Weekend Forecast for January 22-24, 2010
By Reagen Sulewski
January 22, 2010

My check better clear.

Last week, Avatar faced its first competition for the top spot at the box office since Christmas. Although The Book of Eli took its best shot, it was well short. The collection of stiffs this weekend are even less of a challenge for Avatar to overcome.

For the second straight week, we have an action star embarrassing himself in a head-scratching concept for a kids movie. Compared to The Spy Next Door, Tooth Fairy steps up both the fame of the star and the embarrassment of the concept. Dwayne Johnson stars as a crass and jerkish minor-league hockey player who after a shocking incident of insensitivity is sentenced to a week as an actual Tooth Fairy (see, because hockey players often lose teeth, and ... oh, kill me). Oh yeah, they're real in this world and are led by Julie Andrews, who's a long ways from Mary Poppins here.

As horrible as this looks to right-thinking adults, kids seem to eat this kind of crap up (see: The Pacifier, The Game Plan, Daddy Day Care), although Tooth Fairy doesn't have the muscle of Disney behind it, which launched The Gameplan to $22 million and Race to Witch Mountain to $24 million. Still, enough dumb kids (and I am talking about the really dumb ones here) just want to see The Rock acting silly that this won't be an outright flop and might even do marginally well. For some reason, the population that wants to see Dwayne Rock in a tutu is a positive number. Opening at 3,344 venues, Tooth Fairy should manage about $16 million this weekend.

Continuing the theme of repeating last week's films, Legion follows The Book of Eli's post-apocalyptic world with an actual apocalypse. See, it seems God's had enough of us, and is sending his angels to wipe humanity off the face of the Earth. One rogue angel (Paul Bettany) has come down to protect us, or rather specifically, one woman's (Adrienne Palicki) baby, who may just turn out to be a new Savior. How's he going to do that? With a crapload of guns, of course.

Setting aside the dodgy theology, it's kind of ballsy to make a film that posits God as the bad guy and send it out to 2,500 multiplexes in this current environment. Unfortunately, it's a bit silly looking, with some amateurish looking effects and wirework, and that laugh-inspiring shock scene with the evil grandma in the trailer.

In a way, it's just operating on the other side of the street to vampire action films like Daybreakers and Underworld, with absurd gunfights involving supernatural creatures and elaborate mythologies. Paul Bettany is really no one's idea of an action star, though, and I think audiences smell a stinker. I'd look for just $9 million for Legion this weekend.

If the third new film this week, Extraordinary Measures, looks to you like it should premiering on a Saturday night on CBS – well, you're not far off on that. The first feature film from CBS's feature film wing, it has an almost unmistakable sheen of TV movie, despite a cast that includes Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser.

Based on the true story of a biotech executive's efforts to save his children from a rare disease, Fraser, playing the exec, connects with researcher Ford who may have a radical, outside the bounds new treatment for the disease and... oh, sorry, I nodded off in the middle of writing this. Basically, it's a less exciting version of Lorenzo's Oil. How is this a movie again? Besides the overall cheapness of the movie's look, there's the fact that Harrison Ford has all but retired from being a movie star – 2008 brought a fourth Indiana Jones film but his only film last year was a straight-to-DVD release – and who ever imagined that happening to Han Solo? Fraser, meanwhile, was probably confused by not shooting any scenes in front of a green screen. Look for a fairly miserable $6 million opening weekend for this.

Which brings us back to the 500-pound blue gorilla of the box office, Avatar. It's now pretty much a fait accompli that it'll become the top grossing movie of all time both domestically and internationally – it's just $88 million short in North America and $119 million short overseas, and will pick up at least $30 million, and probably closer to $35 million this weekend. This is about as stunning a result as could have been imagined at the outset – not just that it would break Titanic's record, but that it would do it so easily.

A lot's been made of its ticket prices inflating this total, but a) people are still willing to pay that, b) every other film had the chance to film in 3D and c) legs is legs. At this point, we're looking at a domestic total of somewhere around $700 million, and a worldwide figure of maybe $2.2 billion. It's kind of a ludicrous number to think about, but here we are.

The Book of Eli had what under normal circumstances would have been a weekend-winning debut with $32 million in three days, unfortunately bumping up against Avatar. Still, that's a pretty solid debut for a post-apocalyptic action film, and about par for the course for a Denzel Washington film. I don't anticipate great legs for this film as reaction has been mediocre, but it should earn about $18 million in weekend two.

After being dumped out of the Oscar race, few expected much of anything from Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, making its $17 million opening weekend that much more of a surprise. Neatly matching The Time Traveler's Wife's debut last summer, The Lovely Bones seems to prove that there's a decent baseline for Hollywood adaptations of acclaimed books with big name casts. I expect a second weekend of about $11 million, which will help to salvage what looked like a disaster initially.

In other returning film news, Alvin and the Chipmunks is all but certain to hit $200 million this weekend, with a decent probability of passing the first film's $217 million domestic total. Sherlock Holmes is another week behind it in making that mark, but is looking like a $225 million film. It's Complicated is about two weeks away from $100 million, and The Princess and the Frog may squeak out $100 million itself, but just barely.