The Weekend Warrior: December 17 – 19

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.

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Updated Predictions and Comparisons -

1. TRON: Legacy (Walt Disney) – $47.8 million N/A (Up 1.3 million)

2. Yogi Bear (Warner Bros.) – $22.6 million N/A (down 1.1 million)

3. The Fighter (Paramount) – $15.5 million +1480% (up 1.1 million)

4. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (20th Century Fox) – $12.9 million -46% (up .2 million)

5. How Do You Know (Sony) – $10.8 million N/A (down .5 million)

6. Tangled (Walt Disney) – $9.4 million -35% (up .1 million)

7. The Tourist (Sony) – $8.8 million -47% (up .8 million)

8. Black Swan (Fox Searchlight) – $7.0 million +112% (up .2 million)

9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (Warner Bros.) – $4.4 million -48% (same)

10. Unstoppable (20th Century Fox) – $1.9 million -45% (down .1 million)

Weekend Overview

After a particularly dismal weekend where two movies that should have done better pretty much tanked, we have four more options and this may as well be retro week as two (or maybe three) of the movies opening this weekend will be playing up to moviegoers’ nostalgia.

That certainly is the best thing going for Joseph Kosinksi’s TRON: Legacy (Disney), a sequel to the 1982 sci-fi movie which created a pseudo-cult among movie geeks and video game fanatics, but wasn’t necessarily a classic in the vein of Raiders of the Lost Ark or Star Wars. Once again starring Jeff Bridges, the main draw of seeing the movie in IMAX 3D (which really is the best way to see the movie!) will help the movie have a higher per-theater average while the PG rating will mean that fathers who remember the original fondly can bring their young boys to see it. Even so, rather than opening huge, the movie is likely to be more of a sleeper as people discover it and tell their friends about the cool action and FX similar to last year’s Avatar and that should be enough to get it to roughly $200 million.

The best hopes for the live action big screen debut of Yogi Bear (Warner Bros.) is families with younger kids looking for easy laughs rather than action and adventure, and with the widest release of the weekend as well as taking up more 3D screens, it should open decently, though it’s doubtful this will have the same sort of draw for adults as Alvin and the Chipmunks just because it looks very dumb.

The romantic comedy How Do You Know (Sony) marks the return of Oscar-winning filmmaker James L. Brooks (Terms of Endearment) as well as the return of Reese Witherspoon, teaming her with Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd and Jack Nicholson, a group that in theory should have a similar draw to their younger fans as last year’s It’s Complicated, but only to women and the poor guys they drag into theaters to see the movie in hopes of a bit of something-something afterwards. Despite the starpower, this just doesn’t look like anything new and that might keep it from opening well, being more of a choice over the holidays proper.

After a huge opening in limited release last week, David O. Russell’s inspirational sports drama The Fighter (Paramount) starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo will expand nationwide into roughly 2,200 theaters, and it should be able to capitalize on the movie’s Oscar buzz, particularly for Bale’s performance and do well among male boxing fans while continuing to do huge business in the Massachusetts area where the story took place. This still will be a somewhat slow build that will do more business as the movie brings in awards attention although the critic awards and Golden Globe nominations the movie received this week should help. Essentially, The Fighter should take third place with How Do You Know fighting it out for fourth place with last week’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and likely settling for fifth.

Also expanding this weekend into roughly 1,000 theaters (five days earlier than planned!) is Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan (Fox Searchlight) starring Natalie Portman, who has been getting raves for her performance, and it should be able to build upon its great showing in its first two weekends and critical awards and nominations with another strong weekend though it probably will remain in the bottom half of the Top 10.

One big stopping block for all the movies above is that the closer we get to Christmas, the more people are saving their money and/or using their free time on weekends to go holiday shopping, which has often affected the box office in the past. Having so many movies open in the weekend before Christmas could impact all of them negatively, although after a couple down weekends, this would also be a good time for things to pick up again.

This week’s “Chosen One” is John Cameron Mitchell and David Lindsay-Abaire’s drama Rabbit Hole (Lionsgate), starring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart, which you can read more about below.

