Box Office Preview: That Other Alien Invasion Movie

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It’s Memorial Day weekend… Hurray!

Over the past couple of decades, this four-day holiday weekend has been one of the busiest moviegoing weekends of the year and after three weeks at #1 and having grossed over $450 million, it seems like a good time for Marvel’s The Avengers to take a backseat to another movie.

Along comes Will Smith in his first movie in over three years to revive a franchise that helped make him a box office superstar in the ’90s, reuniting with Tommy Lee Jones and director Barry Sonnenfeld for Men in Black 3 (Sony). It’s been ten years since the last installment and joining Smith as a younger version of Tommy Lee Jones’ K is Josh Brolin, as well as Emma Thompson, Alice Eve and Michael Stuhlbarg. It promises to have a lot of the same humor plus lots of cool aliens and gadgets, and the PG-13 rating means parents will be able to see it with their kids over 10.

Some may feel that Men in Black 3 doesn’t stand a chance against The Avengers steamroller, but the good thing about this movie (and one of the reasons why so many studios bank on sequels) is that people know what this movie is and the casual moviegoers who flock to theaters over Memorial Day weekend (including all the sailors back for Fleet Week). The problem is that it’s been ten years since the last movie and it’s not like anyone’s been clamoring for another “Men in Black” movie after the somewhat disappointing 2002 sequel. One also has to wonder whether the impressionable teenagers who tend to drive the box office will have any interest in the movie since they would have been too young to see the previous movies or the Saturday morning cartoon.

Both previous “Men in Black” movies made roughly $51 to 52 million in their first weekends although both of them opened a couple of days earlier because they were 4th of July releases. If you take into consideration ten years of ticket price inflation as well as the higher price for 3D tickets plus the fact the movie is opening on a Friday, one can easily see the latest movie doing at least that amount even with fewer moviegoers, mainly since this is one of the busiest moviegoing weekends of the year. With that in mind, we think Men in Black 3 will end up making between $55 and 58 million over the three-day weekend with a nice bump on Monday to bring it over the $70 million mark.

Review

Offered as odd counter-programming is Chernobyl Diaries (Warner Bros.), a found footage horror movie produced by “Paranormal Activity” mastermind Oren Peli, that takes the scares across the seas as it follows a group of kids as they explore the site of Russia’s biggest nuclear disaster. While Peli’s “Paranormal Activity” franchise with Paramount continues to do well, other horror movies that try to use that format aren’t nearly as successful as epitomized by last year’s Apollo 18, which grossed $18 million total. As is the case with most of these movies, none of the cast is known, which means this one is being sold entirely on Oren Peli’s name, but honestly, this doesn’t seem like the kind of movie audiences normally would see over Memorial Day so it feels more like it’s being dumped. Even so, since older teens might not be as interested in Men in Black 3, it should bring in a little bit of business but opening in only 2,500 theaters, it will probably top out the weekend with less than $13 million for the four days.

Even though The Avengers will be giving up the top spot, we think it should hold up well as the rest of the moviegoers that hadn’t gotten around to see it will see it this weekend since Memorial Day has always been a good weekend to catch-up on movies you’ve missed. With that in mind, unlikely choices like Dark Shadows and What to Expect When You’re Expecting may pick up in business slightly, and also, we fully expect Fox Searchlight to go even wider with The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and continue its run in the Top 10.

Last Memorial Day weekend, it was the battle of the sequels as the R-rated comedy The Hangover Part II (Warner Bros.) took on the PG animated comedy Kung Fu Panda 2 (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) with both of them opening a day early on Thursday. It was pretty definite who was going to win the weekend when “The Hangover” brought in $32 million its opening day to the sub-$6 million opening for “Panda.” The division between the two was minimized over the weekend but “The Hangover” still won with $103.4 million over the four-day weekend with “Panda” taking second place with $60.9 million. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides had a fairly substantial 45% drop to take third with $50 million. The Top 10 grossed $265 million but since this year’s two new movies won’t gross $160 million (and probably will end up with roughly $90 million between them), we think the top 10 will end up with roughly $180 to 185 million this weekend.

This Week’s Updated Predictions

(All predictions below are for the four-day holiday)

UPDATE: The biggest jump is for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which is expanding into roughly 500 more theaters than we original expected so we changed our prediction accordingly. Chernobyl Diaries is getting fewer theaters than we thought and we’ve moved that down on the Top 10.)

