It's the revenge of the 1950s B-Movie as November's box office attempts to recover from its slightly underwhelming start last weekend.
Weekend Forecast for November 13-15, 2009
By Reagen Sulewski
November 13, 2009
Roland Emmerich returns to his massively misanthropic ways with his latest disaster film, 2012. Having messed up various parts of the world via alien invasion, giant lizard and massive climate-changing storm, Emmerich now ups the ante by destroying the whole damn thing in a giant blaze of mayhem and calamity through the Mayan calendar prophecy.
Yes, it turns out those crafty Chichen Itza-building Mayans with their base-20 counting system were on to something with their end-of-time predictions, and now the whole world is about to collapse into the ocean, or something. Meanwhile, a secret society has known all along and has been preparing for the coming apocalypse with the hopes of saving humanity. When the fire starts raining down from the sky and cities slip into the ocean, plucky divorced dad John Cusack has to try and rescue his family and make it to the escape ships high in Tibet (well of course that's where it would be).
This is, of course, a pretty ridiculous film, and is rather open about its existence just to show various landmarks around the world being pounded into pieces. Emmerich's not content with just destroying the White House, but also adds in the Vatican, Rio and just about everywhere else for good measure. Lesser filmmakers would just have an earthquake, a flood, a volcano or meteors, but no – Emmerich combines them all into one uber-distaster, using them all up. Greedy bastard – I'm surprised he didn't throw in some zombies for the hell of it. If you want spectacle and people making over-dramatic impassioned speeches, you've got it. If you want logic and consistency... well, just keep on walking.
We're several years past the point where these disaster porn movies were automatic candidates to be among the very biggest movies of the year – while they still do well, the days of Independence Day and Twister dominating end of year lists are behind us. And 2012 somehow manages to look even sillier than the rest of them, mostly for being so over the top. Part of this may be due to the fact that its thunder's been stolen a little bit by numerous deliberately horrible TV movies like 10.5 and Category 6. Still, there's an appetite for a slicker-made production of these kind of films, and with a distribution to 3,404 venues, it should see an opening weekend of about $61 million.
The only other wide opening this weekend is a sort of prestige release of an Oscar hopeful, in Pirate Radio, which hits 882 screens. Written and directed by Love Actually's Richard Curtis, it's a fictitious story about a boat parked off the coast of England in the 1960s, broadcasting forbidden rock and roll into the country. Fight the power, you hippies!
Released earlier this year in Britain under the much better title The Boat That Rocked, it stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Nick Frost, Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, January Jones, and a bunch of British actors that you probably recognize from various things but don't quite know their names yet. It didn't fare all that well in England on its release, which is probably what led to the name change.
I suspect it won't help all that much, as the issue of rock and roll triumphing over The Man is kind of a dated concept at this point – The Man even listens to rock these days (which could be argued as being the exact problem with today's rock, but I digress). Additionally, the Brit-heavy focus really takes a lot of sting out of the picture for North American audiences. I'd say we're looking at an opening of about $6 million here.
Last week was won by A Christmas Carol, though its $30 million opening missed a lot of targets. It's due for a long run over the holiday season, but that opening splash left a lot to be desired considering the presence of Jim Carrey and the attempt to impress with 3-D and IMAX showings. Legs aren't out of the question here, though, and it ought to see a second weekend figure of around $19 million.
The Michael Jackson concert film This Is It held up decently well, earning $13 million in its second week, when a total collapse might have been probable. I still don't feel much heat coming off this for future weeks, and foresee only around $6 million this weekend.
Meanwhile, The Men Who Stare At Goats adds a handful of screens this weekend, but should find around the same weekend total. The dry comedy did the typical non-blockbuster George Clooney movie thing, and found a limited, but appreciative audience. I don't think we'll be hearing a lot from this film at Oscar time, but for now it's a modest little success. Give it $7 million this weekend.
The Fourth Kind successfully rode Paranormal Activity's coattails to a $12 million opening weekend, but was the recipient of some of the more harsh and vitriolic criticism of a horror film in some time. Its "found footage" conceit was attacked rather heavily in a lot of different publications, and this appears to be steering this film to one-weekend-wonder status. Look for just $5 million this weekend.
Finally, among notable expanders, we have Precious, which put up a gaudy per screen average of over $100,000 last weekend. The Oprah-produced tale of an overweight, illiterate pregnant teen really seems to have struck a chord despite its inherently depressing subject matter and unknown lead actress. Moving to 174 screens this weekend, it should crack the top ten with around $4 million.