This weekend last year, James Cameron’s Avatar (20th Century Fox) exploded into theaters with $77 million in 3,453 theaters, but even that sort of opening didn’t prepare anyone for it to become not only one of the biggest movies of the year but EVER as it ended up grossing $760 million domestically to become the highest grossing film of all time. The same couldn’t be said for the Sarah Jessica Parker-Hugh Grant rom-com Did You Hear About the Morgans? (Sony), which bombed with just $6.6 million for fourth place behind The Princess and the Frog and The Blind Side. Meanwhile, Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air (Paramount) starring George Clooney, continued to expand, jumping into the top 10 at #8 with $2.3 million in 175 theaters. The Top 10 grossed $126 million thanks to Avatar and that amount may be surpassed if the combined TRON: Legacy and Yogi Bear convince people to go out into the cold.


TRON: Legacy (Disney)
Starring Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, James Frain, Beau Garrett, Michael Sheen
Directed by Joseph Kosinski (debut); Written by Eddy Kitsis, Adam Horowitz (writers and co-executive producers of “Lost”)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Rated PG
Tagline: “The Game Has Changed”
Plot Summary: Over twenty years since his father Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) disappeared without a trace, his son Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) sets out to find him and is transported into the technological Tron World where he’s forced to fight in the games and teams up with the warrior Quorra (Olivia Wilde) to help stop the evil Clu (also Bridges) from corrupting what Sam’s father has created.

Mini-Review: As someone who was never quite enamored with the original 1982 film, a sequel set 28 years later never really made sense to me, so my lack of enthusiasm going into Joseph Kosinski’s directorial debut may have been understandable, especially after three years of fanboy hyping of the movie due to the number of events leading up to the movie’s release. Let’s face it that chances are that true TRON fans probably are going into the movie with more expectations than I had.

The film opens with Sam as a young lad hearing a story read by his father, Kevin Flynn, who vanishes shortly afterwards. Twenty years later, Sam is still fighting against the board of ENCOM who are using his father’s creations to swindle the people who use their software out of money. Sam’s turned into a bit of a revolutionary against that corporate greed, and the opening scenes are fascinating since it immediately reminds you how the original “TRON” successfully predicted the internet and virtual reality, which really is what TRONWorld is, and that aspect does have an immediate impact.

Once Sam enters TRONWorld, that’s when the movie really hits its mark and allows first-time filmmaker Joseph Kosinski to show his stuff creating a 3D world in which CG constructs seem solid with real weight and texture to them despite the limited color palette of black and greytones with the distinctive baby blue and orange of the various factions of TRONWorld. From thereon out, the film looks absolutely stunning with two key action sequences, an updated Light Cycle race and a dogfight with lightplanes, that are easily two of the most breathtaking action scenes you’re likely to see this year.

The writing and acting may be a bit lacking at times and the film does slow down to a crawl in the second act as we start getting into exposition explaining exactly what has been going on since the last movie, but Bridges proves how he’s improved in the 28 years since the first movie, not only playing the haggard older Kevin Flynn but also the evil Clu. Garrett Hedlund isn’t as strong an actor but he’s decent when not trying to stand toe-to-toe with Bridges. Michael Sheen’s character, a nightclub owner with ulterior motives, seems to be a combination of Joel Grey’s host from “Cabaret” and Alex from “A Clockwork Orange,” a character so outlandish compared to everyone else in the film that it actually makes the slower section a bit more lively, and if nothing else, you can always enjoy ogling sexy Olivia Wilde and Beau Garrett in their skintight TRONWorld outfits during those scenes.

As fantastic as the visuals are, the score by French techno group Daft Punk takes the whole thing over the top, easily one of the best film scores this year, taking the head-bouncing arpeggiated rhythms the duo excel at and embellishing it with the type of bombastic accents Hans Zimmer has mastered.

