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.
If you aren’t doing so already, you can follow The Weekend Warrior on Twitter where he talks about box office, movies, music, comic books and all sorts of random things.
Just a quick heads up, that one of my favorite movies of the year, J. Blakeson’s The Disappearance of Alice Creed, starring Gemma Arterton, Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston, arrives on DVD today. This is an intense crime-thriller and quite an amazing directorial debut by Blakeson, and I hope that anyone who missed it in theaters (whether it played in their area or not) will check it out. You can read some of my earlier thoughts and read/watch some interviews here.
Note: 5-Day predictions are followed by 3-Day predictions in parentheses
1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (Warner Bros.) – $76.5 million ($52.5 million -59%)
2. Tangled (Walt Disney) – $41.5 million ($29.4 million) (up 1.1 million)
3. Megamind (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) – $20.5 million ($14.7 million -10%) (up .4 million)
4. Burlesque (Sony/Screen Gems) – $20.0 million ($13.8 million) (up .4 million)
5. Faster (CBS Films) – $16.5 million ($11.0 million) (down .2 million)
6. Love and Other Drugs (20th Century Fox) – $13.6 million ($9.5 million) (up .3 million)
7. Unstoppable (20th Century Fox) – $12.3 million ($8.7 million -33%)
8. Due Date (Warner Bros.) – $8.2 million ($5.8 million -35%)
9. The Next Three Days (Lionsgate) – $5.6 million ($4 million -41%)
10. Morning Glory (Paramount) – $5 million ($3.5 million -34%)
It’s Thanksgiving weekend, which is historically the Weekend Warrior’s kryptonite, his Achilles Heel, and wiser heads would just take the week off and let others try to figure out how the four new movies in wide release may fare, but this is the Weekend Warrior, where nothing short of a Roland Emmerich level natural disaster will stop us from throwing our predictions into the ring and hoping for the best.
Thanksgiving week is obviously an anomaly compared to the rest of the year because on Wednesday, people tend to have off from school or half-days of work in order to travel, celebrate on Thursday and then have Friday off on which millions of people around the country rush into malls and stores in order to take advantage of “Black Friday” sales. This gives the weekend an inordinate amount of frontloading to Friday, particularly for family films, which tend to do the best over the weekend.
Obviously, last week’s smash Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (Warner Bros.) should remain comfortably on top even if it has a substantial drop with the $24 million midnights from last week removed from the equation. The last “Potter” movie to open the week before Thanksgiving (“Goblet of Fire”) had a 47 percent drop-off over Thanksgiving but the last two movies had 58% and 62% drop-offs as the movies became more frontloaded. Granted, the Black Friday business and the fact it can appeal to family audiences will keep it from tanking as badly as The Twilight Saga: New Moon did last Thanksgiving when it dropped 70% while retaining first place.
The safest bet of the weekend is that the animated musical-comedy Tangled (Walt Disney Pictures) will be the first choice for many mothers and daughters who helped make Disney’s Enchanted such a huge hit over Thanksgiving weekend a few years back. The PG-rated adventure-comedy-musical should appeal to a fairly wide audience of family members, which means that it’s going to do a huge amount of business on Friday when families are all out shopping and spending time together. With other family-fare competing for audiences, it’s likely to do more moderate business, but it should be able to sustain business through the holidays.
The other movies don’t seem as strong and they may suffer from trying to appeal to audiences that aren’t necessarily out there, fighting for what’s left between “Potter,” Tangled and DreamWorks Animation’s Megamind. With that in mind, it’s hard to imagine that a musical like Burlesque (Sony/Screen Gems), starring Christina Aguilera in her first movie role along with Cher, doing huge business, but apparently there’s a demand for movies involving dancing and singing going by how many of the highest-rated shows on television involve one or the other and this could be a viable option for young women not interested in a cartoon.
With the least amount of direct competition for male audiences, Dwayne Johnson’s revenge-thriller Faster (CBS Films) is looking to bring in the same single guys not going home for the holiday, and trying to find similar success as last year’s Ninja Assassin or other R-rated action movies released on the holiday. It should do decently on a daily basis but have trouble pulling in more than $20 million over the five days because the audience just isn’t there on this particular weekend.
