be just rosey, and theaters are going to be packed from now until Labor Day, but we all know that for every weekend with a movie that opens over $90 million, there has to be a few slower weekends where things just don’t connect. That probably won’t be completely the case this weekend as we’re getting a new R-rated comedy starring Seth Rogen and Zac Efron that should be a considerable hit and might even give The Amazing Spider-Man 2 a run for the #1 spot this weekend. It’s also Mother’s Day on Sunday, so one can expect that husbands and kids might take their mother out to see something for her special day.

Before we get to this week’s offerings, we want to give a quick shout-out and congratulations to our pals at EZ1 Productions who have just updated their website, and it’s not too late to join in on this summer’s Box Office Challenge right here. (Okay, it’s a little late since they’ve done the first price adjustments but you can still get on board.)

Back to our previously scheduled programming, the big movie of the weekend is going to be the Nicholas (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) Stoller’s R-rated comedy Neighbors (Universal), which pits the poster boy for R-rated comedy, Seth Rogen, against an actor who is so dreamy that he should be on every movie poster, Zac Efron, as they co-star in the first frathouse comedy in quite some time.

Over the past decade, R-rated comedy has been flourishing during the summer with huge hits like Wedding Crashers, The Hangover, Ted, Bridesmaids and more capitalizing on the fact that people like getting out of the heat and into a theater full of people laughing along with them. Seth Rogen certainly has played a large part in getting many of them into theaters by appearing in Judd Apatow’s first three movies, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Funny People, as well as some of his own productions like Superbad, Pineapple Express and last year’s This is the End. In fact, Rogen and his writing/producing partner Evan Goldberg have generally had a successful run of hits even with the delayed The Green Hornet, which opened with $33 million and grossed just under $100 million. Last year’s This is the End, Rogen and Goldberg’s directorial debut, opened against Man of Steel to around $20 million but it went on to gross over $100 million during the summer.

Rogen’s audience tends to be male and probably getting older now, but Neighbors offers the brilliant pairing of him with Zac Efron, who has a bigger fanbase among women under 25 thanks to his role in Disney’s “High School Musical” movies. Efron’s mainly been appearing in indie films over the past few years, his highest profile movie being 2012′s The Lucky One, which grossed $60.5 million. Earlier this year, he made his break into raunchy comedy with That Awkward Moment, which only made $26 million domestically but doubled that amount worldwide. Having the two of them together almost guarantees that this will be a first choice for both guys and women under 25 and the premise of combining low-brow fratboy humor with situational jokes about being new parents should offer a wider range of audiences than Rogen’s usual fare in a similar way as Knocked Up.

The comedy also co-stars Rose Byrne, who appeared in Nick Stoller’s earlier comedy Get Him to the Greek as well as being Kristen Wiig’s nemesis in the hit Bridesmaids, playing Rogen’s wife; Dave Franco, brother to Rogen’s frequent collaborator James, who had a funny role in 21 Jump Street; plus numerous funny supporting roles played by the likes of Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad), Ike Barinholtz and Jerrod Carmichael. Other than Byrne (who is amazing in the movie), none of the others will necessarily bring people into theaters, but they all play funny characters and have moments that contribute to the film’s non-stop laughs. (We wouldn’t be remotely surprised to see Barinholtz or Carmichael break out from the movie much like Melissa McCarthy did with Bridesmaids.)

Universal is highly confident in this movie and rightfully so, because it plays like gangbusters with a variety of audiences, as they saw when it premiered as a work-in-progress at the South by SouthWest Film Festival in March and then again at the theater exhibitors’ convention CinemaCon in Las Vegas a few weeks later. They’re opening the movie very wide in the second weekend of May, a weekend that’s often been jinxed by bad bombs trying to compete with blockbuster summer openers, although this was the same weekend in which the studio released Bridesmaids. It opened with $26.2 million, but over the course of the summer, it amassed $169.1 million with some of the most amazing legs for a summer comedy that we’ve seen in quite some time.

