Atypically for an early summer weekend, the weekend’s slate doesn’t consist solely of a single mega-blockbuster hitting theates, based on some sort of pop-culture and throwing up a figure in the three-digit millions. This weekend’s three releases combined might reach that, but none on their own promise box office fireworks.
Weekend Forecast for May 14-16, 2010
By Reagen Sulewski
May 14, 2010
The obvious leader of these three films is Robin Hood, approximately the bajillionth time this subject matter has been turned into some kind of entertainment property. Directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe, it purports to tell the origin of the Robin Hood legend (with a 46-year-old lead!) and his battles against the tyranny of King John and the Sheriff of Nottingham.
This version of the story focuses, in Scottian fashion, on the battle aspects of the legend, throwing up set pieces of hand-to-hand medieval combat, and judging from trailers, a reversal of the Normandy landing scenes from Saving Private Ryan, not to mention some historically dodgy ideas about political theory and one of the more tragically misdelivered lines to ever appear in a commercial (I declare that actor to be an OUTLAAAAW!).
This was a production that was famously troubled, going through several recasting sessions, most notably dumping Sienna Miller as Maid Marion for Cate Blanchett (a trade up in many departments anyway) because the former actress was making their lead look too old in comparison (still a problem, guys). It also had the indignity of its budget being posted with its breakdowns, revealing that the film cost a frankly ridiculous sum of $237 million to make and promote.
This is before we get into the fact that the Kevin Costner version of Robin Hood still sits fondly in people’s memories even nearly 20 years later (probably a length of time that would surprise people). Jokes about Costner’s non-accent aside, it’s still a definitive telling of the tale, and doesn’t seem particularly due for a remake. It’s also interesting that they picked a lead with almost as poor of a reputation as Costner eventually earned – Crowe’s proved to be a boor on multiple occasions, and hasn’t had a film live up to financial expectations for about nine years when he was the sole lead.
Still, it’s a big budget production of Robin Hood that promises a lot of action and that’ll always have a baseline of support. It really lacks that certain oomph that would push it over the top as a major summer film, and will really depend on foreign box office to turn a profit. This weekend, look for around $48 million.
Some films’ performances are more interesting than others from an academic standpoint. Letters to Juliet is one of those, as it seems like it’ll settle a score about whether Dear John’s surprising status as a hit was due to Amanda Seyfried, or whether it was the Nicholas Sparks connection. A less-tragic seeming version of The Notebook, Juliet stars Seyfried as a vacationing American in Italy who finds an unanswered “letter to Juliet” – of Romeo & Juliet – and sets off to reconnect its author (Vanessa Redgrave) to her long lost love. The cast also includes Gael Garcia Bernal and Chris Egan but those two still fall into the “who?” category for the largest part.
Following the inexplicable success of Mamma Mia!, Seyfried’s star has risen significantly to the point where Dear John opened to $30 million on not much more than a couple standing around in the rain. Was that on Seyfried or on something else? That’s probably what we’ll find out this weekend. I’d watch out for a mild breakout performance at around $21 million.
The third new film this week is Just Wright, a basketball-themed romance starring two rappers (makes sense to me!). Queen Latifah is the title character, a physical therapist named Leslie Wright, who begins to fall for a pro-basketball player (played by Common) under her care, while her best friend (Paula Patton) has her eyes on stealing him away from under her nose. Wacky complications abound and both Latifah and Common have to… yada yada yada, you know the drill. It’s standard romantic comedy setting #3, the “choose between your career and your true love” scenario. This is a not bad group of actors but in this rather generic setting we shouldn’t expect too much. Opening at a little over 1,800 venues, it should start with about $8 million.
Even with what seems like an inevitable steep second weekend drop for Iron Man 2, it should still easily win the weekend. Starting with $128 million, a nice bump up from the first film’s debut, it’ll hit the $200 million mark as soon as Saturday, and a repeat of the $300 million plus performance of the first film seems all but assured. This is despite only middling reviews, hence the expectation for big drops. I’m perhaps more optimistic than most, as those middling reviews still hail it as fun summer fare, just not as revelatory as the franchise’s debut film, a standard it seems unfair to hold it to. I’d say it’s due for about $70 million in its second frame.
And with that, we’re out of films that will bring in more than $5 million this weekend. A Nightmare on Elm Street lived up to horror films’ reputations as one-and-dones, losing almost three-quarters of its opening weekend business to fall to $9 million. After a $32 million start, it may not cross $60 million for a final total.
How to Train Your Dragon is a polar opposite of that, having made it to $200 million after a $43 million debut. Its reign in the top three ends this weekend after seven weeks, but this is a wild success by any possible measure at this point.
Everything else out there is basically cleaning up scraps now, as they get set to shed their screens for summer films. As usual, this is your annual warning to catch films while you still can on the big screen.