The Weekend Warrior (Lite): July 30 – August 1


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.
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As mentioned last week, we’ve had to take a more streamlined approach to this week’s column due to the amount of time spent at Comic-Con.

Updated Predictions and Comparisons

UPDATE: We have a bit of a shake-up in the Top 5 with Paramount’s comedy Dinner for Schmucks getting significantly more theaters, which gives it a better chance at beating Salt for 2nd place. We’re still rather unsure about Cats and Dogs despite its hefty theater count and the huge number of ads that Warner Bros. has been running, none of which mention the Looney Tunes short that plays before the movie, oddly enough. We also think Zac Efron’s going to bring in more young girls for Charlie St. Cloud than we originally surmised. One nice addition in wide release is Lisa Cholodenko’s Sundance favorite The Kids Are All Right (Focus), which expands into 847 theaters which should allow it to do decent business this weekend but maybe not enough to get into the Top 10.

1. Inception (Warner Bros.) – $27.8 million -35% (down .6 million)

2. Dinner for Schmucks (Paramount) – $21.7 million N/A (up 4.6 million and two places)

3. Salt (Sony) – $19.2 million -47% (down 1.2 million and one place)

4. Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (Warner Bros.) – $18.8 million N/A (down .4 million and one spot)

5. Despicable Me (Universal) – $15.8 million -34% (same)

6. Charlie St. Cloud (Universal) – $14.6 million N/A (up 2.3 million)

7. Toy Story 3 (Disney/Pixar) – $5.2 million -42% (down 1 million)

8. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Disney) – $5.0 million -53% (down .5 million)

9. Grown Ups (Sony) – $4.6 million -38% (same)

10. Ramona and Beezus (20th Century Fox) – $4.5 million -42% (Same)

11. The Kids Are All Right (Focus) – $3.8 million

Weekend Overview

We’re going to do things a little different this week as the Weekend Warrior tries to recuperate from Comic-Con and jet lag. There are three new movies opening in wide release, one more than the past few weeks, but it won’t really matter as Christopher Nolan’s breakout sleeper summer blockbuster should continue its reign at the #1 spot at least for one more week.

This is a difficult weekend because all the new movies seem relatively weak, though they’re all being marketed quite voraciously towards very specific younger demographics, not necessarily in the big cities as much as out in the ‘burbs. The problem they’re all facing is the normal end of July ennui that’s often hard to avoid. The big summer holiday weekends have passed, a few movies like Toy Story 3 and Inception have bypassed the summer negativity to bring in repeat business, and most of the otherwise anticipated summer movies have come and gone, leaving room for only a few August sleepers.

Oddly, the sequel no one wanted or requested, Cats & Dogs: the Revenge of Kitty Galore (Warner Bros.), is getting the widest release of the three new movies, as well as being released in 3D to help boost its opening weekend, two things that could help it capture the magic of similar CG animal family movies that seem to do well like last year’s G-Force. The movie looks absolutely stupid to anyone with an age over 10 or an IQ over 50, but fortunately (or unfortunately) there are enough moviegoers in those age and IQ ranges to keep the Cats & Dogs sequel from failing as badly as Fox’s Marmaduke. We do think that its audience will be limited to those audiences and its 3,700 plus theater count is the only thing that will keep it from completely bombing, and $15 to 20 million is probably more than it deserves to make.

Other than Sandler’s ensemble comedy Grown Ups, there hasn’t really been a big breakout comedy this summer but Dinner for Schmucks (Paramount), the new one from Jay Roach of the “Austin Powers” and “Meet the Parents” movies, will be trying its best by pairing of Steve Carell and Paul Rudd, who previously appeared together in Anchorman and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, two very popular summer comedies indeed. Based on an obscure French film, “Schmucks” also stars Zack Galifianakis, who may as well be made of gold right now, following his breakout performance in Todd Phillips’ The Hangover last year. On the negative side, the movie’s title and the premise are both so weird it might put off anyone but teenagers. Like the other movies this weekend, it feels like Paramount started late on marketing the movie, probably a reason why it got pushed back a week, but Rudd and Carell have generally been everywhere pimping the movie which should keep it from totally bombing even if it’s still a harder sell than some of their previous movies. We’ll also put this in the $15 to 20 million range for the weekend with a strong chance of passing Cats & Dogs if Paramount gets more than the estimated 2,500 theaters it has now.

Opening in more theaters (according to estimates) but with a genre that doesn’t necessarily bring people into theaters in the summer is the new Zac Efron vehicle Charlie St. Cloud (Universal), a “Field of Dreams” type drama based on the 2004 Ben Sherwood novel, “The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud.” Efron continues to have a fairly devout following of young women following his appearance in the “High School Musical” movies, and Universal has been playing up the romance aspect of the movie ala the recent hit Dear John, although they also grabbed this date so late in the game one has to wonder whether they’ve done enough to let its target audience of girls and women to know of its existence. Because it’s not playing up to Efron’s comedic and musical strengths, this should end up somewhere between $10 and 15 million, probably no lower or higher.

