A rare spring blockbuster ruled the roost last weekend, but we're back to the usual dogfight amongst a varied group of contenders for the box office crown. There'll be no records set, except possibly for week-to-week drops.
Weekend Forecast for March 13-15, 2009
By Reagen Sulewski
March 13, 2009
The strongest looking film for this weekend is a Disney product, Race to Witch Mountain. A remake of the minor classic Escape to Witch Mountain, it stars Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock, now and forever) as a Las Vegas cabbie pressed into service to protect two alien children. They're trying to reach their spaceship in order to stop an invasion, while being pursued by a number of federal entities, which probably want to slice them up, as all federal agencies are wont to do.
Of course the two children, played by Annasophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig, aren't entirely defenseless, with various powers as dictated by the convenience of the plot and how cool they might look on the screen. It's sort of like Men in Black for the preteen set.
After an abortive start to his action hero career, Johnson has seen more recent success come from wedding himself to the Disney machine, with the otherwise unremarkable The Game Plan bringing in $90 million. Family films seem to be an ideal way to use his non-threatening strength and charisma, as kids seem to have a natural affinity towards him, and he's a reassuring presence for adults forced to see these kinds of films. This edition of Witch Mountain seems to be laden with a healthy amount of humor, PG-rated action, and effects strong enough to fool 12-year-olds. I see this opening in the area of $27 million and leading the way for the weekend.
Another remake out this week, although one that isn't competing with Witch Mountain in the slightest, is Last House on the Left. The revenge fantasy, redone as a gorno horror film by Greek filmmaker Dennis Iliadis, follows a group of criminals who hide out at a vacation home after a brutal crime spree. Unknowingly, they've chosen the home of the parents of one of their victims, who didn't take the death of their daughter all that well. What follows is their sadistic and bloody revenge against those criminals, then, roll credits.
Produced by Wes Craven, who directed the 1972 original, this is a film that seeks to disturb and almost certainly will – the question is whether it has any appeal beyond that. Its stars are Tony Goldwyn and Monica Potter, with frequent TV baddie Garret Dillahunt as the villain of the piece, and none of those names really drive ticket sales. Those aren't your stars of the typical teen slasher film, and there are no elaborate death traps or some supernatural evil.
In a way, it's probably truer to its own convictions that a lot of the horror films have come a long in the last while, but that probably makes it self-limiting in terms of its audience, kind of like The Hills Have Eyes. Opening on about 2,400 screens, The Last House on the Left should come in with about $13 million.
Seemingly taking its premise from a J. Geils Band song, Miss March is our third new film of the week. Starring Zach Cregger and Trevor Moore of the IFC Channel's show The Whitest Kids U Know, the film centers around a man who wakes up from a years-long coma to find out that his high-school sweetheart has become a Playboy centrefold. In an attempt to win her back, he and his friend take a wacky cross-country road trip to the Playboy mansion.
Essentially an excuse for the two to be as crude as possible, Miss March is probably a couple years too late, coming on the tail end of the wacky college R-rated comedy boom. Take the failure of Fired Up, for example, and although these two are arguably better known, it's not by much. Opening on 1,700 screens, Miss March should end up with about $5 million for its debut.
Let me let you in on something that is in no way shocking; Watchmen is going to be front-loaded. Anyone who expected legs on the movie version of the Alan Moore graphic novel was an optimist at best and deluded at worst. Between the inaccessibility of the material to non-comic fans and the rabidity of its hardcore supporters, it was always a one-weekend wonder in the making. Just how wondrous that would be was the real question, and the $55 million it started with represents probably as good a job as Warner Brothers could have been done with cards they were dealt.
The clock is already ticking on its lifespan, though, if you'll pardon the pun. Weekday totals are already under $3 million from a Sunday figure of $12 million and are showing no sign of righting. Most damningly, its Friday figure, even discounting midnight previews, was higher than its Saturday, which is basically the Bat Signal for films that are looking to crash in their second weekend. Staying over $20 million should probably be looked as a win in this environment. I think it'll do it, but just barely.
Little else in the category of returning films is worth noting. Slumdog Millionaire finally had its first fall-off of significance, losing about 40% of its take to fall to $7 million. While it's difficult to imagine that there was some crossover of Watchmen that caused that, I'll give it the benefit of the doubt that it'll recover for about a $5 million weekend.
One of the reasons I don't buy competition in that case is Taken, which is now in its remarkable sixth week in the top five. This should be number seven, as I expect it to outlast Madea Goes to Jail, though both should end up in that same $5 million bracket. Between Taken and Paul Blart, it's truly been a banner winter for old-school legs.