The Weekend Warrior: The Best Man Holiday

Christmas has come early for Universal Pictures, which somehow got a weekend to themselves to release the long-awaited (by some) sequel The Best Man Holiday (Universal Pictures), reuniting Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs, Terrence Howard, Harold Perrineau, Regina Hall, Sanaa Lathan and Nia Long a little over fourteen years since the original movie The Best Man helped create a new wave of romantic comedies geared towards African-American audiences.

Directed by Malcolm D. Lee and starring many African-American actors who were virtually unknown at the time–Terrence Howard was still six years away from his Oscar nomination for Hustle & FlowThe Best Man opened in October 1999 in 1,346 theaters, making $9 million on its opening weekend on its way to $34 million. That isn’t a ton of money, but it was quite groundbreaking for its time, because it began a wave of filmmaking that catered to a growing movie audience used to not seeing themselves represented in Hollywood movies.

Amazingly, Lee got the entire original cast to commit to returning for the sequel, which has an appropriate holiday theme for its mid-November release date. Besides Howard, the male stars include Morris Chestnut and Taye Diggs, both of whom have found many female fans in the years since making The Best Man, mainly from appearing in other similar romantic comedies. Since appearing in The Best Man, Regina Hall went on to appear in four “Scary Movies” and dozens of other movies including the hit Think Like a Man (for which there’s also a sequel in the works), while Sanaa Lathan has branched out a bit from the rom-com genre although she did return to it with Brown Sugar and Something New.

One imagines that in the many years since the release of The Best Man, it’s been discovered on DVD, cable, television, etc. allowing its audience to grow, but similarly, the fanbase for the various actors in the movie has also grown so that they’re much more of a draw to the sequel than they were for the original movie.

Already this year, Universal has released a sequel to Kick-Ass (also with Chestnut) that didn’t fare very well, and one wonders if the summer’s general malaise towards sequels is carrying over to the fall. Obviously, Thor: The Dark World didn’t do bad and next week’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire should do fine, but they also are sequels to more recent releases. Then again, there aren’t a lot of movies targeted towards African-Americans in theaters unless you count Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, but that’s drama and audiences looking for something light and fun will probably be interested in seeing this great cast reunite and the trailers have generally been fairly entertaining.

Holiday-themed movies like this would generally do better over Thanksgiving week as we saw with This Christmas a few years back, but this sequel has a bit of competition in Kasi Lemmons’ holiday musical Black Nativity that weekend, which will probably steal away some of its potential holiday money. Either way, an opening weekend north of $20 million is not something that should be ruled out even with a moderate release into roughly 2,000 theaters, which is fairly common for these movies. The lack of serious competition will help greatly, although we think it will fall just short of that amount and end up grossing north of $60 million with its Thanksgiving bump.

Even so and even though it opened a bit softer than expected, Marvel Studios’ Thor: The Dark World should be able to retain the #1 spot with relative ease.

This weekend last year saw the release of the final chapter in the blockbuster supernatural romance franchise The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn ? Part 2 (Summit), which exploded into theaters on Friday with $71 million (including midnights) on its way to $141.1 million for the weekend. It did slightly better than the first chapter of the finale a year earlier, but that amount fell just short of setting a new November opening record, held by the second movie “New Moon” which opened three years prior. A Bollywood film called Jab Tak Hai Jan (Yash Raj) was able to break into the Top 10 by bringing in $1.3 million in 161 theaters or a little under $8,000 per venue. Also, David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company), starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro, opened in limited release in 16 theaters following a successful run of festivals and before its wide expansion the following week. It grossed its first $443 thousand on its way to $132 million and a number of Oscar nominations, including a win for Lawrence as Best Actress. Since we don’t think this weekend’s Top 10 will come even close to that amount, this is going to be the first down weekend in a long time, but next week should make up for it.

