In the years since March has turned from another dead zone month at the box office to a mini-primetime, one director more than any other has been responsible for loading it with hits. He's back again, to try and kick start what's been an unremarkable spring season.
Weekend Forecast for March 25-27, 2011
By Reagen Sulewski
March 25, 2011
In what's a case of single-minded studio thinking or incredible coincidence, three of Zack Snyder's last four movies have opened in the month of March. Dawn of the Dead, 300 and Watchmen each found their way to surprisingly large debuts in this month (relative to expectations), which is almost certainly why his latest film, Sucker Punch, is arriving this week. There's almost nothing to the notion that films do well in certain months, but Hollywood is if nothing else a creature of habit.
Coming close to being Jail Bait: The Movie, Sucker Punch is yet another of Snyder's hyper-stylized action movies, but this time is the estrogen yin to 300's testosterone-filled yang. Set in a mental institution, it follows a group of girls who enter into a fantasy world of their own creation in order to fashion an escape plan. Look, it makes sense if you're crazy, okay?
Because he's working in entirely CGI environments, Snyder's free to throw in everything he can think of, including war scenes, fire breathing dragons, samurais and robots, whether it makes sense or not. Oh, and don't forget the slo-mo. Buckets and buckets of slo-mo. Snyder's tendencies towards just creating what looks cool on screen and not worrying about things like “themes” and “plot” seem to have been completely unbridled this time, and it's to the film's detriment.
Then again, that overkill in style has proven to have an audience and even if this film looks like one to be endured rather than watched, the cool factor has box office value. The stars of the film make up a laundry list of ingenues, including Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone and Vanessa Hudgens. Carla Gugino, Jon Hamm and a sleepwalking Scott Glenn make up the “adult” portion of the cast, but the true point of this film is to see cute girls in pigtails kicking ass.
In comparison with Snyder's other films, this one suffers significantly by not being an adaptation of something and probably to some degree by there not being any male leads. The biggest problems through, are the terrible reviews and that Snyder's style is reaching its saturation point. It unfortunately has more in common with Speed Racer than Watchmen and that should limit its opening take. At a little over 3,000 venues, look for about a $26 million opening weekend.
The other wider release film of the week is a sequel, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, almost exactly a year after the debut of the first film in the series, based on the popular kid's book series. Though it was widely panned, it opened to $22 million and grossed $65 million, so a sequel isn't too surprising. No one gives up on their potential kid's franchise unless you lose buckets of money (*cough*MarsNeedsMoms*coughcough*). And another cookie cutter film gets shoved through the machine.
Never has “well, if you liked the first one, you'll like this” been more accurate and more shrug-inducing of a comment, as Wimpy Kid 2 appears to hit exactly the same notes, with the exception of the expansion of the older brother role. It's hard to imagine how the weakly received first film or the ads for this sequel could expand the audience for the series, or for that matter, keep it steady, as some decide that the first film was bad enough to turn their backs on this one. I don't predict disaster, but there should be some slippage, to around $19 million this time.
Both these films should easily top the leading films from last week, which outperformed expectations a little but didn't set the world on fire. Limitless was a solid win for most concerned, giving Bradley Cooper his first post-Hangover win, showing that he can draw audiences when he's the advertised reason to see a film. The thriller genre isn't always one that ends up being leggy, but with generally tolerable reviews, Limitless could hold on with decent numbers for a few more weeks. Look for around $11 million this weekend.
By contrast, family films often are quite leggy, and that's something Rango's proven with just shy of $100 million in its first three weeks. While celeb voices have sometimes proven to be less than reliable sources of box office for animated films, Depp, combined with the quirky material, has clearly brought the goods as far as audiences are concerned. We're looking at at least a $150 million film here, and possibly a bit more. Its fourth weekend should be an impressive $10 million.
Two of last week's new films, The Lincoln Lawyer and Paul nearly tied in the box office standings, and should both easily outpace the plummeting Battle: Los Angeles in their second weeks. The Lincoln Lawyer has a bit of an edge on Paul thanks to its more traditional genre and less fickle fans, though the positive reviews of both should mean that both can find solid second weekends. Look for $8 and $7 million respectively from these two films. As for Battle: LA, this is looking more and more like a film that's going to squander a $35 million opening into an $90 million or less domestic finish. Give it just $6 million or so this weekend.