Box Office Preview: Only Stooges Dare Enter The Hunger Games Fray

After a month full of huge record-breaking blockbusters and sequels that didn’t fare as well as hoped, the booming 2012 box office seems to be slowing down this month, which won’t be helped by a number of weaker releases as studios try to get their smaller movies into theaters before the summer movie season begins. It doesn’t feel that any of the three new movies are getting a strong enough push to take down The Hunger Games, which should rest comfortably at #1 for a fourth weekend in a row, having held off two new movies for the last few weeks.

The new movie with the most potential to dethrone it oddly enough may be the Farrelly Brothers’ new take on The Three Stooges (20th Century Fox). It’s been a long time since the Farrellys have had a hit on par with their summer blockbuster There’s Something About Mary, but this is the first time they’ve worked with an established property and the first time since their 2001 bomb Osmosis Jones where they’ve forayed into PG family territory. It’s been many, many decades since the wisecracking Three Stooges were popular among moviegoers but this movie won’t necessarily be trying to attract the Stooges’ older fans–they’ll probably see this movie as somewhat of a travesty–which may be why the movie is aiming for kids with the Stooges’ physical humor. Opening in over 3,000 theaters this weekend and with very few family movies in theaters, this could end up benefiting with between $14 and 16 million, although we think it will still end up in second place to The Hunger Games in its fourth weekend. It’s still likely to end up with between $45 and 50 million by the time it leaves theaters regardless of what’s expected to be bad reviews.

For horror fans, there’s the clever take on the terrorized kids slasher flicks that have been around since the late ’70s with The Cabin in the Woods (Lionsgate), the directorial debut by Cloverfield writer Drew Goddard, working with co-writer and producer Joss Whedon, a movie that’s been delayed literally for years after previous distributor MGM fell apart, but one that’s already gotten great reviews from its premiere as the opening night movie of this year’s South by SouthWest Film Festival. While the cast is mostly made up of unknowns, the project’s long delayed release led to one of its stars, Chris Hemsworth, establishing himself by playing Marvel Studios’ Thor, not that Lionsgate are advertising his presence or assuming it may help bring people into theaters. What may not be obvious from the marketing, which takes a similar approach as other Lionsgate horror movies, is that the film is very funny–in fact, that’s one of its best and biggest assets–although the problem with horror-comedies is that to date, they haven’t flown well with mass audiences, so this will be relying on early buzz and word-of-mouth. While we don’t expect this to bomb as badly as other horror-comedies, in some ways, it’s in the same boat as Lionsgate’s Kick-Ass, which opened with roughly $19.8 million the same weekend two years ago, but also was based on a popular comic book and had Nicolas Cage. Without those two things, we think this one will end up in the $13 to 15 million range and probably end up grossing less than $40 million.

Review

With a lot of guys of varying ages interested in those two movies, that doesn’t leave a lot left for the sci-fi action flick Lockout (FilmDistrict/Open Road), starring Guy Pearce and Maggie Grace and produced by Luc Besson. The work of two talented Irish filmmakers, James Mather and Stephen St. Leger, the marketing hasn’t done a lot to show this off to be something that isn’t completely derivative of the movies that influenced it, which is a shame because like Cabin in the Woods, it’s a fun movie that a lot of people may enjoy. Oddly, Pearce’s last wide release in which he headlined, the horror film Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, opened against Besson’s own last release Colombiana, and the latter beat it $10.4 million to $8.5 million; Besson’s movie brought in $36.7 million to “Dark”‘s $24 million, although it also had smokin’ hot Zoe Saldana, which likely helped it in urban areas. Still, the fact that it’s from Besson, producer of the action hit Taken, could amount to a bit of business among the 20-to-30-something crowd, so we see this one opening somewhere between $7 and 9 million and grossing $20 to 25 million total, destined to find most of its business on DVD and download.

Interview with Director Stephen St. Leger

Review

This weekend last year saw the release of two big movies and a couple of smaller ones, but the animated musical comedy Rio (20th Century Fox) topped them all with $39.2 million in 3,826 theaters, while Wes Craven’s Scream 4 (Dimension Films) opened in second place with a disappointing $18.7 million. Robert Redford’s Lincoln drama The Conspirator (Roadside Attractions), starring James McAvoy, opened outside the Top 10 with $3.5 million in 706 theaters. Angelina Jolie had been trying to make a movie based on Ayn Rand’s cult classic novel, but instead, we got Atlas Shrugged Part 1 (Rocky Mountain Pictures), a poorly-reviewed adaptation starring Taylor Schilling which tanked with $1.7 million in 299 theaters to also end up outside the Top 10. The Top 10 grossed $110.6 million but without a big movie like Rio this weekend, we think this weekend’s box office will be down slightly, possibly not even bringing in $100 million.

