The Weekend Warrior: Oblivion

We’re edging closer to the summer movie season where people actually want to go see movies and after a slower weekend with a surprise #1 that should hold up well based on strong word-of-mouth, we have a new sci-fi action thriller starring Tom Cruise that will try to kick the summer off early.

Oblivion (Universal Pictures)

Starring Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo

Directed by Joseph Kosinski (TRON: Legacy); Written by Karl Gajdusek, Michael Debruyn

Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Thriller

Rated PG-13

Tagline: “Earth is a Memory Worth Fighting For”

We’re two weeks away from the summer, but that doesn’t mean that Universal Pictures, which has had a number of big April hits with the last two “Fast and Furious” movies, won’t try to kick things off a little bit earlier before the multiplexes get swamped by the likes of Iron Man 3, Star Trek into Darkness and the Memorial Day releases.

The attempt at a pre-summer hit makes some sense for Oblivion, a sci-fi action-thriller set decades into the future that marks the second feature from Joseph Kosinski whose impressive action sequel TRON: Legacy put him on the Hollywood map, because it stars Tom Cruise as the last man on earth. It harks back to movies like Will Smith’s I Am Legend, which was a huge hit for Warner Bros. a bunch of years back. Cruise is in a weird point in his career because he’s only had a few movies that grossed over $100 million since he became tabloid fodder in 2005. He’s had the most success with the “Mission: Impossible” franchise, particularly 2011’s “Ghost Protocol,” but he followed that up with an appearance in the musical bomb Rock of Ages and his take on Jack Reacher barely cracked $80 million, which is basically what his movies have been averaging.

The good thing is that a sci-fi action movie is a good match with Tom Cruise’s fans, who dug his work in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report ($132 million gross in 2002) and War of the Worlds ($232 million gross in 2005), and it’s going to be an important determiner for how well Cruise’s 2014 sci-fi follow-up All You Need is Kill will fare.

Even more than the presence of Tom Cruise in the lead role is the fact that he’s teamed with Morgan Freeman, a veteran Oscar-winning actor who has gained a lot of respect among moviegoers for his choices, particularly Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” trilogy. Freeman has a busy year, having already appeared in the Relativity hit Olympus Has Fallen and following Oblivion with the action-thriller Now You See Me and then on Christmas, he reteams with other vets for the comedy Last Vegas.

The film also stars Olga Kurylenko, who has appeared in action films like Hitman, Max Payne and Quantum of Solace, British dramatic actor Andrea Riseborough (W.E.) and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau aka Jamie Lannister of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” who recently appeared in Universal’s hit horror film Mama.

The question is whether enough moviegoers will want to see a movie that features a lot of Cruise in a similar way as Smith in I Am Legend and his audience will probably be more limited to older males between 20 and 40, slightly fewer females of that age and very little teen females. Cruise definitely has to bring in the women if he wants to have a decent-sized four-quadrant movie, and it’s been sometime since he’s had a movie open over $40 million, although “Ghost Protocol” would have done that if it hadn’t opened a week early in IMAX. Universal was originally going to take the same approach with Oblivion but they’ve decided to hold back the North American release which definitely will give the movie a better domestic opening, especially if reviews/reactions from international markets cross over to the States.

The movie already opened internationally and grossed a solid $61 million in 52 territories this past weekend, taking #1 in 48 over them, and doing that well overseas could help create buzz although that wasn’t the case with last year’s Battleship, which grossed $200 million internationally but tanked when it was finally released in the States.

Oblivion is definitely going to benefit from opening in a weekend on its own with weaker movies opening last weekend, since it’s going to be one of the few options for moviegoers that have already seen some of the other March and April movies. That should allow it to open with at least $35 million and as much as $41 to 42 million, depending on how many audiences pay extra for IMAX.

While the movie could hold up well against Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain next week, there’s no way it can do so two weeks in a row with Iron Man 3 kicking off the summer in two weeks, so it may be hard-pressed to gross more than $100 million unless it gets solid reviews on this side of the pond.

Weekend Est.: $34 to 38 million; Est. Total Gross: $90 million

This weekend last year saw the release of the adaptation of Steve Harvey’s best-selling book Think Like a Man (Screen Gems/Sony), which performed much better than many expected, opening at #1 with $33.6 million in just 2,015 theatres. Second place went to Zac Efron starring in the Nicholas Sparks adaptation The Lucky One (New Line/WB) with $22 million in over a thousand more theaters. The latest Disneynature doc Chimpanzee opened in fourth place with $10.7 million in 1,563 theaters, also a decent showing with the Top 10 grossing $119 million which may not be attainable unless the Tom Cruise movie does way better than we’re predicting.

