The Weekend Warrior (Lite): September 18 – 20

Greetings and welcome back to the Weekend Warrior, your weekly guide to the weekend’s new movies. Tune in every Tuesday for the latest look at the upcoming weekend, and then check back on Thursday night for final projections based on actual theatre counts.

Updated Predictions

1. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (Sony) – $23.8 million N/A (same)

2. Jennifer’s Body (20th Century Fox) – $15.4 million N/A (up .7 million)

3. The Informant! (Warner Bros.) – $12.2 million N/A (same)

4. Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself (Lionsgate) – $10.6 million -54% (down .2 million)

5. Love Happens (Universal) – $8.7 million N/A (up .2 million)

6. 9 (Focus Features) – $6.5 million -40% (up. 5 million)

7. Inglourious Basterds (The Weinstein Company/Universal) – $3.3 million -47% (down .5 million)

8. All About Steve (20th Century Fox) – $3.1 million -45% (same)

9. The Final Destination (New Line/WB) – $2.6 million -48% (down .3 million)

10. Whiteout (Warner Bros.) – $2.2 million -51% (down .3 million)

Weekend Overview

Being mid-September, the Weekend Warrior is in the middle of the normal crazy schedule that goes along with covering the Toronto International Film Festival, so this week’s preview is going to be very brief and we’ll have to skip the extensive box office analysis and comparisons we usually provide. Sorry.

The easy winner for the weekend will be Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s CG-animated take on Judi and Ron Barrett’s popular children’s book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (Sony), a movie that will be capitalizing on a number of factors, including the ultra-wide release, the fact that it’s opening in many IMAX and digital 3D theaters, which will charge higher ticket prices, as well as the popularity of the original book released in 1978. Sony Animation has yet to have the type of box office hit of any of the other big studio’s animation houses and opening the movie in mid-September certainly won’t help it, but a moderate opening and decent legs should be possible at least until it gives up its 3D theaters for Disney/Pixar’s “Toy Story” double feature in a couple weeks.

The other three new movies all feature popular film stars, but the one that should connect the most with the coveted younger moviegoers i.e. 17 to 25 should be Jennifer’s Body (20th Century Fox) starring Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried. Young women will be especially up for it with the pairing of the stars of the “Transformers” movies and Mama Mia! and the fact that it’s the second produced screenplay from Diablo Cody, the Oscar-winning writer of Juno. Guys might be generally wary but should be enticed by the promise of gore and the highly-publicized make-out scene between the two leads. Those things should help make this the first choice for the college age audience that normally goes to theaters although mixed reviews might keep it under the $20 million mark, and thereby, settling for second place.

Prolific filmmaker Steven Soderbergh reteams with Matt Damon for the corporate comedy The Informant! (Warner Bros.), which is hoping to find a similar audience as last year’s Coen Brothers comedy Burn After Reading, which starred George Clooney and Brad Pitt. Warners are using a similar approach by premiering the movie at the Toronto Film Festival, something they’ve done with many of their September and October releases, including Tony Gilroy’s Michael Clayton, also starring Clooney, and The Brave One with Jodie Foster. Neither of them opened over $15 million, and this is an equally strange and difficult film that might be too smart for most people, but should be helped by the fact that it’s based on a bestselling book. Those things plus the draw of Damon and the good will Soderbergh has gained from the “Ocean” movies should allow this to do between $10 and 15 million opening but probably under $40 million total.

Lastly, Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart star in the romantic drama Love Happens (Universal), a movie with such a cheesy title and marketing that only older women who aren’t very interested in the new Matt Damon movie might give this a look. Even so, Universal is giving it a very moderate release into 2,000 or fewer theaters, which will keep this under the $10 million mark despite the star power and promise of romance. If it’s any good, it should get to $30 million, although we’re dubious whether it can hold up in big cities where there will be lots of awards-worthy limited releases in the next couple weeks.

This week’s “Chosen One” is Jane Campion’s Bright Star (Apparition), the Australian filmmaker’s look at the failed romance of poet John Keats and his neighbor, played by Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish. You can read more about it in Part 1 of our Toronto Film Festival coverage. (Sorry we’re skipping the limited releases so that we can try to catch up the rest of our Toronto coverage. You can see what’s opening here.

This weekend last year saw the release of four new movies with the thriller Lakeview Terrace (Screen Gems) starring Samuel L. Jackson, Kerry Washington and Patrick Wilson topping the box office with $15 million. Dane Cook and Kate Hudson were paired in the romantic comedy My Best Friend’s Girl (Lionsgate), which opened in third with $8.3 million, followed by the computer-animated Igor (The Weinstein Co.), which opened with $7.8 million. David Koepp’s comedy Ghost Town (DreamWorks), starring Ricky Gervais, disappointed with $5 million for eighth place, although it only opened in 1,500 theatres. The Top 10 grossed $72.8 million, an amount that should be surpassed by this week’s movies.

Next week, Bruce Willis returns in the futuristic action flick Surrogates (Disney/Touchstone), the kids are dancing and singing again in the remake of Fame (MGM), while Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid explore the state of Pandorum (Overture). Hopefully we’ll be back to our normally verbose column by then. Fingers crossed!

Copyright 2009 Edward Douglas