This Week’s Updated Predictions -

UPDATE: A few minor changes with the announcement of actual theater counts including less for Lockout and more for Cabin in the Woods. Gareth Evans’ Indonesian action flick will expand nationwide into over 650 theaters which may not be enough to break into the Top 10 but should take in a million this weekend to fall just outside it.

1. The Hunger Games (Lionsgate) – $18.0 million -45%

2. The Three Stooges (20th Century Fox) – $15.6 million N/A (Up .1 million)

3. The Cabin in the Woods (Lionsgate) – $14.2 million N/A (up .4 million)

4. American Reunion (Universal) – $11.5 million -47%

5. Titanic in 3D (Paramount) – $8.5 million -52% (Up .1 million and one place)

6. Lockout (FilmDistrict/Open Road) – $8.0 million N/A (down .7 million and one place)

7. Wrath of the Titans (Warner Bros.) – $7.0 million -54%

8. Mirror Mirror (Relativity Media) – $6.5 million -41%

9. 21 Jump Street (Sony) – $6.1 million -39%

10. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax (Universal) – $3.2 million -35% (down .1 million)

The Raid (Sony Pictures Classics) – $1 million +90%

This week’s The CHOSEN ONE is Luc Besson’s biographical drama The Lady (Cohen Media Group), starring Michelle Yeoh as Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s Democratic leader who was put under house arrest by the country’s dictatorial military leader for over a decade, separating her from her husband Professor Michael Aris, played by Michael Thewlis, and their two sons.

I first heard of Suu Kyi’s struggle when I saw the doc Burma VJ about a protest by the people of Burman following Suu Kyi’s imprisonment, but that never really got into the reasons why she was imprisoned or how the politics of the country created the environment where that sort of treatment was possible.

It opens in 1962 with her as a little girl in Burma seeing her military father one last time before he’s killed in a coup, then it jumps forward in time quite a bit and then back to 1988 when she’s living in Oxford with Aris an their two sons, and she returns home to Rangoon to visit her dying mother and gets caught up in the country’s politics and the people’s quest for democracy from the tyrannical leader. The Burmese people quickly behind the daughter of the beloved General murdered by rebels, the country’s dictator must find a way to put a stop to her, so he puts her under house arrest and deports her husband to try to force her hand into leaving, though she knows that she can’t leave as that would be letting the Burmese people down.

Besson has created a beautifully, majestic film, the type of movie that Oscar voters absolutely love and rightfully so. Sure, there may be a lot of artistic license at work here in telling an entertaining story, but Besson is a fine storyteller who finds a way to enhance the most powerful emotional moments in a way that works. There’s a little bit of action but it’s really more of a character drama about how this unwitting woman fought against the odds, and it’s only surprising how well Besson handles this unfamiliar territory until you remember that he directed The Messenger. He does a fine job creating tension throughout the film as it pulls you in with its depiction of Burmese culture and politics.

More than that it’s about Yeoh’s powerhouse performance, the type of acting that tends to warrant awards attention. Although Yeoh’s English is one of the film’s few stumbling blocks, once she returns home to Rangoon, she’s far more convincing in Burmese giving the stirring speeches that get her supporters throughout the country even in the smallest of villages. Thewlis ends up taking a bit of a backseat role in the film, but he’s also quite good as we watch the support he gives Suu Kyi back home as her loving husband, helping her to get the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts. At one point, you may feel you’re seeing double as Thewlis plays both Michael and his twin brother.

Of the regional actors in the film, the one playing the film’s primary antagonist, the General, also has some great scenes showing how this ruthless leader’s decisions are based on paranoia and superstition as Suu Kyi’s popularity continues to grow.

This is a terrific film about a fantastic woman and her fascinating story, and once you get into the thick of it, you become fully absorbed into the story of how she rose up to support her people, sacrificing her own personal life in the process.

The Lady opens in New York on Wednesday, April 11, and expands to other cities Friday. (And after you see this, check out the doc Burma VJ that shows some of the more recent marches and protests about her house arrest.)

