Box Office Preview: Nostalgia Goes on Easter Parade

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This will be an interesting weekend since we have one sequel return to a movie franchise that was at its height ten years ago, a 3D rerelease of a movie that was absolutely enormous and then the third weekend of The Hunger Games. Oh, and it’s Easter, which means most people will be out of school (and some off work) on Friday and maybe even more on Monday, giving lots of opportunities to see both new offerings, as well as any returning movies. Oh, and it’s the Weekend Warrior’s (or whatever we’re calling this thing) ninth anniversary at ComingSoon.net, but who’s counting?

American Reunion (Universal) brings back the entire cast of the R-rated comedy hit American Pie, which grossed $100 million in the summer of 1999 while introducing the world to the likes of Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Chris Klein, Tara Reid and others. It was followed by two similarly successful sequels, American Pie 2 ($45.1 opening and $145 million gross) and American Wedding ($33.4 million, $104 million) before it went the DVD movie route with the “American Pie Presents” series. The franchise has been taken over by “Harold & Kumar” masterminds Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg who play up on the nostalgia that fans will have to the original American Pie, raising the big question of whether fans of those movies will return for this reunion and if it has any potential for new and younger audiences, especially since the cast is now older than the franchise’s original target 17 to 20 year demographic. We think that a lot of 20 to 30-somethings will look back fondly on the “American Pie” movies making this a viable option for them as well as younger guys who may not be interested in the other movies, which should allow it to open with roughly $31 to 34 million this weekend with a strong chance at being #1, because its main competition, James Cameron’s Titanic 3D rerelease opens Wednesday and will be sharing an audience with The Hunger Games in its third weekend. (You can read our original thoughts on the movie in the Long Distance Box Office forecast.)

Interview with Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg

Review (Coming Soon)

The other major release is a 3D rerelease of James Cameron’s blockbuster which became the highest-grossing movie of all time with $600 million grossed domestically during its impressive theatrical run in 1997 and 1998, so in that sense, Titanic in 3D (Paramount) is hoping to pull on the same nostalgic strings, only more among women. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, both of whom would become superstars following the movie’s huge success and both becoming regular Oscar nominees (and a winner in Winslet’s case) since then. Cameron also hasn’t done too shabbily, as his follow-up Avatar surpassed the gross of Titanic a few years back. The rerelease’s biggest hurdle may be that 3D has definitely suffered a bit of a backlash since Avatar, although an easy comparison might be the recent release of George Lucas’ $430 million grossing Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace earlier this year, as it grossed $22.5 million its opening weekend and roughly $43 million total, showing there is some interest in a 3D rerelease. Both original movies have a huge cult following although the Titanic fanbase has remained strong, as well as there being lots of younger women who never had a chance to see the movie in theaters. While this rerelease hasn’t been hugely promoted, Paramount lucked out since Winslet has been promoting her new book for charity in the last few weeks allowing her to comment on the 3D rerelease on all the talk shows. Opening on Wednesday creates an interesting paradigm since anyone really interested in seeing this may go see it on Thursday night (if they don’t have work or school on Good Friday), so we think it should bring in $12 to 15 million on Wednesday and Thursday and another $25 to 26 million over the weekend for a five-day opening of roughly $40 million on its way to roughly $90 million total.

Easter has always been an interesting weekend at the box office, because with so many schools out and some people taking off work for Good Friday, it means the weekend is generally more front loaded – Easter proper is not normally known as a moviegoing day either. Two years ago, Clash of the Titans set the holiday weekend record with $61 million with $28.7 million of that being on Good Friday (and in Thursday previews). Scary Movie 4 held that record for four years with $40 million with a similar amount of frontloading, so clearly, it’s a good weekend for new releases that play on nostalgia, and both new movies and The Hunger Games should keep theaters busy on Friday.

This weekend last year wasn’t Easter, but it saw the release of four new movies trying to take the top spot away from Universal’s Hop. They all failed, as it remained at #1 with $21.3 million. The one-name titles, Hanna (Focus Features) starring Saorsie Ronan, and Russell Brand’s remake of Arthur (Warner Bros.) fought for second place with just over $12 million each, though Hanna took second place with $12.4 million to Arthur‘s $12.2 million. The inspirational true story of Soul Surfer (FilmDistrict) took fourth place with $10.6 million while David Gordon Green’s R-rated medieval comedy Your Highness (Universal), starring Danny McBride, Natalie Portman and James Franco bombed with $9.4 million for sixth place. The Top 10 grossed $98.4 million which shouldn’t be hard to beat with the strength of the new movies and The Hunger Games.

This Week’s Predictions

1. American Reunion (Universal) – $32.5 million N/A

2. The Hunger Games (Lionsgate) – $29.5 million -52%

3. Titanic in 3D (Paramount) – $26.5 million N/A

4. Wrath of the Titans (Warner Bros.) – $14.7 million -57%

5. Mirror Mirror (Relativity Media) – $10 million -47%

6. 21 Jump Street (Sony) – $9.3 million -38%

7. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax (Universal) – $5.1 million -37%

8. John Carter (Disney) – $1.2 million -53%

9. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (CBS Films) – 1.0 million -21%

10. Act of Valor (Relativity Media) – $1.1 million -48%

This week’s THE CHOSEN ONE is Morgan (Super Size Me) Spurlock’s new doc Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope (Wrekin Hill), a movie that I was rather dubious and skeptical about when I first heard it was announced, maybe because my own feelings about Comic-Con International are kind of mixed. I have attended the last seven years or so as a working journalist, which is a completely different experience as the one depicted in the movie, so my thoughts on the convention are influenced by all the hassles getting a hotel room, getting around the mobs of people, etc.

