The Weekend Warrior: July 1 – 4

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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.

Our apologies this is a bit later than usual, but we got slammed with other obligations.

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

Note: All of the below are four-day predictions including Monday, the 4th of July

UPDATE: It looks like Transformers: Dark of the Moon has already started out very similar to our projections and though it was on the low-end of our Wednesday projection with just under $38 million, we think it will pick up business on Friday and over the weekend and probably will end up between $98 and 101 million, a bit lower than we predicted. We’re keeping the same numbers for the other two new movies opening on Friday.

1. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Paramount) – $103.4 million N/A

2. Cars 2 (Disney•Pixar) – $45.5 million -32% (same)

3. Bad Teacher (Sony) – $19.0 million -40% (down 1 million)

4. Larry Crowne (Universal) – $17.7 million N/A (Same)

5. Green Lantern (Warner Bros.) – $10.0 million -45% (same)

6. Super 8 (Paramount) – $8.3 million -31% (same)

7. Monte Carlo (20th Century Fox) – $7.4 million (same)

8. Mr. Popper’s Penguins (20th Century Fox) – $7.3 million -28% (down .9 million and one spot)

9. X-Men: First Class (20th Century Fox) – $4.0 million -40% (down .4 million)

10. The Hangover Part II (Warner Bros.) – $3.4 million -39% (down .6 million)

Weekend Overview

It’s Fourth of July weekend, but before we get to the actual weekend, we’ll see the latest movie from filmmaker Michael Bay, the sci-fi action threequel Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Paramount) released on Tuesday night at 9pm in IMAX 3D theaters. The anticipated summer blockbuster is coming out after a disappointing 2009 sequel that still earned $400 million domestically, but the fact that Michael Bay has established his relationship as the maker of serious summer event movies means that many moviegoers who have been laying low this summer will be out in force to see his latest epic of battling robots. Business should be fairly well spread out with the biggest days being Wednesday and Friday or Saturday, and by the end of Monday, the 4th of July proper, it should have amassed $170 million or more.

Offered as counter-programming is Tom Hanks’ second movie as a director, once again reuniting him with Julia Roberts for the romantic comedy Larry Crowne (Universal), very loosely based on a real story. Co-written by Nia Vardalos of My Big Fat Greek Wedding (which Hanks co-produced), it’s going to be targeting the same women over 30 who might be looking for something to see that doesn’t involve explosions, although that audience isn’t necessarily one to rush out to see a movie like this over the 4th of July weekend, which tends to be about family and vacation.

Without a chance of making much of a mark against the giant robots and the starpower of Hanks and Roberts, the Selena Gomez and Leighton Meester travel comedy Monte Carlo (20th Century Fox) may bring in some of the teen and ‘tween girls who love Gomez for her music, but that probably won’t be enough of an audience for it to even bring in $10 million over the four-day weekend, and this is the type of movie that can easily be dumped and forgotten by the end of the summer.
This week’s “Chosen One” is the The New York Asian Film Festival, which kicks off at New York’s Lincoln Center on Friday, but due to time and deadline constraints, we’ll have to discuss this further in a separate article. Look for that later this week.

Last year, 4th of July fell on a Sunday, but four days earlier on Wednesday, the third installment of the Stephenie Meyer’s adaptation The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (Summit) opened with $68.5 million in its first day, followed by $24 million on Thursday and then $64.8 million over the three-day weekend, a five-day total of $157.6 million. M. Night Shyamalan’s very first adaptation of the Nickelodeon cartoon The Last Airbender (Paramount) opened on the Thursday with $16 million and then made another $40.33 million over the three-day holiday weekend. The Top 10 grossed $179 million last weekend and unless Transformers is heavily frontloaded, this should be another weekend up from the same weekend last year.


Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Paramount)
Starring Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Kevin Dunn, Julie White, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Ken Jeong, Patrick Dempsey, Alan Tudyk, John Turturro, Leonard Nimoy
Directed by Michael Bay (Transformers, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor and more); Written by Ehren Kruger
Genre: Action, Thriller, Science Fiction
Rated PG-13
Tagline: “GIANT FREAKING ROBOTS IN 3D!!!” (I guess we could actually check what the actual tagline is but this one works as well as anything else.)
Plot Summary: Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) once again gets caught up in the war between the Autobots and Decepticons after a spacecraft is discovered on the moon that contains ancient Cybertron technology.