This Week’s Updated Predictions

1. Thor: The Dark World (Disney/Marvel) – $39.1 million -54% (down .7 million)

2. The Best Man Holiday (Universal Pictures) – $22.3 million N/A (up 2.8 million)

3. Last Vegas (CBS Films) – $8 million -27% (up .7 million and one slot)

4. Free Birds (Relativity Media) – $7.8 million -30% (down one slot)

5. 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight) – $6.8 million +1% (up 1.2 million and two slots)

6. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (Paramount) – $6.4 million -43%

7. Gravity (Warner Bros.) – $5.8 million -32%

8. Ender’s Game (Summit) – $4.6 million -55%

9. Captain Philips (Sony) – $3.8 million -30%

10. About Time (Universal) – $3.4 million -31% (up .1 million)

This week’s “CHOSEN ONE” is the new movie from Sideways and The Descendants director Alexander Payne. Nebraska (Paramount Vantage) is a black and white dramedy starring Bruce Dern and Will Forte as Woody and David, a father and son from Billings, Montana who drive to Lincoln, Nebraska to claim the million dollars the former has “won” according to a letter he received in the mail. While this could have easily been a two-hour movie of Dern and Forte driving across the country kibitzing–the screenplay by Bob Nelson, his first feature film screenplay produced, is absolutely fantastic–it’s really more about when they make a sidetrip to Woody’s hometown of Hawthorne, Nebraska and we meet his brothers and their families where things get interesting. Woody becomes an instant celebrity once the people of Hawthorne find out about the million dollars he thinks he’s won, making their stay there even more complicated.

While I do want to save something for my upcoming review, I will say that Nebraska perfectly captures that mix of comedy and drama that Payne does so well, though it’s more low-key ala About Schmidt. At times, it almost feels like he’s delving into Coen Brothers territory, especially with his use of character actors to fill out the cast, and as much as the focus is on Dern and Forte (a fantastic dramatic turn for the “SNL” regular), the performances by June Squibb (as Woody’s wife) and Bob Odenkirk (as Dave’s older brother) both bring a lot to the film.

It’s only opening in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, but we expect it to expand across the country over the next few weeks. Look for our full review in the next couple days.

8/10 Review

Last year, an all-star benefit concert was held at Madison Square Garden to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, and highlights of that concert and behind-the-scenes footage of planning the show have been compiled for 12-12-12 (Radius?TWC), featuring performances by Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, Billy Joel, Paul McCartney, The Who and more. If you’re a fan of any of the acts (which includes Adam Sandler performing his take on “Hallelujah”) then the movie’s a real treat, but it’s also one of those rare chances to see how a big benefit concert like this comes together with unprecedented backstage access to some of the veteran rockers. It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

Shia LaBeouf stars as Charlie Countryman (Millennium Entertainment) in the crime-thriller in which he plays a guy who meets and falls in love with a beautiful musician (played by Evan Rachel Wood) on a flight to Bucharest, Romania, only to learn that a vicious gangster already has his sights on her sending Charlie deep into the violent Romanian underworld.

Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon star in Laurie (Sherrybaby) Collyer’s Sunlight Jr. (Gravitas Ventures/Samuel Goldwyn Pictures) playing a convenience store clerk and her disabled boyfriend who live in poverty. Just as things are looking up when she learns she’s pregnant, she loses her job and they’re evicted from their home? boy, this sounds like a cheery movie.

Fortunately, this week also sees the release of Dear Mr. Waterson (Fingerprint Films), a documentary by Joel Allen Schroeder about “Calvin & Hobbes” creator Bill Waterson, who retired the strip in 1995 to live a private life outside Cleveland.

Alexander (Russian Ark) Sokurov’s adaptation of Goethe’s 19th century literary work Faust (Leisure Time Features) stars Johannes Zeiler in the title role as a man who sells his soul to the Devil (Anton Adasinsky) in order to gain the love of the beautiful Margarete (Isolda Dychauk). It opens in New York on Friday.

Next week is the week before Thanksgiving and the second chapter of the new hot Y.A. franchise, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Lionsgate), will try to knock out the three “Twilight” movies for the November opening record.

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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