Blame the false start, blame the cool weather, and if you're really desperate, blame the product (note: not an effective target for Hollywood executives), but this summer movie season just hasn't felt very summery so far. This weekend doesn't do much to change that, with a couple of films featuring big stars that should do okay at the box office – but doing okay isn't what summer is about.
Weekend Forecast for June 12-14, 2009
By Reagen Sulewski
June 12, 2009
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 is a remake of a 1974 caper film starring Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw, with Matthau playing a detective trying to stop a daring hostage taking on the New York City subway system. This version, directed by Tony Scott, has Denzel Washington in the lead good-guy role, but as a simple subway dispatcher, pressed into service to foil a gang led by John Travolta from doing the same thing.
It's a bit more of an everyman-role than Denzel has played recently, getting away from his violent gangster and corrupt/non-corrupt cops roles of late, although it's not so fundamentally different in the "man out of time" sense. It is, however, a lot like the villain roles that Travolta has taken over the past decade or so, although I don't think he adds much over Washington.
While Denzel has a long string of hits, the perhaps surprising attraction here is Tony Scott, who with the exception of Domino, has been a model of consistent hit-making in the action-thriller genre. His films are by no means high art, but he's found that formula to get audiences what they want. This will be his fourth film with Denzel as a lead, dating back to 1996's Crimson Tide, and all signs point to this being his fourth hit with him (okay, I'm being generous with Deja Vu's $60 million). There's nothing that looks outstanding here, but it'll play as a solid time diversion, with an opening weekend of about $27 million.
Hands up, anyone that's actually looked forward to a live action Eddie Murphy movie in the last decade. It's tough to say that you did, isn't it? I get in just under the wire, since Bowfinger is just slightly less than ten years old, but the point stands (and no, I'm not counting Dreamgirls). Since then, and intermittently before that, Murphy has almost entirely become a purveyor of rather intolerable, even by its own standards, kiddie fare. Imagine That is his latest in that vein, and although it looks less bad than most, that's a relative statement.
Murphy plays a harried executive and single father to a daughter whose imaginary world seems to be able to predict things in the financial world. As he uses this advice to further his career, others try to figure out his sudden turn around/erratic behavior, while he also grows closer to his daughter. Essentially the Simpsons episode where Lisa proves to be an expert football handicapper, but with magic, and, uh, without the sharp humor, Imagine That makes no bones about being anything but a film for the kiddies, produced by Nickelodeon and all. By now, nobody's really expecting anything out of the guy who once brought us Raw, so either you've got eight-year-olds that want to see this, or you're required by law somehow to see it. In that case, I pity you. However, for now, it should bring in about $15 million this opening weekend.
That leaves a solid chance for the Hangover to hold on to the top spot for a second straight weekend. The R-rated comedy was a mild surprise as the winner of last week's box office, just edging out Up's second weekend with $45 million and change. These kinds of comedies are perfect examples of films that can benefit from strong word-of-mouth, as in the case of Knocked Up, Old School, or even reaching back a ways, There's Something About Mary. These are extreme examples to be sure, but it's not out of the realm of possibilities. For now, I'd look at it to just miss out on a second weekend at the top with $25 million.
Let's not forget about Up in its third weekend as well, which had the strongest second weekend for a Pixar film since The Incredibles. Should Pelham falter (possible) or The Hangover's legs not show up (less likely), Up could make a rare return to the top spot after releasing it. At any rate, it gets another $25 million for the weekend as well.
Anyone counting on a resurgence of Land of the Lost should probably sit down – it ain't happening. The TV adaptation starring Will Ferrell, Danny McBride, Anna Friel and a bunch of special effects was a big old bomb, opening at just under $19 million. Supposed hits that disappoint on opening weekend basically never recover, and with the positively blah word-of-mouth and open contempt for it by its star, that's several strikes against it. Watch for just $8 million for it this weekend.
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is possibly odd movie out in this crowded family marketplace (that's three PG films plus Land of the Lost in the top six), although it's not quite the disaster that might have been evident from its opening weekend. It'll earn about $8 million this weekend on the way to a $150 million total, which is still well shy of the first film's final figure of $250 million.
Star Trek keeps chugging along and should see another $5 million this weekend, and has already passed the plummeting Terminator Salvation, which is looking like a $125 million film at this point. And maybe in this Year Without Summer (Box Office), that's kind of a hit. Of course, they still gotta pay those bills.