With the shock of Memorial Day Weekend behind us, Hollywood might just be hoping that we all just forget about the month of May and go back to the scientific definition of summer, as starting in late June. "Summer movie season? No, that hasn't started yet..."
Weekend Forecast for May 29-31, 2009
By Reagen Sulewski
May 29, 2009
Luckily, one of the safest bets in moviedom is on deck in the latest film from Pixar, Up. The third straight Pixar film to debut in summer as opposed to the fall, Up represents one of the studio's strangest sells to date. The film follows a grumpy septuagenarian named Carl as he lifts his house off its foundations with helium balloons and goes off in search of adventure. Hey, Pixar likes to think outside the box, okay?
And, in fairness, this is a studio that's made hits out of a gourmet-cook rat and a trash-collecting robot. They go out on a limb, but the vast majority of the time, that limb proves to be much sturdier than people have expected. At this point, they've earned our trust.
Strangeness of the overall concept aside, Up does actually have a fair bit going for it. The animation is spectacular as usual, with gorgeous settings, the adventure plot seems decently entertaining, and several supporting characters look like they're scene stealers, in particular, Dug the dog, and that big tropical bird thing.
What's more, this is the first Pixar film to be offered in 3-D, and although I'm still not convinced of the idea that this is a lasting trend, 3-D sells a lot of one-and-a-half-times priced tickets right now, and "Pixar + 3-D" kind of screams "event" to me. Five out of the last six Pixar films have opened in the $60-70 million mark, but I expect Up to push past this barrier with this gimmick, winning the traditionally slow post-Memorial Day weekend with $72 million.
Following behind it this weekend is Drag Me to Hell, which represents a return to the horror genre by one of its masters, Sam Raimi. After entering the film business with the Evil Dead series, a masterpiece of low budget horror filmmaking, Raimi has largely stayed away from the genre since then.
Drag Me to Hell seems almost quaint in some respects, or perhaps just a throwback, centering around a young woman placed under a curse by a gypsy woman. After three days of torment, it'll send her to hell for eternity, unless she can somehow counteract it.
Alison Lohman stars as the cursed woman, with other notables in the cast being Justin Long and David Paymer, but really, Raimi is the star here. The man can make a camera dance, and coming back to horror after being given a budget might get something special out of him. One concern might be the PG-13 rating, which horror fans could turn their noses up at, but there is potential to tremendously expand the available audience for it. Raimi's horror was always known for being more lighthearted and humorous than is typical, so that PG-13 might actually be ideal. It all adds up to a pretty strong result for the weekend, more than people might expect for a shlocky horror film, of about $19 million.
Last week's two big Memorial Day openers, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian and Terminator Salvation, now have to fight for scraps after a worst-case-scenario weekend. Their respective three-day totals of $54 and $42 million could easily have been double or more – instead we have two summer tentpoles more or less down for the count. Here's where things get worse: there's no word-of-mouth coming to save them, and Up is about to cut the legs out from underneath Night at the Museum. Give the Ben Stiller sequel $24 million, and Terminator $17 million this weekend.
Meanwhile, Star Trek is about to hit $200 million based on some truly remarkable legs, at least for this day and age. Now officially the highest grossing film of 2009 (for the time being), this has been the only real bright spot of Summer 2009 so far. Add another $12 million to its coffers, on the way to what looks like a $240 million total.
Angels & Demons, meanwhile, seems set for about $125 million, barely half of the total of The Da Vinci Code. While worldwide box office is strong for the Tom Hanks/Ron Howard collaboration, this still ends up as a bit of a misjudgement on Sony's part, as well as a bit of indictment of the size and fidelity of Dan Brown's fanbase. Look for just $10 million this weekend.
With Dance Flick blessedly ignorable at a $10 million opening, let's move on to the last significant weekend for Wolverine, which should bring in $4 million. With a final total of around $180 million looking likely, things aren't quite as bad for it as it might have looked after weekend #2. However, it's another case of franchise shrink for 2009, a phenomenon that has to be sending chills up the spines of idea-less executives everywhere. Can the next step be originality? Only time will tell. And don't hold your breath.