Every summer, there’s one weekend where moviegoers need a bit of a respite between the big budget blockbusters and normally that’s the weekend where something breaks out big because nothing is expected to do well against the sure things. It’s hard to say if this weekend might be like that because the only new movie with any real potential to breakout is the ensemble comedy Think Like a Man Too (Sony/Screen Gems), the follow-up to the 2012 hit based on Steve Harvey’s popular self-help book. Its only competition (other than the returning movies) is the big screen version of the Broadway musical Jersey Boys (Warner Bros.), directed by Clint Eastwood, which has a far more limited audience.
The original Think Like a Man opened in 2,015 theaters in April 2012 to a shocking $33.6 million, nearly $17,000 per site, putting it in the range of some of Tyler Perry’s more successful movies, as it went on to make $91.5 million domestically. That probably shouldn’t have been too surprising for those who have been following the climate in movie theaters with very little being offered specifically for African-American women other than Perry’s movies.
This time the sequel moves to Las Vegas, which as we’ve seen in movies like The Hangover and last year’s comedy Las Vegas, continues to be a hot location for movies, since it promises all sorts of debaucherous fun that gives moviegoers the type of escapism they often need (or brings back memories of their own Vegas adventures).
Besides being the sequel to a movie based on a popular book, the sequel greatly benefits from its incredibly talented cast of African-American actors, that’s enhanced by the popularity of Kevin Hart, who has really exploded since that first movie thanks to two hit concert films as well as making prominent appearances in other movies. Earlier this year, Hart’s pairing with Ice Cube in the buddy cop comedy Ride Along grossed $134.2 million after a $41.5 million opening. That was followed a month later with the romantic comedy About Last Night which had a $25.6 million opening, boosted by Valentine’s Day, and grossed $48.6 million total. (Hart’s secondary role in last year’s De Niro vs. Stallone comedy Grudge Match didn’t do much to help that movie.)
Despite Hart being front and center, this really is an ensemble piece which includes Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson, three urban comedy regulars in Gabrielle Union, Meagan Good and Regina Hall, Dennis Haysbert and Michael Ealy, Romany Malco (who had a great scene with Hart in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and token white actors Adam Brody, Jerry Ferrara (“Entourage”) and Wendi McLendon-Covey (Bridesmaids). Hall is coming off another successful sequel The Best Man Holiday, which came out almost 15 years after the original movie and opened with $30 million in roughly the same number of theaters as Think Like a Man Too.
As with the first movie, the audience will primarily be African-Americans in larger cities, but the Vegas setting and Hart’s presence may allow it to bring in more men than these comedies normally do. Despite it being a sequel to a huge comedy hit, Screen Gems is giving it a somewhat focused and more moderate release into less than 2,500 theaters rather than the typical oversaturation of 3,000 to 4,000 theaters most summer sequels normally get. It should be able to match and probably best the opening for the original movie, probably taking in $35 million to 40 million, maybe even more if the movie defies expectations as many of producer William Packer’s have done over the last few years.
Filmmaker Clint Eastwood returns with his first movie since 2011’s critical and commercial flop J. Edgar, this time tackling the “jukebox musical” Jersey Boys (Warner Bros.), which tells the story of pop group Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and how they came from the crime-ridden streets of Newark, New Jersey to become international superstars. The musical was quite a hit both on Broadway and in other cities like San Francisco, Las Vegas and London, which is why making a movie out of it seemed pretty logical.
Unlike many musicals that are brought to the screen, this one features mostly a cast of unknowns to all but those who saw the show on Broadway where John Lloyd Young originated the role of Valli on stage and won a Tony for it. It’s not often that they bring some of the original cast to the movies, but that’s the case here with Young joined by Erich Bergen and others who were in the play. The only well-established actor in the movie is Christopher Walken, who doesn’t exactly get people into movie theater seats, although some might also know Four Season guitarist Vincent Piazza for playing “Lucky” Luciano from HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.”
