Things will probably settle down a bit after a rather lame Memorial Day weekend, but don’t expect that to last for long with a number of big sequels, franchise relaunches and the return of Pixar Animation coming in June. In the meantime, we might have a quieter weekend… that is, if Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson battling an earthquake is your definition of “quieter.”
Distributor: New Line/Warner Bros.
Disaster movies have a storied history going back to silent film era with a surge of movies in the ‘30s like Deluge and San Francisco, but the genre really thrived in the ‘70s with the late Irwin Alllen making people fear high-rise buildings and New Year’s cruises, and the genre really peaked in 1974 with Mark Robson’s box office hit Earthquake, starring Charlton Heston. In recent years, there have been many attempts to revive the genre with the biggest successes coming in the form of Michael Bay’s Armageddon and Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow and 2012. Last year, New Line Cinema and Village Roadshow tried to revive the genre with the tornado movie Into the Storm, but it only grossed $47 million domestically and a little twice that amount overseas. Undaunted, they’re following that up with a return to the disaster territory that got audiences thrilled back in 1975, this time putting a similarly popular star as the lead.
Possibly the best thing going for the movie is the presence of Dwayne “Franchise Viagra” Johnson in his first movie since the global blockbuster Furious 7 with the former wrestler having become an A-list star in recent years thanks to a number of hit movies. His last solo movie Hercules opened with $29.8 million last summer, a decent opening that grossed a less-than-spectacular $73 million. San Andreas reunites Johnson with his Journey 2: The Mysterious Island director Brad Peyton, but it’s been the “Fast and Furious” franchise and Johnson’s casting as Roadblock in G.I. Joe: Retaliation which have helped turn him into an A-list star even while frequently returning to the WWE wrestling where he got his start.
Combining Johnson with a popular movie genre is a smart move, because if the actor doesn’t get people into theaters, then they have movie’s spectacular visual FX to fall back on, because this is very much the type of movie that audiences tend to enjoy going to see during the summer.
As mentioned above, last year’s Into the Storm, an attempt at updating Twister for modern audiences, was the last disaster movie, and it pretty much bombed with just $47.6 million after an opening weekend of $17.4 million, but that also didn’t have “The Rock” as its lead.
It’s doubtful reviews will be that good because critics tend to be cynical of these sorts of movies, and frankly, they’re rarely very good in terms of the writing/acting because the people making them know that the audience are mainly there for the destruction.
This doesn’t have nearly as much buzz as some of the other movies coming out this summer, even last week’s Tomorrowland, and that grossed just $32.2 million despite opening on a great weekend for summer fare. Can San Andreas fare much better than that with everyone returning to work?
With last week’s movies failing to deliver in a big way, San Andreas should be able to take the top spot with ease with somewhere between $33 and 35 million on its way to roughly $100 million or slightly less.
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Offered as counter-programming to Dwayne Johnson and his earthquake flick is the latest from celebrated filmmaker Cameron Crowe, who first found fans with his ‘80s movie Say Anything… starring John Cusack and then was nominated for two Oscars for his 1996 movie Jerry Maguire before winning an Oscar for the screenplay for 2000’s Almost Famous. His last movie, We Bought a Zoo, starring Matt Damon, was released over the holidays in 2011 and grossed $75 million after an opening weekend of $9.4 million, showing that Crowe’s work still can find an audience if not opening weekend.
Despite its rather generic rom-com premise, what Crowe really has going for him with his latest is that he has cast two of the biggest stars working today with Bradley Cooper coming off the two biggest movies of his career, American Sniper, for which he received his third and fourth Oscar nominations, and Guardians of the Galaxy, for which he provided the voice of Rocket Racoon. He’s had huge success in recent years with David O. Russell, starring in American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook, both which grossed over $100 million and got Cooper previous Oscar nominations. And we can’t forget Cooper’s big breakout in the summer comedy The Hangover that lead to two sequels, the first more successful than the other. Clearly, he’s an actor who has a pretty wide fanbase of men and women, generally the same 30-somethings that are fans of Crowe’s work, and one assumes Cooper doing a romantic comedy will primarily be a draw for women than men.
