The Weekend Warrior: February 27 – March 1

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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.

Updated Predictions and Comparisons

(UPDATE: The big changes from Tuesday are that Slumdog Millionaire, after winning 7 Oscars, has expanded into a lot more theaters than we expected, and it’s just under the 3,000 mark. The Jonas Bros. concert movie is getting a few more theaters than planned, but apparently, Coraline isn’t losing as many theaters as we thought, because maybe they’re just shifting to 2D prints, who knows?)

1. Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience (Disney) – $32.4 million N/A (up 1.3 million)

2. Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail (Lionsgate) – $15.5 million -63% (same)

3. Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) – $9.5 million +13% (up 2 million!)

4. Coraline (Focus Features) – $7.5 million -34% (up .6 million and one place)

5. Taken (20th Century Fox) – $7.1 million -37% (down one place)

6. He’s Just Not That Into You (New Line/WB) – $5.0 million -42% (same)

7. Paul Blart: Mall Cop (Sony) – $4.3 million -39% (same)

8. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (20th Century Fox) – $4.2 million N/A (Up 1 million)

9. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Disney/Touchstone) – $3.6 million -47% (same)

10. Friday the 13th (New Line/WB) – $3.2 million -60% (same)

Weekend Overview

It’s pretty hard not being negative about a second suck@$$ weekend in theaters, and let’s face it, this week’s offerings makes us miss the days when the best the studios had to offer were comedies from Tyler Perry and Maxim. Oh, wait… that was just last weekend!

Either way, it’s pretty wild that neither of the two new wide releases will be opening in more than 1,500 theaters, which is almost unheard of these days, but it’s pretty clear that the Jonas Brothers (SHREEEK!) will win the weekend with their new concert documentary Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience. Opening in twice as many theaters as the Miley Cyrus concert movie, including dozens of IMAX theaters (but only for a week), expect this to have an impressive opening in a similar range as the Miley Cyrus movie, even though that had the advantage of being a “limited one-weekend release” (which drove millions of young women to theaters). There should be a similar drive to see it on Friday night, but not as much urgency. Either way, Focus Features’ Coraline will probably lose a good amount of its own 3D theaters to make room for the Disney concert movie.

The only other new offering this week is the video game movie Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (20th Century Fox) opening fifteen years after the last failed attempt at making a movie based on the video game in nearly 500 fewer theaters, which is not a good sign of confidence on the part of Fox. While the franchise has its fans, they’re probably few and fleeting, as well as older, which means they’ll generally be fine waiting for DVD on this one. Expect an opening near the bottom of the charts and a quick exit from theaters.

Last February ended with the Will Ferrell basketball comedy Semi-Pro (New Line) topping the box office with a miniscule $15 million, which started the ball rolling on Time Warner cracking down on New Line’s lack of a significant hits by merging the company into Warner Bros. a few weeks later. Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson fought over who got to play The Other Boleyn Girl (Sony) in the period drama, which brought in $8.2 million in just 1,200 theaters for fourth place. The long delayed fantasy tale Penelope (Summit Entertainment), starring a pig-snouted Christina Ricci and James McAvoy, opened in ninth place with just $3.8 million. The Top 10 plunged to just $73 million, an amount that should be bested even with just a couple of new movies opening.


THE BATTLE CRY

All the awards have been handed out and the dust has settled, which makes it the perfect time to ask, “What’s wrong with the Oscars?” Or maybe the easier question should be “What’s NOT wrong with the Oscars?” Maybe it’s just my tenure as a cynical New York movie writer that’s made it harder to become excited about the show or the awards, even though I’ve been watching them for many years with attempted excitement and anticipation.

No, this has little to do with The Dark Knight being snubbed in many categories and robbed in others, but more about the fact that the Oscars started for me back in September and by the time February rolls around, there are absolutely no more possible surprises. None whatsoever. The number of people blogging about the Oscars has grown exponentially in the six years I’ve been with ComingSoon.net and everyone has an opinion about everything. The noise is so overpowering that you have to burrow through dozens of posts to find any sort of signal. The funny thing is that it’s all speculation and guesswork up until the first awards are handed out and even then, there’s lots of stats and historical precedence that can generally go wrong.

So far, the best Oscar show had to be the year where The Pianist took three awards that no one saw coming because it made the presentation of awards exciting. This year’s biggest surprise was probably the Foreign Language category, which is mostly made up of movies that no one has seen – me, I’ve seen two of the nominated films.

