Box Office Preview: Can Disney’s Ralph Wreck the Box Office Slump?

The start of November officially kicks off the holiday season of 2012 and while not everything released this month and next will be a hit, there’s a much better chance they will make more money in the long term as studios release tentpoles that can bring in audiences over Thanksgiving and Christmas. At least let’s hope so, because last week was so embarrassingly bad things really couldn’t get much worse at the box office. At least the World Series is over and hopefully people on the East Coast will be ready to go out to theaters after being kept in most of the week by Hurricane Sandy.

One movie that’s expected to do decent business not only this weekend but over the next couple of months is Disney Animation’s latest offering Wreck-It Ralph (Disney), directed by Rich Moore, a “Simpsons” and “Futurama” vet who has assembled a comedy cast that includes John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, Jack McBrayer, Mindy Kaling and others to explore the world of video game characters. While the primary audience, like most Disney movies, will be families with kids, this one has the advantage of a subject matter that will be of interest to guys in their teens and older, which is not something we see that often in animated movies other than those from Pixar Animation, which tend to do well for that reason as well as due to the quality. Early reviews are generally good, which will just help to get people interested in seeing it this weekend and while we don’t expect this to open as big as some of Pixar or DreamWorks Animation’s early November releases, it should do as well as last year’s Puss In Boots, which actually opened a week earlier but then held up its business in its second weekend (see below). So that would mean an opening weekend between $32 and 35 million on its way to over $100 million, getting a nice bump from Thanksgiving and the holidays even with the competition from DreamWorks Animation.

Denzel Washington returns for the second time this year after his hit action-thriller Safe House with Ryan Reynolds to star in Robert Zemeckis’ Flight (Paramount). It’s a very different movie, more of a character drama in which he plays commercial airline pilot “Whip” Whitaker, an alcoholic whose daring rescue of the passengers during an airline crash leads to him being declared a hero by some but his condition questioned by others. It’s been 12 years since Zemeckis has directed a live action film, but he had huge success with movies like Cast Away and Forrest Gump and of course the “Back to the Future” trilogy before turning his attention to performance capture animation with three successive movies. Zemeckis’ most recent animated movie Disney’s A Christmas Carol, starring Jim Carrey, opened on this weekend in 2009 to make $30 million on its way to $138 million domestic and $324 million total. Paramount has decided to open the movie moderately into 2,000 theaters, but Denzel’s fans will still be excited to see what he’s up to, although in this case, it’s likely to be more weighed towards the older audiences familiar with Zemeckis’ previous work and likely more women than men. Even with a low theater count, we expect Denzel’s solid track record to help drive this one to an opening weekend between $15 and 18 million and it should have enough decent word of mouth to get it up to $60 to 70 million by year’s end.


Lastly, Wu-Tang Clan rapper RZA takes on the type of martial arts movie that heavily influenced the rapper’s musical stylings with The Man with the Iron Fists (Universal), starring Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, Rick Yune, Cung Le, Jamie Chung and Dave Bautista. It’s an Eli Roth production and legit martial arts maven Quentin Tarantino’s name is being used to help sell the movie as a “presenter.” While there are lots of martial arts fans in the United States thanks to movies like “The Matrix Trilogy” and Tarantino’s own Kill Bill Vols. 1 and 2–which the movie looks the most like–it hasn’t established itself as a must-see, especially with Universal hiding it from critics until opening weekend. (Oh, and oops. That storm that hit New York City this week means nearly 50% of the critics pool won’t be seeing the movie, which will make Universal perfectly happy since we don’t expect the movie to get good reviews.) RZA’s directorial debut is opening in roughly 2,500 theaters, which is probably more than necessary since the movie will play better in big cities than in rural areas and the Midwest, plus there’s plenty of competition for guys in theaters including Ben Affleck’s Argo and even Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph, so this probably won’t do more than $8 or 9 million this weekend and probably not more than $25 or 26 million total with next week’s Skyfall dominating over all movies.