Like the original movie, one can easily nitpick about every little flaw, but for a first-time filmmaker to make a movie on such an epic scale is unbelievably impressive–”TRON: Legacy” is groundbreaking and cutting edge filmmaking in terms of the production design and special FX, and the action scenes are some of the best you’ll see this year. More than anything, you should definitely try to see the movie in IMAX 3D, because the format is used to its fullest and it’s the best use of the IMAX format since “The Dark Knight.”Rating: 8/10

Analysis:

There are movies that seem to be gearing up to be major holiday event movies and then there are movies that actually achieve that event status. While last week’s offerings failed, that leaves it to this long-anticipated big budget FX sequel to a movie from nearly thirty years ago to save a holiday season that has only seen a couple significant hits but no true blockbusters ala last year’s Avatar or Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings.” There has been talk of doing a sequel to the 1982 cult favorite TRON for decades with the planned “TRON 2.0″ languishing in development hell for years. A few years back at Comic-Con, Disney pulled one of the biggest surprises in Hall H history by presenting a bit of footage created by a CG whizkid named Joseph Kosinski that was meant as a demo for what could be done with CG and 3D to update the film’s TRON world environment. The reaction to that teaser short got Disney excited enough to greenlight the project and Kosinski began filming the sequel up in Vancouver, mostly on greenscreen, racking up a bill of reportedly $200 million or more.

The sequel marks the return to his earlier role of Kevin Flynn by Jeff Bridges, an actor who has gained huge respect in recent years, culminating in his Oscar win earlier this year for his role in Crazy Heart. While Bridges’ presence will mainly appear to older moviegoers, having him back in a dual role is something the fans of the original movie will appreciate for sure. Next week, Bridges reunites with the Coen Bros. for True Grit, another movie that will get him more attention and keep him in the spotlight. Although Bridges will likely get the most attention, the real star this time around is Garrett Hedlund who appeared in movies like Friday Night Lights and Four Brothers and like Bridges, he’ll be seen in two movies this month, also appearing in Country Strong opposite Gwyneth Paltrow opening next week.

The movie also stars Olivia Wilde, who is quickly becoming a genre fan favorite between her role in this movie and next year’s Cowboys & Aliens, directed by Jon Favreau. Another prominent name and face belongs to British actor Michael Sheen who has gone from Oscar fare like The Queen and Frost/Nixon to big epics like “The Twilight Saga” in which Sheen first appeared with the sequel “New Moon.” His character in TRON: Legacy is quite an eccentric over-the-top character that moviegoers will either love or hate. The last piece of the puzzle is that the filmmakers also brought back Bruce Boxleitner to his earlier role, although he hasn’t remained nearly as much in the spotlight as Bridges since the original movie.

Probably the best comparison for the movie will be the recent remake of Clash of the Titans, because this is another updated version of a movie that many 30 to 40 year olds will remember watching and presumably enjoying. Directed by Louis Letterier, that big budget epic opened in early April with $61 million before tanking in the weeks that followed, largely due to negative reaction to the converted 3D. A couple of big differences with TRON is that it was actually filmed in 3D so the visuals will certainly be better, and it has the advantages of being a sequel that maintains the tone and mindset of the original while updating the graphics, rather than being a straight-on remake ala “Clash.”

Back in its day, the FX used in the original TRON were thought to be cutting edge, but now they’re quite cheesy, and one of the biggest challenges for Kosinski was to create CG FX that are just as impressive to modern audiences, which is where a lot of the appeal of this sequel lies. TRON: Legacy is certainly what one would consider a big budget action and FX movie, and while it may not be seen as an event film per se, movielovers that have embraced the evolution of 3D and IMAX technology will likely want to see the movie in theaters rather than waiting until it’s available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Disney clearly are excited by the prospects of the film being another blockbuster hit along the lines of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, which did much more business than anyone expected earlier this year, opening with $116 million and grossing $334 million total. (Though realistically, that was Tim Burton and Johnny Depp rather than an unknown director making a sequel to a thirty-year old project.) Even so, TRON: Legacy producer Sean Bailey was named Disney’s President of Production in the last year so Disney clearly want him to bring what he brought to this movie to the entire company. Disney did another presentation of 3D footage at Comic-Con 2009 and then more for the movie this year, clearly pushing the movie in a big way, as well as mimicking last year’s “Avatar Day” with their own “TRON Day” to show some of the first 3D IMAX footage from the movie to the masses. (The first trailer was similarly rolled out in grand fashion.

