The Weekend Warrior: Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Unfriended, Monkey Kingdom

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Those who regularly read this column probably already know about the Dog Days of Summer, those last couple of weekends in August where movies go to die, but April is also a notorious dumping ground for movies that studios don’t know what to do with but want to get out of the way before the busy summer movie season. Really, the only thing that makes this weekend interesting is that there are two very different movies, each which have the potential to break out with over $20 million but some may be surprised by which one wins out over the other one. And neither of them is going to have much impact on Universal’s Furious 7 anyway as it will rest pretty at the top of the box office food chain for a third weekend in a row.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

paulblartmallcopreviewDistributor: Sony Pictures
Director: Andy Fickman (Race to Witch Mountain, The Game Plan, Parental Guidance, You Again)
Writer: Kevin James, Nick Bakay
Cast: Kevin James, Neal McDonough, Shirley Knight, Raini Rodriguez
What It’s About: Paul Blart (James) is back and this time he’s off to Las Vegas for a national convention for security guards, but once there, he gets caught up in the plans of a notorious art thief (Neal McDonough)

Benefits:

Kevin James is back playing his most popular character with the previous Paul Blart: Mall Cop opening with $39 million over Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend in 2009, going on to gross $146 million. It was the latest hit for the former “King of Queens” and his third $100 million grosser following his pairing with Will Smith for Hitch and Adam Sandler for I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Paul Blart showed that James could carry a movie on his own, although he ended up his next movie with Sandler, to have another hit with Grown Ups. James also provided a voice in Sandler’s animated hit Hotel Transylvania a few years later and returned for the sequel Grown Ups 2. That’s a lot of big hits for James, continuing his popularity after leaving the equally popular sitcom. 

There’s something about the premise of an incompetent security guard that’s very easy to sell and the popularity of the movie after opening weekend shows that audiences loved the movie even if critics weren’t too keen on it.

The PG rating will allow families to see this together even if it’s not necessarily a kids’ movie and that could be a great help to bringing in audiences when the only other PG movie in theaters is DreamWorks Animation’s Home.

Sony’s marketing for the movie has been quite brilliant with some really funny promos that have been running in theaters and the trailer has wisely focused on the physical humor to try to get kids interested in seeing it. They’re also giving the movie an ultrawide release into over 3,600 theaters, giving it a higher profile in a greater number of cities including suburbs and the MidWest where it should fare well.

Drawbacks:

It’s been six years since the previous Paul Blart movie and the sequel is already facing the usual obstacle of family comedies rarely doing as well as the first movie, plus it’s also getting released in the middle of April after most schools are in session, so it’s not even going to get a bump from the holiday like the previous movie.

Kevin James’ career has been sort of erratic in recent years with his teamings with Adam Sandler normally doing decent business but his solo movies not doing as well, as seen by 2012’s Here Come the Boom only grossing $45 million, his teaming with Vince Vaughn for The Dilemma only doing slightly better and Zookeeper’s $80.4 million not looking as good when you realize the movie cost $80 million.

Reviews would likely be bad if Sony were even screening this for critics, but they’re not, maybe because they realize that none of them will give James a fair break.

Prediction:

Without the benefits of a holiday weekend and waiting so long to release a sequel will probably keep Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 from faring as well as the original movie, although it’s still likely to open in the mid-$20 million range and probably will end up with around $60 million total. 

Interview with Director Andy Fickman 


unfriendedwwUnfriended

Distributor: Universal
Director: Levan Gabriadge
Writer: Nelson Greaves
Cast: Courtney Halverson, Jacob Wysocki, Will Peltz, Shelley Hennig, Renee Olstead, Moses Jacob Storm, Heather Sossaman
What It’s About: A vicious bully named Laura commits suicide after she’s shamed by a video that’s released and on the anniversary of her death, a group of teenagers are terrorized by an unseen figure using their computer chat room against them.

