With the two big films of Summer 2009 released so far looking to be just medium-sized hits, Hollywood is looking for something to be the first truly huge film of the year. If they want it to happen this weekend, they'd best keep on walking.
Weekend Forecast for May 15-17, 2009
By Reagen Sulewski
May 14, 2009
Angels & Demons is the follow-up/prequel to the 2006 adaptation of the Dan Brown mega-bestseller The Da Vinci Code, which sees the return of symbologist Robert Langdon and his made-up profession, using his skills to crack religious mysteries, specifically in this case, that threaten the Catholic Church.
Langdon is called in when a physicist at the CERN laboratory in Switzerland is found murdered, with the mark of the Illuminati, a sooper-sekrit anti-Christian society, burned into his chest. It's then revealed that members of this group have stolen a vial of anti-matter from the facility and are planning to use it to destroy the Vatican with a massive explosion. If that wasn't enough drama, Vatican Cardinals are in the midst of picking a new Pope.
Tom Hanks returns for his role as Langdon, joined by Ewan McGregor as an influential member of the Papal Conclave, Stellan Skarsgard as the head of the Swiss Guards and a whole host of actors who I'm sure are quite famous in Europe, but that you've never heard of. Ron Howard also returns to direct.
While The Da Vinci Code set all the sales records, Brown fans often claim that Angels & Demons is the better book (but then: they read Dan Brown books). And even those fans poorly received the Da Vinci Code adaptation, although it put up a gaudy $77 million opening weekend on the way to a $217 million final figure. Unfortunately for Hanks, Howard and Brown, the bloom may be off the rose, as the combination of the poor quality of that film, plus Angels & Demons' lesser popularity, could sink Angels & Demons, relatively.
We may be looking at a Prince Caspian situation, where the fandom really existed only in one book, and any attempts to graft that popularity onto other works from the author aren't going to take. In that example, the second Narnia film earned just a little over half of the first. I don't expect that bad a result, but initially we should see a drastic shrinking of the opening weekend, to around $47 million. In any case, we'll get to see just how much mojo Tom Hanks has anymore. At least he doesn't have that stupid hair.
This leaves open the possibility that Star Trek could repeat at the top spot of the box office. Its $75 million opening seemed to split the difference between some of those that felt Star Trek was ready to join the realm of comic book films and those that felt it needed a bit more time to recover from the last disastrous ten years for the franchise. In the end, both were kind of right.
Weekday numbers are never exacting as far as predicting weekend holdovers, but can often act as a useful barometer. In Star Trek's case, it's clear skies ahead, with its Monday-to-Thursday figures running ahead of the much higher opening Iron Man, which you'll remember wasn't too shabby in the legs department itself. With a bit of a lull out there, Star Trek might be primed to clean up for another weekend, building on spectacular word-of-mouth. Based on the number I'm predicting for Angels & Demons, though, it should fall just a tad short, with $45 million, still an outstanding blockbuster performance in this day.
Help is not coming for Wolverine, though, which dropped a near unfathomable 70% from its opening weekend. Like Mick Jagger without the Stones, the first solo effort from the X-Men crew was intriguing but ultimately reminded people why the whole is better than its parts. At this point, Wolverine might hit $170 million, but that's not a sure thing. Give it $11 million for its third frame.
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past hung on reasonably well in the absence of any romantic comedy competition, earning $10 million in its second weekend. We're looking at the standard $65-80 million final total here, and as odious as these films of McConaughey's tend to be, they remain one of the most consistent bets outside of cheap horror.
Next week sees the potential arrival of two of the summer's biggest hits, so many, many screens will be going away from some of the lesser lights of the box office. All ashore that's going ashore!