The Weekend Warrior: January 23 – 25

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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 theater counts.

This Week’s Predictions:

1. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (Screen Gems) – $28.4 million N/A

2. Paul Blart: Mall Cop (Sony) – $18.1 million -43%

3. Gran Torino (Warner Bros.) – $12.1 million -43% (down .4 mil.)

4. Notorious (Fox Searchlight) – $10.2 million -50% (up 1 place)

5. My Bloody Valentine 3-D (Lionsgate) – $9.8 million -54% (up 1 place)

6. Hotel for Dogs (DreamWorks) – $9.7 million -43% (down .6 mil and two places)

7. Inkheart (New Line/WB) – $9.6 million N/A (same)

8. Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) – $8.3 million +16% (up 1.3 mil.)

9. Bride Wars (20th Century Fox) – $6.2 million -47% (down .3 million)

10. Revolutionary Road (Paramount Vantage) – $5.5 million +158% (up .9 million)

Frost/Nixon (Universal) – $3.5 million +319% (up .7 mil.)

Weekend Overview

Unfortunately, the Weekend Warrior has been so busy seeing movies and doing interviews at this year’s Sundance Film Festival that he hasn’t had time to write up his usual extensive analysis. Hopefully, those able to forgive the Warrior’s inability to predict the last two weeks of box office craziness are still around and will be sated by a more minimal write-up.

Needless to say, the action-thriller prequel Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (Sony/Screen Gems) should win the weekend with ease although the stars of the previous two movies in the franchise, Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman, are not back. Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen return as their characters, which should be enough for fans of the series, and the addition of the beautiful Rhona Mitra from Doomsday might fool enough of the fans who don’t realize Beckinsale is gone. Expect it to open just slightly higher than the previous movie having built up anticipation among its fans interested in seeing how the war between the vampires and lycans began over the last three years. Like the “Saw” franchise, this one has enough devoted fans that the movies should continue opening well even without having much longevity in the market.

Another leftover from New Line, the fantasy-adventure Inkheart (New Line/Warner Bros.), starring Brendan Fraser, is finally getting released after being delayed for over a year. With so many big movies opening over the holiday weekend last week, it might have a hard time making a mark at the box office, since it doesn’t have nearly as much immediate appeal as the previous Fraser family adventure Journey to the Center of the Earth, especially without the draw of 3D. While there will be some young fantasy fans who’ll have read the book and might be interested in seeing this, one has to feel that the lack of success for some of Fox Walden’s ventures like City of Ember doesn’t bode well for this opening over $10 million.

Three Oscar contenders, two of them Golden Globe winners, will expand nationwide this weekend, the most notable one being Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight), which has done amazingly well, grossing nearly $44 million without ever playing in more than 650 venues and having been on the bottom half of the Top 10 three times. This weekend, Searchlight expands it into over a thousand theaters after its amazing showing at the Golden Globes, and that should include enough new territories who haven’t had a chance to see it that it should move even further into the Top 10.

After successfully expanding the WWII drama Defiance last weekend, Paramount Vantage is finally setting Sam Mendes’ suburban drama Revolutionary Road loose on the rest of the country, and the draw of Leonardo DiCaprio and Golden Globe winner Kate Winslet, should be enough to get older women not interested in the other two movies into theaters. Having played in the big cities longer than Defiance will minimize its per-theater average somewhat, though it should do well enough to get into the Top 10.

Pulling up the rear is Ron Howard’s adaptation of Peter Morgan’s play Frost/Nixon (Universal), starring Frank Langella and Michael Sheen, which also will go into 800 theaters, presumably with a number of Oscar nominations–we’ll know tomorrow morning whether it gets a coveted Best Picture nomination, which could give it a bigger bump, especially having no other awards under its belt.

On top of all that, Warner Bros. will be re-releasing Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight into over 250 IMAX theaters on Friday, hoping to capitalize on the expected Oscar nominations and hoping to edge closer to Titanic‘s domestic box office record. It will probably add another $1.5 million or so, not enough to make much of a difference with so many people having already seen it both in theaters and on DVD.

This week’s “Chosen One” is Oliver Blackburn’s Donkey Punch (Magnet Releasing).

Last January ended with Meet the Spartans (20th Century Fox) continuing the run of January spoof movies topping the box office with $18.5 million, although it would put the last nail in the coffin as Superhero Movie and Disaster Movie would bomb later in the year. Coming in for a close second, Sylvester Stallone returned as Rambo (Lionsgate), which grossed $18.2 million in 2,751 theaters. The Diane Lane thriller Untraceable (Screen Gems) opened in fifth with $11.5 million, while the dance movie How She Move (Paramount Vantage) bombed, grossing just $4 million over the three-day weekend to open in twelfth place.


Next week, the month of January ends with Super Bowl weekend, as well as three new movies opening wide, including the action-thriller Taken (20th Century Fox) starring Liam Neeson, the horror remake The Uninvited (Paramount) and the Renee Zellweger romantic comedy New in Town (Lionsgate).

Copyright 2009 Edward Douglas