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 theatre counts.
1. Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney Pictures) – $75.2 million N/A (up .9 million)
2. Shutter Island (Paramount) – $12.5 million -45% (Same)
3. Brooklyn’s Finest (Overture Films) – $9.7 million N/A (up 1.5 million and one spot)
4. Cop Out (Warner Bros.) – $8.5 million -52% (same)
5. The Crazies (Overture) – $7.5 million -52% (down .5 million)
6. Avatar (20th Century Fox) – $7.1 million -48% (same)
7. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (20th Century Fox) – $4.8 million -50% (same)
8. Valentine’s Day (New Line/WB) – $4.7 million -48% (same)
9. Dear John (Screen Gems/Sony) – $2.6 million -45% (same)
10. Crazy Heart (Fox Searchlight) – $2.1 million -18% (up .1 million)
The month of March kicks off with the return of Tim Burton and his take on the classic fairy tale Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney Pictures), once again teaming him with his frequent collaborators Johnny Depp (as the Mad Hatter) and Helena Bonham Carter (as the Red Queen), joined by Anne Hathaway and others. With the awareness and popularity of the original Lewis Carroll fairy tale (as well as the classic Disney animated movie based on it), one can expect this movie to bring in a wide array of moviegoing audiences from the very young to the very old, with a stronger percentage of women than these event movies tend to bring in. Guys in the 15 to 22 range who aren’t Tim Burton diehards might be somewhat skeptical and they’ll have plenty of other options but their absence shouldn’t greatly affect the moving bringing in a lot of money this weekend, especially with the higher ticket prices for 3D and IMAX which will probably be a big draw for audiences looking for an experience similar to James Cameron’s Avatar. (Losing all of the IMAX theaters that has been doing huge business over the last few months might finally knock it out of the Top 5 for the first time in months.)
Attempting to offer some counter-programming mostly for guys in urban areas is Antoine Fuqua’s police drama Brooklyn’s Finest (Overture Films) starring Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke, Don Cheadle and Wesley Snipes, and it’s likely the cast will interest audiences more than the subject matter, being that there have been many police dramas over the years and few that have really done big business. It’s opening at a time where there are plenty of other choices for older males, so this will probably be targeting those who’ve already seen the other choices.
It will be interesting to see how the introduction of the first potential event movie of the years will affect all the returning movies, especially some of the weaker family films that have had free reign at the box office. Either way, we should expect “Alice” to make more than the rest of the Top 10 combined and possibly even setting a new March opening record, currently held by Zack Snyder’s 300. The only thing that might hold back the box office this weekend is the Oscar telecast on Sunday, which is likely to get more viewers than normal considering some of the high-profile movies in competition.
This weekend last year saw the release of Zach Snyder’s graphic novel adaptation Watchmen (Warner Bros.) which opened at #1 with $55.2 million, somewhat disappointing compared to the opening of Snyder’s previous movie 300 but still the third-highest opening for the month of March. (It would be knocked down to fourth a few weeks later by DreamWorks Animation’s Monsters vs. Aliens.) The top grossed $97.7 million an amount that should be surpassed by this week’s offerings.
Another week running late, so we’re going to have to skip “The Chosen One” and “The Battle Cry” again… sorry! (Actually, Brooklyn’s Finest might as well be this week’s “Chosen One” so look for my review later this week.)
Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney Pictures)
Starring Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Mia Wasikowska, Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Christopher Lee, Paul Whitehouse, Barbara Windsor
Directed by Tim Burton (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Planet of the Apes, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Batman, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and more); Written by Linda Woolverston (Mulan, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast)
Tagline: “You’ve got a very important date”
Plot Summary: When teenager Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) falls down a rabbit hole, she discovers a magical world of talking animals and crazy inhabitants who all seem to know her… or someone very much like her. Tim Burton creates a new vision of Lewis Carroll’s classic novel.
Review (Coming Very Soon!)
What is likely to be one of the biggest movies this month as well as one of the top opening movies for the month of March is the latest movie from director Tim Burton, one of America’s most respected visionaries in terms of taking known properties and reinventing them. He did it with Batman and then Planet of the Apes, which led the way for his take on Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. His last movie was the musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street which failed to find much success opening over the holidays – it topped out at $53 million which was less than “Charlie” made its opening weekend.
For his next trick, Burton is taking on a classic piece of fantasy fiction, that being the works of Lewis Carroll, whose books “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass” are known worldwide and generally loved by many, mainly due to the classic Disney animated version of it from 1951. It’s not too common to see Disney animated classics brought to the big screen as live action movies, but clearly, pairing a legendary filmmaker like Burton with iconic source material considered by many to be a classic is a sure-fire way to get people excited, and that’s exactly what’s happening with Alice in Wonderland.