It’s actually somewhat odd to release a more dramatic musical like this in the summer, because Clint Eastwood’s movies are generally saved for the fall awards season (for better of worse) and a June release doesn’t show a lot of confidence by Warner Bros. in it having any awards chances despites its Tony-winning pedigree. The last time Warner Bros. tried to release a musical during the summer was just two years ago when they released the star-studded film version of the Broadway hit Rock of Ages on June 15, 2012, but even with the likes of Tom Cruise in the cast, it only made $14.4 million in 3,470 theaters. With a better known cast, that presumably had more appeal to younger audiences than Jersey Boys will, but it also won’t hold much interest to the audience for Think Like a Man Too either.
With zero appeal to anyone under 30 and little interest to anyone other than Frankie Valli fans and fans of the stage musical, even with a wide release into over 3,000 theaters it’s unlikely that Jersey Boys will open over $15 million and probably will end up with between $10 and 13 million. It’s the type of movie that can benefit from offering something different and a total gross between $35 and 40 million seems doable.
Review (Coming Soon!)
The only other movie expanding wider is David Michod’s Aussie Western (of sorts) The Rover (A24), starring Guy Pearce and “Twilight Saga” star Robert Pattinson, which expands nationwide into an unknown number of theaters, although that theater count will make a huge difference on whether it ends up with $1 million or closer to $2 million (like A24’s 2013 wide release The Bling Ring.) Positive reviews are driving interest in this one to serious cinephiles who won’t have much interest in the other movies, although the title doesn’t do the movie any favors and awareness is fairly low compared to most summer movies. Like Jersey Boys, this may have fared better as a fall release.
Chances are that many people wanting to see a movie this weekend may not be interested in either of the new choices which should allow a nice boost to all of the returning movies, especially now that hockey and basketball seasons are over. (There’s still the World Cup to contend with over the weekend, although it’s doubtful either of the new movies will be affected by it.) There’s a good chance that both of last week’s movies will have enough of a drop to allow Think Like a Man Too to win the weekend although both of last week’s sequels have strong enough buzz they could pull out a surprise victory.
This weekend last year was a much bigger weekend than this one is going to be with two movies opening over $60 million including Pixar Animation’s long-awaited prequel Monsters University (Disney), once again teaming the voices of Billy Crystal and John Goodman. Although it opened twelve years after the previous movie, it opened with a solid $82.4 million in 4,207 theaters. Brad Pitt also had the biggest opening weekend of his career with the delayed action-thrillerWorld War Z (Paramount), which took second place with $66.4 million in 3,607 theaters, about $18.4 thousand per site. A24’s teen crime-drama The Bling Ring expanded into 650 theaters where it ended up with $2 million, only enough to barely enter the Top 10. Those ten movies grossed $228.4 million over the weekend and we doubt this weekend will even come close to that amount.
This week’s “CHOSEN ONE” is Third Person (Sony Pictures Classics), the new movie from Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis (Crash), returning with a new multi-storyline drama with an amazing cast that includes Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, Adrien Brody, Mila Kunis, James Franco and Maria Bello.
Now not everyone is a fan of Crash and I totally get that. Sadly, not everyone will love Third Person either because it’s an enigmatic film, almost like Paul Haggis’ “Cloud Atlas” without any of the sci-fi or genre elements, but it’s a solid drama that generally get more interesting as it goes along and pieces start fitting together.
Essentially it’s made up of three distinct but related stories that are loosely (barely) interconnected, the main one involving Liam Neeson as a novelist working on his latest book while living in a hotel in Paris, when his mistress, an upcoming author he’s been mentoring played by Olivia Wilde, shows up to complicate matters. Adrien Brody is an American businessman in Rome who meets a beautiful woman in a bar (Moran Atias) who may be trying to scam him for money. Mila Kunis is a New York woman who has been separated from her young son after being accused of trying to kill him who can’t seem to get things to work out so she can see him.
Why the film ultimately works is the way Haggis and his cast are able to translate his beautifully-written screenplay into an emotionally investing experience and while there’s a lot to love about the movie, the performances by Wilde as an extremely complex woman who runs hot/cold, switching moods on a dime and Kunis as a mother who seems to be unable to get anything to work out as she struggles to make ends meet are what makes their storylines work so well. (To his credit, Liam Neeson isn’t too shabby himself and the chemistry between him and Wilde works surprisingly well.)