The presence of Rogen and Efron, the simplicity of the title and premise, the lack of strong comedies in theaters and the overwhelmingly positive reviews should all contribute to a big opening weekend in the $30 million range. It’s probably going to win Friday but settle for second place over the weekend even if The Amazing Spider-Man 2 tanks in its second weekend, since that will get a bigger family bump on Saturday. Word-of-mouth should be strong enough that more people will find the movie as the weeks go along as people will talk about it, and return business should also be strong enough to keep it holding well against the upcoming blockbusters. While it probably won’t have quite the leggy run of Bridesmaids, it probably will end up somewhere in the $130 to 140 million range before leaving theaters.

Review (Although on second viewing, I’d probably make it a 7.5/10)

Video Interview with Nick Stoller & Evan Goldberg

Video Interviews with the Cast

And then there’s the other two movies, both PG films, one which his barely getting a wide release and the other being released by a new distributor who may be going wider with their first feature film than what’s feasible. At least the animated film Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return (Clarius Entertainment) has some sort of marketing campaign behind it and a voice cast that includes Patrick Stewart, Kelsey Grammer, Lea Michele, Martin Short, Oliver Platt, Jim Belushi and Dan Aykroyd–none of whom are mentioned in the advertising, of course.

While there are movies still in theaters for families with kids like Rio 2 and even the two superhero movies, this one seems to be catering to the smallest of kids, similar to The Weinstein Company’s Hoodwinked movies, the first of which did better than its sequel. In general, animation studios like Disney, DreamWorks, Pixar and Blue Sky have been fairly dominant at the box office in terms of CG-animated family films, while smaller releases like this one have done little but to oversaturate the market and make it more difficult for the computer animation genre to thrive as it once has. Earlier this year, Open Road’s The Nut Job grossed $64.2 million and Relativity’s Free Birds grossed $55.7 million over the holidays last year, but even CG-animated movies from the big studios aren’t doing nearly as much business as they have in the past—as seen by Mr. Peabody & Sherman and Rio 2. The only way these movies can succeed is if they breakout to older audiences as The LEGO Movie did earlier this year.

It’s not often animated movies released by small first-time distributors are able to find much of an audience mainly because they don’t have the money for advertising – a good example is Delgo, which grossed less than $700 thousand despite a wide release into over 2,100 theaters. Clarius Entertainment has bought time during network morning shows to get the word out and having the connection to the beloved “Wizard of Oz” stories by Frank L. Baum–apparently this is a direct sequel?–probably won’t hurt too much either. Even so, releasing the movie into 2,800 theaters across the nation may be a little overly ambitious for a first-time distributor and being that schools are still in session and that no one over the age of 8 will care much about the movie, we don’t see this taking in more than $6 to 8 million this weekend and probably will top out around $25 million total.

On the other hand, the comedy Moms’ Night Out (Sony/TriStar Pictures), which stars the oddball mix of Sarah Drew (“Grey’s Anatomy”), Sean Astin, Patricia Heaton (“The Middle”) and Trace Adkins, seems to be getting a release just to coincide with Mother’s Day and honestly, that’s probably the only way it’s going to make ANY money since few people probably will even know this movie exists. On the surface, it seems like another one of those raunchy comedies meant for older women with its concept of three mothers who decide to take a night out to have some fun for themselves but end up losing a baby. (Yes, it’s all fun until someone loses a baby.) But actually, it’s a PG-rated movie that looks like a dog of a movie.

As much as the general concept seems like it could be fun, it has a pathetically weak cast and it’s directed by the Erwin Brothers, who were responsible for the surprise hit October Baby. Rather than going for the raunchy laughs of the recent hit The Other Woman, they instead made a PG movie that tries to deliver a message or moral about how great mothers are – and they are. Still, it’s not enough to just throw a movie out there like this, expecting that just putting “Mom” in the title will be enough. In some ways, this feels a bit like last week’s Elizabeth Banks vehicle Walk of Shame, a movie being released by a distributor with very little fanfare, but unlike that comedy, this is being released into over a thousand theaters with what seems like zero marketing or promotion.