Then there’s Ed Zwick’s romantic comedy Love and Other Drugs (20th Century Fox), starring Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal, arguably the biggest stars of the weekend. An R-rated movie about pharmaceuticals and Parkinson’s disease just doesn’t seem like something that might appeal to anyone but a very select audience and we expect it to have the hardest trouble finding an audience against so much competition for female audiences.
Last Thanksgiving saw the release of two new movies trying to take on the second weekend of The Twilight Saga: New Moon, which as mentioned above won the weekend while dropping 70% from its record-setting first weekend but still added $66.3 million to its box office take. Sandra Bullock’s The Blind Side took second place with $57.3 million over the five days, showing significant legs based on word-of-mouth. The comedy Old Dogs (Walt Disney Pictures) ended up opening in fourth place with $24.2 million over the five days, ending up behind Roland Emmerich’s 2012 in its third week. The action flick Ninja Assassin (Warner Bros.), produced by the Wachowski Brothers and starring Korean pop star Rain, opened with $21.2 million to take sixth place while Wes Anderson’s stop motion animated The Fantastic Mr. Fox (Fox Searchlight) expanded nationwide into 2,000 theaters after its platform release and it made $9.5 million over the five day weekend with $7 million of it over the three-day weekend. The Top 10 grossed $251 million over the five days and it may be hard for this weekend’s offerings to make that big a mark.
Tangled (Walt Disney Pictures)
Starring (the voices of) Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Ron Perlman, M.C. Gainey, Jeffrey Tambor, Brad Garrett, Paul F. Tompkins
Directed by Byron Howard (Bolt and Nathan Greno; Written by Dan Fogelman (Cars, Bolt, Fred Claus)
Genre: Animation, Family, Comedy, Musical, Adventure
Plot Summary: The fairy tale of Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore) is reenvisioned in the Disney animated tradition, when a wanted bandit known as Flynn Ryder (voice of Zachary Levi) decides to hide out in a tower where the lovely golden-haired Rapunzel has been kept captive by a witch posing as her mother. The two of them go off on an adventure along with an odd group of friends.
Nothing says “tradition” when it comes to Thanksgiving box office than Walt Disney Pictures, who have been able to dominate the holiday for many years with family hits like Pixar’s Toy Story 2, which has held the Thanksgiving opening record for 11 years, 2007’s musical fantasy Enchanted, Eddie Murphy’s Haunted Mansion and the Tony Scott-Denzel Washington actioner Déjà Vu. The fact that the Disney name is synonymous with both animation and family movies makes the release of their latest animated fairy tale Tangled over the Thanksgiving weekend pretty much of a sure thing, especially with their normal degree of marketing to make sure parents and kids are well aware of its release.
This is Disney’s take on the “Rapunzel” story, featuring the voice of pop singer Mandy Moore, who has successfully balanced her music and acting careers, although it’s been a few years since her last major movie License to Wed with Robin Williams and John Krasinski. She certainly seemed to have a healthy film career ahead of her in the first half of the ’00s and she previously provided her voice for two sequels, Dr. Dolittle 2 and Brother Bear 2, but in recent years, she seems to be focused more on her music. Her handsome prince is voiced by Zachary Levi, best known for his role as NBC’s “Chuck,” and the evil witch is voiced by Donna Murphy, a Broadway regular who also appeared in Star Trek: Insurrection and Spider-Man 2. As is often the case with animated movies, except when they’re vehicles for specific comedians/actors, not having a big name voice cast probably won’t hurt the movie much, because it’s going to be sold as much on the humor and Disney branding.
Last year, Disney opened their reimagining of The Princess and the Frog over Thanksgiving weekend but only gave it a platform release in New York and L.A. where it grossed $786 thousand with the third-highest theater average after Pocahontas and The Lion King. It expanded a few weeks later to make $24 million, a solid opening on par with previous Disney animated princess movies like Mulan and Pocahontas.
