Box Office Preview: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Fights Off Aliens… Again!

The shorter month of February comes to an end with a couple of surprise hits and some serious disappointments, but this is a lighter weekend with just two new movies before the absolutely nutty month of March where there’s nearly 20 movies in the first weekend alone.

Snitch (Summer Entertainment)

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Susan Sarandon, Benjamin Bratt, Barry Pepper, Jon Bernthal

Directed by Ric Roman Waugh (Felon); Written by Justin Haythe, Ric Roman Waugh

Genre: Action, Thriller

Rated PG-13

Tagline: “How Far Would You Go To Save Your Son?”


Interview with Director Ric Roman Waugh

Video Interview with Dwayne Johnson & The Cast

2013 has not been a good year for action movies nor their stars as we’ve already seen movies by Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jason Statham bomb and let’s face it, the showing for Bruce Willis’ return as John McClane in A Good Day to Die Hard last weekend wasn’t that impressive either. That might make it somewhat worrying for the first movie of the year starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who literally has a movie at the end of each month between now and May, but Snitch is a much different movie from those films, being more of a drama set in the very real world of the war on drugs, putting Johnson into the role of a father who goes undercover to help the DEA take down cartel druglords.

Based on a true story that was featured on “Frontline,” the movie is directed by former stuntman Ric Roman Waugh whose little-seen prison movie Felon starring Stephen Dorff and Val Kilmer is a personal favorite, but Snitch is automatically a much more high profile movie due to Summit and the presence of Johnson. (The funny thing is that Waugh’s movie is opening in the exact same weekend that his brother’s movie Act of Valor did last year – see below.) Waugh has surrounded Johnson with a talented cast that includes Susan Sarandon, Barry Pepper, Benjamin Bratt, Michael K. Williams from “The Wire” and Jon Bernthal from “The Walking Dead,” none that can bring audiences in theaters but do up the quality of the film which should help its word-of-mouth.

The good news is that Johnson has been everywhere lately, from the Super Bowl commercials as well as the popular commercials for his franchise movies G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Fast & Furious 6. Upping his presence is his return to the WWE a few years back which culminated in him holding the WWE Championship for the first time in ten years. Sure, it’s a little convenient that the WWE would get The Rock back to the top of the heap before he has a slew of movies being released into theaters, but it’s actually going to be make it easier for Summit to get the word out on this movie because Johnson is so prominent.

The big hurdle facing Snitch, as mentioned earlier, is that action movies in general aren’t faring well this year, which shows an overall disinterest from fans of that genre, but hopefully Johnson’s presence and his high profile combined with a crime plot that should appeal to urban audiences and fans of popular shows like “Breaking Bad” will help this one fare better than some of the outright bombs. With last weekend’s movies probably not holding well among moviegoers, we expect this one to be able to sneak into an easy #1 win even if it’s likely to open under $20 million.

Weekend Est.: $15 to 17; Est. Total Gross: $38 to 40 million.

Dark Skies (Dimension Films)

Starring Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, Dakota Goyo, Kadan Rockett, J.K. Simmons

Written and directed by Scott Stewart (Priest, Legion)

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Rated PG-13

Tagline: “Once You’ve Been Chosen. You Belong to Them.”

We’ve already had a number of horror hits this year and here’s the latest from producer Jason Blum, best known for the “Paranormal Activity” movies, James Wan’s Insidious and last year’s Sinister. Blum has a lot on his plate these days, but he’s had decent success making relatively low-budget horror films that can be marketed to do enough business to make money, and Dark Skies is no exception.

This one deals with alien invasions and it looks like something out of “The X-Files” which may make it feel somewhat dated or it could do well among audiences looking for something different. It’s written and directed by Scott Stewart, best known for the bigger budget action-thrillers Priest and Legion and it stars Keri Russell (currently seen on the FX show “The Americans”), Josh Hamilton (“Third Watch”), Dakota Goyo (Real Steel and J.K. Simmons (“Spider-Man” films and Farmer’s Insurance ads).

These kinds of movies tend to appeal to younger audiences, mostly teens and slightly older, and while this might be a viable option for them this weekend, it also looks like so many other movies they’ve seen before and not necessarily something that has to be seen opening weekend so many of them might give it a pass until DVD.

As is often the case with these movies, Dimension Films isn’t making much of an effort to screen it for critics and get reviews (unlike Snitch), which means that like so many horror movies, it’s probably not a very good movie, but they’re probably hoping that young horror fans will go check it out on Friday night with their friends before word gets out how bad it is. Expect it to come in second place on Friday but then drop off dramatically over the weekend to end up in fifth or sixth place.

Weekend Est.: $9 to 11 million; Est. Total Gross: $25 million.

