The Weekend Warrior: Riddick

Summer’s officially over and fall’s here, and while the box office tends to take a major nosedive ‘round about now, there’s always a chance of a breakout hit, especially with summer ending on such a weak note. At least that’s what Universal Pictures is hoping by releasing the third installment of Vin Diesel’s dark sci-fi epic that began back in 2000 with Pitch Black with that film’s breakout character returning for Riddick, the weekend’s only major wide release.

Riddick (Universal Pictures)

Starring Vin Diesel, Karl Urban, Jordi Molla, Matt Nable, Katee Sackhoff, Bokeem Woodbine, Dave Bautista, Conrad Pla, Raoul Trujillo, Nolan Funk, Keri Hilson

Written and directed by David Twohy (Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick, Below, A Perfect Getaway)

Genre: Action, Thriller, Sci-Fi

Rated R

Tagline: “Rule the Dark”

Way back in 2000, more innocent times at the box office when it wasn’t all about how much a movie could make its opening weekend, Universal released a tiny $20-milion budgeted sci-fi thriller called Pitch Black into just 1,832 theaters. Its February release didn’t show much confidence, but the movie also didn’t cost very much and had a fairly inexpensive ensemble cast included an actor named Vin Diesel, who had small roles in a couple of solid dramas like Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan and Boiler Room. Oh, and he had voiced The Iron Giant. When that movie opened with $14 million, it was seen as a relatively big success all things considered and Universal was probably even happy with its $39.2 million take domestically. More importantly, it became a cult favorite that made even more money when released on DVD.

As Vin Diesel started to become a bigger star thanks to his roles in The Fast and the Furious and XXX, it probably made some sense to bring his character back, which led to The Chronicles of Riddick in June 2004. The big difference was that the sequel was budgeted at nearly $100 million more than its predecessor, so when it only opened with $24.2 million and grossed $57 million domestically (and another $50 million overseas), it seemed like we’d seen the last of Diesel’s night vision anti-hero.

Nine years later and the third movie in the franchise is getting an early fall release, which also isn’t showing a lot of confidence in it, but what makes this sort of a big deal is that the original mastermind behind Pitch Black, filmmaker David Twohy, is still on board for this third movie, having written and directed the previous two. Twohy has seemingly been in director’s jail in the nine years since the last Riddick movie, having only directed one other movie, the vacation thriller A Perfect Getaway starring Milla Jovovich, which didn’t do that well. And yet, somehow Twohy and Diesel have convinced Universal to back another Riddick movie—maybe that was part of the negotiations to get Diesel back to the “Fast and Furious” franchise?

Despite the post-Labor Day release, which has often been one of the worst weekends of the year with a lot of movies being dumped and bombing, there have been other movies that have done well this weekend, most notably the last few installments of Paul W.S. Anderson’s “Resident Evil” franchise with “Afterlife” opening with $26.6 million and last year’s “Retribution” opening slightly lower with $21 million. Another movie that successfully opened the fall movie season was The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which scored $30 million in this frame in 2005. Those are rare examples though.

With little competition in theaters, I think Riddick will probably open somewhere in the range of Resident Evil: Retribution, maybe slightly higher because there’s very little else to take away business and sci-fi and action fans who haven’t gone to the theaters since early August might be itching for something new to see.

Weekend Est.: $21 to 24 million; Est. Total Gross: $55 million

Last year, the first weekend of September was a great example of how poorly most movies tend to do in this time frame as neither of the two new movies were able to crack the Top 3. The star-studded The Words (CBS Films), starring Bradley Cooper, Olivia Wilde, Dennis Quaid and Zoe Saldana, opened weakly in fourth place with $4.7 million in 2,801 theaters. That fared better than the thriller The Cold Light of Day (Summit), starring Bruce Willis and future Superman Henry Cavill, which didn’t even break into the Top 10 with $1.8 million from 1,500 theaters. Yikes. The Top 10 grossed…. You might want to sit down for this… less than $47 million, a far cry from the normal summer weekend, but we do think that Riddick will help this weekend surpass that amount.

