Ah, April. It's a month when studios and consumers are just biding their time until something big-budget and larger-than-life hits theaters. Until we get to that point, theaters are full of run-of-the-mill comedies and remakes, crappy inspirational sports movies, and - oh, hey. Hanna actually looks interesting.
By Kim Hollis
April 8, 2011
The theoretical top dog amongst the new releases this weekend is Arthur, the remake of the well-loved Dudley Moore film that first appeared in theaters 30 years ago. I actually question whether the majority of moviegoers - or at least the ones in the primary demographic - have even heard of the film, or Moore. The diminutive actor was nominated for an Oscar for his performance (he won the Golden Globe), and Sir John Gielgud, the man who played the drunken billionaire playboy's servant, won the Academy Award for Supporting Actor. It's a pretty well-regarded film although it's thoroughly imperfect, but if no one really remembers it except "old people," why not reboot with actors who are actually alive and stuff?
Thus, we have Russell Brand as Arthur (but is his version of Arthur really so different from Aldous Snow of Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek?) and...Helen Mirren in the Gielgud role. Mirren could lend an air of credibility to the film, and Jennifer Garner is easily an upgrade from Liza Minelli, but reviews would seem to indicate that the magic of the original film has not been caught between the moon and New York City (oh, you knew it was coming). Instead, it's probably more in line with the ill-considered sequel Arthur II: On the Rocks. Reviews aren't going to matter much for opening weekend, though, and there's no real reason to think that this 21st century version of Arthur won't perform at least as well as Get Him to the Greek, and probably just a bit better. A weekend total of $18 million is reasonable for the comedy.
From Arthur we move to a different breed of comedy in Your Highness, which is from the guy who directed Pineapple Express - and George Washington. His films do have a unique look and feel to them, something that Your Majesty seems to share (if commercials and trailers are any indication). The two films also have some actors in common - namely James Franco and Danny McBride. Recently, Franco may have alienated some folks with his truly bizarre hosting of the Oscars, but at the same time, he has a lot of fans and a lot more people know who he is now. McBride also has his followers, but whether or not he adds much to a film's box office potential is another story.
Instead, the movie's best hope for success probably lies with Natalie Portman, who is riding high with her recent Academy Award for Best Actress in Black Swan. Portman is hotter than hot right now, even taking something as average-looking as No Strings Attached to a $70 million total (versus its $25 million budget). Given her presence and the fact that "From the Director of Pineapple Express" will add a certain number of fans, Your Highness should open in the $13 million range.
Also opening this weekend is Hanna, which reunites the young actress Saoirse Ronan with her Atonement director Joe Wright. She plays a teenage assassin in the movie, and the commercials and trailers have been extremely intriguing and engaging. What's particularly fascinating about this Focus Features release is the amount of marketing that has been done for the film. The ads have been fairly ubiquitous for a movie that feels like it should have been a much smaller-scale release.
Instead, the movie is opening in more than 2,000 locations, and it's clear that the studio has plenty of faith in their product. It's largely receiving good reviews, too, which would support their conclusions about the quality of their film. It's pretty clear that they're going for Leon: The Professional vibe (speaking of Natalie Portman) and while that's not going to translate to huge success, it should be enough for $7 million or so.
Our final new opener is Soul Surfer, also on more than 2,000 screens, featuring another young up-and-comer in AnnaSophia Robb in the lead role. She portrays a surfer who loses an arm in a shark attack, and then works up the courage to start going back in the ocean and compete. The movie also features such luminaries as Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt and Kevin Sorbo (Hercules returns!), and is a
"based-on-true-events" tale that is meant to be inspirational and family oriented.
The thing is, there just hasn't been a big marketing push for this film. Sure, this sort of movie can sometimes capture an audience through grass-roots marketing, but if anything, this feels like either a Direct-to-DVD movie or something that might be available on Lifetime. No matter what, there's nothing to make Soul Surfer feel particularly special other than its inspirational story, but that type of plot is a dime a dozen. Look for Soul Surfer to take in $3 million over the weekend.