The question is whether anyone who wasn’t a fan of the original movie will be interested in checking out the movie and much of what will draw them to see the movie is that it looks pretty darn cool rather than because it’s TRON. Still, we expect TRON: Legacy to open a bit lighter, partially due to the holiday season, partially due to the mixed reviews the movie is likely to get among critics, particularly the online geek crowd, but also due to the amount of competition for older guys and younger kids this weekend. Eventually, people will get around to seeing it, and when they do, they’ll want to see it multiple times due to the great CG action FX and it should be a strong IMAX draw for the next few months because of it, ultimately getting to roughly $200 million.

Why I Should See It: The movie looks frickin’ amazing and it has some of the coolest action scenes of the year regardless of whether you’re a fan of the original movie or not.
Why Not: The premise might still seem rather silly, especially to modern audiences, but who knows?
Projections: $43 to 47 million opening weekend on its way to roughly $200 million by the time it leaves theaters

COMPARISONS


Yogi Bear (Warner Bros.)
Starring Tom Cavanagh, Anna Faris, Andy Daly and the voices of Dan Aykroyd, Justin Timberlake,
Directed by Eric Brevig (Journey to the Center of the Earth); Written by Jeffrey Ventimilia and Joshua Sternin (Tooth Fairy, “That ’70s Show,” “Duckman,” Surviving Christmas) Brad Copeland (Wild Hogs, “Arrested Development,” “Grounded for Life”)
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Family, Comedy
Rated PG
Tagline: “Life’s a pic-a-nic.”
Plot Summary: Yogi (voiced by Dan Aykroyd) is a bear who steals picnic baskets along with his little buddy Boo-boo (voiced by Justin Timberlake). What more do you need to know?

Analysis:

Probably less of a gamble over the holidays is a combination live action and CG movie featuring a well known cartoon character, a concept that’s helped 20th Century Fox have two hit blockbusters with Alvin and the Chipmunks and its sequel. This time, it’s the Hanna-Barbera cartoon character created in 1958 who found success in the early ’60s with “The Yogi Bear Show.” It’s been a number of years since Yogi Bear made any sort of notable appearance though he was mostly kept alive through syndication on cable and a variety of TV movies. Yogi even appeared in a little-seen feature film in 1964, although he hasn’t appeared in a new cartoon since the early ’90s. Warner Bros. had huge success bringing the Hanna-Barbera cartoon character Scooby-Doo to the screen in 2002 to the tune of $150 million, something that paved the way for other studios jumping on the bandwagon with mixed live action CG animated renditions of popular cartoon characters, some which were successful (Garfield and the Chipmunks) and some that weren’t (Underdog and Marmaduke). In fact, other than the Chipmunks movies, we’ve seen more and more of these sorts of movies failing to make back the vast sum of money required to do the CG animation for them.

This one doesn’t really have much starpower although the voices of Yogi Bear and his buddy Boo-boo are performed by the unlikely pairing of Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake, and one of the live actors is Anna Farris, best known for her part in the “Scary Movie” franchise. That probably won’t mean very much to kids and might not make much of a difference to adults either.

Instead of worrying too much about big name stars, Warner Bros. is hoping the namebrand value of the popular bears from yesteryear will convince parents to see the movie over the weekend although some might not want to bother paying extra for 3D in this case, since the slowly waning appeal of the format is far outweighing the added cost.

While this weekend would seem like a good one to release a movie like this, it’s hard to see it doing huge business in a weekend where many parents will be doing last minute holiday shopping. Even so, the commercials and trailers are made to appeal to the kids who will beg and plead their parents to take this to see the movie, and the movie’s presence is more likely to detract from TRON: Legacy‘s family business rather than vice versa. Then again, the movie does not look good and even parents who loved the character might hesitate at allowing themselves to be dragged to see it. Regardless of however well or poorly Yogi Bear does this weekend, it should have significant legs with schools being out over the holidays and with “Narnia” failing to deliver in its opening weekend, and it certainly should be a stronger draw for kids under 10 and their nostalgic parents than some of the other choices.

Why I Should See It: When it comes to cartoon characters, Yogi Bear is quite iconic for an audience of a certain age…
Why Not: …who are fortunately old and smart enough not to waste their time with this abomination.
Projections: $22 to 25 million opening weekend and roughly $100 million total.