This Week’s Updated Predictions

UPDATE: The only major change is that last week’s hit Mexican comedy Instructions Not Included is expanding into 717 theaters nationwide which should help it maintain its position in the Top 5. Also, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s This is the End is reexpanding into 2,161 theaters, which is a smart move by Sony since it could take advantage of colleges and high schools being back in business to bring in some group viewing, especially in a slower weekend with only one new wide release. We think it’ll be a close but it could break back into the Top 10 with between $2.5 and 2.9 million, which would put it closer to the $100 million mark.

1. Riddick (Universal Pictures) – $23.5 million N/A (up .9 million)

2. Lee Daniels’ The Butler (The Weinstein Company) – $10 million -33% (up .3 million)

3. We’re the Millers (New Line/WB) – $7.6 million -40%

4. One Direction: This Is Us (Tristar Pictures/Sony) – $7 million -55%

5. Instructions Not Included (Lionsgate/Pantelion) – $6.3 million -20% (up 2.3 million)

6. Disney’s Planes (Walt Disney Pictures) – $4.5 million -42%

7. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (Screen Gems/Sony) – $2.7 million -52%

8. Elysium (TriStar Pictures/Sony) – $2.7 million -52%

9. Blue Jasmine (Sony Pictures Classics) – $2.6 million -35%

10. The World’s End (Focus Features) – $2.6 million -45%

There have been a lot of docs about 9/11 but none quite like this week’s “CHOSEN ONE,” Danielle Gardner’s Out of the Clear Blue Sky (AREA23A) which is finally getting a theatrical release after playing at last year’s DocuWeeks, a collection of docs that also received a “CHOSEN ONE” label. In fact, now that I think about it, this movie made my Top 15 Docs list last year even though it’s not getting released until now.

This one focuses on the financial company Cantor Fitzgerald that was absolutely devastated by the terrorist attacks on the two towers of the World Trade Center on that fateful day in 2001, having its offices on the top five floors of Tower 1. I have a pretty deep personal connection to 9/11, having been less than a mile away when the World Trade Center fell 12 years ago and having seen much of it from my rooftop. On top of that, Cantor Fitzgerald had recently bought the Hollywood Stock Exchange right before the attacks–some of you may know that I got my start in the whole box office game from my time playing HSX–so this film struck me doubly hard while also answering many questions about how the company was able to recover.

This film is very much from the perspective of the survivors, and as one might expect, it’s a heartbreaking film, not only due to the many testimonials from people who have lost loved ones, but also since it becomes more of a portrait of Cantor CEO Howard Lutnick, who survived the attacks while at the same time losing his brother. Weeks later, he finds himself on the defense from the families of those lost in the attacks who felt Cantor added insult to injury by cutting off the paychecks of those missing while at the same time promising to help the families.

Having lost her own brother Douglas in the attacks, Gardner creates a surprisingly well-balanced film that never takes sides, and she gets Lutnick and other Cantor execs to talk at length about their experiences on 9/11 itself and in the weeks that followed as grief turned to anger and confusion. Gardner’s cameras follow the entire story through the years right up until the design of the 9/11 Memorial.

The results are a brilliantly-made doc that gives another perspective on 9/11 and those who lost loved ones on that day.

Under a Clear Blue Sky opens in New York City at the Union Square Regal on Friday.

Humpday and Your Sister’s Sister director Lynn Shelton returns with Touchy Feely (Magnolia), a new dramedy starring Rosemarie DeWitt as a reiki masseuse who suddenly loses her ability to touch other people while her dentist brother (played by Josh Pais), who is trying to raise a teen daughter (Ellen Page), finds that he suddenly can heal all his patients’ pain. Also starring Allison Janney, it opens in New York at the Cinema Village and in Portland Friday and is currently available On Demand.

Interview Feature with Shelton, DeWitt and Pais (Later this Week!)

Music fans have a couple interesting choices this weekend as we have two docs that give us a new look at somewhat enigmatic music artists from yesteryear:

Good Ol’ Freda (Magnolia), the title of Ryan White’s new documentary, refers to Freda Kelly, the Beatles’ fan club secretary throughout their height of fame during the ‘60s. White has an exclusive extended interview with Kelly, reflecting on her past with the world’s most popular band, as well as showing never-before-seen pictures from those times. It opens in L.A. on Friday at the Sundance Select Cinemas (as well as On Demand) before expanding to New York (on September 13) and other cities.

