The Weekend Warrior: February 4 – 6

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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 theatre counts.

(We’re doing a fairly stripped-down column again this week, partially because we haven’t seen any of the new movies opening this week, but if you haven’t done so already, check out all our Sundance coverage here!)

If you aren’t doing so already, you can follow The Weekend Warrior on Twitter where he talks about box office, movies, music, comic books and all sorts of random things.

Updated Predictions and Comparisons

1. The Roommate (Sony/Screen Gems) – $16.7 million N/A (down .9 million)

2. Sanctum (Universal) – $11.5 million N/A (same)

3. No Strings Attached (Paramount) – $9.1 million -42%

4. The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Co.) – $8.2 million -20%

5. The Green Hornet (Sony) – $5.9 million -48%

6. The Rite (New Line/WB) – $5.6 million -62%

7. The Mechanic (CBS Films) – $5.1 million -55%

8. True Grit (Paramount) – $5.0 million -33%

9. Black Swan (Fox Searchlight) – $3.3 million -32% (down .2 million)

10. The Dilemma (Universal) – $3.1 million -35%

Weekend Overview

After a rather dismal opening month at the box office, it’s Super Bowl weekend where all of the movies should take a fairly large hit on Sunday, specifically any movies for guys, and into this environment comes two new thrillers, both genre flicks based on potentially real world terrors but only one based on a real story.

That one isn’t The Roommate (Sony/Screen Gems), a high-concept PG-13 thriller designed to appeal to teen and slightly older girls with its cautionary tale of not picking your college roommates ’cause they look like Leighton Meester from “Gossip Girl.” Because she might be crazy! That’s what Minka Kelly from “Friday Night Lights” (and next week’s Just Go With It) has to find out the hard way when she goes to college, and there should be enough high school and college-age girls who will buy into that premise enough to want to check the movie out on Friday and Saturday nights.

Produced by James Cameron and shot using the same 3D technology as Avatar, one imagines the action-thriller Sanctum (Universal) will be targeting older males with the promise of the realism of Cameron’s underwater docs, rather than being a genre flick ala The Descent or (shudder) Screen Gems’ The Cave. It might have trouble finding an audience if it’s trying to appeal more to the guys who will be watching the Super Bowl on Sunday even if it should get a nice bump from 3D ticket prices to put it over the $10 million mark. Otherwise, it doesn’t really have much to offer in terms of drawing in audiences.

This weekend last year saw the release of one romantic drama and one action thriller and the former, the adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ Dear John (Sony/Screen Gems), starring Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried, which did a great job bringing in the ladies to the tune of $30.5 million, finally dethroning James Cameron’s Avatar after two months in the #1 spot. Opening in third place was the John Travolta action-thriller From Paris With Love (Lionsgate) with a paltry $8.2 million in over 2,700 theaters. The Top 10 grossed nearly $95 million but once again, you’d have to remove Avatar to come even close with this week’s offerings.


The Roommate (Sony/Screen Gems)
Starring Leighton Meester, Minka Kelly, Cam Gigandet, Aly Michalka, Danneel Harris, Frances Fisher, Billy Zane
Directed by Christian E. Christiansen (Zoomers, Life Hits); Written by Sonny Malhi (producer of The Strangers and The Lake House)
Genre: Thriller
Rated PG-13
Tagline: “2,000 Colleges, 8 Million Roommates. Which One Will You Get?” (I’m guessing the 270-pound snoring “Star Trek” fan over Leighton Meester and Minka Kelly… sorry!)
Plot Summary: A deranged college freshman, played by Leighton Meester (fresh off playing a deranged beauty pageant contestant turned singer), becomes obsessed with her new roommate (Minka Kelly). In related news, “Single White Female” has been available on DVD for a number of years.

Analysis:

Ever since releasing Darkness Falls in 2003, Screen Gems has cornered the market on Super Bowl weekend for their films, mostly using it to release B-horror movies like Boogeyman or the remake of When a Stranger Calls, both which grossed over $45 million. Some of the films haven’t done as well such as 2007’s The Messengers, but last year, they switched gears and released the romantic drama Dear John, which was a huge hit to the tune of over $30 million on the normally slow Super Bowl weekend.

This high-concept thriller falls somewhere between the terrorized babysitter premise of When a Stranger Calls and the terrorize prom attendees of Prom Night, possibly with a little of The Stepfather thrown in, only that The Roommate isn’t really a remake. I mean, sure we’ve seen it before, most notably in Single White Female, but other than that, this isn’t a remake even if it uses Screen Gems’ normal formula of creating PG-13 horror mainly for teen boys and girls looking for something to see as a group.

The film stars Leighton Meester, star of “Gossip Girl,” in her second Screen Gems film this year, having starred opposite Gwyneth Paltrow in Country Strong, as well as Minka Kelly, best known for her role on “Friday Night Lights,” though ultra-cool hipsters will know her better for playing Autumn in (500) Days of Summer.) It also stars Cam Gigandet, who seems to be in every single movie Screen Gems has released in the last year including Easy A and Burlesque, though he’s probably best known for his appearance in the first two “Twilight” movies or even Never Back Down. Even so, most of the advertising is being geared around the women and rightfully so.

There really isn’t too much of a question of who this movie will appeal to, essentially girls from 13 to 20 or 21 looking for scares based in a setting with which they’re familiar, possibly one or two guys hoping to get in a few gropes when the girls look to them for protection and probably few others.