COMPARISONS


How Do You Know (Sony)
Starring Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, Jack Nicholson
Written and directed by James L. Brooks (As Good as It Gets, Terms of Endearment, Spanglish)
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Rated PG-13
Tagline:
Plot Summary: Lisa Jorgenson (Reese Witherspoon) is a 30-something softball player trying to figure out what to do with her life after being retired, and part of finding her way involves trying to decide between the two men in her life, an arrogant professional athlete (Owen Wilson) and a businessman being indicted on financial crimes (Paul Rudd).

Interview with James L. Brooks

Review (Coming on Wednesday)

Analysis:

There will be a day when I don’t have to try to figure out whether women will or won’t want to see the latest romantic comedy chick flick starring (insert name of female star) and (insert hunky male actor) and I can worry about more important things in life like mortality, the increasing price of food due to inflation, and how any of us will ever get out of debt. But in the meantime, filmmaker James L. Brooks is back doing what he does, this time with an all-star cast that includes the likes of Jack Nicholson, who won an Oscar in 1998 for his performance in Brooks’ As Good as It Gets, which received six other nominations.

More importantly, this is the first live action film starring Reese Witherspoon since 2008′s Four Christmases with Vince Vaughn, and Witherspoon is firmly back in her element with this movie and a role that harks back to the likes of Sweet Home Alabama. Witherspoon has had a couple stumbling blocks along the way including Mira Nair’s Vanity Fair and the political drama Rendition, but winning an Oscar for Walk the Line and having the holiday hit Four Christmases has kept Witherspoon from following so many actresses into obscurity once they got older.

Then there’s Owen Wilson and Paul Rudd, two comic actors who have had huge blockbuster hits such as Wedding Crashers and Knocked Up, respectively, and generally have found themselves a fairly strong fanbase. Rudd is coming off the solid comedy hits Role Models, I Love You, Man and most recently, Dinner for Schmucks, all of which have proven him to be a strong comedic draw as well as a strong romantic lead, being that he’s both charming and good-looking. Wilson, who also appears in next week’s Littler Fockers, has been able to find regular success over the years whether it’s in the R-rated Wedding Crashers, the family hit Night at the Museum and its sequel with Ben Stiller or the holiday blockbuster Marley & Me. He’s almost always been associated with comedy although he also has a bit of a millstone around his neck due to things that have happened in his social life, none of which have affected his popularity. Likewise, the presence of Jack Nicholson certainly should do a lot to bring in older audiences, going by the success of recent movies like The Departed and The Bucket List, both which did huge business in theaters.

This has been a very common weekend to release romantic comedies, not because there are many women not Christmas shopping who’ll have time to see it, but because it places the movie firmly in theaters in the week before Christmas and that week between the 25th and New Year’s Day can bring in HUGE amounts of business as women off from work look for something to see. For many years, this weekend has belonged to Nancy Meyers who had huge success with the Mel Gibson-Helen Hunt movie What Women Want which opened with $33 million on the same weekend, followed by the weaker Something’s Gotta Give and The Holiday before having her third $100 million hit with last year’s It’s Complicated. It’s those success stories that have made this a prime weekend for rom-coms with Sony often being the studio jumping on it, sometimes to great success, and other times, like with last year’s Do You Remember the Morgans?, being dismal failures. The star power of this one is palpable, because it offers something (or someone) for women of all ages and degrees of hipsterdom – yes, we do think there are women out there who don’t find Owen Wilson beyond annoying and they’ll probably appreciate him in this.

Unfortunately, How Do You Know looks a lot like the same-old-same-old for most of the cast and not particularly revelatory for Brooks, but we don’t expect it to bomb as badly as it might otherwise, because there are four strong and popular personalities that can help get women interested. Reviews won’t be good but the younger women looking for something to see will probably be attracted to the stars and not worry too much about reviews, which will make this one of the only real choices for women wanting to see a movie as a group on Friday or over the weekend. As is the case with most movies opening in the week before Christmas, we can expect a softer opening but then a lot of business after Christmas as women all ages look for something to see and this will be a fairly sell even if it’s likely to be a second choice to Little Fockers and others.

