Box Office Preview: Battle of the Chick Flicks!

With The Hunger Games threatening to be in the top spot for a fifth week in a row, longer than The Dark Knight and The Lord of the Rings:The Return of the King, we have to look towards a number of unlikely saviors to finally topple the mighty box office titan and give someone else a chance. Ironically, all three new movies will mainly be targeting women, although they’ll each be going after different ages and demographics.

One also can’t underestimate the power of Nicholas Sparks to bring women into theaters and The Lucky One (Warner Bros.) is based on one of his more recent novels and it stars the ever-popular Zac Efron of “High School Musical” fame teamed with up-and-comer Taylor Schilling. We don’t really know the story behind this one, because we wouldn’t get caught dead seeing a Nicholas Sparks movie (let alone reading his books) but it’s directed by our good pal Scott Hicks (Shine), which certainly gives one hope for the film’s quality. While Efron provided a voice for this year’s hit animated movie The Lorax, his last two featured roles in Charlie St. Cloud and New Year’s Eve amounted to weak openings under $15 million, though Nicholas Sparks adaptations have generally done well with The Notebook and Dear John being standouts, both grossing roughly $80 million while others, like Miley Cyrus’ The Last Song, did roughly half that amount in business. One imagines that casting is key and Efron’s involvement will mean this one will probably target younger women rather than the older women who generally read Sparks’ books, so we don’t expect this one to open over $20 million. We figure this one will end up in second place despite opening in over a thousand more theaters than Think Like a Man, probably somewhere in the $14 to 15 million range on its way to $40 million or so.

Lastly, we have the latest Disneynature film Chimpanzee, which hopes to get families and classrooms into theaters to commemorate Earth Day with a nature movie involving lovable apes. This basically uses the same formula as other Disneynature films like Earth and last year’s African Cats (see below), but there’s very little way to gauge how many girls and their mothers would be interested in a movie about apes over a movie about cats. It’s opening in roughly 1,500 theaters and won’t benefit from 3D or IMAX ticket prices, as these things often do, so we see it making between $6 and 7 million, similar to African Cats.

This weekend last year looked vaguely familiar, as we also saw a movie from a powerhouse among African-American women, even if Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family (Lionsgate) wasn’t able to take the top spot away from the animated Rio and fell just short, taking second place with $25.1 million. Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon starred in the romantic drama Water for Elephants (20th Century Fox), which sort of fills the Lucky One‘s slot this weekend as it opened in third place with $16.8 million. And then if the similarities between last year and this one weren’t already obvious, there also was a Disneynature film, African Cats (Disneynature), which opened in sixth place with $6 million in 1,220 theaters. The Top 10 grossed $115 million and unless Think Like a Man or The Lucky One do far better than we expect, this weekend may be slightly down from last year.

This Week’s Updated Predictions

1. Think Like a Man (Screen Gems) – $20.6 million N/A (up 2.1 million)

2. The Lucky One (New Line/WB) – $17.5 million N/A (up 1.7 million)

3. The Hunger Games (Lionsgate) – $13.0 million -38%

4. The Three Stooges (20th Century Fox) – $10 million -42%

5. The Cabin in the Woods (Lionsgate) – $7.5 million -49%

6. Titanic in 3D (Paramount) – $7.3 million -39%

7. Chimpanzee (Disneynature) – $6.6 million N/A

8. American Reunion (Universal) – $5.5 million -48%

9. 21 Jump Street (Sony) – $4.4 million -33%

10. Mirror Mirror (Relativity Media) – $4.1 million -42%

Before we get to the “Chosen One” and this week’s limited releases, we should mention that the annual Tribeca Film Festival begins this week, and you can check out our preview of some of the movies playing here.

This week’s CHOSEN ONE is another doc, and it’s Kevin Macdonald’s Marley (Magnolia), which as you might guess from the title, is a biographical film about the late great Jamaican reggae pioneer Bob Marley. Granted, I liked his tunes enough, but I was never a very big reggae fan and honestly, I never understood his significance and why so many people were so devoted to him, other than the marijuana connections.

