It’s the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, the first holiday of the year where most schools are off on Monday as are government jobs, although not everyone gets the long weekend off. It’s a weekend where movies for families with kids tend to do decently as they look for new things to see, which means it’s completely illogical for this week’s offerings to be made up of two R-rated crime thrillers–one marking the return of one of the biggest action stars of the ’80s–another R-rated comedy and a scary horror movie probably not for kids. It’s going to be an interesting one because any of the new movies could break out or they could just split up the potential business allowing last week’s #1 Zero Dark Thirty to remain on top.
For whatever reason, January has proven itself to be a great time for horror movies, maybe because the younger audiences who like them are back in school and there isn’t much to do on Friday nights being winter and all. While this one looks like the typical Hollywood ghost movie, it’s actually the latest production from Guillermo del Toro, the respected fan-favorite director of films like Pan’s Labyrinth and comic book movies Hellboy and Blade II. In the past few years, he’s taken a number of Spanish filmmakers under his wing, which is the case here, except that he used his studio connections to make a movie that’s actually been given a great weekend slot with a solid marketing campaign. Oh, yeah, and have we mentioned that it stars Jessica Chastain, whose starring role in Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty has gotten a lot of attention the past few months, culminating in her award wins at the Critics Choice and Golden Globes this past week? In fact, Mama may end up doing well enough to compete with Zero Dark Thirty which could make Chastain a rare actress to star in the #1 and 2 movie of the weekend. She’s joined by Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, best known as Jamie Lannister on HBO’s hit show “Game of Thrones” and a star on the rise who can be seen in a couple of months opposite Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman in Oblivion.
Universal hasn’t had that much luck with the horror genre over the years which may be why we don’t see that many from them, although they did have the January hit The Unborn back when they were still distributing Rogue Pictures in 2009. The last high-profile GDT production was Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, which was produced by Miramax but then shelved when they shut down before being picked up by FilmDistrict and released in late August (never a good time) where it opened with $8.5 million and $24 million total.
Mama has a much stronger premise than other similar horror movies, which has allowed for some exceptionally creepy marketing that should appeal to fans of serious horror rather than the gory slasher type as exemplified by Texas Chainsaw 3D (which is almost out of the Top 10 anyway). It’s also a horror film that can have a stronger appeal towards woman who may not be as interested in some of the other movies in theaters, which should help Mama win the weekend.
Weekend Est.: $17 to 20 million (four-day weekend); Est. Total Gross: $45 million
Broken City (20th Century Fox)
One of the more interesting options this weekend is a suspense thriller that marks the first movie directed solo by Allen Hughes of the famed Hughes Brothers, whose last movie The Book of Eli, starring Denzel Washington, opened big with $38 million over the MLK Jr. weekend in 2010. This one has just as an impressive cast, pulling together three big name stars in Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones for the type of police thriller at least Wahlberg has done before.
Wahlberg is coming off a great 2012 with two enormous hits, first the crime thriller Contraband, which won the same holiday weekend last January, followed by the enormous summer comedy hit Ted, which grossed over $200 million. You would think that the people who saw him in these movies, particularly Contraband, would be out for this one, although this one does have a lot more direct competition. On the other hand, this is a strange time for Crowe, because he’s part of the cast of the hit musical Les Misérables that’s already crossed $100 million in less than a month, but other films like last year’s The Man with the Iron Fists barely made $15 million and his previous movie The Next Three Days only did slightly better. Crowe’s work with Ridley Scott has done significantly better, especially American Gangster with Denzel Washington, which has a similar look and feel as this one.
Broken City is more of a political thriller and those have had a tougher time finding audiences as seen by Crowe’s own State of Play, co-starring Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams, which opened with $14 million in an April release but quickly tapered off. Lately, 20th Century Fox hasn’t had much luck getting audiences into smaller movies like this one, as seen by their September and October bombs Won’t Back Down and Chasing Mavericks. Fortunately, what this movie has is the street cred brought to it by Wahlberg and Hughes that should make this a stronger option for young urban males over the long weekend rather than the new Schwarzenegger movie or Mama. While reviews may not be great, it probably won’t hurt the movie’s opening weekend and we expect it to end up somewhere in the mix of the Top 10, probably doing more business on Friday and Saturday than Sunday and Monday.
Weekend Est.: $12 to 14 million (four-day projection); Est. Total Gross: $33 million
Interview with Allen Hughes (Later this week)
The Last Stand (Lionsgate)
If there’s any question 2013 is going to be the year of the action movie, then fans of the genre only need to look towards the upcoming month where we have new movies from three of the biggest action stars of the ’80s and ’90s, beginning with the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Despite appearing in the two hit “Expendables” movies, Schwarzenegger has had tough times in the past couple of years following his run as California governor with a sex scandal, so this movie is an important one to show he still has his fans who want to see him making movies. Schwarzenegger is joined by Johnny Knoxville, whose “Jack-Ass” series has fared better than any of his attempts at acting other than the Dukes of Hazzard movie, but pairing him with Schwarzenegger doesn’t seem to add much to the mix and in fact might put some of Schwarzenegger’s older fans off from seeing it. On the other hand, the filmmakers are hoping younger guys, who may not have been around at the height of Arnie’s fame, might go see it for Knoxville. The duo is joined by a strange mix of actors including Forest Whitaker, Rodrigo Santoro (300), Jaimie Alexander (Thor), Genesis Rodriguez (Man on a Ledge) and character actors Peter Stormare and Luis Guzmån. Also of interest is that it’s the first English-language film from Korean filmmaker Kim Jee-Woon, whose horror movie A Tale of Two Sisters inspired the 2009 horror dud The Uninvited.