Either way, it looks very likely that last week’s #1 and 2 movie will stay on top, because none of the new movies are strong enough to breakout in the way that’s needed to bring either of those stronger movies down.

This weekend last year, Judd Apatow’s third movie Funny People (Universal), pairing Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen, disappointed with just $22 million, although that was enough to win the weekend. Meanwhile, opening in fifth place with $8 million, the family movie Aliens in the Attic (20th Century Fox) barely registered with moviegoers, averaging just over $2500 per site. The Collector (Freestyle Releasing), a horror movie from “Saw” writers Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, opened in 1,325 theaters but bombed with just $3.6 million, not even scoring a place in the Top 10. The top movies grossed $105 million, and this weekend should surpass that only due to the continued support for the top movies.

This Week’s Limited Releases:

We’re not going to have time this week to do a full-on “Chosen One” write-up, but there are some good movies out in limited this weekend, most notably two of this weekend’s documentaries, Brigitte Berman’s Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel (Phase 4 Films), a riveting doc about the notorious and controversial publisher behind one of the most famous magazines, and Leon (When We Were Kings) Gast’s Smash His Camera (IFC Films) about equally notorious celebrity photographer Ron Gallela, whose in-your-face paparazzi style of capturing celebrities got him into trouble when he was sued by the former First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy for harassing her and her kids. Both of them open in New York on Friday, the former at the Angelika Film Center, and the latter at the IFC Center.

American Splendor directors Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman return with their adaptation of Jonathan (HBO’s “Bored to Death”) Ames’ The Extra Man (Magnolia), starring Kevin Kline and Paul Dano as unlikely roommates, the latter playing Louis Ives, a dreamer who heads to New York City to find his fame and fortune, only to be roped into the schemes of Kline’s Henry Harrison, when he answers an ad for a roommate. It opens in select cities on Friday.

Interview with Shari Springer Berman (later this week)

Robert Duvall stars in Aaron Schneider’s Get Low (Sony Pictures Classics) as Felix Bush, an elderly hermit-like loner who lives in the forest by himself, who decides to make right with the community he’s held at arm’s length by throwing himself a funeral party where people can come and talk about him. Starring Bill Murray as the unscrupulous funeral parlor owner who gladly takes Felix’s money and co-starring Sissy Spacek as a woman from Felix’s past, it opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

Ashley Judd stars as the title character in Sandra Nettelbeck’s drama Helen (E1 Entertainment), a seemingly happily-married professor of music who hides the fact that she suffers from severe depression, something that comes out when she suffers an unexpected breakdown that threatens to tear the family apart. It opens at the Quad Cinemas on Friday.

Interview with Ashley Judd (later this week)

Romanian filmmaker Radu Mihaileanu’s The Concert (The Weinstein Co.) is a comedy about how Andrei Filipov (Alexei Guskov), the former conductor of Russia’s Bolshoi orchestra, now working as a janitor, finds an invitation for the current orchestra to perform in Paris, so he masterminds a way to reunite the pre-Glasnost group of musicians to travel to Paris to play a concert with a young violin virtuoso (played by Mélanie Laurent from Inglourious Basterds) who has a personal connection to the conductor. It opens in Los Angeles on Friday and in other cities over the course of August.

Ryan Piers Williams wrote and directed The Dry Land (Freestyle Releasing/Maya Entertainment), starring Ryan O’Nan as an Iraq soldier returned from war who tries to resume a normal life with his beautiful wife Sara, played by the film’s exec producer and Williams’ fiancée America Ferrara, but his recurring Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and being unable to remember what happened the night he was injured makes it hard to readjust to civilian life. It opens in select cities on Friday.

Joe Winston’s doc What’s the Matter with Kansas? (Area 23) based on Thomas Frank’s controversial bestseller looks at the rise of the Conservative Party in Kansas and the contradictions in the movement, as strategists tried to win the hearts and minds of Americans to form the current “Tea Party” movement. It opens in New York at the Producers’ Club INDIEHOUSE.

Who Killed Nancy (Peace Arch Entertainment) is a doc by punk expert Alan G. Parker based on his own best-selling book “Sid Vicious: No One Is Innocent,” which looks into the controversial death of Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious’ girlfriend Nancy Spungen in Room 100 at the Chelsea Hotel on October 12, 1978. The investigative film opens in New York at the Cinema Village.

Next week, the month of August kicks off with the fourth movie from the team of Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay, this time bringing Mark Wahlberg into the mix for the police action-comedy The Other Guys (Sony). Also, the 3D dance threequel Step Up 3D (Disney) opens.

Copyright 2010 Edward Douglas