Review

Analysis:

This summer is about to get real as Michael Bay returns to theaters with the threequel to the two movies based on Hasbro’s popular metamorphosing robot toys, which exploded onto the scene in the ’80s spawning popular comic books and cartoons, which have maintained a fanbase to this very day. It’s only been two years since Michael Bay’s last movie Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen got a lot of those fans mad with what a bad sequel it was compared to the original, and like the recent Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Transformers: Dark of the Moon will be fighting against negative buzz that predates any positive reviews it might get.

The millions of guys who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s playing with the Hasbro toys helped Michael Bay’s first foray into Transformers open decently over the 4th of July holiday weekend in 2007 with $155 million in its first five days with $70.5 million of that over the three-day weekend. Two years later, the sequel Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen opened almost a week before the 4th of July and that was able to amass $200 million in its first six days, roughly half of its domestic gross of $400 million, which gives some ideas how fans rushed out to see the movie but then business dropped off drastically due to poor word-of-mouth.

Much of the success of the movies can be credited (blamed?) to the popularity director Michael Bay has garnered among mainstream moviegoing audiences with action movies like Bad Boys, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor and others, showing that he’s a filmmaker who knows what the young male audience wants to see on screen when they go to the movies.

Much of the cast of the previous movie is back with Shia LaBeouf still riding the crest of the wave of success he gained by starring in the previous “Transformers” movies with the equally huge $300 million blockbuster of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull nestled in between. LaBeouf probably has made enough money from those movies to not have to work too much which may be why he’s only been in one other movie since Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, that being Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

The most obvious and noticeable absence is that of Megan Fox, who was replaced by British supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who hasn’t acted in anything else before. The soldiers played by Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson, who have also been mainstays since the first movie are back, as is John Turturro’s federal agent, and then the new additions, and rather odd ones at that, include Oscar-winner Frances McDormand, Oscar nominee John Malkovich, former child star and “Grey’s Anatomy” star Patrick Dempsey, and Ken Jeong, who seems to be in every movie this summer.

Despite fighting against the advent of new 3D technology, going on record that it was a fad, Michael Bay was convinced to use some of his crazy filmmaking techniques with the 3D cameras to try and create something worth seeing in the format. This sort of material is probably better suited for 3D than some of the other movies we’ve seen in recent weeks, being a big sci-fi action movie, and a lot of the early buzz on the movie has been about the 3D, including a highly-publicized endorsement from Mr. 3D himself, James Cameron. This couldn’t come soon enough as 3D has started to hit a bit of a roadblock in recent weeks and for many, seeing the movie in IMAX and/or 3D will be a must.

As was the case with the previous “Transformers” movies, Paramount is opening this one earlier than Friday, knowing that school is out and a lot of the younger male fans who’ll want to see it will likely rush out to see it early. They’re doing exclusive Tuesday night screenings in IMAX 3D theaters and theoretically, opening a movie before Friday could take away some of the business over the actual weekend, something we saw with The Twilight Saga: New Moon last year (see above) where it opened huge on Wednesday then quickly tanked. This movie is fighting against the fact that many fans were disappointed by the previous movie–Revenge of the Fallen ended up with 5.9/10 on IMDb as opposed to the original movie’s 7.2/10, and as we’ve already seen this summer with X-Men: First Class and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, that could impact the third movie doing as well. Because there will be those doubters who remember getting burned who might not race out to see it, we probably won’t see the type of huge opening day the previous “Transformers” sequel had, but that should mean there will be enough business to carry it through the weekend rather than it being heavily frontloaded.

While it might not seem obvious from the number of blockbusters that have opened over the 4th of July, many of them involving alien invasions, the holiday isn’t quite on par with Memorial Day or Thanksgiving in terms of getting people into theaters. For instance, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 opened on the weekend in 2004 with a similar pattern as Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and while it had a huge opening day of $40 million on its opening Wednesday, that business tailed off by the weekend as so many people went away for vacation rather than hanging out to go to the movies. And Spider-Man 2 was the sequel to a movie that people generally liked or loved, and the same can’t be said for Dark of the Moon. How a movie does over the 4th of July weekend often relies on when in the week the 4th falls, because that’s generally going to be a very busy moviegoing day for those who aren’t cooking up barbecues and the like. In this case, the 4th falls on a Monday, on the very last day of a four-day weekend, which gives moviegoers five and a half days to see the movie before the holiday itself.

