Weekend Forecast for February 1-3, 2008
By Reagen Sulewski
February 1, 2008

Oops. She did it again.

Against one of the strongest and potentially most historic Super Bowl match-ups in history, Hollywood is basically crying uncle and resorting to stunts.

Oh, there are at least three new films in wide release for you this weekend, depending on where you are, and at least two of them have counter-programming potential, but the likely champ for the weekend is a one-week-only concert film aimed at the one demographic guaranteed not to care about football – pre-teen girls.

Hannah Montana, in case you've been in a coma for the past two years, is the hottest thing in inoffensively bland pop music these days, something akin to the 12-year-old's Springsteen, via her Disney Channel show. Montana is actually Miley Cyrus, the offspring of Billy Ray Cyrus, who we all thought we'd gotten rid of – and we sort of did, but we forgot to read the fine print.

Concert tickets for her shows have reached the "You've got to know a guy, then kill him for them" stage, so to prevent further carnage, this one-week run of one of her concerts is coming to theaters. It features her in both her Montana and Cyrus personae, and as such is titled "Best of Both Worlds", which really should have gone by a couple more focus groups. Somewhere, Randall from Clerks is laughing his ass off.

Although it opens in just 683 theaters, it's a prime candidate to win the weekend, both because of the weakness of what's out there and the rabidity of its fan base. Just try and stand between a pre-teen girl and tickets to this, I dare you. I look for a weekend figure of about $21 million, though much of it front-loaded to Friday.

On the heels of One Missed Call is yet another remake of an Asian horror film, this one entitled The Eye, and starring Jessica Alba. Alba plays a blind violinist who receives eye transplants, which have the unfortunate side effect of letting her see into the spirit world. The spirit world isn't too happy about this, and from the frightening visions she receives, she must determine exactly what they're up to and what they want with her before it's too late.

As always, there's a mystery and secrets and things that should have stayed silent yada yada yada, but the plot is seldom what people are looking for a movie like this. The original Hong Kong film's wasn't too bad as these go, but it's beside the point, which is how scary is this film? The original had its moments (as directed by the semi-legendary Pang Brothers), but the American adaptations are almost always a disappointment in comparison, with the possible exception of The Ring.

I've seen very little in the way of promotion for The Eye and it hasn't been released to critics, which does scream "dog", though Alba does have her fans still. One Missed Call was a surprise hit earlier this month, though that had much better promotion. And of course, any horror film can break out. However, I'm predicting only about $8 million for this one.

With Over Her Dead Body, Eva Longoria (sorry, Eva Longoria Parker) could have picked a better film for her first big lead role. Or maybe she couldn't - I don't know what scripts she gets – but either way, it's not the kind of film that is the foundation for a long and prosperous movie career is built on. In it, she plays the deceased fiancee of Paul Rudd, and comes back to haunt his new girlfriend, a psychic who was hired to contact her in the afterlife.

And really, who hasn't had this happen to them? But honestly, I thought premises this dumb went out in the '80s, along with body swap movies and movies where guys infiltrate the women's locker-room or vice versa (which, coincidentally, was the worst film to come from the body-switching oeuvre).

This is another film with counter-programming potential, seeing as how no self-respecting guy would step within 50 feet of a theater playing this movie, especially on this weekend, but honestly, women shouldn't either. You really have to be pretty hurting for a Desperate Housewives fix to go see this one. I look for just $5 million for it this weekend.

The fourth new wide release film is Strange Wilderness, the latest from Adam Sandler's production company, Happy Madison. Starring Steve Zahn, Jonah Hill, Justin Long and Ashley Scott, among others, it follows the crew of an offbeat wildlife show that is about to be canceled until they hit on the idea of just making up their footage, including things like hunting for Bigfoot.

Firmly in the stoner comedy arena, it's looking very similar to this same company's Grandma's Boy from two years ago, which has its defenders, but only after the fact. It's destined to be a frat house classic, but its theatrical run will be short, especially given that its only being released in about 1,200 theaters. Look for just $4 million for it this weekend.

There are a lot of people out there who made my List last weekend by propelling Meet the Spartans to the top of the box office. I know it's a week figure for a number one film, just $18.5 million, but that's completely not the point. More people saw this movie last weekend than any other, and that's just sad. Completely recycled and watered-down jokes are now apparently just what audiences are looking for, and we're doomed to get yet another installment of these next year. Hell, monthly might not be out of the question, with all the time they're taking on writing the scripts. With any luck, it drops to about $8 million this weekend, but my confidence in you people is shot.

Rambo, the second place finisher by a hair - and the film that should have won the weekend - certainly isn't Shakespeare, although perhaps it is by comparison. It was at least a film that had a point, even if it was just that explosions are cool. Following up Rocky Balboa, it's the second film in a row of Stallone's that has perhaps not exactly revived a franchise (I don't expect Rocky VII), but at least showed that he's still got something to show on the screen. I think the well is pretty much dry at this point for him, but it's a decent way for him to go out if it is. It's running right into the demo that would stay home for the Super Bowl, so its Sunday number should be next to nothing, but I still look for $9 million for it this weekend.

The box office last weekend didn't have a high peak, but it did go fairly deep, with movies all the way down to seventh place still figuring in double digits. Although Juno was that seventh place film, it should lead the pack of these middle-tier films, thanks to its Oscar nominations, and the fantastic word-of-mouth it's carried throughout its run. Give it another $8 million this weekend, as it screams past the $100 million plateau.

Of the rest, 27 Dresses should fare the best, with its female heavy audience, though there are plenty of films out there to satisfy it. In general, though, returning films have the advantage, and I'll give it $7 million in its third weekend.

The only expansion of the weekend likely to make an impact is There Will Be Blood's near doubling of its screens to around 1,500, finally taking it to just about everywhere. It earned close to $5 million last weekend in what was its first major exposure to audiences, and had the third highest per screen average of the week for wide releases. It's a difficult and off-putting (although rewarding, if you're into that kind of thing) film and I don't see it taking off, though the Oscar nominations should buoy it through at least the next month. I'll give it about $6 million this weekend.