Then there’s the actual awards ceremony, which just doesn’t seem to be able to get itself to a point where it can be a respectable tribute to industry professionals as well as an entertaining television show for the masses who tune in – not just industry people or old women or gay men, but anyone who wants to watch them. This year, Bill Condon and Lawrence Mark (director and producer of the snubbed Dreamgirls) seemed to be trying to cater to the very old and to the very young, all at the same time, and I’m not sure it necessarily worked. Apparently, the ratings of this year’s show was up somewhere between 6% and 13% from last year (depending who you ask), and that’s pretty huge, considering that it’s been dropping drastically from one year to the next.

It’s also amazing considering the low box office for most of the nominees with the bigger blockbusters only showing up in the technical categories. Much of that could be attributed to the decision to bring in ringers like Twilight‘s Robert Pattinson and some of the cast of High School Musical to help bring in younger girls, but the montages and musical numbers they were involved with were excruciating. The thing is that while some of those things probably helped the ratings, they’re not getting the show out to the audience who generally avoids them—guys–and there was nothing I saw on the show this past weekend that made me think that any guy who saw it would care enough to return next year.

Last week there was a lot of concern over the lack of big name presenters, and yet, there was Will Smith presenting a technical award. Seriously? Considering Smith’s status, he should have given out Best Picture, not hidden in the portion of the show where most people are grabbing a bite to eat or tuning out.

The high point of the show was probably Ben Stiller’s mocking of Joaquin Phoenix, probably the easiest joke anyone could make, and there was a funny bit directed by Judd Apatow involving Seth Rogen and James Franco reprising their characters from last year’s Pineapple Express. a movie that had a very specific audience of college-age and younger guys and wasn’t even remotely Oscar material. Otherwise, there wasn’t a lot of strong humor and Jackman definitely wasn’t the best host (but that again is depending who you ask), which may be why he disappeared for long stretches after his opening number.

Really, the best thing to come out of Condon and Mark’s production was the decision to have past Oscar recipients present to their peers in the acting categories. It really made the old adage about it “being an honor to get nominated” more true than in past years, since each nominee got a nice little tribute from a past winner. It was far more interesting and prestigious than just showing the same clips we’d already been seeing for months. The only problem is that it added a lot more time to each of those awards; on the other hand, it added a little more suspense in the categories that could have gone either way. In general, there was a lot of stuff from the broadcast that could have been cut, particularly those silly movie montages which served very little purpose except to let them change-over the stage for the next big number.

Anyway, it’s over for now. I’m sure the Oscar bloggers will already be looking at what comes out later this year to try to start the whole cycle anew, but I also know that I’ll probably be reading a lot less of them than I have in past years, since by the time awards come around next year, all the same information will already have been regurgitated endlessly.


Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience (Disney)
Starring Kevin Jonas, Joe Jonas, Nick Jonas, Demi Lovato, Taylor Swift
Directed by Bruce Hendricks (Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour
Genre: Music, Concert
Rated G
Plot Summary: Director Bruce Hendricks follows the Jonas Brothers on their sold out “Burning Up” concert tour showing performances and behind-the-scenes footage that give you “new insights” into the lives of Kevin (SHRIEK!), Joe (GASP!) and Nick. (SWOON!)

Analysis:

Just a little over a year after Disney had a huge hit with Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana: The Best of Both Worlds Concert, they’re giving it another go with the pop/rock band whose success has been closely connected to that of Miss Cyrus, even though the Jonas Brothers–Kevin, Joe, Nick–have found a way to break out on their own with successful records after signing up with Hollywood Records and Disney in 2007. However you cut it, the Jonas Brothers have become one of the hottest bands in the country right now due to the devout fandom among younger women–mostly ‘tweens, teens and slightly older–and the hysteria behind them is certainly close to that of the Beatles when they came to the country.

While the Jonas Brothers were already having hits before they hooked up with Disney and Miley, their popularity became evident when their second album (first for Hollywood Records) debuted at #5 on the Billboard Top 200 and a month later, they appeared and performed on an episode of the “Hannah Montana” show, which directly followed the hugely successful Disney Channel movie “High School Musical 2.” Less than a year later, the Jonas Brothers were appearing in their own Disney Channel movie “Camp Rock” which became the network’s second-highest viewed movie, and the soundtrack album reached #3 on the Billboard charts. A few months later, they had a third album “A Little Bit Longer” which led to their sell-out “Burning Up” tour, which was filmed in order for Disney to have a follow-up to the hit Miley concert movie. Last year made it really obvious that there was more to the Jonas Brothers than just glomming onto the popularity of Miley Cyrus, since they’re taken a lot more seriously in the music industry, since they write and play all of their own music.