Like many of Michael Bay’s movies, other than The Island, the latest “Transformers” will be seen as a must-see event movie and it will almost be expected, especially for the under-25 crowd, that they rush out to see it en masse. The movie is mostly review-proof because those who really want to see it will only pay attention to the positive reviews. If isn’t too frontloaded to Wednesday, we should see a fairly solid weekend showing with a very good chance of it surpassing Spider-Man 2‘s current 4th of July opening record with $88.1 million.

Why I Should See It: Supposedly, Bay has really improved the third “Transformers” movie over the disappointing 2009 sequel.
Why Not: How could it possibly be worse? Oh, wait… we saw the movie. It’s worse.
Projections: It should be able to make $4 to 6 million on Tuesday, another $39 to 42 million on Wednesday, $20 to 22 million on Thursday and then $101 to 104 million over the four-day weekend. That’s roughly $165 to 175 million for its first six-and-a-half days, less than Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, but still strong enough to make it the first movie of the year to make it past $300 million even with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 nipping at its heels in two weeks.

COMPARISONS


Larry Crowne (Universal)
Starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Bryan Cranston, Cedric the Entertainer, Taraji P. Henson, Gugu Mbatha Raw, Wilmer Valderrama, Pam Grier, Rami Malek, George Takei, Grace Gummer, Rita Wilson, Jon Seda
Directed by Tom Hanks (That Thing You Do); Written by Tom Hanks, Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding,
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Rated PG-13
Plot Summary: Larry Crowne (Hanks) is the hardest working guy at the big-box company where he’s worked for years until he’s downsized because he didn’t go to college, so unsure what to do, he goes to a local college and joins together with a group of outcasts while also developing a crush on his teacher Mercedes (Roberts).

Analysis:

Offering counter-programming for the women over 25 or 30 who won’t have any interest in giant transforming robots is this romantic comedy that reteams Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts for the first time since the political comedy Charlie Wilson’s War. That was released over the holidays in 2007 to the tune of $66.6 million and it was one of Hanks’ smaller movies, nestled in between his two movies playing Dan Brown’s academic hero Dr. Robert Langdon. This one is more in the vein of some of the romantic roles he’s played in his career going all the way back to his early movies Splash and Big, both huge successes, and he later was paired with Meg Ryan for the popular romantic drama Sleepless in Seattle and the less popular You’ve Got Mail. More recently, he was paired with Catherine Zeta-Jones for the odd romantic comedy The Terminal directed by Steven Spielberg that was seen as a huge box office failure compared to their previous outings together.

The big difference this time around is that Hanks is directing Larry Crowne from a script he co-wrote with Nia Vardalos of My Big Fat Greek Wedding Fame, and it’s his first movie as a director since That Thing You Do, which performed weakly when it opened in 1996, nearly 15 years ago. Who knows if the poor showing for the generally-liked movie was why he hasn’t directed a move since, but it’s a pretty major deal that he’s at the helm of Larry Crowne even if the marketing isn’t really focusing on that aspect of the movie.

Julia Roberts has proven herself to be a star on par with Hanks, especially back in the ’80s and ’90s. Her last movie was the adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love, which brought in nearly $81 million last summer, and she reunited with director Gary Marshall as part of the ensemble comedy Valentine’s Day, which grossed $110 million. Before that, she was paired with Clive Owen for Tony Gilroy’s Duplicity, which only grossed a disappointing $40 million. While Roberts was considered one of the most dependable stars of the ’90s, leading up to her Oscar-winning role in Steven Soderbegh’s Erin Brockovich, she has spent so much of her time raising a family that she’s fallen a bit in terms of being a draw for younger audiences, which means that few women under 25 would have any interest in seeing this movie due to her presence. On the other hand, both her and Hanks should have enough of a pull for women over 30 who’ll fondly remember their previous romantic comedies.