Even though the movie is directed by Oscar nominee Christian Christiansen (he had a short that was nominated for an Oscar), it’s doubtful that Screen Gems will break away from their normal “no critics screening” policy, so who knows if the movie is much better than all the bad movies released in the last couple weeks. Either way, we expect that the movie should do big business on Friday and Saturday, enough to overcome its fairly moderate screen count of under-3000 theaters and Super Bowl Sunday, to do better than last week’s thriller The Rite.

Why I Should See It: If you ever wondered what it would be like to room with a sexy TV actress who is obsessed with you, then this is the movie for you!
Why Not: As someone who recently roomed with a couple well-known movie bloggers, I can’t imagine that the above scenario could possibly be such a bad thing.
Projections: $16 to 18 million opening weekend and roughly $40 million total.

COMPARISONS


Sanctum (Universal)
Starring Richard Roxburgh, Rhys Wakefield, Ioan Gruffudd, Alice Parkinson, Dan Wyllie
Directed by Alister Grierson (Kokoda); Written by Andrew Wight (producer of Aliens of the Deep and Ghosts of the Abyss), John Garvin
Genre: Action, Thriller
Rated R
Tagline:
Plot Summary: Master diver Frank McGuire (Richard Roxburgh) and a team of underwater cave divers are trapped in the Esa-ala Caves in the South Pacific after a flash flood, forcing them to navigate an underwater maze in order to escape.

Analysis:

Hoping that most guys won’t have any interest in seeing The Roommate (and probably rightfully so), Universal is releasing a real-life action-thriller produced by James Cameron and using the same 3D technology with which they shot Avatar. Although actors Richard Roxburgh and Ioan Gruffudd are no slouches when it comes to the caliber of acting, they’re not exactly household names in the States, even after Gruffudd’s starring role in the “Fantastic Four” movies.

The movie is really being sold on Cameron’s involvement and the fact it looks a bit like The Abyss, as well as being a live-action adventure movie shot in 3D. It’s getting a wider release than the movie that’s favored to win the weekend, and most of those theaters will be digital 3D and IMAX 3D screens to take advantage that the movie was shot in 3D as well as higher ticket prices.

Moviegoers have generally become skeptical of spending their money on movies just ’cause they’re 3D and this premise doesn’t exactly jump out as audiences as something worth seeing, especially with so many other cave-based thrillers being quite spotty, most notably Screen Gems’ The Cave, and Neil Marshall’s The Descent being one of the cave-based horror movies looked upon favorably. In fact, this is more like a real-life thriller like Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, which really hasn’t made much of a dent on the box office despite receiving lots of awards attention and having gone wide this weekend. That makes one think that audiences just aren’t into these sorts of “true story” action thrillers as they used to be in the ’90s and Sanctum may just feel dated to modern moviegoers who haven’t been really giving many new movies a chance in the past month.

On top of that, this is a holdover from when Universal were distributing Rogue Pictures films, most of which moved over to Relativity, and one can’t expect that Universal are nearly as invested in marketing or promoting this movie as they are in one of their own movies, though it’s not exactly being dumped either. (They’re advertising the move on ComingSoon.net for instance and that makes them awesome!) As the film’s producer and mastermind, James Cameron has made himself available to the press, and he’s even joined Twitter, making himself a lot more present so his involvement in the project is being made evident in hopes some of the huge audience who went to see Avatar in theaters might check out this project. It’s kind of doubtful that will happen, partially due to the rather vague title, but also due to the “seen it been there” feel of the advertising that won’t make it feel like a must-see movie especially with the Super Bowl on Sunday, which means it’s likely to end up somewhere in that $10 to 15 million range of so many other movies released this year.

Why I Should See It: Cameron’s the pioneer of using 3D technology for films and this movie was completely filmed using his cameras.
Why Not: How is anyone going to be able to watch this movie without thinking of The Descent or The Cave or 127 Hours for that matter?
Projections: $11 to 12 million opening weekend and roughly $33 million total.

COMPARISONS

Openig in Limited Release:

Aaron Katz’s Cold Weather (IFC Films) stars Cris Lankenau as Doug, an ersatz detective who takes a job working in an ice factory in Portland until his ex-girlfriend goes missing and he’s able to use his knack for sleuthing to find her. It opens in New York on Friday and then in L.A. on February 11.

Natalie Portman stars in Don (The Opposite of Sex) Roos’ The Other Woman (IFC Films), based on Ayelet Waldman’s novel “Love and Other Pursuits” about Emilia, a Harvard law graduate who marries her lawyer boss (Scott Cohen), a relationship that falls apart when she loses their newborn daughter, forcing her to try to connect with her stepson and cope with her husband’s ex-wife (Lisa Kudrow). It opens in select cities on Friday.

Rachel Bilson and Tom Sturridge star in James Keach’s romantic comedy Waiting for Forever (Freestyle Releasing) about two best friends who lost touch until she returns to their hometown after failing as a TV actress and they reconnect an, him now a juggler and entertainer. It also opens in select cities.

Dressed (OneRock Moving Pictures) is David Swajeski’s documentary about clothing designer Nary Manivong, who went from being homeless at 14 to showing his collection at Fashion Week in New York along with commentary from some of the top people in the fashion industry discussing how hard it is to make it in the fashion industry.


Next week, everyone is trying to get romantic leading up to Valentine’s Day on the 14th, including the Adam Sandler-Jennifer Aniston comedy Just Go With It (Sony), everyone’s favorite teen heartthrob in his first concert movie Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (Paramount), the animated Gnomeo & Juliet (Touchstone Pictures), and the romantic tale of Roman gladiators invading England in Kevin MacDonald’s The Eagle (Focus Features), starring Channing Tatum.

Copyright 2011 Edward Douglas