Weekend Forecast for May 28-31, 2010
By Reagen Sulewski
May 28, 2010

Sex and the City 2 decided to take over the Prince of Persia set.

With several early summer films failing to live up to the hype and putting up...let’s just say underwhelming box office figures, Hollywood may be looking towards Memorial Day Weekend to start turning things around. While there’s no sense in hitting the panic button just yet, I wouldn’t put a lot of confidence in this weekend’s two releases’ ability to jump-start the perception of the summer season.

Of the two new films, Sex and the City 2: The Skankquel is far and away more likely to earn the most money, and more’s the pity for society. Opening a day early on Thursday, it’s the second wrap-up film to the long-running HBO series about the worst people in the world…sorry, I mean four wealthy socialites, obsessed with fashion, men and themselves. Sarah Jessica Parker returns as the weathered corpse of retrograde-feminism, Carrie Bradshaw, along with Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis, but notably jettisoning their black sidekick from the last film, who apparently served her purpose to satisfy their conscience and can go now.

Bored with their disgustingly perfect lives of privilege and leisure, the girls decide that they need a vacation from all the hard work they do being useless and watching their nannies raise their kids, travelling to Abu Dhabi (or Morocco, standing in, since the UAE would definitely and tellingly not let them get away with this crap). Because nothing says female getaway like one of the most oppressive regimes on Earth! Surprisingly, some perspective does find its way into their lives there when they find out that – hey, women can’t show their faces and are often treated like property. It’s enough to put you off your cosmo.

While it’s only been two years since the last Sex and the City movie, this one finds itself arriving in a very different world, one rather openly hostile to the kind of pointless excess this series represents. In addition to the idea that it’s just a plain bad movie, reviewers have also teed off on the film for its vile point of view on the world, possibly creating a worldwide bile shortage. And yet, the wish-fulfillment instinct is strong enough that women (and gay men – this will have the least heterosexual men as a percentage of the audience in history) are still flocking to the film for viewing parties.

Seriously, why does this film exist – you made the last one specifically to give each character their happy ending! Oh right – that $150 million total that last one had, and you only have to pay your stars in botox, vodka and shoes. I think the culture has turned on this series a little but unfortunately not a lot, and it’ll still earn a pretty sizable amount over its five-day opening weekend, at around $50 million.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, where all the husbands and boyfriends of the women seeing Sex and the City 2 will go, is the other opener this weekend. Based on the video game series about an acrobatic warrior with a dagger that has the ability to turn back time, it’s an action adventure film in the vein of The Mummy, or, well, Tomb Raider, a comparison this film likely wears with a fair amount of trepidation.

Jake Gyllenhaal, who perhaps has the least Persian name in history, stars in the title role, which seems to consist of him making goo-goo eyes at the female lead Gemma Arterton (best known from the last James Bond film as one of Bond’s conquests that’s tossed aside) and yell “Give me the dagger!” about 486 times. While the setting isn’t without potential, the results look rather brown and tedious. If there’s a single visually exciting moment in the commercials for this film, I haven’t seen it (and the ad guys are criminally incompetent if there is one and they haven’t shown it).

Gyllenhaal probably isn’t the worst choice for an action star, as he definitely has the boyish charm thing down, and has appropriately buffed himself up for the role. Unfortunately, a new action star can’t sell a mediocre looking movie like this, and it’s going to find itself kneecapped from the opening weekend. Really, in a time travel movie, they should have seen this coming. Look for a four-day total of around $39 million.

These disappointing films come on the heels of the clubhouse leader for unfulfilled expectations, Shrek Forever After, which opened with “just” $70 million. While the idea that a film that earns that much probably should be considered a bomb isn’t without merit, a franchise can’t survive having its opening weekends cut in half indefinitely, or perhaps even once. It’s got to be especially worrying that this is with 3-D ticket inflation.

While we saw another animated film recover from a poor opening earlier this year, in How to Train Your Dragon, there’s no rescue from word-of-mouth here. About its only solace is that Memorial Day Weekend remains a great weekend for family films, and gives the opportunity for people to see multiple films. I’d say we’re looking at a major drop to about $41 million over four days.

Iron Man 2 is another film that’s underperforming while still throwing up a huge number – it’s reached the $250 million mark domestically, but essentially a week behind schedule after its huge opening weekend. There’s no reason to declare the death of the Marvel super-hero as a viable franchise, or even extrapolate out to other films (like The Avengers), but it is a sign that audiences aren’t going to accept just anything as long as you put a hero in a costume. This weekend should bring Iron Man 2 about $17 million over four days, or close to the $275 million mark.

This summer’s whipping boy for budgetary excess, Robin Hood, had the about-as-expected second weekend, cut in half from its debut. That might not be a problem for an ordinary summer blockbuster except that we’re dealing with a film with a $200 million-plus budget and which started sub-$40 million. International numbers are saving its bacon but that’s mostly illusory for its North American reputation. It’ll add another $11 million this weekend, but it’s ultimately going to struggle with the $100 million plateau.

Letters to Juliet is the best of a bad lot in terms of summer legs this weekend, with the Italian-set romance possibly being able to match the three-day total of $9 million in the four days of the holiday. I wouldn’t quite bank on it, but something out there has to make people enthusiastic, and it might as well be this film.

The less said about MacGruber the better, but let’s just say that Tim Meadows now points and laughs at Will Forte.