The diverse cast includes the likes of Cedric the Entertainer, Taraji P. Henson and Gugu Mbatha Raw, Emmy-winning actor Bryan Cranston from “Breaking Bad,” Wilmer Valderrama and Pam Grier, not that it matters since 90% of the people going to see this movie (if not more) will be there for Hanks and/or Roberts.

Since romantic comedies have a limited audience of women and this one will lean more towards the older women, it does limit how much it might make opening weekend, especially since it’s targeting a demographic that wouldn’t necessarily rush out to see a movie opening weekend and could in fact wait until its second weekend. Reviews may play a large part in the movie’s success since older women are more apt to read reviews before going to see a movie than the audiences for this weekend’s other movies. (Having not seen the movie yet, we’re not sure what to expect in terms of reviews except going by past romantic comedies.)

“Larry Crowne” is a terrible name for a movie, because like so many other movies which are just the names of characters–Antwone Fischer, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, oh, and Charlie Wilson’s War–people really have very little reason to know who they are and why they should care about them. Even so, when you have the likes of Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts in the leads, you can call a movie “A Great Big Pile of Steaming Crap” and people will still go see it—not that we expect any studio to test this theory anytime soon.

Universal has been slamming the airwaves with the commercials for the movie, especially during the morning talk shows where the film’s targeted older female audience will know about it. That said, that audience is not one that rushes out to see movies and they probably won’t do so on a holiday weekend where so many people go away, while mothers will probably be taking the kids to one of the choices they have.

Why I Should See It: There’s a good reason why Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts are two of the biggest superstars in their field…
Why Not: …though even superstars have made bad movies, which this one certainly looks like it could be.
Projections: $17 to 19 million over the four-day weekend and roughly $50 million total.

COMPARISONS


Monte Carlo (20th Century Fox)
Starring Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy, Andie MacDowell, Cory Monteith
Directed by Tom Bezucha (The Family Stone); Written by Tom Bezucha, April Blair (Major Movie Star, “Lemonade Mouth”)
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Rated PG
Tagline: “She’s Having the Time of Someone Else’s Life”
Plot Summary: When teenager Grace (Selena Gomez) travels to Paris with her best friend Emma (Katie Cassidy) and her stepsister Meg (Leighton Meester), she’s mistaken for a spoiled British heiress and they find themselves whisked off to Monte Carlo where she needs to maintain that façade.

Analysis:

The odd movie out this 4th of July weekend is a movie geared towards ‘tween girls starring one of their heroines, 19-year-old Selena Gomez, who has gained many fans from her long run on the popular Disney Channel show “The Wizards of Waverly Place.” The travel comedy is based on a book by Jules Bass called “Headhunters,” which we’re assuming is no “Judy Moody,” but it’s the type of concept that studios love to make because it plays up to young women’s love of travel similar to Woody Allen’s recent Midnight in Paris.

In the last few years, Gomez’s career has exploded both from the popularity of her show but also due to the music she’s released with her band, Selena Gomez and the Scene, which has spawned platinum-selling singles and gold records. With absolutely no coincidence or irony, their latest record is released mere days before the release of the new movie. Last year, Gomez starred in the film adaptation of the book Ramona and Beezus, which is probably a more popular book than “Headhunters,” yet that opened late in July with less than $8 million though it did have decent legs, ending up with $23 million. Gomez has been hustling around the talk show circles the last few weeks as well as performing live on morning shows, hoping to get her fanbase and the mothers to realize she has a new record and movie coming out.

Gomez is joined by two actresses from the hit CW show “Gossip Girl,” Leighton Meester and Katie Cassidy, the former who has done more movie work, appearing earlier this year in Gwyneth Paltrow’s Country Strong and the horror movie The Roommate.

Movies about girls winding up in glamorous situations often provide the fairy tale-like stories that young girls eat up, and one of the more successful movies in that vein is The Princess Diaries, starring a teen Anne Hathaway, which spawned a successful sequel and the lesser rip-off The Prince and Me. Reese Witherspoon’s Legally Blonde could also be seen as part of this oeuvre. Destination/vacation movies can also be hit or miss as seen by the likes of Nia Vardalo’s My Life in Ruins or When in Rome, when compared to movies like Mamma Mia!

