Last week's quantity gives way to this week's quality, as just one new wide release hits theaters, although it's a movie by one of cinema's masters. While unlikely to win the weekend, it's possible that the 2011 Oscar race begins this weekend.
Weekend Forecast for February 19-21, 2010
By Reagen Sulewski
February 19, 2010
Shutter Island is the latest film from Martin Scorsese, although at first glance it's not your usual-looking Scorsese film. A period piece based on a Dennis Lehane novel, it's a psychological/supernatural thriller that seems to be his homage to Alfred Hitchcock films; it's far more of a stylistic exercise than we've been used to from Scorsese. Perhaps with his Oscar firmly in tow, he's more free to noodle around in genres that he's always wanted to try but were less likely to earn awards attention.
Leonardo DiCaprio, in his fourth film under Scorsese's direction, plays a US Marshall called in to investigate a disappearance from an island mental asylum for the criminally insane, in which a patient appears to have simply vanished. Her disappearance may hold the key to some larger secrets about the facility, one that its directors, led by Ben Kingsley, seem anxious to keep under wraps. As DiCaprio's character digs further under the surface of the mystery, he's confronted with troubling memories of his own, and finds that even if he does uncover the truth, he might not get back off the island.
In addition to DiCaprio and Kingsley, Shutter Island has a deep cast that also includes Mark Ruffalo, Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson and Max von Sydow, among others. Originally scheduled for late last year, the film was held back to strengthen Paramount's spring lineup. With the extreme compaction of the Oscar race in early years, it's a decision that might ultimately cost Scorsese nominations. Then again, it is Scorsese and there's a chance they stick with the ten-nomination plan for next year.
Decently-reviewed but not with the near universal acclaim that's greeted a lot of Scorsese films of late, Shutter Island has some break-out potential, though I doubt we're about to see a surprise $50 million film like last weekend. The last combination of this director and actor was good for $26 million, but that also included Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson and Alec Baldwin in the cast. Then again, those actor's fanbases overlap a lot and might not fall under the "1+1=2" concept, maybe equaling something closer to one-and-a-quarter. Heavily promoted but debuting in just 2,991 venues, Shutter Island should come in with about $28 million this weekend.
Last weekend's new films were a whole trio of surprises, in their success if not their order. Valentine's Day led the way, appropriately enough, with an astonishing $56 million. Whether it's the calendar synergy, the fact that all of Hollywood starred in the film or Garry Marshall's unholy deal with the devil (or all of that), it was a tremendous success and made for the third highest weekend in the history of February. As you might expect, almost half of its weekend business was on February 14th, which means a sizable drop this week is certain. Without the support of a Hallmark holiday, this should fall to about $25 million.
A new franchise was potentially born in Percy Jackson and the Olympians last weekend, as the tweener action-adventure film succeeded where a lot of films, like Eragon and The Spiderwick Chronicles, failed. Its $31 million opening weekend is a solid showing for an adaptation without the buzz of a Harry Potter, which it clearly hoped to be. A lot can probably put on the shoulders of director Chris Columbus, who as hacky as he is, lends a lot of credibility to a project like this with his association with big-budget fantasy adventure films. The presence of some medium-named stars like Pierce Brosnan and Uma Thurman probably helped as well, giving this film the OK for adults. This is the film that will least fall victim to President's Day let off, but will still see some of that and earn about $18 million this weekend.
The Wolfman was the big surprise of the weekend at $30 million for third place. What had looked for all intents and purposes like a complete dog (pardon the pun) of a project, with numerous reshoots and other reports of trouble turned into a stealth success. I guess most audiences don't read Variety. However, they do talk amongst themselves, and the word-of-mouth on this one isn't particularly pretty. This definitely shows the value that's still there in old franchises if something this disastrous looking can still open this strongly, but when the product doesn't deliver, the end total will suffer. Look for just $13 million this weekend.
Avatar, while not exactly an afterthought yet, now finds itself looking back up at the top spot of the box office, even after it had its first ever uptick in a weekend, thanks to Valentine's Day / President's Day business. Sometime in the next two to three weeks, it becomes the first ever film to pass $700 million domestic, and possibly $2.5 billion worldwide. Is there anyone left without an opinion on this film? I can't see how. So give it $14 million this weekend and leave it at that.
Dear John was a surprising casualty last weekend, as Valentine's Day couldn't save this romance, which fell almost 50%, worse than films even like Legion, which lost half its screens, wasn't romantic and also was horrible. It's about as clear a case of competition hurting a specific film since Harry Potter cut the legs out of Monsters, Inc. – if you don't consider how well everything else performed this weekend and that it too improved on February 14th. At any rate, this film is about done, but shouldn't have quite such a bad weekend this weekend, and will earn about $9 million.