Benefits:

This is the latest film produced by Jason Blum and Blumhouse Productions, who have proven countless times that they can make low budget horror movies with no-name casts and make money, which most notably has led to the “Paranormal Activity” series, which has grossed $811 million worldwide. That’s a lot of money but even more when you realize that the five movies in the series cost (you may want to sit down for this one) less than $20 million! That franchise has been followed with numerous other horror hits, including Insidious, Sinister, The Purge and the low-budget Ouija last October. This year, they’ve had two movies, The Boy Next Door, which grossed $35 million based on a $4 million budget, and The Lazarus Effect, which made $24 million based on a $3.3 million budget.

Horror has continually proven to be popular at the box office and Unfriended is being released as part of Universal’s deal with Blumhouse following the success of The Purge and its sequel this past summer. It follows along the same lines as the “Paranormal Activity” movies and Ouija in that it’s not relying on having name actors to get people into theaters but more on the premise.

The film premiered at Fantasia last year, and then played well at the SXSW Film Festival last month, helping to build the buzz, although it’s not quite as strong as It Follows, which has been faring well with far less marketing.

The movie has been doing sensationally on social media showing that there’s a younger audience which is definitely interested in a horror movie that uses the technology they use every day.

Drawbacks:

One has to think that moviegoers are getting a little sick of these low-budget high concept horror movie at this point and this year’s offerings (such as The Lazarus Effect) only did moderate business. This one does have better chances since it taps into everyday things like social media, but it’s not going to have much interest for anyone over 25.

Even though Universal is screening the movie for critics, you probably shouldn’t expect rave reviews because critics rarely like horror movies (although so far, five out of six reviews out of SXSW were positive)

Prediction:

It’s going to be a tight battle between this and Paul Blart, but this should do very well on Friday thanks to the social media awareness, possibly even coming close to beating Furious 7, and by the end of the weekend, it should end up with somewhere close to $20 million or slightly less depending on how frontloaded it is.


 Monkey Kingdom

monkeykingdomwwDistributor: Disneynature
Director: Alastair Fothergill, Mark Linfield
Cast:
Tina Fey (narrator)
What It’s About: A community of monkeys living among the ruins within the jungles of South Asia is the setting for this latest nature film involving the struggle of a newborn monkey and his mother.

Benefits:

Disneynature’s continuing series of nature docs that normally debut on Earth Day (April 22) gets its latest installment as it follows on the popularity of 2012’s Chimpanzee, which grossed $28.9 million, by making another movie about apes… er… monkeys, which are generally kids’ favorite animals at the zoo.

The movie is getting a wider release than all of Disneynature’s previous releases with 2009’s Earth getting the widest release to date with 1,800 theaters and that went on to become the company’s most successful nature doc with $32 million. Opening in 2,000 theaters probably won’t make that big a difference for reasons noted below.

Drawbacks:

This one won’t be getting the bump from Earth Day that so many previous Disneynature movies received, because like last year’s Bears, it’s opening five days before the nature celebration that will have school groups attending.

There’s definitely diminishing returns on Disneynature’s dedication to keeping the Disney tradition of nature docs alive as even parents with small kids who know they can keep them entertained for 90 minutes are being given plenty of other options that might entertain them as well (like Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2).

I honestly haven’t seen a single commercial for this movie and if I didn’t write about movies, I wouldn’t know it was opening on Friday.

Prediction:

There doesn’t seem to be any indicator this will do better than Disneynature’s last offering Bears, so expect it to end up in the bottom half of the Top 10 with less than $6 million, but it should still be good for $18 million before it leaves theaters.