Why I Should See It: James L. Brooks is a master of the romantic comedy genre having won numerous awards for his efforts.
Why Not: This movie won’t be one of them.
Projections: $11 to 13 million opening weekend and roughly $55 million total.

COMPARISONS


The Fighter (Paramount)
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Jack McGee
Directed by David O. Russell (Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees); Written by Scott Silver (8 Mile), Paul Tamasy
Genre: Drama, Sports
Rated R
Plot Summary: Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) is a boxer close to the end of his career who hasn’t been able to catch a break, partially due to his attachment to his crack-addicted brother/manager Dicky (Christian Bale) and manager mother (Melissa Leo). When Micky meets and falls for a pretty bartender named Charlene (Amy Adams), he realizes that his only chance for one last chance is to go it alone.

Review

Analysis:

The Fighter is one of two limited releases expanding wide on Friday, but unlike Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, this one was always meant to get a wide release and this past weekend’s release in 8 theaters in New York, L.A. and Boston was mainly meant to generate buzz. It ended up doing more than that, becoming the third movie in the last month to achieve an $80,000 per theater average.

This is a passion project by actor Mark Wahlberg who has been trying to tell the story of Lowell, Massachusetts native “Irish” Micky Ward for many years with a number of filmmakers and finally was able to get the movie made by reuniting with David O. Russell for the third time following his early movie Three Kings and the esoteric I Heart Huckabees. Originally, Darren Aronofsky was going to direct the movie with the likes of Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, but that eventually fell apart as Aronofsky made The Wrestler with Mickey Rourke instead. Eventually, they ended up getting Christian Bale to play the role of Micky’s brother Dicky, and that might have been the film’s biggest revelation going by the raves for Bale’s performance, one that has already overshadowed that of Wahlberg. Either way, you can’t deny that having both Wahlberg and Bale in movie creates quite a powerhouse duo for bringing moviegoers into theaters, particularly guys who should appreciate the combination of a manly sport like boxing with two (relatively) manly actors.

Bale has generally been acting in movies longer, all the way back to Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, but his career hit a new stride in 2000, when he starred in American Psycho, and then again when Christopher Nolan hired him to play Bruce Wayne and his cowled alter ego in Batman Begins. Since the latter, Bale appeared in two solid films in The Prestige and 3:10 to Yuma and smaller indies like Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn and Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There. Then things exploded with The Dark Knight, which put Bale among elite A-listers and he brought that to Terminator Salvation (for better or worse) and Michael Mann’s Public Enemies opposite Johnny Depp. The thing is that almost all of these movies have been geared towards guys, which makes him the perfect choice to play a retired boxer/trainer in this type of movie. Wahlberg himself has been involved with sports movies like playing Vincent Papale in Invincible ($47 million gross) and he’s appeared in other movies geared towards guys like The Departed ($133 million and an Oscar nomination for Wahlberg), Shooter ($47 million), Max Payne ($40.6) and We Own the Night ($28.5 million). Most recently, he was teamed with Will Ferrell for the cop action-comedy The Other Guys, which grossed $120 million and in general, Wahlberg’s star has remained fairly steady following a couple of rough patches throughout the ’00s.

Then there’s the women with two-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams in the love interest role, which presumably will get women interested in the movie where they may not be otherwise. Adams has built a strong female fanbase from her roles in Enchanted and Julie & Julia but that did very little to get women to see her in Leap Year earlier this year, and her role is being played down a bit. The last primary member of the cast is Melissa Leo, who received an Oscar nomination for last year’s Frozen River and has generally been earning strong kudos for appearances in the indies Conviction and Welcome to the Rileys over the last few months, and some think that she’ll win her first Oscar playing Micky’s domineering manager/mother in this film.

The Fighter is hoping to follow a long line of boxing films not only to the Oscars but also to box office success with Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” movies still reigning supreme with the last installment Rocky Balboa scoring $70 million in 2006 and strong dramas set in the world like Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby finding success due to awards. Others, like Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull, are considered classics even if they didn’t fare particularly well at the box office. Wahlberg’s film probably falls somewhere between the entertainment of the “Rocky” movies and a serious drama ala Rod Lurie’s underrated Resurrecting the Champ, but it should end up doing closer to movies like Denzel Washington’s The Hurricane or other Oscar fare.