Despite setting itself apart with a PG rating, it’s just not a good time to release a weak-looking comedy like this against stronger ones like Neighbors and The Other Woman, both of which could be just as much of a draw on Mother’s Day. Seriously, we can’t see this one making more than $3 million this weekend and it will probably disappear after Mother’s Day and will be lucky to end up grossing more than $5 or 6 million.

This weekend last year, two new movies were given wide releases but neither was able to take down Marvel Studios’ Iron Man 3, which was the second-biggest opening weekend the previous week and then took a 58% plunge in its second week, and yet, it still topped the box office with $72.5 million. Opening in a strong second place, Leonardo DiCaprio starred in Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (Warner Bros.) along with Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire and Joel Edgerton, and women flocked out to see it in droves to the tune of $50 million opening weekend or more than Luhrmann’s last movie Australia grossed domestically. Meanwhile, Tyler Perry presented Peeples (Lionsgate), the new ensemble comedy by Tina Gordon Chism, co-starring Kerry Washington and Craig Robinson, which opened in fourth place with just $4.6 million in 2,000 theaters, barely besting 42, which had been in theaters for over a month. The Top 10 grossed $150.4 million, but once again, since the Top 2 might not make as much as Iron Man 3 on its own, we’re continuing with another down weekend.

THE CHOSEN ONE:

We’re moving this section of the column above the predictions so maybe people will look out for some of the better limited releases this summer once they expand wider. That and I really wanted to draw special attention to Jon Favreau’s latest movie Chef (Open Road), one of my favorite movies from the South by SouthWest Film Festival and the Heineken Audience Award at the recent Tribeca Film Festival. It’s also almost guaranteed to have a place in my year-end Top 25… and it’s only May!

I’ve already reviewed the movie (link below), but I liked the movie even more and it worked just as well on second viewing because it’s just such a great look at the cooking world through one rather difficult chef named Carl Casper, played by Favreau himself, who gets himself fired by his boss (Dustin Hoffman) over the menu he wants to serve a high-profile food critic (Oliver Platt). Without a job, he agrees to travel down to Miami with his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara) in order to try to reconnect with his 10-year-old son Percy (Emjay Anthony).

It doesn’t seem like the most exciting premise and I’ve already tried a few times to put into words why I love the film so much. Part of why the movie has really connected is due to my foodie tendencies of watching “Top Chef,” the Food Network and loving everything that Anthony Bourdain does, but even without being father, I could relate to Favreau’s character in so many ways, particularly the feeling of being in a rut and not having the heart to do your best or most creative work, the desire to reinvent yourself and make a change in your life.

Favreau pulls this character off beautifully, which is a testament as much to his writing as it is his performance, and he wisely surrounds himself with a top-notch cast that includes John Leguizamo and Bobby Cavanale as his sous chefs, Scarlett Johansson as the restaurant hostess and Robert Downey Jr. as his ex-wife’s ex-husband in a very funny scene.

What really sold me on the movie was the development of the relationship between Casper and his son, as Emjay Anthony is another talented child actor we’ve seen introduced this year (something that I feel like writing more about sometime soon). The relationship between Favreau and Anthony is really believable and it leads to a terrific second half as they drive a food truck across country bonding over their shared love of cooking.

As much as Chef might seem like a departure for Favreau for those who loved previous films like Elf and his “Iron Man” movies, in fact, it feels like a culmination of everything he’s done as a director bound into a nice package that makes for an extremely pleasurable moviegoing experience that’s worth seeing with an audience.

Chef opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday and if you’re into good food, good music and good fun, then definitely look for it when it opens in your area later this month.

Interview with Jon Favreau

My SXSW Review

This Week’s Updated Predictions -

UPDATE: A lot of the other box office predictors are saying that Neighbors will win the weekend but I’m still dubious because it seems like something that younger audience will rush out to see on Thursday and Friday but others will wait and see after hearing the buzz, but after a bit more number crunching I’ve decided to go along with the pack and raise my prediction slightly as I also with Mom’s Night Out which seems to be finding an audience of people willing to take their mothers to see it just cause of the title. (At least that’s our only explanation.)