Like some of Disney’s biggest animated hits and the aforementioned Enchanted, Disney’s latest is a musical with a number of songs, something that young girls tend to enjoy, although it’s not necessarily being advertised as a musical, focusing more on the humor and adventure in order to appeal to a wider range of kids and adults. It’s somewhat of a shame because it is competing against Burlesque for young women and the musical aspect may put it over the edge. Even so, there’s a good chance Tangled will be the first choice of most girls under 13–as well as nostalgic women over 20–although some of them may be intrigued by Burlesque, which tries to capitalize on their same love of music and dancing even if parents are not likely to take their kids to see it.
Opening in over 3,500 theaters including digital 3D, which is still a viable commodity when it comes to animated movies because it adds to kids’ enjoyment, Tangled seems fun and entertaining enough to avoid the backlash to non-Pixar and non-DreamWorks Animation animated films because it does have so many strong elements working for it. It’s also a pretty decent movie and should get solid reviews – maybe not Pixar level but generally good, which should help parents make the decision to see it with their kids.
Why I Should See It: This is another solid and entertaining film that can be enjoyed by a wide variety of moviegoers.
Burlesque (Sony/Screen Gems)
Starring Cher, Christina Aguilera, Eric Dane, Cam Gigandet, Julianne Hough, Peter Gallagher, Alan Cumming, Kristen Bell, Stanley Tucci
Written and directed by Steven Antin (The Glass House: The Good Mother — no, I didn’t know they made a straight to DVD sequel either.)
Genre: Musical, Drama
Tagline: “It takes a LEGEND.. To make a STAR”
Plot Summary: Ali (Christina Aguilera) goes to Los Angeles from Iowa and ends up working as a cocktail waitress in the Burlesque Lounge, a colorful musical environment run by the club’s matriach Tess (Cher) where women strut their stuff on stage to old-time tunes. Ali really wants to be on stage dancing and singing so she pushes herself and finally gets the chance, helped by the club’s stage manager Shaun (Stanley Tucci) and amorous bartender Jack (Cam Gigandet).
Honestly, this is the one movie this weekend that’s a bit of an unknown to me, since it’s a rare movie musical not based on an existing Broadway smash, and it stars one singer who has never been in a movie, another who hasn’t been in a movie in seven years and a supporting cast who probably have done better movies. The movie is clearly capitalizing on the popularity of things like the hit show “Glee” and High School Musical and all of the various singing and dancing shows that are bringing in such huge viewerships, including “American Idol” and “Dancing with the Stars.”
One of the biggest selling points for the movie is that it’s the first real movie role for platinum-selling recording artist Christina Aguilera, who joins her fellow Mouseketeer Britney Spears and the likes of Mariah Carey in trying to become an actor. (Aguilera has appeared in a few movies as herself.) 30-year-old Aguilera is a huge recording artist who has sold millions of records and won multiple Grammys, but being a successful recording artist doesn’t lead to people seeing your movie. While Britney Spears somehow got people to see her first movie Crossroads, that wasn’t the case for Mariah Carey and her similar-looking rags-to-riches story Glitter, which bombed in September 2001, grossing less than $5 million. (Yes, we blame it on the terrorists as well.) Aguilera is a bit further into her career than the former but right about where Carey was when she made her screen debut even if Burlesque looks like a better movie.
More importantly, this is the first movie in seven years starring the multi-talented singer and actress Cher, who is now 64 years old (!), although she hasn’t been completely out of the spotlight, having set-up a successful residency in Las Vegas for the past two-and-a-half years. Unlike some of those other divas mentioned, Cher was able to successfully transition from music into acting with the 1982 movie based on the play Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean followed by the likes of Silkwood, Mask, The Witches of Eastwick with Jack Nicholson, and then Moonstruck for which she won an Oscar. It was then three more years before she appeared in Mermaids in 1990 and then only made scattered film appearances after that. Regardless of her lack of a presence in recent years, she still has many fans and is considered an icon in the gay community, who would probably enjoy the flashiness of the film’s musical numbers.
