Box Office Preview: Can Tim & Johnny Get Out From Under The Avengers ‘ Shadow?

The second weekend of May is sometimes thought of as having a weird jinx, because there have been a number of movies released this weekend that haven’t done very well and/or outright bombed, many times because they were overshadowed by the second weekend of the much higher profile summer opener movie. A lot of times this has made opening a new movie in the top spot tough, and that’s certainly going to be a problem for the week’s solitary movie which has to face the second weekend of Marvel’s The Avengers, the biggest opening movie of all time (by roughly $40 million).

Oddly, it’s Warner Bros. which has had the most bombs on this weekend and yet they’re daringly releasing the 8th collaboration between director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp, their comedic take on the ’60s cult television show Dark Shadows (Warner Bros.) into the weekend hoping it doesn’t join some of their others. This is Burton and Depp’s first movie since their global blockbuster hit Alice in Wonderland for Disney, which opened with $116 million in March two years ago and went onto become Depp’s biggest non-”Pirates” movie and Burton’s biggest movie ever.

Before that, their biggest hit was the family adventure Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which grossed over $200 million over the summer of 2005, but the two movies they did together in between, Sweeney Todd and Corpse Bride, barely grossed $50 million. Clearly, putting them on a known property is the key, although the TV show “Dark Shadows” isn’t probably nearly as known or popular as the literary classics by Lewis Carroll and Roald Dahl.

But let’s get back to that jinx. Warner Bros. had a semi-hit in this weekend in 2004 with Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy, starring Brad Pitt, which opened with a respectable $47 million, then two years later, Petersen’s disaster movie Poseidon bombed quite badly, opening with just $22 million. Then two years after that, they released the Wachowskis’ Speed Racer, which opened with less than $19 million and made $43 million total. Oddly, Paramount had a huge hit in 2009 on this weekend when they released J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, which opened with $79 million and grossed over $250 million. Still, we keep looking back at Poseidon and Speed Racer and even House of Wax as examples of movies that generally should have done better than they ended up doing.

We think the presence of Johnny Depp will keep the movie from completely tanking but we also think that the continued interest in The Avengers will drive this weekend’s box office and limit the amount anything else can make. With that in mind, we think Dark Shadows will end up somewhere in the mid-to-high 30s, the same place as the animated Rango, while being way overshadowed by the second weekend of The Avengers. Burton and Depp’s latest may be able to make over $100 million during the summer because it’s opening so early but there’s a lot of comedy competition coming up including the pregnancy comedy What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Sacha Baron Cohen’s comedy The Dictator and then Men in Black 3 the weekend after that, all of which may be seen as more mainstream summer offerings.

Review

What’s interesting is that once again the entry into the Top 10 is going down and will soon be under a million, which means a wise distributor could use this weekend to expand their movie wider and get into the Top 10. We think that Fox Searchlight’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is the perfect candidate, acting as counter-programming to the bigger studio releases.

This weekend last year seemingly avoided the jinx, or at least one of the movies did, because this is the weekend that Kristen Wiig’s wedding comedy Bridesmaids (Universal) opened with $26.2 million, a respectable amount for a comedy, but then it went on to gross $169 million for the summer, delivering a huge hit for Universal and Judd Apatow. Still, it had to settle for second place behind the second weekend of Marvel Studios’ Thor, which fell 47% to bring in $34.7 million. Then again, this was also the weekend where the action-thriller Priest (Screen Gems), starring Paul Bettany, was finally released, and it tanked with less than $15 million to take fourth place, which wasn’t good considering the fact it was delayed to convert it into 3D and those higher ticket prices didn’t help it. The Top 10 grossed $126.8 million last year and The Avengers should be able to make about 80% of that amount on its own, so we’ll see another weekend up from last year.

This Week’s Updated Predictions -

UPDATE: The only thing of significance is that Eva Mendes’ Girl in Progress is opening in over 300 theaters which may be enough to get it into the Top 10, near the bottom. Fox Searchlight’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is expanding into 177 theaters with a concentrated marketing push for Mother’s Day, which means it could also break into the bottom part of the Top 10 although it may fall just short of a million this weekend.

1. Marvel’s The Avengers (Disney) – $97.5 million -53% (same)

2. Dark Shadows (Warner Bros.) – $38.5 million N/A (up 1 million)

3. Think Like a Man (Screen Gems) – $4.5 million -45% (Up .4 million)

4. The Hunger Games (Lionsgate) – $3.1 million -45% (same)

5. The Pirates! Band of Misfits (Sony) – $3.0 million -40% (same)

6. The Lucky One (New Line/WB) – $2.8 million –48%

7. The Five-Year Engagement (Universal) – $2.7 million -47%

8. Chimpanzee (Disneynature) – $1.5 million -40% (up .1 million)

9. Safe (Lionsgate) – $1.2 million -56%

10. The Raven (Relativity) – $1.1 million -57%

Girl in Progress (Pantelion) – $1.2 million N/A

This is absolutely a CRAZY weekend for limited releases, and it’s been really tough to pick any sort of CHOSEN ONE, but anyone who knows me realizes how much I love music and music docs, which means there’s only one option this week and that’s Joe (“Paradise Lost”) Berlinger’s doc Under African Skies (A&E IndieFilms), which covers Paul Simon’s return to South Africa 25 years after defying the United Nations’ cultural boycott by going there to record his Grammy-winning album “Graceland.”