Unlike the “Princess Diaries” movies (and much of Gomez’s other work), Monte Carlo isn’t being released by Disney, who know how to market movies towards that audience. Instead it’s being released by 20th Century Fox, who don’t have quite the track record in terms of releasing family films and movies for ‘tween girls, and they haven’t been putting much effort into generating awareness outside its key demographic.

One assumes that opening over the 4th of July will help the movie do better than it might otherwise, but with school out, it’s doubtful teen girls who might go see this movie together will be around, and this isn’t the type of thing you can expect families to go see together compared to last week’s Disney•Pixar movie Cars 2. As bad as the movie may look, opening in the middle of summer against stronger fare is ultimately going to be its undoing, because there are far too many stronger options for teen girls this holiday weekend.

Why I Should See It: Selena Gomez is absolutely adorable…
Why Not: …I mean, to 9-year-old girls… I felt creepy just watching the trailer.
Projections: $7 to 8 million for the four-day opening weekend and roughly $18 million total.

COMPARISONS


THE CHOSEN ONE:

This week, we’re going to do something a little different because we haven’t seen many of this week’s limited releases, so instead we’re going to write about the 10th anniversary of The New York Asian Film Festival, which is once again being held at Lincoln Center. This is always one of the area film festivals that offers the most fun film experiences you’re likely to have, especially if you’re a fan of comedies and genre, because they program the festival with such crazy eclectic fare that you’re not likely to see movies like these year-round unless you actually live in one of the Asian countries represented. Thanks to the early release of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, we couldn’t hold this week’s column an extra day to put as much time into including our thoughts on this year’s NYAFF offerings in the column, so look for a separate piece on the festival later this week.

New York Asian Film Festival

Also in Limited Release:

Azazel (Momma’s Man) Jacobs’ quirky coming of age tale Terri (Art Takes Over Pictures) stars newcomer Jacob Wysocki in the title role as an outcast teen misfit who bonds with his over-caring vice principal (John C. Reilly) while facing hurdles at school and home. It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

Interview with Azazel Jacobs and John C. Reilly

Yoav Potash’s documentary Crime After Crime (The OWN Documentary Club) follows the legal battle faced by Debbie Peagler who has spent 26 years in jail, wrongfully accused of murdering a boyfriend who beat her and forced her into prostitution, only to have new evidence show up that proves otherwise. It opens in New York at the IFC Center and then in Los Angeles on July 8.

Opening at the IFC Center on Wednesday is the latest from Romanian filmmaker Cristian Puiu (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu) who returns with Aurora (The Cinema Guild) in which he stars as an enigmatic man on a bizarre quest. (We’ve seen the movie and we can’t even remember what it’s about after reading the synopsis.)

“Frazier” star David Hyde Pierce stars in Nick Tomnay’s psychological thriller The Perfect Host (Magnolia Pictures) as a Los Angeles man hosting a dinner party who takes in younger career criminal John Taylor (Clayne Crawford) when the latter claims to be a friend of a friend who lost his luggage. It opens in Los Angeles at the Sunset 5, in New York at the Quad Cinemas and in Lansdowne, PA on Friday.

Ed Gass-Donnelly’s crime-thriller Small Town Murder Songs (Monterey Media) stars Peter Stormare as an aging police officer named Walter investigating the corpse of a young woman found by a lake, though his attempts to solve the crime are hindered by his ex-lover (Jill Hennessy and her new boyfriend, as his own relationship with a woman played by Martha Plimpton starts to unravel. It opens in New York at the ReRun Gastropub in Brooklyn on Friday.

Jill Andresevic’s doc Love Etc. (Paladin) looks at five New York love stories involving people of different ages and backgrounds looking at what the city’s residents will do in the name of love. It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

Abhinay Deo’s action-comedy Delhi Belly (UTV Motion Pictures) involves three roommates and partners in crime who end up on the hit list of a deadly crime syndicate. It opens in select cities on Friday.


Next week, there’s fierce competition between two comedies with the all-star ensemble of Jasons Bateman and Sudekis, Charlie Day, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell and Kevin Spacey in the R-rated comedy Horrible Bosses (New Line/WB) taking on Kevin James in the family comedy Zookeeper (Sony).

Copyright 2011 Edward Douglas