The Oscar-nominated French-Canadian film Monsieur Lazhar (Music Box Films) from Philippe Falardeau stars Mohamed Fellag as Bachir Lazhar, a middle-aged Algerian immigrant who fills in as the substitute teacher for a group of students who have been shaken up by the suicide death of their beloved teacher. As he helps them to get over the tragedy, they help him get over his own turbulent past. It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

A very different kind of school-based movie is the horror-comedy Detention (Samuel Goldwyn Films) from Torque director Joseph Khan, starring Josh “Hunger Games” Hutcherson and Dane Cook, which follows the students of Grizzly Lake trying to survive their final year of high school as a number of them are being picked off by slasher-movie killer Cinderhella. It also involves time travel.

Robert Rodriguez regular Danny Trejo (Machete) stars in Craig Moss’ action flick Bad Ass (Samuel Goldwyn Films) playing Vietnam hero Frank Vega who returns home only to be shunned by society until forty years later, he saves a man from an attack by skinheads on the bus and becomes a hero again. When his friend is murdered and the police don’t act to find his killer, he takes matters into his own hands. Also starring Ron Perlman and Charles Dutton, it opens in select cities Friday.

Blue Like Jazz (Roadside Attractions) is an adaptation of Donald Miller’s bestseller of the same name, which has sold 1.5 million copies to date apparently. Not that anyone might understand the appeal from watching 19-year-old Don (played by Marshall Allman from “True Blood”) going from his evangelical roots in Texas to the Portland campus of Reed College, where he learns a lot more about life from the heathenistic masses.

Two music docs of interest this week are P. David Ebersole’s Hit So Hard (Well Go USA/Variance Films), a look at Courtney’s alternative rock group Hole through the eyes of their drummer Patty Schemel, who suffered from drug addiction while playing with the band and ended up homeless when she was systematically replaced. It opens in New York and Los Angeles, while Mark Meatto’s How to Grow a Band (International Film Circuit) explores the evolution of musician Chris Thile following the hiatus of his band Nickel Creek, to form the traditional bluegrass quintet, The Punch Brothers. It opens at New York’s Village East Cinemas Friday.

Don Handfield’s football drama Touchback (Anchor Bay Films) stars Brian Presley as Scott Murphy, a former high school football star who has a second chance at revisiting his days after injuring his knee during a game winning play, turning to a coach who’s been his long-time mentor (played by Kurt Russell) to decide which path to take. It opens in select cities.

Eight years after T.D. Jakes’ hit Woman Thou Art Loosed starring Kimberly Elise, we get the sequel Woman Thou Art Loosed!: On the 7th Day (Codeblack Entertainment), starring Blair Underwood and Sharon Leal, this one a thriller (!) about a couple whose young daughter is kidnapped forcing them to face secrets that threaten their marriage.

Krysten Ritter from “Breaking Bad” and star of ABC’s new comedy “Don’t Trust the B_ in Apartment 23″ co-wrote and stars in Kate Coiro’s L!fe Happens (PMK*BNC), playing party girl Kim who gets pregnant after a one-night stand and finds herself becoming an unwitting parent of a young boy. It opens in select cities.

Over a year after its Sundance’s premiere, Braden King’s Here (Strand Releasing) stars Ben Foster as an American satellite-mapping engineer who has a relationship with a photographer as they travel across the Armenian countryside. It opens in New York at the IFC Center on Friday.

Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo has his latest two films released over the next week, starting with Oki’s Movie, a film made up of four vignettes, each featuring a young woman named Oki as she hikes Seoul’s Mount Acha with different boyfriends over the course of a number of years. It opens on Monday, April 16, for an exclusive one-week engagement at New York’s Maysles Cinema. We’ll have more on Director Hong’s more recent movie The Day He Arrives (Cinema Guild) in next week’s column.

Next week, we get a couple chick flicks as Zac Efron stars in the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation, The Lucky One (Warner Bros.), while Fantastic Four director Tim Story returns with the urban ensemble rom-com Think Like a Man (Screen Gems), starring Regina Hall, Kevin Hart, Meagan Good, Taraji P. Henson, Romany Malco, Gabrielle Union and Michael Ealy. Just in time for Earth Day, we also get the latest Disneynature film Chimpanzee.

You can read stuff like this and semi-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

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