Oddly, the one actress in the movie who has some sort of box office track record is Kristen Bell, making her third film appearance of the year following the comedies When in Rome and You Again, both which only did moderate business. Speaking of “Glee,” if you blink you might miss a small appearance by Dianna Agron, the “mean cheerleader” on the show who has been venturing into film not only with this but with DreamWorks’ upcoming I Am Number Four, in which she’s featured. At least in the marketing, there isn’t going to be a ton of focus on the men in the movie although they include the likes of Cam Gigandet (who apparently appears in every Screen Gems flick), Eric Dane (from “Grey’s Anatomy”) and film regulars Alan Cumming and Stanley Tucci, the latter who seems to be reprising his role from the hit The Devil Wears Prada.
The movie musical has had its ups and downs and while the success of Chicago seemed to harken back a new renaissance for the genre, there have been plenty of hit musicals that have failed to make a mark, such as the movie based on the popular musical Rent, which opened over Thanksgiving to make $17.1 million in five days, most of that being on its opening day. Other musicals like Mamma Mia! and Hairspray (and the aforementioned High School Musical) have brought in huge audiences of teen girls and older women.
Though normally a movie like this might not do better than say an August Rush, which opened with $13.1 million over the Thanksgiving 5-day, Screen Gems has done a valiant job marketing the movie, not really trying to make it look more like an updating of Cabaret or a sequel to Moulin Rouge!, not that that’s a bad thing, although not being based on an existing beloved musical will certainly make this a harder sell. (We shouldn’t forget that Screen Gems had a surprise hit over Thanksgiving a years back with This Christmas, although having a movie with “Christmas” in the title released on the weekend where everyone starts taking the holidays seriously is an instant slam dunk.) One of the smartest moves in marketing may have been Christina Aguilera appearing on “Dancing with the Stars” to perform a number from the movie since the show has an absolutely enormous audience who might dig this, and Aguilera already has a number of videos related to the movie. Burlesque has also made quite a presence for itself on the social networking site Twitter, where its primary audience is likely to be chattering about wanting to see the movie.
Sure, there may be some future “Girls Gone Wild” enticed by the idea of a movie about sexy dancing, but with a PG-13 rating and few that any guy would necessarily want to see naked anyway–well, maybe Kristen Bell–the movie is likely going to be targeting only women and girls. There’s a chance that any teen girls who really want to see the movie might go out to see it as a group on Wednesday or Thursday rather than seeing it on the weekend with their families, because with a title like “Burlesque,” a word that many older folks associate with “stripping,” that may limit the number of mothers who want to go see the movie with their daughters over the weekend. But you never know. As I said at the top of this analysis, this is a movie that falls into the great unknown.
Why I Should See It: Cher’s quite a talented singer and actress and Aguilera is at least one of those two.
Faster (CBS Films)
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Carla Gugino, Maggie Grace, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Moon Bloodgood
Directed by George Tillman Jr. (Notorious, Soul Food, Men of Honor); Written by Joe and Tony Gayton (The Salton Sea, Murder by Numbers)
Genre: Action, Thriller
Tagline: “Slow Justice is No Justice”
Plot Summary: Having been in prison for ten years for robbing a bank, a failed crime that got his brother killed, Driver (Dwayne Johnson) swears to get revenge, chased by a veteran cop (Billy Bob Thornton) and an assassin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) sent to stop Driver from fulfilling his own vengeful hit list.
There was a time back in the ’90s when Dwayne Johnson was a wrestler known as Rocky Maivia aka “The Rock,” who became such a huge star in sports entertainment that it was decided it was time for him to make a move into acting, starting with a role as The Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns, which proved successful enough to spawn the Rock’s own spin-off prequel The Scorpion King. When that did well, it was determined that Johnson was ready to headline his own movies, and he was cast in Peter Berg’s The Rundown and the 2004 remake of Walking Tall, both which did moderately well. After a few more movies, Johnson was cast in the 2007 Disney comedy The Game Plan, which led to him doing more comedies and family films that helped to build himself a young audience, but it felt like he was turning his back on his longtime fans from his wrestling days. His return to action couldn’t come at a better time, because the only movie that offers competition for the movie’s potential audience is Denzel Washington’s Unstoppable. Although Johnson isn’t quite as big a star or as dependable at the box office, there’s no reason why black and Latino audiences might not make this their first and possibly only choice if they’ve already seen the runaway train thriller, and that should help Faster in urban areas.
