Ever since 1996, when Twister blew the doors off what was expected out of pre-Memorial Day box office, the first week of May has signaled the beginning of the Summer Movie Season (cue heavenly chorus). In most of the last few years, we've started off with a doozy of a blockbuster, and this year is no different.
Weekend Forecast for May 2-4, 2008
By Reagen Sulewski
May 2, 2008
Iron Man gets the honor this year of starting off summer (though that designation seems a bit comical where I am, the snow having finished melting just yesterday), giving us the big, noisy comic book movie that just seems right in this position by now. He's not an A-List character like Spider-Man or Superman, but the movie is certainly doing an excellent job of selling him like one, anchored around a potentially career-making performance in the lead role by Robert Downey Jr.
Downey stars as Tony Stark, billionaire playboy and weapons maven, who after being gravely injured and held hostage, develops a high-tech suit of armor to escape his captors and generally fight evil. There's really no other response, when you think about it. Besides, who wouldn't want to be a one-man army? Downey is, as I've mentioned before, pretty much perfect casting for the role, which caters to his natural tendencies to be a charming prick with more issues than National Geographic.
Moreover, he has fun with being an international superhero, or at least the movie does. Director Jon Favreau and the film's four writers seem to have captured a great mix of tones, blending action and humor. There's a nice casual mayhem evident throughout, which is going to attract a lot of moviegoers who aren't entirely familiar with the character, which it's going to have to, in order to be a hit.
All in all, Universal's done a masterful job of marketing the film, putting out there as a great roller coaster ride to start the season. Opening on over 4,000 screens, it should dominate the weekend, with a massive $88 million.
Unusual for this position in the schedule, we actually have another film opening against it in an attempt at counter-programming. That film, Made of Honor, is yet another attempt to emasculate Patrick Dempsey. In it, he plays a serial womanizer who realizes, perhaps too late, that his ten-year platonic friend, Michelle Monaghan, is actually the woman he wants. Too late, because she's engaged to a European fiancée (Kevin McKidd, who, if his stint on Rome taught us anything, is not to be trifled with) and she's asked him to be his maid of honor, which is about as firmly in the Friend Zone as one can be without being a eunuch.
So basically, it's My Best Friend's Wedding with the genders reversed and without the sassy gay friend, which probably would butch up the film at this rate. But, we can pretty much write off any men going to this film this weekend and really, a lot of women too. On the other hand, it's great for those of us with terminal cases of '80s nostalgia that Patrick Dempsey can be viable as a lead in a film again, which is mostly due to his career revival from Grey's Anatomy. Of course, you can take this idea too far, like the comparisons I've seen to George Clooney recently...just, no. But for this weekend at least, he'll be a top romantic leading man. Give Made of Honor $13 million for a respectable second place.
A trio of returning comedies falls in behind these two films, starting with last week's champion, Baby Mama. Tina Fey's first major role since her TV series 30 Rock took off, it earned $17 million last week, as a bit of a surprise champion. A sort of middle ground between Knocked Up and Juno in the pregnancy comedy scale, it also brought in a mix of those two audiences. That audience isn't as likely to stick around as it was for either of those two films, however, as Baby Mama proved to be thoroughly mediocre. My guess is that a lot of people expected the film to be written by Fey, when it actually came from the director, Michael McCullers, who you've almost certainly never heard of unless you're related to him. This looks set for a steep drop to around $9 million this weekend.
Winning the most improved award last week was Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, which roughly tripled the opening weekend of the stoner duo's first film with $15 million. This was another example of how much strong DVD sales can get you, and the reminder that films that looked like flops initially can have a long reach. I don't expect legs here either, as the coltishness of the film's audience undoubtedly led to some front-loading. Still, look for about $8 million here.
Then we have Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which was actually fourth last weekend, but should easily pass the faltering The Forbidden Kingdom this week With $11 million, it moved to about $40 million in total box office, a pretty strong showing for a film that stars That Dude From That Show, He Was In Those Movies, You Know... That Guy. OK, so maybe that's being a touch hard on Jason Segel, but he's no Seth Rogen at this point, though considering he wrote this film himself, he could eventually be. Give this about $7 million in its third weekend.
Further down the list, we'll see Jackie Chan and Jet Li's martial arts collaboration come in with around $5 million, and then a bunch of films that are losing screens like snakes shedding skin. It's time for the big boys to roll out into theaters, and films that don't earn their keeps are ripe for the plucking. If you really need to see one of the films in the bottom half of the top ten, do it quick.