Bob Marley’s story is told in a fairly linear fashion, going all the way back to his origins in St. Ann, the son of a local woman and a white European settler, who was out of the picture for most of Bob’s life. The movie doesn’t just get into his early recordings with the Wailers, and how that group evolved over the years through his musical collaborations with Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer and Lee “Scratch” Perry, as well as the addition of background singers I-Three, but also gets into the Rastafarian religion and how that affected Bob, Jamaica’s politics, both official and within the criminal underworld, and how Marley was involved in both of them, being so influential over the people of his country. At the same time, the popularity of the Wailers starts expanding and they became hugely successful as they toured the world.

The film does a good job establishing the various environments that played a part in Marley’s development, whether it’s Jamaica or Ethiopia, and it’s chockfull of interviews with fellow musicians and colleagues, his wife Rita Marley and some of his kids. Macdonald’s film particularly excels in getting into Bob’s troubled familial relationships, first with his own estranged father and his family–in one scene, Macdonald plays the song “Cornerstone” to his distant relations–and then Marley’s own kids, as he ends up having 11 kids with roughly a half-dozen different women.

Most impressive are some of the live performances, much of it never-before-seen footage, and the charisma Marley possessed really comes through on screen, plus there’s demos and alternate versions of his most famous tracks.

Marley is extremely thorough, but if you’re not a fan, it might feel a bit long at nearly 2 hours and 20 minutes. For someone who never really knew that much about Bob Marley’s backstory and some of the finer details of his life and career, this is a thoroughly fascinating film and one of the better biographical docs you’re likely to see this year.

It opens in select cities on Friday as well as on Video on Demand.

Interview with Kevin Macdonald

Narrated by Meryl Streep, this weekend’s other nature doc trying to glom onto Earth Day is To the Arctic 3D (Warner Bros. Pictures), an IMAX 3D release about the survival of a mother polar bear and her two cubs. And yeah, if this sounds a lot like Arctic Tale, you may start feeling bad for Queen Latifah, who voiced that one and is being one-upped by Streep for this one.

Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan returns with Darling Companion (Sony Pictures Classics), starring Diane Keaton as a woman who loves the lost dog she found more than she does her husband (Kevin Kline), not helped when he loses her dog at a wedding and she convinces the other guests to look for it. It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

Gunner Palace filmmakers Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker ‘s new doc Fightville (MPI Media Group) looks at the world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and how it’s grown from a controversial side show to a billion dollar business, going to a gym in Southern Louisiana where a group of athletes strive to get into the world of MMA.

Kang Je-kyu’s Korean World War II film My Way (CJ Entertainment/PMK*BNC Films) follows two rivals, one Korean and one Japanese, who end up fighting alongside each other against the Chinese and Soviets, the latter who take them prisoner and force them to fight against the Nazis.

American Psycho director Mary Harron returns with The Moth Diaries (IFC Films), starring Sarah Bolger as Rebecca, a girl haunted by her father’s suicide who enrolls at a boarding school for girls and becomes friends with the popular Lucy (Sarah Gadon), who suddenly turns against her when she starts spending time with mysterious new student named Ernessa, played by Lily Cole.

French filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve’s Goodbye First Love (IFC Films), which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, is about the relationship between 15-year-old Camille and an older boy named Sullivan, who leaves her distraught when he goes to South America, and she spends eight years trying to get over it. Both those movies open at the IFC Center in New York on Friday.

Jesus Henry Christ (EOne Films) is the second movie from Dennis Lee, produced by Julia Roberts and starring Jason Spevack as Henry Herman, a 10-year-old raised by his single mother (Toni Collette) who goes looking for his biological father (Michael Sheen). It was absolutely the worst movie we saw at the Tribeca Film Festival last year and we don’t expect it would have improved much with age.

Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-Soo’s most recent effort, The Day He Arrives (Cinema Guild) follows a retired film director who returns to Seoul to see an old friend, and he spends the movie wandering around the city, having dinner and drinks with various people and talking to them. If that sounds too exciting for you, you might be better off seeing director Hong’s previous film Oki’s Movie (discussed in last week’s column) in its one-week exclusive run at the Maysles Cinema this week.

Next week, the month of April comes to a close (already?) and we get ready for the summer movie season with four new movies including Jason Segel and Emily Blunt in the romantic comedy The Five-Year Engagement (Universal) and James McTeigue’s period horror flick The Raven (Relativity Studios), starring John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe. Jason Statham returns in the action movie Safe (Lionsgate) and lastly, there’s the stop-motion animated The Pirates! Band of MIsfits (Sony Animation).

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