One of the best things going for the movie is that it’s a really good movie but also because Paramount has been able to use the inspirational fare to create some of the most stirring trailers and commercials that have gotten a lot more people interested in the story than might have otherwise. The movie is even featured on the cover of “Sports Illustrated” who hail it as “The Best Sports Movie of the Decade,” which is not something we’ve seen very often with other sports dramas, and that’s a huge endorsement that will guarantee more boxing fans will know about the movie. It’s also going to get a nice boost from the Golden Globe and other critical awards nominations its received in the last week which has kept the movie in the spotlight.

After opening last weekend in New York, L.A. and Boston to the tune of $320,000, The Fighter became the third movie of the Oscar season to have a $75k+ per theater average, but unlike The King’s Speech and Black Swan, it’s making a quick leap into nationwide release rather than slowly rolling out. The movie should do huge business in the Boston area where Micky is best known, similar to the huge success of Ben Affleck’s The Town in that area earlier this fall.

Being so new and with so much buzz behind it, The Fighter should do decently this weekend even if it’s hindered a bit by the proximity to Christmas which has held back movies like The Aviator, Cold Mountain, Munich, Sweeney Todd and others that ultimately went on to make more money in the week after Christmas and into January once awards nominations came in. With that and its relatively moderate release into roughly 2,200 theaters, we expect The Fighter to do somewhere in the low teens with the potential to bring in more business based on word-of-mouth once people have a chance to see it.

Why I Should See It: This is a really strong boxing drama with a great script and strong performances across the board, believe the hype!
Why Not: How many people have grown tired of boxing movies coming around this time of year? Do boxing fans even bother to see these movies?
Projections: $13 to 16 million in its first weekend of expansion on its way to $65 or 70 million total.

COMPARISONS


THE CHOSEN ONE:

Rabbit Hole (Lionsgate)
Starring Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Tammy Blanchard, Miles Teller, Giancarlo Esposito, Jon Tenney, Patricia Kalember, Julie Lauren, Sandra Oh
Directed by John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Shortbus); Written by David Lindsay-Abaire
Genre: Drama
Rated PG-13
Tagline: “The Only Way Out is Through”
Plot Summary: Becca and Howie Corbett (Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart) are a married couple who have been trying to get over the death of their young son eight months earlier, but they’ve reached a point where it’s in danger of destroying their marriage, especially when Becca meets the teenager driving the car who killed their son (newcomer Miles Teller) and Howie starts hanging with another woman (Sandra Oh).

Interview with John Cameron Mitchell and David Lindsay-Abaire

Review

Rabbit Hole opens in select cities with plans for a wide expansion on January 14, 2011.

Also in Limited Release:

In the late George Hickenlooper’s Casino Jack (Art Takes Over Pictures), Kevin Spacey plays Jack Abramoff, the shady Washington D.C. lobbyist who conned Native American casino owners into donating millions of dollars to various political campaigns. Also starring Barry Pepper, this dramatic telling of the material covered in Alex Gibney’s doc of the same name opens in select cities.

Review (Coming Soon)

The Russian graphic novel Alien Girl (Paladin) by Vladimir “Adolfych” Nesterenko about a gang war in ’90s Ukraine with a mysterious woman named Angela (Natalia Romanycheva) caught between them. It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

The 1970 British thriller And Soon the Darkness (Anchor Bay) gets a remake, starring Amber Heard and Odette Yustman as two American girls on a bicycle trip through Argentina when one of them goes missing and the other trying to find her before nightfall. Also starring Karl Urban, it opens in select cities on Friday before its DVD release on December 28.


Next week, it’s Christmas!!!!!! Three new movies will try to bring in audiences when they’re not celebrating with the threequel Little Fockers (Universal) taking on Jack Black’s adventure Gulliver’s Travels (20th Century Fox) and the Coen Bros.’ first foray into Westerns with True Grit (Paramount), starring Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon.

Copyright 2010 Edward Douglas

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