Emma Stone is also doing decently in her career, having also been nominated for an Oscar for last year Birdman, and that’s in the same year that she returned as Gwen Stacy in Sony’s hit franchise The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Stone’s fanbase is probably slightly younger than that of Cooper and Crowe, although she’ll be appearing in her second Woody Allen movie in a row this summer after last year’s somewhat disappointing Magic in the Moonlight. The pairing of Cooper with Stone is certainly more promising than his other female lead, Rachel McAdams, although she has appeared more in this type of movie than the other two actors.
The rest of the cast is just as good with Alec Baldwin, Bill Murray, John Krazinski and Danny McBride all bringing something to the mix, and considering how little Baldwin and Murray these days, it’s pretty obvious that this cast is probably going to do more to get people into seats than Crowe himself.
Other than Pitch Perfect 2, there aren’t a lot of movies in theaters specifically for women, and this is being offered as counter-programming to those who have already seen it and won’t be as interested in Dwayne Johnson or San Andreas.
It’s been a while since there’s been a successful romantic comedy, and though Crowe is a master of the genre, it doesn’t seem like something the market has necessarily been demanding. Having not seen the movie at this writing, it’s hard to tell whether this might have decent word-of-mouth, but there are better ones in limited release this weekend, both which have strong reviews from their festival screenings (see below).
Pitch Perfect 2 is still going fairly strong as well and is likely to continue to bring in at least younger women because it’s a known commodity. This doesn’t seem strong enough to make anyone rush out to theaters to see it.
Sony seems to have taken their sweet time marketing this movie, barely even doing a regional junket, instead focusing on other territories, and because of that, it’s doubtful the movie has much awareness with moviegoers with commercials only really making the film’s presence known a few weeks back. The studio has also decided to hold the movie for the Tuesday of release, meaning that there will be no reviews before Wednesday or Thursday, which again, will limit the amount of awareness going into the weekend, a plan that could end up backfiring.
It’s hard to have high hopes for this romantic comedy even with Crowe at the helm and the great cast he’s assembled. Moviegoers have plenty of other choices in theaters so this one will be lucky to make $10 million this weekend, but if it’s any good, it should have decent legs and gross somewhere in the $30 million range.
This Weekend Last Year
Angelina Jolie took on the horned mantle of Sleeping Beauty baddie Maleficent (Disney) for the summer blockbuster which far exceeded any expectations with an opening weekend of $69.4 million in 3,948 theaters or $17,586 per theater for an easy #1 win. On the other hand, Seth MacFarlane’s comedy-Western A Million Ways to Die in the West (Universal), his follow-up to the blockbuster comedy hit Ted, failed to find much of an audience, tanking with just $16.8 million for third place behind X-Men: Days of Future Past, which dropped 64% after its Memorial Day opening. The Top 10 grossed $157.7 million, but since neither of the new movies are likely to do as well as Maleficent, this is probably going to be a down weekend, as we said before.
This Week’s Updated Predictions
1. San Andreas (New Line/WB) – $35.3 million N/A (up 1.6 million)
The month of June kicks off with a triple threat match between three very different movies which will likely divide up moviegoing audiences pretty evenly. Melissa McCarthy and Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat) reunite for their third film together, the action-comedy Spy (20th Century Fox), Leigh Whannell takes over the directing duties for the horror threequel Insidious Chapter 3 (Gramercy Pictures/Focus), and the HBO boys are back with Entourage (New Line/WB).
This Week’s Must-Sees
Interview with Andrew Bujalski (Coming Soon!)
Gemma Bovery (Music Box Films)
Other Limited Releases of Note:
Interview with James McTeigue (Coming Soon!)
Barely Lethal (A24)
I Believe in Unicorns (Gravitas Ventures)
Heaven Knows What (RADiUS-TWC)
Sunset Edge (CAVU Pictures)
Unfreedom (Dark Frames)
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Copyright 2015 Edward Douglas