To date, Burton’s biggest opening movie is Planet of the Apes with $68 million but that was nine years ago when ticket prices were generally lower. His highest grossing movie to date was Batman with $251 million (in 1989 dollars) followed by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with over $200 million. One can easily see “Alice” having similar success, since it’s likely to similarly pull in adults who don’t have kids as it will parents with their families.
To play the role of Alice, Burton has brought on the fairly unknown Mia Wasikowska, who had a recurring role on the HBO series “In Treatment.” Wisely, the real focus of the advertising has been placed on long-time Burton collaborator Johnny Depp as the two celebrate the twentieth anniversary of them first working together on Edward Scissorhands with their seventh movie. Likewise, Burton’s long-time partner Helena Bonham Carter joins the duo for the sixth time, having first worked together on Planet of the Apes and then appeared in just about every Burton movie since.
Filling out the roles are names like Anne Hathaway, Michael Sheen, Matt Lucas (star of “Little Britain”), and Burton regulars Alan Rickman and Christopher Lee, who previously appeared in Sweeney Todd and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, respectively. Not that you’ll really see or hear their names mentioned anywhere since Disney are wisely selling the movie based on Depp, having had so much success with him on the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies. For better or worse, the part of the Mad Hatter has been expanded greatly from Carroll’s books to give Depp more screen time.
There’s no question that Burton’s take on Alice in Wonderland will have a fairly wide appeal to a lot of different demographics with parents bringing kids, as well as a wide range of women of different ages who either grew up with the fairy tale or are fans of Johnny Depp’s from his work on the “Pirates” movies. Essentially, this is a classic case of a four-quadrant movie meant to appeal to all ages and demographics, something that just doesn’t happen very often. Even movies like last year’s Star Trek tends to lean more towards males, while “Alice” will bring in women who love the original fairy tale and guys interested in the SFX eye candy or who are fans of Burton’s previous genre work.
One big draw for the movie is that it will be the first 3D and IMAX release since James Cameron’s mega-blockbuster Avatar has been dominating that market, and certainly a good percentage of the millions who were swayed to check out Cameron’s movie in IMAX 3D will want to see Alice in Wonderland in a similar setting. Since IMAX and 3D screenings can charge higher ticket prices that will immediately raise the per-theater average for sites that are able to screen the movie digitally. One big difference is that Burton didn’t want to film the movie in 3D, which does make a difference in the quality. At this point, the problems Disney had with distributors like AMC over their announcement of the DVD release for “Alice” 12 weeks after its theatrical have been resolved so that shouldn’t have much of an effect, although it did limit the amount of lead time the movie had for advance sales.
Besides the usual amount of marketing Disney has done to get the word out–not that they have to do much with the talent involved and the namebrand inherent in the movie’s title–at least in New York, Tim Burton has had the benefits of a prestigious art show at the Museum of Modern Art which has been bringing in tons of locals and tourists helping to remind everyone why they love Burton’s quirky genius.
One problem that the movie might face is that it just looks plain weird, having created a similar reaction among some as Depp’s Willy Wonka in Burton’s version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; ultimately that didn’t hurt that movie very much, but his version of the Mad Hatter might just be way too weird for normal audiences, let alone kids. So far, early reviews have been fairly good but one can expect that to change if the movie is as crazy and eclectic as some have claimed, and that will hurt the movie’s legs even with no other big family film until DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train a Dragon (which will likely grab many of the 3D and some of the IMAX screens from “Alice” as will Hubble 3D in a couple weeks.) Still, one can expect Burton’s magnum opus to do a lot of business as everyone rushes out to see it for themselves this weekend, but then look for it to drop quite a lot next weekend as it has trouble generating positive buzz after people have seen it.
Why I Should See It: A visionary like Tim Burton directing a classic story like “Alice in Wonderland” that potentially offers lots of options for spectacular visuals? Yes, please!!
Why Not: Uh oh… has Johnny Depp taken his craziness a mite too far as the Mad Hatter?
Projections: $72 to 75 million opening weekend and roughly $200 million total.
Brooklyn’s Finest (Overture Films)
Starring Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke, Don Cheadle, Jesse Williams, Ellen Barkin, Wesley Snipes, Lili Taylor, Brian F. O’Byrne, Shannon Kane, Will Patton, Vincent D’Onofrio
Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Shooter, Tears of the Sun, King Arthur); Written by Michael C. Martin (“Sleeper Cell”)
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Tagline: “This is war. This is Brooklyn.”
Plot Summary: Three Brooklyn police officers in different stages of their career deal with the difficulties of the job: 25-year vet Eddie (Richard Gere) is just trying to get through his last seven days in service without making waves, while at the same time undercover officer Tango (Don Cheadle), who has been working on the streets with gangs and drugdealers for years, needs to get out of that environment and family man Sal (Ethan Hawke) finds himself turning bad in order to get the money he needs to support his wife and kids.