Spurlock’s movie, one of his first documentaries where he doesn’t take front and center as its star, follows a number of subjects on their journey to Comic-Con, including a number of wannabe comic book artists, a veteran comic book dealer who is seeing how the convention has changed in the decades he’s been attending, as well as a costume designer who hopes to win the annual masquerade. The story that may have the most appeal to Comic-Con laymen is the straight-out fans James and his girlfriend Se Young, who he hopes to propose to during Kevin Smith’s panel, which would only seem weird to someone who hasn’t made the trek to Comic-Con to attend that panel. It’s the kind of “it can only happen in the movies” moments that really creates something special.

Spurlock brings the same sense of fun he’s instilled in movies about weightier subjects (like finding Osama bin Laden) which keeps you interested in the different subjects, breaking things up with testimonials and commentary from many famous Comic-Con regulars, such as (exec. Producer) Joss Whedon, Eli Roth, Kevin Smith and others, gushing about why they love it so much, transitioned together using comic strip graphics.

As someone who was skeptical about sitting through a movie about Comic-Con, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at how invested I was with the subjects chosen by Spurlock and his team of celebrity producers, since it helped me understand why Comic-Con is so important on different levels than the ones with which I’m familiar. Spurlock has done a terrific job capturing the magic that’s Comic-Con, creating a surprisingly poignant perspective on the fanboy mecca and a movie that’s really the next best thing to being there.

Comic-Con Episode IV opens in Los Angeles on Friday, as well as airs on Video on Demand, plus it will open in New York City on Friday, April 13.

Video Interview with Morgan Spurlock

Willem Dafoe stars in the Australian thriller The Hunter (Magnolia), playing Martin, a hunter hired to capture a legendary Tasmanian Tiger in the outback, but once he arrives there, he becomes involved with the family of a missing scientist and realizes that there’s a lot more to this hunt than he was told. After playing on VOD for the last month, it opens in New York (at the Landmark Sunshine and Lincoln Plaza), Austin (at the Ritz Alamo) and Washington at the E. Street Cinemas.

Video Interview with Willem Dafoe

Whit (The Last Days of Disco) Stillman returns with Damsels in Distress (Sony Pictures Classics), a comedy about a fictional university called Seven Oaks where a group of beautiful young women led by the dynamic Violet (Greta Gerwig) try to improve life by trying to improve the boorish male population. Along comes Analeigh Tipton’s Lily who is thrust into this world and thinks Violet’s gang have a strange way at looking at the world of college campuses while she faces her own man problems. Also starring Aubrey Plaza (“Parks and Recreation”), Zach Woods (“The Office”), it opens in New York and L.A.

Video Interview with Analeigh Tipton (Coming Soon)

For the latest high concept horror movie set in an enclosed space, we get David Brooks’ ATM (IFC Midnight), written by Chris Sparling of Buried fame. Do you need to know much more about a movie where people get trapped in an ATM? Well, it stars The Hurt Locker‘s Brian Geraghty, the super-hot Alice Eve and Josh Peck from The Wackness who are being terrorized by an unknown man outside the ATM who is playing games with them. After playing on VOD since March 2, it opens in select cities Friday.

Julian Leclercq’s The Assault (Screen Media Films) is based on the true story of a 1994 Christmas Eve airplane hijacking of an Algerian flight heading to Paris by Islamic terrorists and how a group of French Gendermes were called upon to storm the plane and put an end to the hostage crisis.

Nanni Moretti’s Italian comedy We Have a Pope (Sundance Selects) stars Michel Piccoli as a cardinal who suddenly finds himself being elected as the next Pope throwing him into an anxiety attack that forces the Vatican to call upon a non-religious psychiatrist (played by Moretti himself) to try to get the new Pope into the proper head to lead the Catholic Church.

Winnipeg’s wackiest auteur Guy Maddin’s Keyhole (Monterey Media) stars Jason Patric as Ulysses Pick, a gangster who returns home to find his house haunted by memories, but he’s only concerned about this wife Hyacinth, played by Maddin’s long-time muse, Isabella Rosselini.

Mario Van Peebles’ teen comedy We the Party (Xirator Media) stars a diverse cast (including most of his kids) as teenagers at a Los Angeles high school who are planning a big blow-out house party that can help them raise money.

Mathieu Roy and Harold Crook’s doc Surviving Progress (First Run Features), based on the book “A Short History of Progess,” looks at the modern world’s progress in technology, economics and the environment with input supplied by Margaret twood, Stephen Hawking, Robert Wright and more on the risks of having our old-fashioned primate brains trying to adjust to new technological ideas.

Maggie Hadleigh West’s documentary Player Hating: A Love Story (Film Fatale) follows 26-year-old hip hop artist Half-a-Mill of Crown Heights, Brooklyn who is hoping that his musical talent will take his family out of the dangerous housing projects environment where they live.

Next week, the month of April rolls along with three new movies including the Farrelly Brothers’ reinvention of The Three Stooges (20th Century Fox), Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s twist on the horror genre with The Cabin in the Woods (Lionsgate) and Guy Pearce in space in the Luc Besson-produced Lockout (Film District).

You can read stuff like this and regular box office, awards and festival coverage on the new Weekend Warrior Blog and to keep up with the latest articles and posts, you can follow us on Twitter.

Copyright 2012 Edward Douglas