It's the middle stretch of what's becoming a gimmicky month of movies, where traditional-narrative films have taken a backseat to films with some sort of unusual element to their plot, if they even have one. This week, we're in to sequels of gimmicky movies as one of last year's surprise hits gets a second outing.
Weekend Forecast for October 22-24, 2010
By Reagen Sulewski
October 22, 2010
Last October, essentially out of nowhere, Paramount came up with a brilliant marketing campaign for an almost zero-budget horror film called Paranormal Activity, made up entirely of camcorder footage of a supposedly haunted home. Through a focused roll-out distribution, they were able to create an old-fashioned road show type atmosphere for it, a fourth-place finish on only 160 screens, a first-place finish in its fifth week, and an eventual domestic total of about $108 million. This is Blair Witch level of profitability, so there's zero surprise that they've come out with a second film.
Then again, we all remember how Blair Witch 2 turned out, right? Okay, so they're not messing with the format here as they did with that one, but once the spell is broken on this kind of film, there's not much chance of working it back up again. Some of the decisions for this sequel (well, prequel) make a lot of sense in that regard – inserting a baby and a dog into the mix of characters ads a lot more potential for scares – while others don't – do we really care that they brought back the same two actors from the first for small roles? Who even remembers them?
Against all odds, reviews for the sequel are better than the first, with the added element and slightly slicker production (the budget has multiplied several times but is still just the catering budget for many Hollywood films) making it feel a lot more like a real movie, without breaking the found-footage feel of it. There's also the challenge that many of those saw the first film just have no interest in a second outing. I don't think it's going to find the same level of success in the long run, but may start out with a higher weekend than its first peak. Opening at over 3,200 venues, it should start at around $24 million.
After one weekend in limited release, Hereafter rolls out into over 2,000 venues this weekend. Clint Eastwood's latest, it's a film with a rather heady topic – about life after death. It contains three stories about people who suffer loss – a French journalist caught in a tsunami, an English boy whose brother is killed in a car accident, and a medium, in a head-scratching casting choice, played by Matt Damon, who can talk with the dead.
It's not the most blockbusting subject at the best of times, though with big names at the director's chair and in the lead role, it might stand a chance with audiences. But setting aside the generic respect that Clint Eastwood Oscar-bait gets these days, it's difficult to look at the ad campaign and see who's going to be entertained by this. A bunch of people ponder mortality? Ooh, sign me up. At least the tsunami looks cool.
In its weekend of limited release, it showed a respectable $36,000 per screen average, a number that opens the door for just about anything in wide release. That means it's going to live or die based on reviews and ad quality, which … ooooh, yeah, sorry about that, Clint. With mediocre reviews and nothing in particular to write home about in ads, this may just end up being this year's The Lovely Bones. I'd give it $9 million to start this weekend.
So. Jackass 3D. Didn't quite see that coming. In this case, a gimmick times a gimmick equaled a $50 million opening weekend, and single-handedly justified the existence of 3D for at least some films. While a hit was always in the cards, the sheer dimension of it in this case is going to inspire another round of potentially pointless 3D conversions, some of which will work, some which will have no effect until people figure out just why it helps (hint: it's not just any old effects that people want to pay extra to see in three-dimensions). And for those looking for this documentary of stupid stunts to fall off the map in its second weekend – you probably shouldn't bet too strongly on that. Although the novelty factor is sky-high here, the previous Jackass films have shown remarkable resiliency. This is probably your winning film again this weekend with $25 million.
Red was another mild surprise on the weekend, with a $21 million bow. After a couple opening weekends in the teens, Willis appears to be on an upswing – or maybe he just has his cast of friends to thank. Helen Mirren wielding a submachine gun always brings the big bucks. Essentially comparable to The A-Team's start, it's slightly more remarkable in light that we've already seen this movie twice this year (the other being The Losers), and Red's source material may just have the least recognition of all of them. With reasonably good word-of-mouth, Red should be able to bring in a $12 million second weekend.
Decent holdover was the story of last weekend's returning films, with The Social Network dropping by just one-third again, and now destined for over $100 million, and perhaps more once awards start to be announced. Also performing well in this regard was Secretariat, which dropped only by one-quarter. It's no particular surprise that this crowd-pleasing sports film stuck around, although the degree to which it held on to its opening weekend business is a mild surprise. It's no The Blind Side, and never will be, but the salvage operation has begun. Give both of these films $7 million this weekend.