Although The Expendables and its sequel did very well, Schwarzenegger had a smaller role in those movies and his older male fans may be slightly dubious that the former Governor can carry a movie without Stallone or Statham (who ironically enough, have movies coming out over the next two weeks). Younger guys might not care as much for an old school action movie to pick this over one of the others, and though the movie could still break out if Lionsgate picks up its marketing by the weekend, right now it’s not looking like this will be a big breakout hit for Schwarzenegger and it could end up faltering by going up against so much competition for guys this weekend.
Weekend Est.: $11 to 13 million opening (4-day); Est. Total Gross: $30 million
Mini-Review (Later this week!)
Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company)
Having already grossed over $40 million since opening in select cities over Thanksgiving weekend, David O. Russell’s crowd-pleasing comedy is finally going wide this weekend, expanding into over 2,500 theaters, and it couldn’t be better timing with the number of awards it won last week at the Critics Choice Awards and Golden Globes. Jennifer Lawrence is obviously getting most of the focus, but it’s also a groundbreaking role for Bradley Cooper, and the fans of the two of them from The Hunger Games and the “Hangover” movies may make some wonder why it took so long for the Weinstein Company to go wide with it. Apparently they had a plan and having the extra time to market the movie and wait for the awards to come pouring in has really paid off as it broke into the Top 10 for the third time this past weekend with $5 million, the most it’s made in any given weekend. As they showed with The King’s Speech, the Weinstein Company have mastered the art of holding off their wide expansions until the best time and if Silver Linings Playbook hadn’t already played in some areas for almost two months, it could have an even bigger weekend in a fully wide release, but it’s still going to add at least 25% of its total gross over the long weekend and it should continue to do well in the coming weeks.
Weekend Est.: $10 to 12 million (4-day); Est. Total Gross: $70 to 75 million
This weekend last year wasn’t Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend (as things have been shifted by a week) but there were three new movies in wide release, including the return of Kate Beckinsale as Selene in Underworld Awakening (Screen Gems/Sony), which won the weekend with $25.3 million in 3,078 theaters, not great considering it opened lower than Beckinsale’s last “Underworld” movie without the ticket price bump from 3D. Produced by George Lucas, the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen who bravely fought during WWII was told in Red Tails (20th Century Fox), starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Bryan Cranston, Nate Parker, David Oyelowo and Ne-Yo, taking a strong second place with $18.8 million in just 2,500 theaters. Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Warner Bros.) starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, expanded nationwide into 2,630 theaters where it brought in an disappointing $10 million for fourth place. Steven Soderbergh’s action-thriller Haywire (Relativity Media), starring MMA fighter Gina Carano, Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas and Mike Fassbender, opened weak in sixth place with $8.4 million in 2,440 theaters.
This Week’s Updated Predictions (All below are four-day predictions including Monday) –
1. Mama (Universal) – $18.5 million N/A (Up .5 million)
2. Zero Dark Thirty (Sony) – $16.5 million -34%
3. Broken City (20th Century Fox) – $14.2 million N/A (up .7 million)
4. The Last Stand (Lionsgate) – $12.4 million N/A (Up .4 million)
5. Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company) – $11.0 million +212% (up .3 million)
6. A Haunted House (Open Road) – $10.3 million -43%
7. Gangster Squad (Warner Bros.) – $10 million -42%
8. Django Unchained (The Weinstein Company) – $7.3 million -33% (down .1 million)
9. Les Misérables (Universal) – $6.3 million -35% (down .4 million)
10. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (New Line/WB) – $5.7 million -38% (down .3 million)
There are surprisingly few limited releases this weekend which means we’re not picking a CHOSEN ONE, although rapper/actor Common stars in Sheldon Candis’ crime-thriller Luv (Indomina Releasing), playing ex-con Vincent who takes his 11-year-old nephew Woody (Michael Rainey Jr.) around Baltimore to show him the ropes about being a man rather than taking him to school. When Vincent’s bank loan is turned down, he must turn to his former boss Mr. Fish (Dennis Haysbert) who needs Vincent to prove his loyalty by conducting a drug deal for his financial help. Also starring Michael Kenneth Williams (“The Wire”), Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton and Meagan Good, it follows its debut at last year’s Sundance Film Festival with a release in select cities this Friday.
Brian Miller’s Officer Down (Anchor Bay Films) stars Stephen Dorff as Detective Callahan, a dirty cop shot during a drug bust who is given a second chance to clean up his life by a stranger who saves him. When that stranger turns out to be a vigilante looking to get revenge on a number of men responsible for sexual assaults, Callahan has to go against his savior. It opens in select cities.
Next week, the month of January comes to a close with three more new movies including another R-rated action movie in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (Paramount), starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, the raunchy star-studded comedy anthology Movie 43 (Relativity) and the return of Jason Statham as Parker (FilmDistrict).
Copyright 2012 Edward Douglas