The floodgates open this pre-Valentine's Day weekend at the box office, with four new films and a whole bunch of star power finding its way to multiplexes. Quality might be an issue, but, you know, baby steps as far as getting films in the theater that people actually want to see.
Weekend Forecast for February 11-13, 2011
By Reagen Sulewski
February 11, 2011
Although Valentine's Day is on a Monday this year, there's traditionally some spillover of romantic movie watching into the nearest weekend, which is why we're led off by a romcom on Friday. Just Go With It is Adam Sandler's latest, and seems to be titled as a metaphor for Sandler's career (alternate titles: You Deserve This and Whaddya Gonna Do, Read A Book?). In it, Sandler plays a plastic surgeon who uses the fake wedding ring gambit as a way to meet women, and then is forced to keep up the facade when he meets a woman (Brooklyn Decker's Boobs) he actually wants to have a relationship with. What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to be a douchebag.
The ready-made option for a fake ex-wife is his assistant, played by Jennifer Aniston (and you're ignoring her... why, exactly?) and her two kids (oh). All sorts of wacky sitcomish situations arise out of Sandler's inability to just fess up to Decker's Boobs – though really, think this one through. This ends well for him... how? But because this is Hollywood and Sandler's wish fulfillment, there's no way this ends without a horribly contrived “everything's coming up Milhouse” scenario.
Sandler has twice before gone for the romantic route on Valentine's Day, both times finding a lot of success. The Wedding Singer was the film that launched him from college dorm room cult figure status into the mainstream with $80 million in total. 50 First Dates surpassed that with around $120 million, although that falls towards the lower end of Sandler's hits, and with ticket inflation, the two films are pretty close to equal. Sandler's hit on a canny way to take Just Go With It to the next level however, and that's Brooklyn Decker's Boobs.
It's hard to argue that the former swimsuit model isn't the most attractive romantic object of desire in any Sandler movie to date, and having Decker's Boobs emerge from the Hawaiian surf like a modern-day Bo Derek is a masterstroke as far as the film's marketing. Targeting people who like juvenile comedy and boobs? Genius!
Sandler has shown a remarkable resilience over the years when playing to mass audiences – even things like You Don't Mess With the Zohan have hit despite their readily apparent mediocrity. And with the addition of Aniston and Decker's Boobs to keep things fresh for his core fans, Just Go With It should get a slight uptick from his recent film openings to around $45 million.
This week's wildcard release is Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, a 3D concert film about the inexplicably popular Canadian (a fact about which I will not apologize – Americans can stop making him a big deal at any time) haircut/singer. Can millions of screaming teenage fans be wrong? Absolutely. But they'll buy tickets anyway.
Presenting his rise from obscurity on the mean streets of Stratford, Ontario (where the biggest calamity that might befall you is Christopher Plummer berating you for getting his coffee order wrong), to international flash-in-the-pandom, this hagiography is calculated to capitalize on the craze before it fades to obscurity, or at the minimum, he goes through an awkward young adult phase.
The obvious comparisons here are the Hannah Montana and Jonas Brothers (remember them? Tick tock, Justin) concert movies, though those are on two different scales. The Hannah Montana movie opened to $31 million in 2008, but was a bit of a bait and switch, promised to be a one-weekend only event, later expanded to a regular run. The smaller phenomenon of the Jonas Brothers led to a $12 million opening. Without the false urgency of the Miley Cyrus movie, but with the boost of 3D ticket pricing, this should find its way to the upper end of that range, starting with a $24 million opening weekend.
The first major animated feature of the year, Gnomeo and Juliet, arrives in theaters after a long journey. Originally conceived nearly a decade ago, the film was shelved by Disney in 2006, then bought up by Miramax and eventually blended back into the Disney family through the Touchstone arm of the company. A retelling of the Romeo and Juliet story but with – get this! – garden gnomes, it purports to tell the story of the vicious rivalry between red-hatted and blue-hatted gnomes, and of the romance between two gnomes on each side.
Voice talent includes James McAvoy and Emily Blunt in the title roles, and Michael Caine, Jason Statham and Ozzy Osbourne for some reason, though your kids are unlikely to care about that. Let's face it – that's who this style-ripoff of Toy Story is for. Without adult audiences, this film's likely to languish, and I've seen nothing in particular to bring them in – not even the lazy pop culture references of a Shrek. Look for around $12 million this weekend.
Straight-up action is handled by The Eagle, a film about Roman-era Britain starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell. Tatum plays a young commander of a legion who sets out to restore his family's honor by recovering a golden eagle lost by his father several years before. Venturing out into the wilds of northern Britain accompanied by only a slave (uh, are you sure you've thought this one through? I'm just sayin'), he's tested by an inhospitable land and the very forces that killed his father and his men before him.
Tatum might very well be the most successful young actor that you couldn't really name anything he's been in. So far, he's been the lead but entirely forgettable in films as wide ranging as G.I. Joe and Dear John, throwing in a Step Up 1 & 2 here, a Fighting there, and smaller roles in films like Stop-Loss and The Dilemma. But could you pick him out of a lineup? Almost certainly not. He's like Mark Wahlberg without the unintentional humor or sense of danger. The biggest problem for The Eagle may come in distinguishing itself from the similarly-themed Centurion. If that one was barely better than a direct-to-video release, why is this one any different? It's hard to justify why. I see this coming in with about $6 million.
After a couple of weeks of unimpressive films, the cupboard is pretty bare for returning flicks. Both of last week's new films, The Roommate and Sanctum, are prime candidates for significant falls, being terrible movies starring no one anyone cares about (sorry, Minka). If you want to see how far The Roommate could drop, scroll down the chart from last weekend to see The Rite all the way in sixth place just a week after it won the weekend with a similar gross. Sanctum is potentially even more screwed. This films should grab just $6 and $4 million respectively.
That leaves just The King's Speech and No Strings Attached as significant grossers this weekend, with the former being the last film standing among Oscar nominees (at least until the ceremony). With around $6 million this weekend, it'll push ever closer to the $100 million mark. No Strings Attached, meanwhile, should add around $5 million, and solidify itself as a strong early year performer.