Now mind you, I’ve never really been a fan of “Graceland” as a record because it came out a time I was more into metal and punk, and I have some personal issues with Paul Simon–they involve Styrofoam coffee cups, if you must know–but Berlinger really has done a fantastic job capturing both the time period in which the record was created and also last year’s South African reunion between Simon and the musicians who made the record as they rehearse for a 25th Anniversary concert.

Besides having terrific footage of the original South African recording sessions between Simon and the South African musicians he gathered to collaborate with, it features great interviews with some of Simon’s peers including David Byrne, Peter Gabriel, Sir Paul McCartney and Harry Belafonte, talking about his decision to break the cultural boycott to record in South Africa and bring South African musicians on tour at the height of Apartheid.

Under African Skies ably blends the two very different concepts of a movie about the “making of” this record and one that looks at the deeper implications of Simon’s actions with some great fly-on-the-wall moments like Simon meeting with the head of the Artists Against Apartheid movement who was particularly angered by Simon breaking the boycott.

Whether or not you’re a fan of Simon or “Graceland” there’s a lot of fascinating aspects of the film, whether it’s seeing how Simon was influenced by the music and how he stepped up his own songwriting game to his response to the criticism of the album and tour that followed.

There are other decent movies this weekend and in the spirit of the Sundance Film Festival and their Opening Night selections, we’re going to showcase three others – an American indie, a foreign film and a doc:

Bobcat Goldthwait’s new dark comedy God Bless America (Magnet) stars Joel Murray as Frank, a divorced guy who learns he has cancer the same day he’s fired from his job. Angry as hell, he decides to do something about all the things that make him mad and he ends up going on a cross-country killing spree with an enthusiastic high school girl named Roxy (played by Tara Lynne Barr). This is an incredibly dark but also a very funny film from Goldthwait, a fine follow-up to World’s Greatest Dad, and one that will have you questioning your own morals as you start to root for Frank and Roxy to kill the people who seem to be making the world an uglier place, which includes everything from an “American Idol”-like show to Pro-Life abortion clinic protesters. It’s been playing On Demand for the last month but will get a theatrical release in these cities.

Interview with Bobcat Goldthwait and Joel Murray

Frédéric Jardin’s French crime action-thriller Sleepless Night (Tribeca Film) stars Tomer Sisely as Vincent, a police officer who gets involved in stealing a large bag full of cocaine from drugdealers, but when they kidnap his son, he needs to return their property and gets caught up in a high stakes race to get the drugs. Fans of ’70s action thrillers like The French Connection (ha ha) should enjoy this gritty film that mostly takes place in and around the single locale of a nightclub, and while the story and how it transpires may not seem too groundbreaking, it’s another fine example of how there are French filmmakers breaking away from the “arthouse” films to create something that can appeal to American audiences.

Lastly, Andrew Shea’s documentary Portrait of Wally (7th Art Releasing) follows the controversy surrounding artist Egon Schiele’s 1912 painting which gets caught in a legal battle after it shows up at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and it’s discovered that it was stolen by Nazis from its Jewish owner during World War II. I’m not really much of an artbuff but Shea does a good job telling this story using new interviews and Austrian television footage to create a fairly compelling film even if you normally wouldn’t have much interest in the journey of a painting. It opens at the Quad Cinemas in New York on Friday, and you can see the full release schedule including upcoming festival dates on the official site.

Before we get to the rest of the limited releases–and there are many–we want to mention that New Yorkers can look forward to another summer of Rooftop Films, which is a fun and cool way to watch lower-budget indie films, many from local filmmakers, as well as collections of short films. They have venues in New York’s Lower East Side (my ‘hood), Kips Bay on the East Side of midtown and in Brooklyn, and while nothing really stands out to us as must-see, these tend to be fun communal experiences that allow you to see work by new and unknown talent. And they often have bands playing as well. You can see the schedule for this month’s line-up here and presumably they’ll add more soon enough.

Nadine (Caramel) Labacki’s Where Do We Go Now? (Sony Pictures Classics), the Lebanese selection for the Oscars is about a small village trying to prevent fighting between the Christian and Muslim men of their community by distracting them with Ukrainian strippers and other means.