This Week’s Updated Predictions

UPDATE: We’re going t a bit higher on Oblivion but also we expect last week’s 42 to hold even better with a few hundred more theaters and Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond Pines is having an even more significant wide expansion into over 1,500 theaters which should allow it to make a play higher up in the Top 10.

1. Oblivion (Universal) – $37.5 million N/A (up 1 million)

2. 42 (Warner Bros.) – $19 million -31% (up 1.7 million)

3. The Croods (DreamWorks Animation/20th Century Fox) – $8.7 million -34% (up .3 million)

4. The Place Beyond the Pines (Focus Features) – $6.2 million +15% (up 1.7 million and 2 places)

5. G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Paramount) – $5.8 million -47% (same)

6. Scary Movie 5 (Dimension Films) – $5.0 -65%

7. Olympus Has Fallen (FilmDistrict) – $4.4 million -40%

8. Jurassic Park 3D (Universal) – $4.3 million -51%

9. Evil Dead (Sony/TriStar Pictures/FilmDistrict) – $4.0 million -58%

10. Oz The Great and Powerful (Walt Disney Pictures) – $2.7 million -45% (down .3 million)

This week’s “CHOSEN ONE” is the documentary Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay (Kino Lorber), Molly Bernstein and Alan Edelstein’s look at the veteran sleight-of-hand magician and magic historian Ricky Jay, who many movie fans will probably know more for his appearance in the movies of David Mamet.

If you couldn’t guess from my recent set visit for Summit Entertainment’s upcoming Now You See Me, I’m a big magic enthusiast and have been for a very long time, but somehow I forgot having seen Ricky Jay on various television variety shows during the ’70s when I was a kid or at least I never made the connection.

The fact he started doing magic as a pre-teen and was one of the youngest magicians to appear on television is fairly amazing but the film also shows off his vast knowledge of sleight of hand magicians, including ones with whom he trained. The film reminded me a bit of the Harlan Ellison doc Dreams with Sharp Teeth from a few years back, by the way it has Ricky Jay narrating his life and the many magicians who have influenced him as well as showing bits from his sold-out one man shows.

Even though Jay is a terrific subject for a movie probably the two most amazing moments in the film are testimonials by two people who had magical encounters with Jay which could only be attribute to actual miracles, since the way they’re described, only real magic could be involved.

If you have any interest in magic, particularly classic sleight of hand and how it’s evolved since the days of Vaudeville, then Ricky Jay’s amazing stories are fascinating and entertaining to both the novice and expert alike. Definitely one of the best docs of the year.

It opens exclusively at the Film Forum in New York on Wednesday.

Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem (Anchor Bay Films) opens in roughly 300 theaters on Friday, starring his wife Sheri Moon Zombie as Heidi, a radio DJ in Salem, Massachusetts who receives a promo record by a group called “The Lords” that plays in reverse causing a series of incidents tying Heidi into plans by a cadre of witches to bring back the original Lords of Salem.

Video Interview with Rob Zombie

Video Interview with Sheri Moon Zombie & Jeff Daniel Phillips

French auteur François Ozon is back with

In the House (Cohen Media Group) starring Fabrice Luchini as an English literature teacher who is fascinated by his 16-year-old student’s stories about a fellow student’s family, particularly his attractive mom (Emmanuelle Seigner). As he becomes more obsessed with the stories, it becomes a regular topic of conversation with his art gallery director wife (Kristin Scott Thomas), and it is honestly the most boring subject for a movie that I’ve encountered in a year that includes Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder.

Gil Kofman’s documentary Unmade in China (7th Art Releasing) follows his attempt to make a thriller in Xiamen within Communist China using a translator, an experience that’s unlike anything he could have imagined as he deals with adverse conditions and compromises in trying to finish his movie. It opens in Los Angeles and Chicago on Friday and then in New York at the Cinema Village on May 3.

And here a couple movies I didn’t get a chance to see:

Errors of the Human Body (IFC Midnight)

Filly Brown (Pantelion Films – Lionsgate)

Home Run (Samuel Goldwyn Films)

Cheech & Chong’s Animated Movie (20th Century Fox Film)


Next week, the month of April and the spring movie season comes to an end with two very different movies as Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson star in Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain (Paramount) and a crazy ensemble cast including Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton and Katherine Heigl star in the comedy The Big Wedding (Lionsgate).

You can read stuff like this and regular box office, awards and festival coverage on the 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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