Review (Coming Soon!)
It’s not often that studios offer counter-programming geared towards older male moviegoers, but clearly, Overture Films feels that that audience will be the ones least likely to race out to see a PG family film based on a fairy tale even if directed by Tim Burton.
Brooklyn’s Finest marks the return of director Antoine Fuqua to the gritty street crime that he did so well in his early days, his biggest hit being Training Day. After having success with that, he became a director-for-hire, making movies like King Arthur and Tears of the Sun, as well as the action-thriller Shooter starring Mark Wahlberg. Brooklyn’s Finest marks Fuqua’s first independently-produced movie, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year and was picked up by Senator Films before they fell apart, and Overture stepped in to release it.
Brooklyn’s Finest reunites Fuqua with Ethan Hawke, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role in Training Day, and he’s since appeared in a number of genre movies, none which did particularly well. In fact, Hawke’s most recent movie, the vampire thriller Daybreakers had the biggest opening since Training Day and his movies have generally done moderate $25 to 30 million business. On the other hand, Don Cheadle has had huge success appearing in Steven Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s” trilogy with George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, but only moderate success with his other movies, most recently, the political thriller Traitor, which was also released by Overture. The third lead is played by Richard Gere in one of his stronger roles, but like Hawke, he has not found much success in his later career, his last big hit being the Oscar-winning musical Chicago followed by the relatively successful romantic comedy Shall We Dance?. Since then, Gere has starred in six movies and only one of them has grossed more than $40 million; the rest grossed under $15 million. That’s not good, and it’s fairly conclusive evidence that Gere just isn’t the box office draw he once was. In fact, possibly the movie’s biggest draw will be the return of actor Wesley Snipes, appearing in his first high-profile movie since his last “Blade” film. Snipes still has tons of fans among older African-American males in the inner city, the same general audience who would normally be interested in a movie like this.
There’s a certain demographic of guys in urban areas who might not have a lot of interest in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, which is why this is being released on the same weekend to try to offer them an alternative. Urban males have helped lower profile crime thrillers like Waist Deep and Street Kings do far more business than anyone might have expected and certainly Brooklyn’s Finest is targeting that same audience.
Unfortunately, it’s also opening against Martin Scorsese’s successful crime thriller Shutter Island in its third weekend and movies like Kevin Smith’s Cop Out and The Crazies, all three which are targeting the exact demographic, something that’s likely to keep Brooklyn’s Finest from breaking out as counter-programming.
Overture hasn’t had too many box office hits with this past weekend’s The Crazies being one of their biggest openers with roughly $16 million. The marketing for Brooklyn’s Finest isn’t nearly as strong, and this will certainly be a tougher sell since it looks like so many other police dramas. Because of that and the amount of competition for its audience, one probably won’t see Brooklyn’s Finest opening with more than $10 million and likely considerably less.
Why I Should See It: Fuqua shows great growth as a filmmaker with a gritty police drama that features four strong performances from veteran actors.
Why Not: Apparently, I’m the only one who digs this movie; could that be true?
Projections: $7 to 9 million opening weekend and roughly $25 million total.
In Limited Release:
The Secret of Kells (GKIDS) – Brendan Gleeson is one of the voice cast of Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey’s Oscar-nominated animated film about a young boy named Brendan who lives in a medieval outpost called the Abbey of Kells who meets a stranger with a magical book, which Brendan takes it upon himself to complete by going out into the enchanted forest and facing the mythical creatures that live there. It opens at the IFC Center in New York on Friday and then in Boston on March 19 and other cities on April 2.
Harlan: In the Shadow of Jew Süss (Zeitgeist Films) – Filmmaker Felix Moeller’s documentary that explores the controversial legacy of filmmaker Veit Harlan, the director who helmed the Nazis’ most anti-Semitic film Jew Süss and was prosecuted for war crimes for his involvement in Joseph Goebbels’ racist campaign. The documentary talks to his children and grandchildren, many of whom have changed their names and left Germany to avoid the connection. It opens at the Film Forum on Wednesday.
Next week, director Paul Greengrass and his Bourne Ultimatum star Matt Damon reunite for the Iraq-based action-thriller Green Zone (Universal), Jay Baruchel tries to date the gorgeous Alice Eve in the raunchy comedy She’s Out of My League (Paramount/DreamWorks), Robert Pattinson tackles serious drama in Remember Me (Summit) while Oscar winner Forest Whitaker headlines the ensemble comedy Our Family Wedding (Fox Searchlight).
Copyright 2010 Edward Douglas