Review

Eva Mendes stars in Patricia Riggen’s Girl in Progress (Pantelion Films) as negligent mom Grace who is trying to juggle her job at the crab shack with taking care of her daughter Ansieda (Cierra Ramirez) who has decided that her fastest way to adulthood is to lose her virginity.

Mini-Review: (Coming Soon!)

Prolific Scottish filmmaker David McKenzie’s Tonight You’re Mine (Roadside Attractions) stars Luke Treadaway (Attack the BlocK) and Natalia Tena (Tonks from the “Harry Potter” movies) as two musicians who meet and are handcuffed together at Scotland’s T in the Park music festival and have to spend the next 24 hours dealing with each other and their respective significant others as they play music and party. This is a fairly light but generally enjoyable film that grows on you, mainly due to the music and performances as well as trying to figure out how McKenzie made this movie in the middle of a teaming music festival.

After Dark Films is back with After Dark Action, a weekend of five action films being released into select cities:

The one getting the most attention may be John Hyams’ Dragon Eyes, which stars ’80s action heroes Jean-Claude Van Damme and Peter Weller, as well as current Asian martial arts hero Cung Le, playing Ryan Hong, an out-of-towner who comes to the gang-ridden St. Jude and starts to clean up.

They have another ’80s action vet, Dolph Lundgren, starring in Stash House, playing a man who buys his wife a foreclosed home only to discover the walls are lined with heroin, making them targets of a drug cartel.

Then Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ) stars in Antonio Negret’s Transit playing Nate Sidwell, a man who was imprisoned for tax evasion who goes on a bonding trip with his family when they discover $4 million in cash in their luggage rack and they’re being followed by four killers.

Eduardo Rodriguez’s El Gringo is about man who goes into Mexico with $2 million in cash hoping to retire on the beach but gets stranded in a desert town where word quickly gets around of the money he’s carrying, bringing out a bad element.

Lastly, Jason Connery’s Mixed Martial Arts movie The Philly Kid, stars Wes Chatham as a former wrestling champ sentenced to prison and ten years later he returns to Baton Rouge where he’s pulled into the world of MMA to help a friend who owes money to a loan shark. It co-stars Devon Sawa, Michael Jai White and Neal McDonough.

You can find a list of theaters on the Official Site.

Yam Laranas’ Filipino crime-horror movie The Road (Freestyle) which is about a cold case from twelve years ago when three teenagers vanished while traveling on an abandoned road, uncovering it’s gruesome past of abduction and murder.

Hirokazu Koreeda’s I Wish (Magnolia) is about two brothers who have been separated by their parents’ divorce and are now living in different parts of Japan, and the elder brother’s wish to be reunited with his brother seems to come tre when he learns about a bullet train linking their towns. It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

Steve Jobs: the Lost Interview (Magnolia) is exactly what it sounds like, a never-before-seen interview with the late Apple founder filmed in 1995 by Robert Cringely, some which was used for a television series but most of it lost until recently. It opens in select cities which you can see here.

Lymelife director Derick Martini’s follow-up Hick (Phase 4), adapted from Andrea Portes’ novel, stars Chloe Grace Moretz as a smalltown teen who leaves her abusive alcoholic parents to go to Las Vegas where she crosses paths with the rebellious Eddie (Eddie Redmayne) and a cocaine-snorting drifter (Blake Lively). It opens exclusively at New York’s Village 7.

The Australian horseracing movie The Cup (Myriad Pictures) stars Stephen Curry and Daniel MacPherson as brother jockeys, one of whom dies during the Melbourne Cup forcing the other to decide whether to go on. Also starring Brendan Gleeson, it opens in select cities.

In Brian Crano’s A Bag of Hammers (MPI Media Group), Jason Ritter and co-writer Jake Sandvig play grifters posing as parking valets who steal the cars they’re given who meet a neglected twelve-year-old named Kelsey who becomes their protégé.

Annie J. Howell and Lisa Robinson’s Small, Beatifully Moving Parts (Long Shot Factory), inspired by the Sundance Channel web series “Sparks” stars Anna Margaret Hollyman as a tech-savvy woman who becomes pregnant and decides to go on a road trip to visit her estranged mother.

From Bollywood comes the 3D mystery-thriller Dangerous ISHHQ (Reliance Big) starring Rajniesh Duggal and Karisma Kapoor as power couple Rohan and Sanjana, who are separated when they fly to Paris for a modeling job and he is kidnapped, leaving her wondering if she’ll ever see him again and having visions that may reunite them.

Next week, the month of May continues with three very different movies, including Peter Berg’s board game-inspired action movie Battleship (Universal), then there’s the bestselling book-inspired comedy What to Expect When You’re Expecting (Lionsgate) and God only knows what inspired Sacha Baron Cohen to make The Dictator (Paramount).

For those who enjoy box office games, EZ1 Productions is starting its summer games, which you can enter here, and once again, Ye Olde Weekend Warrior will be creating the Movielines for that portion of the game, which you can enter here.

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

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