Somehow, we're halfway through the year and summer movie season. Part of why it might not feel that way is due to so many blockbusters underwhelming in terms of box office – but that tide seems to have finally broken with Transformers, even if the film itself isn't any good. Following two solid but not spectacular releases for the July 4th weekend, we're back to the middle tier of films for this weekend's openers.
By Reagen Sulewski
July 10, 2009
Three years ago, Sacha Baron Cohen took the world pretty much by storm with Borat, his outrageous pseudo-documentary about bigotry. Then a little-known comic outside of the UK, Cohen's creation shocked people with its frankness and deliberate offensiveness, but also struck a nerve, opening to $26 million on just 837 screens, setting a modern record of least number of screens for a #1 film (later passed by a Hannah Montana concert film, for which revenge has to come eventually, I'm sure of it).
He's now back with Brüno, his third creation from Da Ali G Show, a hyper-flamboyant Austrian homosexual fashionista. As with Borat, Cohen took his character on a tour to confront a mixture of regular people, professionals and public figures, confronting, prodding and provoking to get a reaction. Given that much of his prodding surrounds his character's extreme homosexuality, it's sort of astonishing that he wasn't killed or harmed in some way. Weird foreigners are one thing to Americans, but cross the wrong person with a gay stereotype... It's more risk to life and limb than any man married to Isla Fisher should take.
There's no catching movie goers by surprise this time, but the question will be how well they'll respond to this character versus Borat. I wouldn't be surprised if a good portion of Cohen's frat boy audience won't miss the joke and get turned off by the content. I hope to be proved wrong, but it's a strong possibility. Then again, the overwhelming hilarity of the movie's gags – he's upped the provocative factor significantly - might be enough to get people past those concerns. Opening on a still modest 2,755 theatres, Brüno should manage a sturdy $36 million this weekend, taking top spot (oh, grow up).
Feeding the teen market this weekend is I Love You, Beth Cooper, an adaptation of the acclaimed youth novel by Larry Doyle. Relative newcomer Paul Rust plays a hopelessly geeky young man who picks his valedictory speech to profess his love for the most popular girl in school (Hayden Panettiere). Rather than suffering eternal humiliation, he's instead visited by her that very night, as she decides to take him up on his declaration and show him the time of his life.
It's a nice little story of wish-fulfillment and high school class barrier breaking that really could never ever happen, but hey, that's what films are for, right? Directed by Chris Columbus, he of Home Alone and late-period John Hughes films, it's at least got the potential to show something important about high school culture.
I say potential, because by all accounts, this one's been botched, and botched horrifically. It's rare to see critics line up to crotch-kick a film like this when it doesn't star Eddie Murphy, and often getting personal about it. As the first test of Panettiere's burgeoning star power since Heroes, well, she shouldn't go renegotiating her contract just yet. Opening on just 1,900 screens, I Love You, Beth Cooper won't get the title reaction from audiences, and should come in with about $12 million.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen defended its top spot at the box office with $42 million and reached the $300 million mark mid-week. At this point, it's pretty much all gravy for Michael Bay's opus to explosions, which could reach $350 million without even breaking a sweat. On the other hand, $400 million might be tough, as it's already down over 60% from its opening weekend, and its director is openly feuding with the main non-CGI reason to see the film over its quality. I'd look for about $19 million this weekend.
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, despite its nonsensical title, should sneak past Transformers and hold on to second place, then, as the main kiddie option out there, though it's well worth noting that the last sequel in this series didn't have stellar holdover either. Two bonus days of box office and summer weekday business should help it out as well, but we're probably looking at a top out at around $150 million. Its run to that starts with about $20 million this weekend.
Public Enemies was the main "adults only" choice for the holiday weekend, bringing in $40 million in five days. The Michael Mann-directed and Johnny Depp-starring film about the last days of John Dillinger received solid reviews but nothing spectacular, though with the recent announcement that ten films will be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscar, kind of has to be considered as one of the leading candidates for a slot, at least of films released to date (it's also excellent news for Up). I see this earning about $16 million this weekend.
The broad comedies, The Proposal and The Hangover, are next in line, both showing a lot of holdover. The Hangover obviously started from a stronger place, but The Proposal's $100 million take so far is pretty impressive as far as romantic comedies go. Some of the truly insane sounding projections for The Hangover haven't quite panned out, but a total over $250 million is still basically assured, which is still astounding any way you look at it.