Much of the key to this movie’s success will revolve around the 3D technology that will allow young women to feel like they are at a Jonas Brothers concert, something that will certainly be appealing both for those who concert tour and want to relive it and those who couldn’t get tickets. That was a big part of the success of Miley Cyrus’ sell-out “Best of Both Worlds” tour doing as well when it opened in just 683 Digital 3D theaters over Super Bowl weekend last year. Even with such a low number of sites playing the movie, it exploded with $31 million and the largest per-theater average ever amounted, over $44 thousand per site. A lot more theaters have added the digital 3D technology needed to play the movie so business will be more spread out, but also, Disney will be opening the movie in IMAX 3D for one week only, and that might be the more desirable method of seeing the movie. Other than the Miley Cyrus blockbuster, concert movies that open for extended runs don’t generally do a ton of business, the most recent ones being last year’s U23D ($9.7 million gross) and Dave Chappelle’s Block Party ($11.7 million gross). This being the second Disney 3D concert movie, it’s probably seen as less of an event, even if it still do better than those other concert movies.

As we saw last year with the success of Twilight and High School Musical 3, women of all ages are driving the box office and the teen and ‘tween market are certainly a large part of that. Ticket sales for the concert movie have been brisk and even though the movie’s only playing in roughly 1,200 locations, all of the showings will have higher ticket prices (being 3D), which will also increase the per-theater average. Expect a huge opening weekend and some repeat business but a little less overall than Miley’s movie.

Why I Should See It: It’s the Jonas Brothers… SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAM!
Why Not: If you’re a guy you’ll probably wonder what the hell women see in these Hanson wannabes.
Projections: $29 to 32 million opening weekend and $60 million total.

COMPARISONS


Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (20th Century Fox)
Starring Kristin Kreuk, Michael Clarke Duncan, Neal McDonough, Taboo, Chris Klein, Moon Bloodgood, Edmund Chen, Cheng Pei Pei, Josie Ho, Robin Shous
Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak (Doom, Cradle 2 the Grave, Exit Wounds, Romeo Must Die); Written by Justin Marks (upcoming Masters of the Universe, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Captain Nemo)
Genre: Action
Rated PG-13
Tagline: “Some Fight for Power. Some Fight For Us.”
Plot Summary: The forces of light and darkness converge on the streets of Bangkok as powerful warriors with fantastic abilities fight against each other, the forces of Bison (Neal McDonough) trying to acquire power, while the beautiful Chun-Li (Kristin Kreuk) and her colleagues try to stop them. FIGHT!

Analysis:

In 1987, Capcom came up with the two-player fighting game “Street Fighter,” a game whose popularity lasted through most of the remaining ’80s and early ’90s due to the different characters and fighting styles gamers could play with, and it went onto become the model for many similar fighting games. In 1994, the game was brought to the big screen by Universal, starring one Jean Claude Van-Damme. It’s fifteen years later, and the video game is back with “Street Fighter IV,” and conveniently enough, there’s a new martial arts driven movie to go along with it, this one hoping to capitalize on the nostalgia factor, as well as the popularity of the Asian spitfire Chun-Li by focusing more on her.

The decision to try to revive the franchise came in the form of Hyde Park Entertainment buying the rights to produce a new film, and they brought on Andrzej Barkowiak, who lost a lot of credibility with video game fans when he bastardized the popular video game Doom, but before that, he built his filmography with martial arts movies like Jet Li’s Romeo Must Die and Cradle 2 the Grave

To play Chun-Li, they got Kristin Kreuk who has played Lana Lang on the hit show “Smallville” for eight years, making a rare jump to the big screen after a small role in the comedy Eurotrip. It also stars Chris Klein of the “American Pie” movies who has mainly been appearing in small indies and little-seen comedies since leaving that franchise after the second one. Rick Yune from Die Another Day brings some martial arts cred to the film, while Moon Bloodgood starts her path to Genre Goddess before appearing in McG’s Terminator Salvation over the summer. Otherwise, it’s a pretty lame cast, made clear by the presence of a member of the Black-Eyed Peas called “Taboo” in a key role, but it also co-stars Oscar nominee Michael Clarke Duncan, who has essentially gone from one bad movie to another in recent years. Okay, fine, he had a roles in “Talladega Nights” and Sin City, so his choices aren’t that bad… but look at this other crap. Granted, he’s very much a genre favorite cause of his size and demeanor, but he probably has worst taste in scripts than Samuel L. Jackson.