This weekend last year saw the release of four new movies with the military drama Act of Valor (Relativity Media), starring real Navy Seals, bringing in a terrific $24.5 million for first place followed by Tyler Perry’s non-Madea movie Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds (Lionsgate), which opened in second with $15.6 million. The weekend also saw two bonafide bombs in the Paul Rudd-Jennifer Aniston comedy Wanderlust (Universal), which opened in eighth place with $6.5 million, still doing better than the Amanda Seyfried thriller Gone (Summit), which took ninth with $4.8 million in 2,186 theaters. The Top 10 grossed $107 million which should still be ahead of this weekend’s box office making it so that the entire month of February was down from the same month last year even with hits like Identity Thief, Safe Haven and Warm Bodies.

This Week’s Updated Predictions

1. Snitch (Summit Entertainment) – $15.8 million N/A (up .3 million)

2. Identity Thief (Universal) – $13.5 million -43% (up .5 million)

3. A Good Day to Die Hard (20th Century Fox) – $11.7 million -53% (same)

4. Safe Haven (Relativity Media) – $11.2 million -48% (same)

5. Escape From Planet Earth (The Weinstein Company) – $10.3 million -35% (up .3 million and one spot)

6. Dark Skies (Dimension Films) – $9.6 million N/A (down .9 million and one spot)

7. Warm Bodies (Summit Entertainment) – $5 million -44% (same)

8. Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company) – $4.2 million -33% (down .2 million)

9. Beautiful Creatures (Warner Bros.) – $3.7 million -51% (same)

10. Side Effects (Open Road Entertainment) – $3.3 million -47% (down .2 million)

No “Chosen One” per se this week but “Girls” star Alex Karpovsky directs and stars in two very different independent films being released as a double feature, Red Flag and Rubberneck (Tribeca Film). In Red Flag, Karpovsky plays a version of himself, a filmmaker who is about to go on a tour with his movie “Woodpecker” shortly after breaking up with his girlfriend, and he brings along his friend (Onur Tukel) who ends up falling for one of Alex’s fans (Jennifer Prediger) who had a one-night stand with Alex beforehand. In Rubberneck, Karpovsky plays Paul, a scientist who has a weekend fling with his co-worker (Jaime Ray Newman) and then spends the next few weeks obsessing over her as she grows distant, clearly not wanting a relationship with him. The two movies are available On Demand starting on February 19, but you can watch them as a double feature starting February 22 at Lincoln Center’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.

Video Interview with Alex Karpovsky

Filmmaker Ruba Nadda (Cairo Time) returns with the thriller Inescapable (IFC Films), starring Alexander Siddig as a former Syrian military policeman living in Toronto whose daughter disappears in Damascus forcing him to return to the life he left behind to find her with the help of his former love Fatima (Marisa Tomei). It opens in select cities on Friday.

New from Bollywood and fresh from the Berlin Film Festival is Abhishek Kapoor’s Kai Po Che! (UTV Films), the story of three close friends from Ahmedabad India (Ishaan, Omi and Govind) trying to make a mark by opening a sports supply shop and sports academy where Ishaan wants to teach the local boys how to play cricket. When he discovers a young cricket prodigy, Ishaan thinks that he’s found a goldmine, but at the same time, his two friends are being dragged in other directions – Omi into politics by his uncle and Govind as he falls for Ishaan’s younger sister. It opens in select cities.

And here are the limited release I haven’t seen…

Brendan Fraser stars in Terry (Hotel Rwanda) George’s Stand Off (Ketchup Entertainment) a a man who robs a fish market to pay back his gambling debts to a mobster who happens to own that fish market. He ends up hiding out in a curio shop where he takes a couple of colorful characters hostage including a man who may be his illegitimate father as he’s surrounded by the police and the mobster’s hitmen. It opens in select cites.

Beijing Bicycle director Wang Ziaoshuai’s new coming-of-age drama 11 Flowers (First Run Features) set during the final days of China’s Cultural Revolution follows an 11-year-old who lives with his family in a small village who is selected to lead his school through a gymnastic routine. First, he must buy a new clean shirt, which his family can barely afford, and then it gets stolen by a man on the run. It opens in New York on Friday.

Carl Franklin’s Bless Me, Ultima (Arenas Entertainment) based on Rudolfo Anaya’s controversial coming-of-age novel about a young boy named Antonio (played by Luke Ganalon) growing up in New Mexico during World War II who learns about spirituality from a “healer” named Ultima (Miriam Colon) who moves in with his family. It opens in select cities Friday.

Next week, the month of March kicks off with Bryan Singer’s take on the old English fairy tale Jack the Giant Slayer (Warner Bros.) as well as the horror sequel The Last Exorcism Part II (CBS Films), the R-rated party comedy 21 and Over (Relativity) and the submarine thriller Phantom (RCR Distribution), starring David Duchovny and Ed Harris.

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 2013 Edward Douglas


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