Recap:

Essentially, we’ll have a close race between the top two movies with Unfriended likely to win on Friday (possibly even beating Furious 7) but Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 making up the difference over the weekend while still settling for second place behind the action movie’s threepeat. We also have two dramas receiving moderately-wide releases into between 500 and 600 theaters on Friday rather than going for the tried-and-true platform release dramas like these normally get. It’s doubtful either will get into the Top 10, but the first of these is far more high-profile than the second so it’s likely to end up doing better.

truestorywwTrue Story (Fox Searchlight)
Director: Rupert Goold
Stars: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Felicity Jones
Genre: Crime, Drama
What It’s About: When shamed New York Times writer Mike Finkel (Jonah Hill) learns that Christian Longo (James Franco), a man accused of killing his family, has been using Mike’s name while in hiding from the authorities. Mike decides to visit Longo in prison to try to find out the truth and ends up writing a book on his experiences. Felicity Jones co-stars as Finkel’s wife Jill.

True Story Review (Coming Soon!) 

Interviews with Felicity Jones and Rupert Gold

Child 44 (Lionsgate)
Director: Daniel Espinosa (Safe House)
Stars: Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Vincent Cassel, Paddy Considine , Jason Clarke, Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman
Genre: Drama, Suspense Thriller
What It’s About: Set in 1953 Soviet Russia, Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) is a member of the secret police who has been discredited when he stands by his wife (Noomi Rapace) who has been accused of being a traitor. The two of them are exiled from Moscow where they work with a general (Gary Oldman) trying to track down a serial killer that’s killed young boys which is being covered up by Leo’s rival Vasil (Joel Kinnaman).

Child 44 Review (Coming Soon!)


This Weekend Last Year

file_117354_0_heavenforrealboxofficeMarvel Studios’ Captain America: The Winter Soldier won its third weekend at the box office with $25.6 million as it passed the $200 million mark, while the religious drama Heaven is for Real (Tristar Pictures), starring Greg Kinnear, opened in 2,417 theaters and grossed $22.5 million, or $9,317 per theater. It would go on to gross a whopping $91.4 million based on a $22 million budget. On the flip side and continuing Johnny Depp’s sharp decline as a box office draw, Oscar-winning cinematographer Wally Pfister’s sci-fi thriller Transcendence (Warner Bros.), co-starring Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall and Morgan Freeman, bombed with just $10.9 million In 3,455 theaters for a fourth place opening. Marlon Wayans’ comedy sequel A Haunted House 2 (Open Road) also didn’t fare very well, opening in fifth place with $8.8 million. Last year’s Disneynature film Bears opened in 1,720 theaters and it barely got into the Top 10 with $4.8 million, or 2,777 per theater. The Top 10 grossed $116.3 million which should be around where this weekend ends up.

This Week’s Updated Predictions

UPDATE: No huge changes although we’re feeling a bit better about Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 giving Furious 7 a run for the top spot, and while Unfriended will definitely be in the mix, it’s likely to be frontloaded, which will put it back to third place by Sunday. Fox Searchlight’s True Story is getting a wider release than we projected but it will still end up outside the Top 10.

1. Furious 7 (Universal) – $28.5 million -52% (down .1 million)
2. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (Sony) – $26.5 million N/A (up 3 million)
3. Unfriended (Universal) – $19.4 million N/A (down 1.4 million)
4. Home (DreamWorks Animation/Fox) – $12 million -35%
5. The Longest Ride (20th Century Fox) – $7.3 million -45%
6. Monkey Kingdom (Disneynature) – $5.8 million N/A (up .1 million)
7. Get Hard (Warner Bros.) – $4.5 million -45%
8. Cinderella (Disney) – $4.3 million -40% (down .2 million)
9. Woman in Gold (The Weinstein Company) – $4.3 million -24% (up .6 million)
10. The Divergent Series: Insurgent (Summit/Lionsgate) – $3.5 million -48%
True Story (Fox Searchlight) – $2.6 million N/A (up .5 million)
Child 44 (Lionsgate) – $1.1 million N/A 

Next Week:

It’s the last weekend of April and the last time for studios to dump their movies, which is why we’ll get dogs like the Harrison Ford period drama The Age of Adaline (Summit) and Little Boy (Open Road). But at least Alex Garland’s Ex Machina (A24) will also expand nationwide, and thankfully we just have one more week until the summer and Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron


This Week’s Must-Sees

Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (IFC Films)
Director: Scott Crawford
Stars: Dave Grohl, Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye, John Stabb
Genre: Documentary, Music
What It’s About: The Washington DC punk and hardcore scene of the ‘80s is explored as it tells the history of influential bands like Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Scream and Fugazi and what they contributed to the punk scene that was thriving in New York and L.A. It opens at the IFC Center on Friday with previews on Thursday night that will include some of the musicians from the scene. 

Tangerines (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
Writer/Director: Zaza Urushadze
Stars: Lembit Ulfsak, Mikheil Meskhi, Giorgi Nakhashidze
Genre: Drama
What It’s About: The Oscar-nominated film from Estonia is based during the 1992 conflict between Georgia and Abkhazian separatists where two Estonian immigrant farmers who remained in Georgia to harvest their tangerine crop end up taking in two soldiers from opposing sides of the conflict.

Other Limited Releases of Note:

Alex of Venice (Screen Media Films)
Director: Chris Messina
Stars: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Derek Luke, Don Johnson, Chris Messina, Katie Nehra, Skylar Gaertner
Genre: Drama
What It’s About: Actor Chris Messina makes his directorial debut with Mary Elizabeth Winstead playing an overworked environmental attorney who has to contend with an aging father (Don Johnson), a shy son and an eccentric sister when her husband (Messina) leaves. 

The Road Within (WellGo USA/Amplify)
Writer/Director: Gren Wells
Stars: Robert Sheehan, Dev Patel, Zoe Kravitz, Robert Patrick, Kyra Sedgwick
Genre: Drama, Comedy
What It’s About: A young man with Tourette’s named Vincent (Sheehan) ends up at a center for psychological disorders after the death of his mother where he’s joined by an anorexic girl (Zoe Kravitz) and an OCD roommate (Dev Patel) on a road trip with Vincent’s father (Robert Patrick) and the head of the center (Kyra Sedgwick) in pursuit. 

Beyond the Reach (Roadside Attractions)
Director: Jean-Baptiste Leonett
Stars: Michael Douglas, Ronny Cox, Jeremy Irvine
Genre: Thriller
What It’s About: Michael Douglas plays a corporate shark who gets into a cat and mouse game with a young guide (Irvine) during a hunting trip in the Mojave Desert. 

The Dead Lands (Magnet Releasing)
Director: Toa Fraser
Stars: Rena Owen, James Rolleston, Lawrence Makoare, Te Kohe Tuhaka, Xavier Horan, George Henare, Raukura Turei
Genre: Action, Thriller
What It’s About: A Maori revenge thriller that follows a teenager named Hongi who tries to avenge his father’s murder after the slaughter of his tribe, which sends him on a journey through the forbidden Dead Lands and forces him into an alliance with a ruthless warrior. 

Monsters: Dark Continent (RADiUS-TWC)
Director: Tom Green
Stars: Johnny Harris, Sam Keeley, Joe Dempsie
Genre: Sci-Fi, Thriller
What It’s About: The follow-up to Gareth Edwards’ 2010 indie monster film in which a journalist agrees to escort a tourist through the infected zone in Mexico to get to the US border.

The Squeeze (ARC Entertainment)
Director: Terry Jastrow
Stars: Christopher McDonald, Jeremy Sumpter, Jillian Murray, Katherine LaNasa, Jason Dohring, Michael Nourim
Genre: Action, Adventure
What It’s About: A caper movie about a gambler who discovers a young man with golf skills who he convinces to take part in high-stakes matches for money.

You can post any comments or questions below, or you can get in touch with the Weekend Warrior on Twitter.

Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas

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Weekend: Aug. 15, 2019, Aug. 18, 2019

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