Review (Held Until Friday)

This weekend last year saw the release of two new comedies, but neither of them were able to best DreamWorks Animation’s spin-off Puss In Boots, which remained on top with $33 million, down a mere 3% from its opening weekend. Coming in second was the Ben Stiller-Eddie Murphy ensemble comedy Tower Heist (Universal), directed by Brett Ratner, which brought in $24 million in 3,367 theaters. Taking third with $12.9 million was the threequel A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas (New Line/WB), which didn’t fare as well as its predecessor. The Top 10 grossed roughly $100 million and this week may have a tough time besting that unless one or all of the three new movies do better than I’ve predicted.

This Week’s Predictions

1. Wreck-It Ralph (Disney) – $34.5 million N/A

2. Flight (Paramount) – $13.8 million N/A

3. Argo (Warner Bros.) – $8.3 million -34%

4. The Man with the Iron Fists (Universal) – $7.8 million N/A

5. Hotel Transylvania (Sony Pictures) – $5.3 million -45%

6. Cloud Atlas (Warner Bros.) – $5 million -48%

7. Taken 2 (20th Century Fox) – $4.6 million -43%

8. Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (Open Road Entertainment) – $3.6 million -55%

9. Paranormal Activity 4 (Paramount) – $3.5 million -60%

10. Here Comes the Boom (Sony) – $3.3 million -38%

NOTE: Due to Hurricane Sandy and power outtages that affected most of Lower Manhattan, there’s no guarantee that any of the movies below will actually open in New York City as planned. In fact, our CHOSEN ONE has already been moved to November 9.

This week’s “CHOSEN ONE” is Café de Flore (Adopt Films), the new movie from Canadian filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée (The Young Victoria), two stories in different time periods told concurrently, one taking place in the ’60s and starring Vanessa Paradis as the mother of a boy with Down’s Syndrome named Laurent, the other set in modern-day Montreal and dealing with a DJ named Antoine (Kevin Parent) and the effects his divorce from Carole (Helene Florent) has on both of them and their two daughters.

When I first heard about this movie, I was immediately turned off by the title alone, since it made the movie sound like one of those light and fluffy French romantic comedy we’ve seen far too many times but Vallée’s latest film is a really unique drama that tells two concurrent stories, one in the ’60s and one in present day, that ultimately are tied together, and it’s really groundbreaking filmmaking in terms of finding a way into people’s lives in a way we haven’t seen before.

The ’60s section starring former Johnny Depp baby mama Vanessa Paradis isn’t quite as entertaining, maybe because watching the mother of a young boy with Down’s Syndrome is starting to grow up and grow apart from his mother is not nearly as entertaining as a movie that involves sex and drugs and more familiar drama. What makes the present day story more interesting is that it’s told in a non-linear fashion, cutting between different points in the relationship between Antoine and Carole, inserting points from the flashback story which is told more linearly. The way the film is constructed to tell the story isn’t done quite as fluidly as in some of the films by Alejandro Inarritu, but it is done in a way that keeps you invested as you try to figure out what is happening, especially once Antoine meets the gorgeous and considerably younger Rose (Evelyne Brochu).

Playing a mother is certainly a very different and less glamorous role for Paradis and she does a commendable job with the heavy drama. Some may be surprised how much of the film focuses on her Down’s Syndrome-stricken son Laurent and how well this character is portrayed by Marin Gerrier. Because Antoine is a world-traveling DJ, Vallée gets to play with lots of great music while telling the story including Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” the Cure, and the overused Sigur Ros, all of which blends together to give the film quite a stark identity from other similar films.

If you enjoyed last week’s Cloud Atlas, this is a quieter and more subdued and slightly less ambitious version of that same theme, but it’s certainly a very clever drama, one that takes some time to make clear what is happening and one that leaves you thinking long afterwards.

It opens in New York at the Angelika Cinemas and in Los Angeles (and Dallas, Texas) on Friday, November 9… it was moved at the last minute due to the reasons mentioned above.

But if this were 1987–and in some people’s minds, it still is–the CHOSEN One would probably be Miami Connection (Drafthouse Films), the Florida-based action thriller starring taekwondo Grandmaster Y.K. Kim as Mark, the member of a band called Dragon Sound, who fall foul of a group of drugdealing bikers, criminals and a group of ninja. It will play at special midnight shows in NYC at the Landmark Sunshine, Seattle, San Francisco and St. Louis this weekend and in other cities over the coming weeks. You can find out where else it will be playing on the official site.

