The studios have been holding out on us, apparently. After several weeks of dribbling out a couple new films at a time, this weekend they inundate us with six films hitting wide release.
Weekend Forecast for October 12-14, 2007
By Reagen Sulewski
October 12, 2007
[tm:2565_]Michael Clayton[/tm] boasts the biggest star power of the weekend, featuring [bp:443_]George Clooney[/bp] in his socially-conscious-film-du-jour. He stars as the titular "fixer" for law firms who takes over on a defense side of a class-action lawsuit after the original lawyer has a mental breakdown and a crisis of conscience. As pressure mounts both in his professional and personal lives, Clayton finds his world view and purpose in life challenged, with billions of dollars and possibly his life at stake.
Clayton looks like nothing so much as a more cynical version of a Grisham legal thriller (if you can imagine such a thing), with battles of wills and back-room power plays fueling high-stakes decisions. Director Tony Gilroy is attempting to do for this genre what he did for spy thrillers as the writer of the Bourne movies – updating them for today's savvy audiences and providing a modern twist on old templates.
In addition to Clooney, the film also features Tom Wilkinson, Sydney Pollack and Tilda Swinton, making it three Oscar winners in the cast and a woman who it's hard to believe hasn't been nominated for one yet. In terms of adding to the box office of the film, these three don't add that much, though they do immeasurable good for its credibility. If there is an effect from them, it's more likely to be seen in later weeks.
For the opening weekend, it's pretty much all on Clooney, and in limited release he's done well. The film earned just under three-quarters of a million on only 15 screens, which obviously merited its expansion to 2,500+ screens this weekend. With this, it should be able to earn about $15 million and a narrow win for the weekend.
It faces some pretty direct competition from [tm:3372_]We Own the Night[/tm], a crime thriller that's capitalizing pretty heavily on last year's success of The Departed. [bp:1210_]Mark Wahlberg[/bp] and [bp:190_]Joaquin Phoenix[/bp] star as an unlikely pair of brothers, the first a cop, the second a nightclub owner flirting with the Russian Mafia. When those criminal dealings run him afoul of his brother and their father, the deputy chief of police (Robert Duvall), Phoenix has to pick sides, putting himself in mortal danger for the sake of family pride.
The film is written and directed by James Gray, who last brought a film to the screen in 2000 with The Yards, which was also a gritty crime drama starring Wahlberg and Phoenix. Wahlberg and Phoenix have come a long way since that film, both garnering Oscar nominations and opening films to over $20 million. Night is a film that's nominally in both of their wheelhouses, yet it doesn't really inspire that much excitement. This feels like a bit of a retread of a lot of other cop films, and its mediocre support from critics doesn't add a lot to its potential. However, just based on its cast and setting, it should be able to bring in about $14 million on a 2,300 screen slate this weekend.
The unstoppable juggernaut that is Tyler Perry returns to the big screen this weekend with an adaptation of another one of his plays, Why Did I Get Married? In addition to Perry (not playing his Madea characters for a change), the film also stars Janet Jackson, Michael Jai White and a moderately deep cast full of actors you'd probably recognize from various TV shows.
A study of modern black relationships, it follows four couples on a mountain retreat. When one couple has an infidelity revealed, it sparks a discussion of every couple's marriage, leading to surprising revelations.
The Tyler Perry brand has proven to be one of the most profitable in Hollywood in recent years, with Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Madea's Family Reunion opening to shockingly large amounts, the latter over $30 million. Last year's Daddy's Little Girls showed that it might be running out of steam, with just a $13 million opening weekend, though it, like this one, was not a Madea movie. That, for some reason, appears to be the big draw for his movies (fat suits, go figure), and just "a relationship movie" will probably give about the same result as with Daddy's Little Girls. Look for a weekend of about $11 million here.
[tm:2991_]Elizabeth: The Golden Age[/tm] isn't your typical sequel. For one thing, it doesn't feature explosions (not really, anyway) or animated creatures. The film it's a sequel to wasn't even a tremendous hit. However, it did earn a whole mess of Oscars, and Universal may be hoping for a Godfather II situation.
The Golden Age continues the story of Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen, the 16th century English monarch who led England into being a world power. During the period covered in this film, the Spanish are attempting to bring England back into the Catholic fold, and launched the Armada to make it so. Amidst this threat and the political wrangling that accompanied it, Elizabeth is tempted by the stories of explorer Sir Walter Raleigh.
[bp:165_]Cate Blanchett[/bp] returns as Elizabeth, in the role that earned her her first Oscar nomination, along with Geoffrey Rush as Walsingham. Among the additions to the cast are [bp:755_]Clive Owen[/bp] as Raleigh and Samantha Morton as Mary Stuart, making it a pretty strong group for returning director Shekhar Kapur. However, reviews have not been kind to Kapur, savaging him for turning away from the intrigue of the first film for costume drama. The original Elizabeth was a slow starter, and without the strong critical support it received, this sequel could find itself hitting the wall quickly. Opening in 1,951 venues, it should open to about $7 million.
[tm:1918_]Across the Universe[/tm] finally gets a national release after four weeks in a limited run that's earned it $8 million. The Julie Taymor musical about the turbulent 60s set to Beatles music has received mixed praise, with critics noting its lavish visual style but also knocking it for being self-indulgent and having a rather flimsy narrative. Sony is obviously hoping this film catches on like Moulin Rouge!, but Evan Rachel Wood is no [bp:173_]Nicole Kidman[/bp], and this is a lot stranger film than that one. With an expansion to around 1,000 screens, it should earn about $3 million this frame.
Rounding out the list of new wide films is [tm:3460_]The Final Season[/tm], though odds are this column is the first (and last?) time you've heard of the film. Starring Sean Astin and Powers Booth, it tells the story of a small Iowa high school baseball team which for years has beaten teams from towns hundreds of times its size. When it is threatened with amalgamation into another school and its legendary coach fired, the players rally for one final run at a state championship.
A big obstacle in the path of this film is its distributor, The Yari Film Group. One of the new kids on the block, it's had difficulty taking its films to the big time, managing one success last fall with The Illusionist. Sean Astin is no Ed Norton, and expectations have to be small for this fairly clichéd sports film. Expect no more than $2 million for its debut.
[tm:3553_]The Game Plan[/tm] managed a second weekend in first place by holding onto over 70% of its first-weekend business. This, I suppose, means that The Rock is a credible family film guy now. With no other family films of note in the mix, there's no reason that The Game Plan can't follow that up with another strong holdover. A third weekend topping the box office is probably too much to ask for, but double digits are almost certain. Give it $11 million, moving it to about $60 million total.
It beat out [tm:1311_]The Heartbreak Kid[/tm], which fell well below recent standards for [bp:122_]Ben Stiller[/bp] comedies with just $14 million. The attempt by the Farrelly brothers to recapture the magic of There's Something About Mary failed, although it's by no means a disaster - it's just a disappointment. Barring a stunning turnaround, this should top out at around $55 million total.
The only other returning film that will earn over $5 million this weekend is [tm:1950_]The Kingdom[/tm], which faces stiff competition from Michael Clayton and We Own the Night (though really, at this point, that could knock about $1 million off its total at most). The Middle East terrorism thriller has not connected to any great degree with audiences, and it as well is looking at a final total of around $55-60 million.