Box Office: Brought to You by the Letter “X”

This weekend is the first weekend of March as the movie biz tries to continue the terrific run the box office had in February, doing consistently better business than the same period last year.

Fortunately, the month is kicking off with Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax (Universal) an animated family film that has so much going for it that it’s very likely to become the top opening movie in a year where we’ve already had two movies open over $40 million. The previous animated Dr. Seuss film Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who, featuring the voices of Jim Carrey and Steve Carell, opened with $45 million roughly four years ago and went on to gross $154.5 million domestic and almost $300 million worldwide. The voice cast for this Universal animated movie includes Danny DeVito, Ed Helms from “The Office,” Taylor Swift, Zac Efron and Betty White, which may not be nearly as impressive but Universal has been doing very well with their ventures into animation, working with Illumination Entertainment, having a number of huge hits, starting with Despicable Me, which defied expectations with a $56 million opening and $251 million gross domestically. That was followed last year by the release of the well-timed, half-animated Easter comedy Hop, which did $37.5 million opening and $108 million total.

Now they have a movie that combines the Dr Seuss factor with the convenient marketing of slapping “from the makers of ‘Despicable Me'” on it and you have the sure signs of a hit, especially being one of only two family films in theaters (New Line’s Journey 2 has been hugely successful, partially because it’s had no competition for family audiences.) We think that anything less than a $40 million opening would be a huge disappointment for Universal, but they won’t have to worry about that because they’ve been marketing this up the whazoo, everything from Super Bowl spots to unconventional product tie-ins so this isn’t a movie just for kids as much as it is for everyone. We think an opening in the $42 to 45 million range should be expected, helped by 3D and IMAX ticket prices, with a total gross of $150 to 160 million by the time it leaves theaters.

Next, we have the weekend’s X-factor, the Todd (The Hangover) Phillips-produced found footage party movie Project X (Warner Bros>), which honestly we know very little about, except that it’s coming out in a year where we’ve already had three #1 movies open over $20 million without any name star. There are no known stars or even actors and the commercials say very little about the movie except that it’s about three high school friends who throw a birthday party that gets out of hand, but there’s nothing in the commercials that really makes it look like anyone over 21 will care to see. Even so, Warner Bros. has taken a similar approach to getting the word out as Paramount did with the “Paranormal Activity” movies by doing lots of promo screenings and using Twitter to get the word out and there should be enough interest for business on Thursday and Friday even if we doubt this will get the same sort of positive reaction as Chronicle and this seems like a throwback to the R-rated movies of the ’00s that barely found an audience. We figure an opening in the $16 to 18 million range would be possible with a total gross of around $40 million or a little more, which would be just grand for a movie that looks like it cost $100,000 to make.

This weekend last year saw the release of Gore Verbinski’s animated Western Rango (Paramount) featuring the voice of Johnny Depp, which just won the Oscar for Animated Feature this past weekend. It opened on top with $38 million, while Matt Damon and Emily Blunt starred in the sci-fi action thriller The Adjustment Bureau (Universal), which took second place with $21.2 million. Vanessa Hudgens and Alexander Pettyfer starred in the romantic fantasy Beastly (CBS Films), which opened in third place with $9.8 million, while the long-delayed ’80s comedy Take Me Home Tonight (Relativity Media) failed to even make it into the Top 10, ending up just outside with $3.5 million. The Top 10 grossed $114 million and we’re not sure if The Lorax and Project X can do enough business between them to achieve the $69 million made by the three main releases last year. It should be close though.

This Week’s (Updated) Predictions

1. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax (Universal) – $44.3 million N/A (same)

2. Project X (Warner Bros.) – $20.5 million N/A (up 3.2 million)

3. Act of Valor (Relativity Media) – $12 million -51%

4. Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds (Lionsgate) – $8.3 million -47%

5. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (New Line/WB) – $7.5 million -45%

6. Safe House (Universal) – $6.0 million -46% (down .3 million)

7. The Artist (The Weinstein Co.) – $5.5 million +89% (up 1 million and two spots)

8. The Vow (Screen Gems/Sony) – $5.2 million -48%

9. This Means War (20th Century Fox) – $4.7 million -45%

10. Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance (Sony) – $4.1 million -55%

This week, we’re featuring two very different movies in limited release, both about sons reconnecting with their fathers.

Paul Weitz (In Good Company, About a Boy) adapts Nick Flynn’s memoir “Another Bullsh*t Night in Suck City” into Being Flynn (Focus Features), a film starring Paul Dano and Robert De Niro, as two generations of writers who have been separated for nearly 18 years and are reunited during trying times for both of them.