The weak link is the Brody storyline, which just doesn’t have the emotional resonance as the other two stories, although it does have one of the more romantic and downright sexy moments, maybe of the year and Atias is a remarkable actress worth keeping an eye on. Even so, their story isn’t resolved as satisfyingly as the other two stories and some might be perplexed when some of the characters start to interact between stories.
Despite a few questionable moments, it feels very much like Haggis’ experience after directing four films is fully on display in how well the transitions work between the three very different stories and settings. It would be an oversight not to mention Dario Marianelli’s subtle and simple score, which creates a bed of piano to maintain consistency between the three stories while never trying to overpower the actors’ performances when more emotion is required.
That being said, the paradoxical ending is almost as frustrating as the over two hours it takes to get there, but the more you think about it, things start sliding into place to form your own interpretation and the more you realize what a brilliant film Haggis had created.
Third Person certainly won’t be for everyone but those looking for something closer to a European film than the dramas we normally get from American filmmakers, should appreciate the cinematic experience Haggis has created.
Third Person opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday with a planned expansion throughout the rest of the summer.
This Week’s Predictions –
1. Think Like a Man Too (Sony/Screen Gems) – $36.2 million N/A
2. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (DreamWorks Animation, 20th Century Fox) – $31 million -38%
3. 22 Jump Street (Sony) – $28 million -51%
4. Jersey Boys (Warner Bros.) – $11.3 million N/A
5. Maleficent (Walt Disney Pictures) – $10.5 million -43%
6. Edge of Tomorrow (Warner Bros) – $10 million -40%
7. The Fault in Our Stars (20th Century Fox) – $8 million -46%
8. X-Men: Days of Future Past (20th Century Fox) – $5.5 million -44%
9. Godzilla (Legendary/Warner Bros.) – $1.8 million -45%
10. The Rover (A24) – $1.6 million +2300%
11. Neighbors (Universal) – $1.5 million -38%
This Week’s Limited Releases:
Foreign Films of Interest:
Oscar-winning filmmaker Roman Polanski tackles his second adaptation of a Tony award-winning stageplay in a row, this time with David Ives’ Venus in Fur (Sundance Selects), starring his wife Emmanuelle Seigner as Vanda, an actress auditioning for the role in a new play by an acclaimed writer and director (Mathieu Amalric), as she spends the night blowing his mind with how much she’s like the lead character, making him obsessed with casting her.
Not to be confused with the Jon Favreau summer sleeper hit of similar name, Daniel Cohen’s Le Chef (Cohen Media Group) stars Jean Reno as a Three Star chef Alexandre Lagarde, who is in danger of losing his position at a restaurant as the corporate owner wants to get away from Lagarde’s classic French cuisine. When he’s introduced to an aspiring young chef named Jacky (Michael Youn), the two of them try to find a balance between old and new to redefine French cuisine.
Oscar-nominated Swedish filmmaker Jan Troell (1973’s The Emigrants) returns with The Last Sentence (Music Box Films), a film set during WWII based on the life of journalist Torgny Segerstedt (played by Denmark’s Jesper Christensen, Mr. White from Casino Royale), and his battle against Hitler’s Nazi regime and Sweden’s policy of appeasing the German dictator. It opens in New York on Friday.
Action, Thrillers and Horror:
James Ward Byrkit’s sci-fi thriller Coherence (Oscilloscope Labs) involves eight friends at a dinner party who experience “reality bending events” on the night of an astrological anomaly.
Documentaries of Note:
Code Black (Long Shot Factory) is a documentary by Ryan McGarry who takes his cameras inside Los Angeles County Hospital’s “C-Booth,” where young doctors try to save lives within the complex U.S. health care system. It opens on Friday at the IFC Center in New York and then on the 27th in Los Angeles at The Landmark with more cities to follow.
Next week, the month of June ends with the fourth installment in one of the larger franchises based on a toy line and that is . a movie you can learn more about next week.
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