There are some weekends that make you rethink the wisdom of the idea that there need to be new films released every single week of the calendar. Like this one, for instance. Don't force it if you don't have anything worth watching, Hollywood.
Weekend Forecast for August 27-29, 2010
By Reagen Sulewski
August 26, 2010
The closest thing to an innovative idea this weekend is The Last Exorcism, an Eli Roth-produced (danger, danger!) horror film about a minister who travels to Louisiana to try and rid the evil spirits from a girl purportedly haunted by the Devil. Of course, everything starts to go wrong, or there'd be no film, and yada yada yada, souls and lives are put in danger.
What makes this film at least moderately interesting is that it's shot faux-documentary style, similar to Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity, a method that can crank up the urgency of a tense film, or may just make its viewers a little nauseous. Starring a collection of actors you've never heard of unless you're a really dedicated student of TV guest stars and professional character actors, it really doesn't have any marquee value to draw upon, but that's not such a big deal for films shot this way – you're selling the urgency, not the stars.
What you also need in these cases, though, is a dynamite campaign: Blair Witch is the granddaddy of this, being one of the first films to leverage the Web in its marketing – Cloverfield had the surprise trailer followed by a traditional campaign, and Paranormal Activity used test screening after test screening to build up hype. The Last Exorcism hasn't completely ignored non-traditional marketing – a strange appearance on Chat Roulette seems to have been their best idea – but for the most part they've stuck to the usual ad and trailer routine. Without something special, this film looks more likely to end up as an also-ran in the “non-traditional” horror film category. Look for around $12 million this weekend.
The other new wide release of this week, Takers has been described in some circles as “this generation's Heat”, which if true, says a lot more about this generation than it does this movie. Written and directed by something called John Luessenhop, it appears to be an experiment in what would happen if you brought every young, terrible actor together in one place at one time. While a couple of the cast members do have acting chops (Idris Elba, Zoe Saldana and Matt Dillon come to mind - and man, we're scraping the bottom of the barrel there), unfortunately this caper/crime film is being anchored by Hayden Christensen, Paul Walker, rapper T.I. and singer/girlfriend-beater Chris Brown. I smell Oscars!
The plot is your standard cops-and-robbers-and-everyone's-double-crossing-everyone-else situation, which leads to a pretty incoherent trailer filled with lots of yelling and gunshots. In opposition to The Last Exorcism, this one's almost entirely being sold on its star power, of which I wonder – who the hell is intrigued by this set of actors? Anyone over the age of 30 has to be on to the fact that these are terrible actors, and that one or two potentially interesting sequences aren't going to be worth the movie as a whole. How this escaped direct-to-DVD, I'll never know. Opening at a little more than 2,000 venues, look for about $9 million.
This puts pretty much the sorry group of films from last week in strong contention for top 5 finishes on the weekend. The Expendables held onto the top spot for a second straight week but did so despite losing half its opening weekend business. This certainly wasn't a surprise – bloated action movies almost never carryover well – but it does basically ensure this film ends up under $100 million domestic. The popularity of Stallone, Statham, Li and others in the cast internationally bodes a lot better for it though (Rambo, for instance, made almost twice as much overseas as in domestic markets), and the talk of a sequel isn't outlandish. For this weekend, it should pull in another $9 million.
Eat Pray Love should emerge on top of the eight films that earned between (rounded) $8 and $12 million, mostly by default. Vampires Suck is primed to tumble from the box office ranks like few films before it, while the other new films from last week opened far too poorly to be a threat, and sucked too much to warrant predictions of legs. Julia Roberts' tour of the world and her own ego should earn a little less than $7 million this weekend, with The Other Guys sliding in for about $6 million.
Then look for Inception, Lottery Ticket and Piranha 3D to grab $5 million apiece, followed by the epic fails of The Switch and Nanny McPhee Returns with just $4 million. Perhaps sensing the weakness of this slate of films, James Cameron's Avatar makes a return engagement in 811 theatres. Is there anyone left who hasn't had their opportunity to see it, though, especially with the DVD release already out there? Don't expect more than $4 million here.