While the game on which “Street Fighter” is based might have a nostalgia factor among older guys who remember it fondly, they’re generally smart enough to know a bad movie when they see one. The presumption is that no guys will be interested in the Jonas Brothers concert movie or any of the movies from last week, which could make this a first choice for male audiences. As seen by Summit’s Push a few weeks back, you can’t just release a movie with lots of action and expect it to bring in a lot of male business. Not to be sexist, but guys don’t go see movies just because it has their favorite star or it’s based on a book they love or it looks cute; they go if the movie looks like it will be cool… and “Street Fighter” really doesn’t look very good at all, and younger teens probably won’t be very familiar with the original game to care. The original movie has only scored a 3.2 out of 10 on IMDb User Ratings, so it obviously doesn’t have a lot of fans who probably thought it was worth making another movie.

20th Century Fox has had decent success with movies based on video games, whether it be Aliens vs. Predator (kinda) or Hitman or last year’s Max Payne, most of them opening decently and then trailing off quickly, though few of them have left a good taste in the mouth of the fans. Even though it’s opening with very little direct competition, we can’t overlook some of the past video game bombs, basically any movie made by Uwe Boll, as well as Corey Yuen’s D.O.A.: Dead or Alive, which was delayed for years before opening in over 500 theaters where it grossed less than half a million. “Street Fighter” might have a bit more marketing clout behind it than those movies, but not enough to really make much of a mark except among the curious fans of the original game.

Even with that in mind, it might not be too surprising that Fox is only opening the movie in roughly a thousand theaters, which is unheard of for a major studio movie, but obviously, Fox is trying to dump this stinker before it puts a bad stench on their much more high profile Dragonball Evolution, their upcoming film based on a popular cartoon. With that in mind, expect it to come and go in a blink with some potential for a life on DVD and cable.

Why I Should See It: If you’re a fan of martial arts, there’s that, and maybe the presence of the adorable and sexy duo of Kristin Kreuk and Moon Bloodgood might make this worth seeing.
Why Not: There aren’t many martial arts or action movies that deliver decent story or characters, and the film’s video game origins and low theater count is daunting for this being a truly dreadful dud.
Projections: $3 to 5 million opening weekend and less than $10 million total.

COMPARISONS


THE CHOSEN ONE:

Unfortunately, we didn’t see any of the limited releases with enough time to pick a favorite.

Also in Limited Release:

Examined Life (Zeitgeist Films) – Astra Taylor’s documentary follows a series of philosophers as they talk about important places that have a resonance with their ideas. Opens on Wednesday at the IFC Center.

Mini-Review (Coming Soon!)

Crossing Over (The Weinstein Co.) – This long delayed third movie from Wayne Kramer (The Cooler, Running Scared) looks at the immigrant experience in L.A. from a lot of different points of view with an ensemble cast that includes Harrison Ford, Ashley Judd, Ray Liotta and many more. It finally opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

Mini-Review (Coming Soon!)

Echelon Conspiracy (After Dark Films) – Shane West stars in this action-thriller about an engineer who receives a mysterious cell phone message that makes him the target of an international plot as he’s chased by government operatives. Also featuring Martin Sheen, Jonathan Pryce, Edward Burns and Ving Rhames, this opens in select cities on Friday.

The Trouble with Romance – Gene Rhee’s comedy follows the inhabitants of a hotel in various rooms including a woman trying to end one relationship and start another, a married couple trying to spice up their life and a young man has his first experience with a prostitute. It opens on Friday at the Quad Cinemas in New York.

An American Affair (Screen Media Films) – William Sten Olsson directs this drama set in 1963, about a13-year-old at a Catholic high school who spots a naked older woman across the street (played by “Bettie Page” herself, Gretchen Mol). Before you can say “Kate Winslet,” a friendship develops between the two and the teenager learns all about her hidden past that includes her being a confidante of John F. Kennedy. It opens on Friday at the Landmark Sunshine Theatre in New York and in Washington D.C., then expands to L.A. on March 6 and Boston on March 13.


Next week, a movie that we’ve covered so much here on ComingSoon.net that it probably can go without any more promotion. Can you guess what it might be?

Copyright 2009 Edward Douglas