Weekend Forecast for January 8-10, 2010
By Reagen Sulewski
January 8, 2010

One vampire investigates the sparkliness of another clan of vampires.

Hollywood makes up for that week of repeats with three new wide releases, though your level of thanks for these three films may vary. January isn't entirely a dumping ground anymore, but we're still getting a lot of also-rans in the mix.

Leading the way for new films is Daybreakers, the Hollywood debut of the German duo of the Spierig Brothers, who up till now have specialized in Australian horror films. Approximately the 70 bajillionth vampire film in the last three years, Daybreakers is set in a world in which the vampires have won. Ten years in the future, a plague has turned everyone into bloodsuckers, and the entire world exists only in darkness.

The problem with that, in a none-too-subtle metaphor for the energy crisis, is that it means that the blood supply is close to running out as the vampires drain the remaining humans for food. A group of environmentalistssurvivors kidnap the chief hematologist of the vampires (Ethan Hawke) in order to create a cure. It's a race against time as the vampires attempt to run these scattered remaining humans down, even if it would likely doom the rest of the world.

Also starring Sam Neill and Willem Dafoe, the film is a mix of sci-fi and action and a touch of horror. Unfortunately, it arrives at a time when vampire horror action is at its lowest point. The Underworld series finished with a thud early last year, we're several years past the last good Blade movie, and Twilight's turned the world's vampire fans into puddles of co-dependent goo. Still, with surprisingly positive reviews and an appropriately moody trailer, this has a chance to be a modest hit. Its stars won't help it much – the last thing approaching a hit for Hawke was 2001's Training Day, and that's hardly on him – but it's got some fight in it based on genre. Look for around $15 million for an opening weekend.

The second of the week's films is Leap Year, starring Amy Adams. A European variation on the slapstick fish out of water romance genre, it's based on the idea that it's tradition for women in Ireland to be able to propose on February 29th (of course, being the 21st Century, women can propose anytime they like, but Hollywood apparently still thinks it's 1957 when it comes to gender politics).

After her boyfriend misses one too many chances to propose, Adams follows him to Dublin in order to take advantage of this loophole, but has her plane diverted to Wales. After hiring a local (played by Matthew Goode, most recently seen as Ozymandias in Watchmen) to drive her to Dublin (people with knowledge of the UK are laughing right now), the pair get into a series of wacky contrived mishaps that prove they're really meant to be together instead of the schmuck she's currently dating. If you've seen any romantic comedy ever, you know how this works out.

Adams, when she's not being mistaken for Isla Fisher, is building up a decent body of work as a second-tier lead, and just needs the right breakout hit to become the next Reese Witherspoon. This, sadly, is not it (Julie & Julia was close but is more about Streep at this point), but it can be the next step for her on the way to that. It's far too hackneyed and just plain unfunny to be that important film in her career, like a Sweet Home Alabama or a While You Were Sleeping. Opening at around 2,500 venues, it should see an opening weekend of about $11 million.

Finally, we have Youth in Revolt, Michael Cera's attempt to stretch his acting legs as a lead. He plays a mawkish teen (wait, I'm getting to the stretching part) who adopts a rebellious split persona in order to win over the heart of the local dream girl. A sort of "early '80s John Cusack" turn, Youth in Revolt has the chance to be a touchstone cult film for teens of this generation, but is far too weird and quirky to have any immediate success. Opening at 1,873 venues, it'll be lucky to bring in $5 million this weekend.

This all clears the stage for the fourth straight weekend on top for Avatar, which has turned into a juggernaut over the holidays. Now with $375 million in the bank domestically and over a billion worldwide, it's now not ridiculous to start talking about the all-time record.

Projections remain pretty difficult at this point, as the film's yet to have a weekend that indicates what its drop-off might be, or even if it will have drop-off. It's already blown the doors off the record for biggest third weekend, biggest January weekend, and biggest single day in January by around 50%. Even the end of holidays doesn't seem to have brought it down that much, as its first weekday was off only 60% from the holiday week, when 75% could have been expected.

Essentially, no one really knows for sure what's going to happen this weekend. All the signs point to people still being enraptured by the spectacular visuals of James Cameron's world, with 3-D and IMAX theaters driving the business of the film to a significant extent. A fairly safe prediction is that it will steal another record away from Titanic with the biggest fourth weekend ever. I'll predict a weekend of $42 million, which puts it well within striking distance of The Dark Knight's $533 million with some big weekends, including potential Oscar nominations, to come.

Somewhat lost in this hoopla is that Sherlock Holmes turned into a tidy hit. Sitting just shy of $150 million, the action-adventure take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective novels has more or less assured itself a sequel, even if word-of-mouth isn't the greatest. Next time, work on that mystery a little more, okay? Perhaps that'll come with saving Moriarty for it, a la The Joker and The Dark Knight. I'd look for about $19 million this weekend.

We also still have The Squeakquel to deal with, though its main target audience has now gone back to school. This was the point where the first Chipmunk's movie really started to fall off, and we can all hope and pray that this phenomenon will repeat itself this year. It seems certain that it'll surpass the $217 million of the first film (sitting as it does with $160 million in the bank already) so a third film seems sadly inevitable. Then again, so does the next round of H1N1, and life goes on. Give it about $17 million here.

It's Complicated continues the Year (or Two) of Streep, as she's sort of inexplicably become a box office superstar at the age of 60. The romantic comedy also starring Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin seems set to be her third $100 million film in the last three years, and fourth if we can fudge things a little for Julie & Julia. In any case, it's one of the three leggy "adult" films out there, along with The Blind Side and Up in the Air, all of which should find the $9 to 13 million range this weekend. In the case of The Blind Side, it appears to be unstoppable, and this weekend passed the almost absurd figure of $200 million, making it the highest grossing sports movie of all time, and the first film with a female headliner to cross that milestone. Up in the Air gets a small expansion, following the Juno pattern, and with the strong potential of an Oscar win might be headed for around the same $140 million box office total.