While recent years have proven that Hollywood doesn't have to fear placing its blockbusters on the weekend after Thanksgiving, they occasionally revert to the form of using the weekend as the last dumping ground of the year. While all of this week's wide releases have decent names attached, and one even could be an Oscar contender, none are about to set the box office on fire.
Weekend Forecast for December 4-6, 2009
By Reagen Sulewski
December 4, 2009
Probably the most attractive from an opening weekend perspective is Armored, though that's not saying a lot. The sole action film of the bunch, it stars Matt Dillon, Laurence Fishburne, Skeet Ulrich (so that's where he went to) and Jean Reno as armored car guards who decide to rob their own truck when a shipment of $42 million comes in. When a cop stumbles onto their hiding spot and gets taken prisoner, a rookie guard develops a conscience leading to a standoff between himself and the rest of the crooks, and tension theoretically results.
Not screened for critics but given a saturation ad campaign, the hallmark of crap films everywhere, Armored is offering up a B-level action/thriller fix for people that just have to see something this weekend. The difference between this and a straight-to-video action film is fairly academic and on a release slate of just over 1,900 screens should see a weekend of just $7 million.
A remake of a Danish film, Brothers may not have the initial weekend appeal but could end up as a bigger earner long term. Tobey Maguire stars as a soldier deployed to Afghanistant, leaving behind his wife (Natalie Portman) and family. When he's presumed killed in action, she turns to his deadbeat brother (Jake Gyllenhaal) for comfort. Cause, who wouldn't? The world's most awkward family reunion ever comes later when Maguire comes home, having been tortured by the Taliban fighters. But hey, thanks for taking "care" of my wife, right? Yeah, not so much.
Director Jim Sheridan, he of In America and My Left Foot, brings this adaptation to the big screen, which has a strong element of melodrama to it. Sort of the feel-bad movie of December, it's the best reviewed of this week's wide releases, and could develop some legs later on if audiences find it compelling. However, even though its stars are trying hard to distance the film from being perceived as a war film, the connection is fairly inescapable and audiences have rejected those nearly en masse. Opening on 2,088 screens, it should see an opening of about $6 million.
Coming in under the radar is Everybody's Fine, starring Robert DeNiro, Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckensale and Sam Rockwell. DeNiro plays a man who realizes after his wife dies that he's never really connected with his kids and goes on a cross-country trip to try and forge an after-the-fact bond with them. If this sounds a bit familiar, you're not wrong, as Jack Nicholson covered this territory in About Schmidt a few years ago, though this is actually a remake of a 1990 Italian film starring Marcello Mastrioianni (who else, other than Roberto Benigni, stars in Italian films?)
That's a pretty decent cast for this film, except that the film seems to have been placed in the Witness Protection Program, with neither hide nor hair in the way of advertising. And DeNiro, while still a decent actor when he wants to be, is well past the point where his presence guarantees anything for a film's box office. Although it's the widest of this week's releases, it should end up as the lowest grossing, opening at around $4 million.
This opens things up for The Blind Side to take top spot on the weekend. After exceeding expectations for its opening weekend, it did even better over Thanksgiving, surpassing the typical hold-steady performance for most films over that weekend. The tale of Michael Oher, and Sandra Bullock character's rescuing him from the streets struck a big chord with audiences, and became, if nothing else, an agreeable option for the entire family over the holiday. I fear what Hollywood alchemists will come up with in trying to recreate this ("He's a basketball player that was too short, until a sassy African-American taught him the meaning of family! Starring Yao Ming."). Even the best of films can't keep up their Thanksgiving momentum though, and it should come down to about $21 million this weekend.
New Moon, on the other hand, had an impressive drop off even by its standards, losing 70% of its opening weekend business, or just a few thousand short of $100 million, to nearly lose to The Blind Side. That will get taken care of this weekend, as the biggest bulk of the Twi-hard fanbase gets exhausted. Christmas business will help it some, but it's starting to look like $325 million is about as high as this film goes.
Few of the remaining films have much of a box office story to tell. 2012 is ending up as a perfectly serviceable disaster movie despite its overall crudiness, and should at the very least approach The Day After Tomorrow's mark of $186 million. Give it $9 million for this weekend.
Arguably the most interesting film from a box office perspective is A Christmas Carol, which has just a couple more weeks to take advantage of its 3-D and IMAX monopoly. It's already well ahead of where The Polar Express was at this point in its release, which at this point had about $80 million more to earn. There's no reason A Christmas Carol can't do better than that, especially with no direct competition. It should see about $9 million as well this weekend.
Old Dogs – well, I think even its stars would have us forget that one, even as it managed a $16 million opening weekend. The critical drubbing it took, unusual in scope for a family-targeted film, should sink it, and it likely won't even be a Christmas week factor. Look for around $7 million this weekend.