1. Neighbors (Universal) – $39.2 million N/A (up 4.1 million and one place)

2. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Sony Pictures) – $37.5 million -59% (down one place)

3. The Other Woman (20th Century Fox) – $8.2 million -43% (up .2 million)

4. Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return (Clarius Entertainment) – $7 million N/A

5. Heaven is for Real (Sony/TriStar Pictures) – $5.6 million -35% (up .1 million)

6. Rio 2 (20th Century Fox) – $4.5 million -42%

7. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Marvel Studios/Disney) – $4.3 million -45%

8. Moms’ Night Out (Sony/TriStar Pictures) – $3.5 million N/A (up .8 million)

9. Brick Mansions (Relativity) – $1.5 million – 59% (down .1 million)

10. Divergent (Summit) – $1.3 million -42%

Other Limited Releases:

Documentaries of Note:

Stephanie Soechtig’s Fed Up (RADiUS-TWC), produced by Katie Couric and Laurie David (An Inconvenient Truth), is a thematic follow-up to the doc Food, Inc., taking an in-depth look at what and how we eat and exercise.

Speaking of “feeding,” Dana Ben-Ari’s doc Breastmilk (CAVU Pictures) takes a look at….. Well, read the title and figure it out.

Drama:

Gia Coppola, granddaughter of Francis Ford Coppola, adapts the short stories of James Franco in the coming-of-age anthology Palo Alto (Tribeca Film), starring Emma Roberts as April, a soccer player who ends up having an affair with her single coach Mr. B (played by Franco) after blowing it with Teddy (Jack Kilmer), a quiet artistic type whose best friend Fred (Nat Wolff) is constantly pulling him into trouble.

Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan takes on the story of the West Memphis Three in Devil’s Knot (RLJ/Image Entertainment), starring Reese Witherspoon as Pam Hobbs, the mother of one of three young boys brutally murdered in the woods of Arkansas as three teenagers are accused of the crime. Colin Firth plays the investigator hired to look into the teen boy’s innocence by looking at other possible scenarios. It opens in select cities on Friday including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Detroit, Philadelphia and more.

Interview with Atom Egoyan (Coming Soon!)

“Mad Men” star John Slattery makes his directorial debut with God’s Pocket (IFC Films) starring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as Mickey Scarpato, a man whose stepson Leon (Caleb Landry Jones) is killed in a construction accident forcing Mickey to try to bury the body before a reporter discovers the truth.

Action, Thrillers and Horror:

Jesse Eisenberg stars with Mia Wasikowska… and Jesse Eisenberg in The Double (Magnolia), the new movie from Richard Ayoade (“The IT Crowd,” Submarine), an adaptation of Dostoevsky’s novella about a officer clerk named Simon James, who is generally overlooked and ignored by everyone around him until he discovers he has an identical twin James Simon who is his complete opposite, but whom also wants to take over his life. It opens in New York (Landmark Sunshine) and Los Angeles (NuArt Theater) on Friday as well as On Demand.

Jerome Sable’s horror-comedy Stage Fright (Magnet) stars Allie MacDonald as Camilla Swanson, a teenager wanting to follow her mother onto the Broadway stage but instead ends up stuck working in the kitchen at a performing arts camp. She ends up sneaking into the auditions for a play and is cast as the lead just as people start being killed off. It opens in select cities following its run On Demand.

Next week, the summer movie season gets big, REAL BIG, with the new version of Godzilla (Legendary/Warner Bros.) storming through cities across the country. Also, Jon Hamm goes to India looking for the next great wave of baseball pitchers in Million Dollar Arm (Disney). Instead, he meets the kid who starred in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi and gets eaten by a tiger…. leaving nothing but his arm, which is worth a million dollars. (And if you believe that is the actual plot, then I have a bridge to sell you.)


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

Copyright 2014 Edward Douglas

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