Weekend Forecast for March 19-21, 2010
By Reagen Sulewski
March 19, 2010

We're like totally in a relationship and stuff!

Spring is typically a time of renewal and rebirth, a time to sweep out the old. It's sort of the same in Hollywood – as the season officially turns over, studios sweep out a bunch of old dusty things they had lying around and dump them in theatres.

Of these cast-off wannabe blockbusters, The Bounty Hunter has the best overall chance for success. A sort of romantic comedy take on Midnight Run, it stars Gerard Butler as a down-on-his-luck bounty hunter who's tasked to bring in his ex-wife, Jennifer Aniston, who's jumped bail to investigate a murder cover-up. As she tries to escape from him on the way back to prison, the murder cover-up follows them, and wacky hijinks ensue.

This is, of course, a pretty threadbare premise, and you've probably seen many, many films where variations on the Bickersons find themselves in fish-out-of-water scenarios – we had it just recently with Did You Hear About the Morgans? – and suddenly find those old wounds healing, if only for a couple of hours on screen. These generally live and die by the chemistry of their leads, and Butler and Aniston aren't the worst pairing imaginable. There's something just off about the ads, though, which are mostly devoid of jokes that don't revolve around one ex instigating violence on the other. I'm not saying I don't understand, just that it doesn't make for great cinema.

In fact, it's one of the poorest reviewed movies of the year, with just 8% of critics giving even the most tentative of thumbs up. That doesn't always matter when it comes to romantic comedies, but it often keeps them from becoming huge hits. Both of these actors have actually managed to survive horrible trailers in recent years, Butler with The Ugly Truth and Aniston with He's Just Not That Into You, but this combination of actors and material feels a little more toxic, like a mini-Gigli in the making. Opening on slight more than 3,000 screens, this should open to about $24 million this weekend.

Pre-teens get another potential franchise-starting film this weekend, on the heels of Percy Jackson. Diary of a Wimpy Kid is decidedly less action-oriented of course, but perhaps no less popular for it. Based on a best-selling series of illustrated novels, the film follows the titular junior high student as he deals with bullies, cooties and the horrors of gym class.

The whims and desires of pre-teens are often mercurial when it comes to entertainment, but this film seems to be hitting at perhaps the optimal possible time. Six books related to the series are in the Amazon Top 100 for children's books, and its target audience hasn't had the chance to outgrow them yet. Helmed by the director of Hotel For Dogs, which you probably forgot opened to $17 million, Wimpy Kid has the chance to be a moderate hit with around $19 million for an opening weekend.

The third wide release is Repo Men, which belongs to a genre that typically sends distributors running for the exits – dystopian satire. Jude Law and Forest Whitaker star as the titular characters, repo men for artificial organ suppliers, who forcibly reclaim organs when their owners can't make the payments. Since you usually need a heart or a liver to stay alive – well, that's kind of a problem for their owners.

After Law is severely injured during a repossession, he's implanted with organs of his own against his will. Soon he finds himself unable to do his job, seeing himself under the knife someday, and decides to fight back against the system. With guns and karate. It's a time honored method.

Prospects look grim for this for a few reasons. Aside from the subject matter being a bit out there for most audiences, there's the rather chaotic and nonsensical ads that are being presented to us. It can't seem to make up its mind as to whether is a comedy or a gritty action film, and while that combo sometimes works, it's not being sold that way. Meanwhile, Law is still looking for his first real solo hit. I don't think this is the one to do it, and it's got bomb written all over it. Watch for an opening weekend of about $9 million.

Expanding this week is The Ghost Writer, Roman Polanski's political thriller about a former British PM's role in an international scandal and a very thinly veiled criticism of Tony Blair. Starring Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan and Kim Catrall, it's found moderate success in limited release and goes to what's called national release with around 800 screens this weekend. Don't expect much more than $3 million though, based on its current performance.

The likelihood, then, is that Alice in Wonderland will take its third consecutive weekend at the top of the box office. Now over $225 million in just two weeks, Tim Burton's 3D take on Lewis Carroll is easily, and by easily, I mean by a factor of two, the highest grossing film of the year, and will likely be that film until sometime in late May (*cough*IronMan2*cough*cough*). It's really grabbed that 3D mantle laid out for it by Avatar, and proven that audiences really are embracing this new technology. Look for it to add about $35 million this weekend.

None of last weekend's new films made much of an impact, unless you count their impacts on studios' bottom lines. Green Zone is most notable in that respect, opening to just $15 million on a $100 million budget and the star power of Matt Damon. Despite The Hurt Locker finally finding an audience post Oscars, people are just not ready to deal with Iraq War movies on a serious level. It's doubtful this film will pick up any steam from word-of-mouth at this point and should sink away to around a $50 million total.

She's Out of My League's $9 million isn't about to make Jay Baruchel a star, but it's a respectable number for a film like this and a leading man like him, so there's no need for him to hide his head in shame or anything. It, Shutter Island, and Remember Me ought to come in with about $5 to 6 million this weekend.