Interview with Grandmaster Y.K. Kim (Coming Soon)

Yaron Zilberman’s A Late Quartet (Entertainment One) stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as the cellist in a famous New York string quartet who receives a life-changing diagnosis that can change the future of the group, which also features Catherine Keener, Jeremy Northam and Christopher Walken as they prepare for their 25th anniversary concert.

Sean Penn stars in Paolo Sorrentino’s This Must Be the Place (The Weinstein Company), playing 50-year-old former rock star Cheyenne, who lives in Dublin as a goth off his royalties until his father’s death brings him back to New York where he decides to pick up his father’s search for revenge over a humiliation. After playing various festivals including Cannes and Sundance, it’s released in New York and L.A.

Next, we enter the VOD portion of this week’s column with a number of movies that will be released both theatrically and on VOD for those of you too lazy to put on shoes and go out to a theater… or those who don’t live near one of the theaters playing the movies… or those like the Weekend Warrior who are trapped indoors due to Hurricane Sandy.

Filmmaker Barry Levinson tackles a very different medium as he directs the found footage horror-thriller The Bay (Roadside Attractions), which follows the slow degradation of a small town in the Chesapeake Bay as it’s subjected to a sea-based virus.

Interview with Barry Levinson

A founding member of the veteran British comedy troupe Monty Python, Graham Chapman passed away in 1989, but before doing so, he recorded his own memoirs on tape and the animated doc A Liar’s Autobiography (Brainstorm Media), directed by Bill Jones, Ben Timlett and Jeff Simpson, brings Chapman’s words to life with other characters voiced by the surviving members Monty Python members Terry Jones, Michael Palin, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle. It opens theatrically in select cities on Friday (in 3D!) concurrently with its 2D premiere on EPIX.

Elijah Wood and Elizabeth Banks star in The Details (TWC-Radius) from filmmaker Jacob Estes (Mean Creek) as Dr. Jeff and Nealy Lang, a couple whose suburban home is invaded by a family of raccoons, leading to his obsession with killing them. Unfortunately, he kills the cat of his crazy neighbor Lila (Laura Linney) beginning a downward spiral as Lang starts making bigger and bigger mistakes. Also starring Kerry Washington and Ray Liotta, the movie opens theatrically following its VOD release.

Interview with Laura Linney

And as far as the movies I haven’t seen yet…

Bradley Rust Gray, director of The Exploding Girl, returns with Jack and Diane (Magnolia), starring Juno Temple and Riley Keough as the title characters, two teenage girls who meet in New York City and immediately fall in love, but their relationship starts experiencing problems when one of them plans on moving and her body starts going through violent changes as emotions come to the fore.

Clueless director Amy Heckerling returns with Vamps (Anchor Bay Films), starring Alicia Silverstone and Krysten Ritter (“Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23”) as Goody and Stacy, two nightclubbin’ party girls who happen to be vampires, but when Stacy falls for the son of a vampire hunter and Goody runs into a boyfriend from decades earlier, they have to decide whether to give up their immortality for a chance at love.

Shundell Prasad’s Festival of Lights involves a father and daughter divided, Reshma being a teenage girl in ’80s New York who has a bad relationship with her mother and dreams of reuniting with her father in Guyana she hasn’t heard from in 13 years. The story takes place on two continents across three decades and it opens at the AMC Village 7 in New York on Friday.

Varon Bonicos’ doc A Man’s Story (Trinity Film Presents) looks at the life and career of Ozwald Boateng, one of Britain’s most successful and influential fashion designers, while Dogtown and Z-Boys and Riding Giants director Stacy Peralta returns with Bones Brigade: An Autobiography (The Film Sales Company) featuring Tony Hawk and telling the story of the Bones Brigade who helped turn skateboarding into a full-on sport with the team they created.

Next week, it’s one of the most anticipated movies of the year… unless you live in the UK, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon and dozens of other countries where you’re likely to have already seen it. Of course, we’re talking about the 23rd James Bond movie and third starring Daniel Craig… Skyfall (Sony)!!!! I know that if I hadn’t already seen it, I couldn’t wait until next week to see it either.

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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