Now Johnson is returning to the type of material that seemed best suited to his audience, and Faster is CBS Films’ first foray into genre films, in this case an R-rated revenge thriller that’s mainly going to be targeting guys who don’t have family plans over Thanksgiving, similar to the 20th Century Fox action movie Hitman and last year’s Ninja Assassin, both which did roughly $20 million over the five-day Thanksgiving. In between them was the Jason Statham sequel Transporter 3, which also did in that same range.
The other big star of the movie is Billy Bob Thornton who hasn’t been in a ton of movies recently, his last movie being the bomb The Informers in early 2009, then he had one movie in 2008 and generally one a year for years before that. He hasn’t had a significant hit since appearing in Michael Bay’s Armageddon in 1998, which doesn’t say much about his ability to draw audiences. The cast is rounded out by former “Lost” star Maggie Grace (who also appeared in the hit thriller Taken) and the super-hot Moon Bloodgood, who was one of the only good things about McG’s Terminator Salvation. The movie is directed by George Tillman Jr., who has had some movies that have done well among urban audiences such as the rap biopic Notorious.
The thing is that a movie like this is taking a fairly huge risk, because while a number of male-dominated movies have done well over Thanksgiving, many action movies have been dumped on this weekend to poor results. For instance, does anyone remember the movie Extreme Ops or Timeline? I think not. Sure, M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s End of Days are two of the biggest openers over the holiday, but they’re anomalies. Even movies from Oscar-winning directors like Ron Howard’s The Missing, Oliver Stone’s Alexander, and Steven Soderbergh’s Solaris weren’t able to open, making one wonder what it takes to get people into theaters.
CBS Films is a comparatively new studio who hasn’t exactly made waves this year with their two releases, Extraordinary Measures and The Back-up Plan starring Jennifer Lopez, and being able to open Faster over an often-difficult weekend like Thanksgiving would certainly help establish them as a true player.
Faster probably will bring in a decent amount of business in its first couple days but not really being a family film, it’s likely to tail off on the weekend and end up below Burlesque even if they’ll likely be going neck and neck all week. The question is whether the movie will have any sort of legs or just be a one-week wonder. The movie wasn’t screened too far in advance for critics, so we’ll have no idea if it’s good or bad until it opens.
Why I Should See It: It’s great to have Dwayne Johnson back doing action movies!
Love and Other Drugs (20th Century Fox)
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria, Josh Gad, Gabriel Macht
Directed by Ed Zwick (Glory, The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond, Defiance and more); Written by Ed Zwick, Charles Randolph, Marshall Herskovitz, Jamie Reidy
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Romance
Tagline: “Jake and Anne are Naked in This Movie!!!” (Well, that’s what it should be, right?)
Plot Summary: When Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) decides to get into the pharmaceutical business as a sales rep for Pfizer, he’s sent off to Ohio to push Zoloft to physicians using all of his wiles and charm, working with a seasoned partner (Oliver Platt). When he meets the free-spirited pill-popping Maggie (Anne Hathaway) who he quickly falls for while at the same time, Jamie starts to push a new drug that seems right up his alley… Viagra!
Review (Coming Soon!–hopefully)
While none of this week’s movies other than Disney’s Tangled seem like sure-things, there is one movie that doesn’t seem like it stands much of a chance in finding an audience and that’s this seemingly innocuous romantic comedy reuniting the co-stars of Ang Lee’s Oscar-nominated Brokeback Mountain and helmed by Ed Zwick, director of epics like Glory, The Last Samurai and Blood Diamond. It certainly seems like an odd combination of filmmaker and project, not just because it’s a comedy but also because it’s an R-rated comedy with raunchy humor set in the world of pharmaceuticals. Oh, yeah, and Anne Hathaway’s character has Parkinson’s.