There’s also Jonathan Holiff’s My Father and the Man in Black (New Chapter Productions), which you might assume from the title is about Johnny Cash with the father being his longtime manager Saul Holiff who committed suicide in 2005, leaving behind unreleased letters and recordings of conversations with Cash. It’s a fairly grim personal affair that opens with Holiff recreating his father’s suicide, having only seen his father four times in four years.

Good Ol’ Freda is definitely the better of the two movies, maybe because Freda has a pleasant personality that makes it easy to want to spend time with her as opposed to Holiff’s dry narration that takes some time to adjust to.

Hannah Fiddell’s second feature A Teacher (Oscilloscope Labs) reteams her with Lindsay Burge who plays a teacher who has a sexual relationship with one of her students, played by Will Brittain.

Video Interview from SXSW

Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant from “The State” and “Reno 911” wrote and directed the horror-comedy Hell Baby (Millennium Entertainment) which stars Rob Corddry and Leslie Bibb as a couple expecting a baby who have to hire an elite exorcism team after discovering that the house they bought in New Orleans is haunted. Also starring Michael Ian Black, Rob Huebel, Paul Scheer and Kegan Michael Key, it opens in select cities Friday.

Now, if you ARE a horror movie fan, you might assume from the title that Warwick Ross and David Roach’s Red Obsession (FilmBuff) is some sort of slasher flick, but no, in fact, it’s a documentary about the buy-out of red wine from France’s Bordeaux region by the Chinese. Narrated by Russell Crowe and including an appearance by wine (and occasional film) maker Francis Ford Coppola, it opens in New York, Los Angeles and On Demand on Friday.

The French have found some weird ass subjects to base romantic comedies around, but few of them top Populaire (The Weinstein Company), a movie about competitive typing that stars Déborah François as an ambitious young woman from a small village who travels to Normandy where she takes a job at an insurance agency with a tough, good-looking boss, played by Romain Duris. When he learns how fast she can type, he starts to train her for a speed typing competition, because apparently that’s what you want to concentrate on rather than focusing on keeping your business alive. It’s the type of whimsical romantic comedy the French are good at making and it even co-stars Oscar nominee Bérénice Bejo from The Artist, but again… this is about COMPETITIVE TYPING. (And this is coming from someone who really enjoyed Butter, too!)

Opening at New York’s IFC Friday and at the Laemmle Music Hall in L.A. on September 13 is Emma Davie and Morag McKinnon’s documentary I Am Breathing, which follows Neil Platt, a young father’s fight with Lou Gehrig’s disease.

I haven’t had an opportunity to see any of the movies below this line:

Shane Salerno’s documentary Salinger (The Weinstein Company) has been surrounded in mystery, mainly because its distributor is trying to create buzz by not letting anyone see or write about the movie in advance. Of course if you’re really serious about this… DON’T SHOW THE MOVIE AT TELLURIDE! I have nothing more to say about this.

Naomi Watts and Robin Wright star in Anne Fontaine’s English language debut Adore (Exclusive Media) as two older Australian women who have relationships with younger men, played by Xavier Samuel (Anonymous) and James Frecheville (Animal Kingdom). Yup, it’s the Lonely Island Digital Short “Mother Lover” brought to life.

The Ultimate Life (High Top Releasing) is the sequel to The Ultimate Gift, the hit Christian faith drama, this one starring Logan Bartholomew as Jason Stevens, a man with lots of troubles who discovers his grandfather’s Depression-era journal . Also starring Peter Fonda and Lee Meriweather, it will be released in roughly 400 theaters on Friday.

Just in time for Nelson Mandela’s release from the hospital is the drama Winnie Mandela (RLJ/Image Entertainment), which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival two years ago. Oscar-winning singer/actress Jennifer Hudson plays the title role with Terrence Howard playing Nelson as it follows their early life together from her perspective. Considering how long it took for this movie to be released, I don’t have very high hopes for it and probably will skip it in favor of the upcoming Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom, premiering at this year’s TIFF.

Next week, the month of September motors along with the anticipated horror sequel Insidious Chapter 2 (FilmDistrict) and Luc Besson’s new mob action-thriller The Family (Relativity Media), starring Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer.

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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