1. Men in Black 3 (Sony) – $72.8 million N/A (same)

2. Marvel’s The Avengers (Disney) – $45 million –18%

3. Battleship (Universal) – $16.2 million -36%

4. The Dictator (Paramount) – $11.5 million -33% (up one spot)

5. Chernobyl Diaries (Warner Bros.) – $11.2 million N/A (down 1 million and 1 spot)

6. Dark Shadows (Warner Bros.) – $9.3 million -30%

7. What to Expect When You’re Expecting (Lionsgate) – $8.2 million -24%

8. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Fox Searchlight) – $6.2 million +92% (up 2.2 million)

9. The Hunger Games (Lionsgate) – $2.2 million -25% (down .2 million)

10. Think Like a Man (Screen Gems) – $2.0 million -26%

This week’s THE CHOSEN ONE is the French blockbuster comedy The Intouchables (The Weinstein Co.), starring François Cluzet (Tell No One) and comedian Omar Sy as a quadriplegic millionaire and the immigrant from the projects he takes on as his caregiver. Written and directed by Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache, two filmmakers who were virtually unknown in the States before this movie. I first heard about the movie when it opened this year’s “Rendezvous with French Cinema.” The line-up hadn’t even been announced when the Cesar Awards were announced and Omar Sy won the award for Best Actor, defeating Jean Dujardin, who would win the Oscar just two days later. That already made the film quite intriguing, but then I learned they weren’t doing any press screenings for the movie, and that the Weinstein Company had picked it up. Doing a bit more research, I was shocked to learn that the movie had been an absolutely enormous hit in French territories, grossing over $150 million, and this was a movie that up until that point, I had never heard one thing about it!

I went in to see the movie with all that knowledge (and baggage) wondering what the big deal was and boy, did I learn why audiences have gravitated to this movie since it was first released last November. The film takes a similar approach as the best “odd couple” buddy comedies, but there’s a lot more depth to the characters due to their respective situations—Philippe is a millionaire who is trapped in a wheelchair and unable to move anything but his head; Driss is a Senegalese immigrant, living in poverty in the slums, who has just spent six months in jail for robbery. You wouldn’t think that these two very different men would have anything in common, but Driss helps Philippe to enjoy life again, which is what he desperately needed.

Toledano and Nakache’s movie has a lot going for it, but most of all, it’s the casting of Cluzet, a serious dramatic actor with three decades of experience, and Omar Sy’s terrific comic sensibilities, the two of them being able to cover all the bases as the film flows from humor to drama and back again. The entire film is just lots of fun, and it leaves you with a big smile on your face in the way the filmmakers tell this story, filling it with lots of great music that includes classical and ’70s funk and R ‘n’ B to contrast the differences between the two men.

This is another great movie that already has Hollywood (and the Weinsteins in particular) thinking “English remake” and though we have confidence in Bridesmaids‘ Paul Feig to pull off an interesting American version of the movie (and Colin Firth has already been named for the Cluzet role), there’s something that’s delightfully charming about this original movie that really makes it worth seeing in its pure and unadulterated form.

You can read more about The Intouchables in my review and interviews below, and if you’re looking for an alternative to Men in Black 3 or The Avengers this weekend and you live in one of the cities where this movie opens, I recommend it wholeheartedly – it’s also a great movie to see with your parents since they’re likely to enjoy it as well.

Interview with François Cluzet and Omar Sy

Interview with Filmmakers Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache

Review

Wes Anderson returns with Moonrise Kingdom (Focus Features), a characteristically quirky comedy about the romance between two 12-year-old outsiders Sam and Suzy (Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward) who run away from their respective situations with his scoutmaster (Ed Norton) and her parents (Frances McDormand) looking for them, as well as a local police officer (Bruce Willis) and Social Services worker (Tilda Swinton). It opens in select cities on Friday and we expect it will go wide eventually.

Review

Josh Lucas stars in Chris (Smoke Signals) Eyre’s Hide Away (MMC Joule Films) as a businessman who turns his back on his old life to rebuild an old dilapidated sailboat called the Hesperus, bonding with locals played by Ayelet Zurer (Angels and Demons) and James Cromwell. It opens in Phoenix, Arizona on Friday, then in New York, L.A., San Francisco and Oregon on June 1.

Reprise director Joachim Trier returns with Oslo, August 31 (Strand Releasing) about a 30-something sad sack named Anders who has been recovering from his drinking problem in rehab who gets one day off to visit Oslo and see his family and friends for a job interview, which may be too much for him to handle.

Bud Clayman directs and stars in the doc OC87 (Fisher Klingenstein Films), also known as OS87: The Obsessive Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Asperger’s Movie, which is probably self-explanatory. After spending thirty years chasing after his dream to become a filmmaker, Clayman points the camera at himself and the mental illnesses he’s suffered from. It opens at the Village East Cinemas in New York on Friday, then in Los Angeles on June 8. Clayman will be on hand for Q ‘n’ As on Friday and Saturday at the 7:40 PM screenings and the Sunday and Monday 3:20 PM shows.

Bailee Madison (Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark) and James Cromwell star in Timothy Armstrong’s Cowgirls N’ Aliens (Samuel Goldwyn Films), she playing a feisty young girl looking for her rodeo rider father and connecting with Sweethearts of the Rodeo, a team of young female rodeo riders run by Terence Parker (Cromwell). It opens in select cities Friday.

The animated Arjun – The Warrior Prince (UTV Communications) tells the story from the Indian Epic, the Mahabharat, about a young prince’s journey to becoming a hero who took on an entire army. It opens in select cities.

Next week, the month of June kicks off with the fantasy fairy tale epic Snow White and the Huntsman (Universal), starring Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron and Chris “Thor” Hemsworth, which is going up against the gorier and more scantily-clad Piranha 3DD (Dimension).

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