Obviously, the big draw is that both Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal have had significant hits in their filmography, and at least Hathaway has done her fair share of comedies and romantic comedies that have done decently, including the recent Valentine’s Day, and of course, The Devil Wears Prada. The latter was a huge hit for Fox 2000, who brought Hathaway back to this in hopes of having another hit, but that movie gave Hathaway a significant amount of clout among women who tend to like her, and the younger ones were likely to have remembered Hathaway fondly from her debut in Disney’s The Princess Diaries just nine years ago. Gyllenhaal on the other hand never has done a movie like this but has jumped around to a lot of different types of movies including dramas (Brothers), war movies (Jarhead) and summer action movies (Prince of Persia), often including humor in all of them, so it was only time before he did a studio comedy. (We’ll try to pretend he didn’t star in Bubble Boy many years ago.) We already know that Hathaway and Gyllenhaal work well together from Brokeback Mountain, and their latest pairing is offering lots of nudity for both of them in hopes of making this a date night choice. Unfortunately, not many people go on dates over Thanksgiving weekend, which is all about family, so that selling point may be a lost cause.
Love and Other Drugs Is mainly being sold as a straight romantic comedy, which isn’t entirely true, and that’s partially where the problems lie, because it’s actually more like the recent Drew Barrymore comedy Going the Distance in that it’s an R-rated movie with lots of sex, nudity and raunchy humor. That might not be as big a surprise as the fact that it’s set in the world of pharmaceutical sales, but at least there’s a pretty solid supporting cast, including Oliver Platt and Hank Azaria (both wearing clothes), Gabriel Macht as the primary antagonist, the always lovable Judy Greer and Josh Gad from 21 as the comic relief. Director Ed Zwick is a fairly reputable filmmaker whose movies have brought many actors to the Oscars, but one has to imagine this sort of movie may not play up to his strengths since early reviews are mixed at best.
Other than Valentine’s Day, the romantic comedy seems to be on a downturn with a number of recent movies not doing particularly well, including Morning Glory, which was modeled after The Devil Wears Prada, barely making a dent, and Life As We Know It doing only slightly better. That’s not necessarily saying that the genre is dead, but it certainly seems like women are looking for other forms of movie entertainment and this week’s choices of Tangled and Burlesque (as well as “Harry Potter” for those who haven’t seen it) seems to have that demographic fairly well sewn up. There’s also the matter of Love and Other Drugs not being a family film and targeting a very specific audience of women who will more than likely be with family this weekend.
Why I Should See It: Lots of Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal nudity! Fun for all!
THE CHOSEN ONE:
The King’s Speech (The Weinstein Company)
Interview with Tom Hooper (Later This Week!)
Review (Coming Soon!)
Due to the shorter holiday weekend, I’m going to save my thoughts on this for my full review, available later this week, but mind you, this isn’t this week’s “Chosen One” without a good reason and it really is one of the most solid and entertaining films you’re bound to see this year.
Also in Limited Release:
Russian filmmaker Andrei Konchalovsky adapts Piotr Tchaikovsky’s beloved ballet into the musical The Nutcracker in 3D (Freestyle Releasing), starring Elle Fanning as nine-year-old Mary, whose Christmas is turned upside down when her Uncle Albert (Nathan Lane) brings home an enchanted nutcracker (voiced by Shirley Henderson) who takes her to a fantastic kingdom ruled by the evil Rat King (John Turturro). It opens in select cities on Wednesday and then expands wider on December 3.
This week’s Bollywood offering is Danish Aslam’s Break Ke Baad (Reliance BIG Pictures) about a boy and girl who have been friends since they were four years old, which ultimately turns into love when they turn 15, but can their love endure when she travels to Australia to study acting and they’re forced into a long-distance relationship? You’ll probably have to go see this in select cities when it opens on Friday to find out.
Opening on Friday in New York and L.A. is Javier Fuentes-León’s Peruvian ghost story Undertow (The Film Collaborative) about a love triangle between a fisherman, his bride and his love for another man, a painter who has been exiled from the town. When the latter drowns, his spirit is unable to pass on to the other side until he gets a proper burial.
Next week, December kicks off with a relatively light week with just one new movie in wide release, the martial arts epic The Warrior’s Way (Relativity Studios), and possibly, some of the other movies may expand wide like 127 Hours or The Nutcracker in 3D. Stay tuned!
Copyright 2010 Edward Douglas