Gird your loins, people. The most inexplicable movie franchise of this decade is set for its second installment this weekend, with the possibility of a year-topping box office performance.
Weekend Forecast for November 19-21, 2009
By Reagen Sulewski
November 19, 2009
New Moon is the second film to be made from the Twilight series, Stephenie Meyer's profoundly silly vampire pulp romance, which has taken the publishing world by storm, and earned close to $200 million in its first outing last year. As the blank slate of Bella Swan and Sir Mopes-A-Lot Edward Cullen continue their tragically shallow and chaste romance, complications arise to separate them.
Overwrought melodrama ensues as everyone acts out a bad After School Special about obsessive stalkers and co-dependency. When Edward decides it's too dangerous to be around Bella (because he's, you know, a blood-sucking vampire) and leaves her, she decides that the best way for her to get his attention is to attempt to injure herself. What an outstanding message for women. Of course, this is the series that teaches us that men are always just one second away from losing control and it's all women's fault. This opens the door for a love triangle between those two and local werewolf Jacob. Isn't it always the way?
Catherine Hardwicke has been replaced as director of the series by American Pie and About a Boy helmer Chris Weitz, a change that's being sold as "scheduling conflicts", but can really be chalked up to her rather odd choices (two words: Vampire Baseball) and the producers concerned about their cash-cow being run into the ground because of her decision to make the whole thing look like a Meatloaf video. They probably needn't have worried – the faithful are well and truly hooked. The cast remains consistent, with Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson as the leads and having become tabloid fodder in the meantime. Taylor Lautner's role gets increased, while Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning join in significant roles.
New Moon looks to expand on Twilight's $69 million opening, thanks in part to an increase in screens from 3,400 to over 4,000, as well as what I hope is a peak in the fandom. Lineups somewhat reminiscent of the Star Wars prequels have popped up, and should make this one of the few female-driven front-loaded blockbusters. With fervor for it at astounding levels, it could be set to beat Transformer 2's $108 million mark, the standard bearer for this year. I think it'll fall just short at $105 million, but a better (worse) result can't be ruled out.
For the adults and emotionally mature among us, The Blind Side thankfully offers an alternative this weekend. An adaptation of Michael Lewis's book, the true story of Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Michael Oher, it tells his story of being plucked from extreme poverty by a rich white family and steered towards a better life. Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw play Oher's benefactors, while relative newcomer Quinton Aaron stars as Oher.
A somewhat unusual beast in that it's a sports movie that hopes to bring in a female audience, The Blind Side delves into elements of racism, poverty and privilege, and aims for a heartwarming message. It'll probably fare pretty well as a date flick and the major option where things don't explode or suck. Opening in 3,110 venues, it's headed for about a $17 million opening weekend.
Yet another family film jumps into the market, with Planet 51. The animated film, starring the voice of Dwayne Johnson, follows a human astronaut onto an alien planet where he lands in suburbia and incites panic among the locals. In other words, the reverse E.T.
Also featuring the voices of Justin Long, Gary Oldman, Jessica Biel, John Cleese and Seann William Scott, it's a slick-looking, candy-coloured take on humans versus aliens, which might have worked better if we hadn't already had Monsters vs. Aliens earlier this year. The fact that it's a semi-independent film, only distributed by Sony, is a little problematic as well, as it doesn't really have the same marketing push as a lot of other animated films. No 3-D hurts too, as that's starting to become expected. Still, there's some decent gags in there, and families not quite ready for A Christmas Carol could use another option. Give it about $14 million this weekend.
Disaster porn made its first steps towards a comeback with last weekend's 2012, which opened to $65 million. Roland Emmerich's misanthropic destruction of the entire world basically threw everything on screen, including the kitchen sink, then blew it up, thanks to some mumbo jumbo about Mayan prophecies and mutated neutrinos (yes, that's ridiculous if you know anything about physics. Why were you even hoping for sense out of this anyway?). In any event, what with the event film slot being filled by New Moon (not that there's a lot of direct competition here) and the fact that these films never have legs, we should see a pretty catastrophic fall for 2012, to around $31 million.
A Christmas Carol managed to have some fairly decent holdover, losing just a quarter of its business in weekend number two. The Zemeckian adapation of Dickens' Christmas story, starring Jim Carrey in a number of animated roles, appears set to become this year's holiday consensus film. I'd give it about $15 million this weekend.
The last interesting holdover is Precious, which expands to around 700 screens after making it all the way to third on just 174 screens (albeit amidst weak competition, with only two films in double digits). The unrelentingly bleak tale of an illiterate teen has really managed something special in terms of box office, and is throwing up blockbuster-sized numbers on its limited screens. I'd look for about $7 million this weekend with this expansion.