Interview with Paul Weitz

Then we have a more light-hearted look on the subject from New Zealand’s Taika Waititi (Eagle vs. Shark) with the release of his new comedy Boy (Palladin), about an 11-year-old (nicknamed “Boy”) whose criminal father Alemaine (Waititi) returns home looking for money that had been buried after a bank robbery where he was nicked and jailed.

Video Interview with Taika Waititi

A couple of films from last year’s Tribeca Film Festival are being released this week, including Paula van der Oest’s Black Butterflies (Tribeca Film), a film we enjoyed starring Carice van Houten (Black Book) as South African writer Ingrid Jonker, whose poetry moved Nelson Mandela enough to recite one of her poems at the opening of the post-apartheid South-African parliament. Jonker’s life was filled with tragedy as her father, the Minister of Censorship, played by Rutger Hauer, refused to support her as she went from one fellow writer lover to another.

Video Interview with Paula van der Oest & Carice van Houten

One I missed at Tribeca but heard great things about was Jiang Wen’s hilarious action-comedy Let the Bullets Fly (Well Go USA, Variance Films) which has Wen playing a train robber who goes up against the ruthless crimelord Master Huang (Chow Yun-Fat) as they try to gain control of the people of Goose Town where the former is pretending to be the governor, a high-paying job which will allow him to make more money than robbing trains.

Opening on Wednesday at New York’s Film Forum is Iranian filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Mojtabi Mirtahmi’s experimental film This is Not a Film (Palisades Tartan), which uses a cell phone and DV camera to capture Panahi’s days under house arrest in his apartment while his sentence by the government that would send him to prison for six years is being appealed. Besides acting out a few scenes from a new film he wrote but may never have a chance to make, they talk about the sentence and imagine what it might be like not being able to be filmmakers.

Justin Kurzel’s directorial debut, the dramatic thriller The Snowtown Murders (IFC Midnight), takes place in the rural area of Snowtown, Australia where three brothers being raised by a single mother are abused by her boyfriend. She then ends up meeting the charming John Bunting (Daniel Henshall), who is driven to get vigilante justice on pedophiles and others, enlisting the oldest brother Jamie (Lucas Pittaway) to help him in his murderous efforts.

In the comedy Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (Magnolia), Cartoon Network stars Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim are given a billion dollars by the Schlaang corporation but they waste it so they run away until they can figure out how to repay the money, which they do by rehabilitating a mall. After a month on VOD, the cameo-filled comedy opens in select cities on Friday.

The doc Last Days Here (Sundance Selects) from directors Don Argott (The Art of the Steal) and Demian Fenton looks at metal legend Bobby Liebling, the frontman of ’70s metal band Pentagram whose self-destructive behavior and drug addiction ended their career until the band (and Liebling’s condition) is rediscovered and documented by the filmmakers. It opens in New York at the IFC Center on Friday.

Also opening at the IFC Center is Mid-August Lunch director Gianni Di Gregorio’s Italian comedy The Salt of Life (Zeitgeist Films) in which he plays a middle-aged retired man who is surrounded by women (mother, wife, daughter) but who is jealous of his friend’s ability to get beautiful younger women, so he gives it a go.

Kicking off on Thursday, March 1 is Film Society of Lincoln Center’s popular annual Rendezvous with French Cinema, one of the finest collections of the new movies offered by France in the past year, everything from huge regional blockbusters to tiny art films, almost all of them receiving their US debuts. It opens with the North American premiere of The Intouchables (The Weinstein Co. – May 25), Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano’s hit dramedy starring François Cluzet (Tell No One) as a quadriplegic millionaire who hires an Arab ex-con as his caretaker. The film has received a lot of acclaim in France, including a recent Cesar win for Omar Sy over The Artist‘s Jean Dujardin. It will close on March 11 with the romantic comedy Delicacy (Cohen Media Group – March 13) by Stéphane and David Foenkinos, starring Audrey Tautou as a woman trying to get her life together after the death of her husband who falls into an affair with an unlikely co-worker.

We honestly haven’t seen enough movies in the series to recommend much of anything, although we’re intrigued by Olivier Marchal’s A Gang Story, which will also be released by the Weinstein Company, and Laurent Archard’s The Last Screening, one of the few genre films in this year’s selections. We’ve also heard great things about Benoit Jacquot’s Marie Antoinette movie Farewell, My Queen (also to be released by Cohen Media), starring Diane Kruger and Lea Seydoux.

You can learn more and buy tickets at the IFC Center and Lincoln Center.

Next week, the month of March continues with the big budget sci-fi action flick John Carter (Disney) from Pixar’s Andrew Stanton, starring Taylor Kitsch and Lynn Collins, Eddie Murphy returns with the comedy A Thousand Words (Paramount) and Elizabeth Olsen does fear in a single take in the horror film Silent House (Open Road).

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


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