What if there was a summer weekend and no one came? That's the question facing Hollywood this week, as we get a couple of releases more befitting a late August weekend than early May.
Weekend Forecast for May 13-15, 2011
By Reagen Sulewski
May 13, 2011
Especially in an openly unoriginal medium like film, success breeds copycats. Rarely are they as blatant as Bridesmaids, which should probably just come out and subtitle itself “Like The Hangover, With Chicks!” Kristen Wiig stars as her typical goony, klutzy self, a woman picked as her best friend's (Maya Rudolph) maid of honor, and who organizes a bachelorette party for her strange collection of bridesmaids.
As we'd otherwise have no movie, things rapidly spiral out of control, with vomit jokes, sexual aggressiveness and petty jealousies rising to the surface. If the moral of the story is that girls can be gross too, then mission accomplished. In fact, some have decided that's exactly what it is, claiming that it's all but a duty for women to see this film, to rage against the phallocentric comedy world (because if there's one thing women like, it's being told what to do). This apparently, is a necessary strategy because they've been unable to cut a trailer that has anything that sells the movie as a must-see, even in the red-band version, where they don't have to hold things back.
It's been a surprise, then, as the reviews have rolled in, that the critical consensus has been so positive. In fact, nearly unanimously so. It's not unusual for comedies to be difficult to see in a 30 second spot, but rarely has the cognitive dissonance been so pronounced, like we're being told that Bride Wars is the new Blazing Saddles. With this, it's being pulled back from the brink, and I think more than a few people will be willing to at least give it a chance, but not without some trepidation. That's not always a bad thing for the long run - “it's funnier than you'd think!” is a strong selling point for a comedy – but the opening weekend shouldn't come close to what it might have been had they been able to cut a trailer that had, you know, things to laugh at.
The aforementioned Bride Wars is the most recent female-targeted comedy, though the most direct parallels are probably Baby Mama, and the little-lamented The Sweetest Thing, both of which were sold on various levels of bawdiness and strong female leads. The peak opening weekend for these seems to be in the mid 20s, and based on its ad blitz and reviews, Bridesmaids should approach this, with about $22 million.
In the category of “If at first you don't succeed, try it again anyway”, we have Priest, from the director of Legion. Like that film, this also stars Paul Bettany as a religious avenger – except this time there's vampires. Hey, at least this time they're horrible, animalistic vampires, instead of mopey, glittery ones.
Based on a graphic novel that you haven't heard of, Priest is that rarest of genres, action-horror, with perhaps a touch of sci-fi thrown in. It's definitely possible to take a character that no one knows anything and turn into a modest success if you throw some vampires in – take Blade, for example - but you do need an actor who's believable as an action star and a film that doesn't look ridiculous. I'd say they're hitting 50% on each of those items with Priest, which definitely looks better than Legion even if that's the very definition of damning with faint praise. It's also (going out on a limb, here) probably better than an Uwe Boll film, and you don't see any films using that as a selling point.
Legion managed, somehow, to open to $17 million in January of 2009, before making barely twice that overall. It's difficult to imagine Priest making less than that film, though at the same time it's difficult to imagine it making all that much more. I don't think Legion inspired a, er, legion of fans clamoring for more single-worded vaguely religiously-themed action films. I'd look for around $19 million here.
All this means that Thor likely wins the weekend again. Starting off with around $65 million, it defied a lot of expectations by being silly fun instead of tedious FX monotony, meaning it won't fall like a rock like some other superhero movies we could name. At the same time, no one's calling it the new Spider-Man, either, and comic book movies have some pretty self-selecting first weekend audiences. It's actually performed the best relative to the weekend of any film during the weekdays, although that's only rarely an indicator of much. I'd look for around a $33 million second weekend.
Fast Five followed the Fast and Furious franchise pattern of ridiculously steep second week drop-offs despite being quite a bit better than most of the other films in it (there's that faint praise again). Solid word-of-mouth doesn't mean much when you already sold every reasonable person who'd want to see your film on seeing it in the first weekend. Give this $14 million for its third weekend, which will still help it get within spitting distance of $200 million overall.
Jumping the Broom appears to be performing like a Tyler Perry film in miniature, and should likely duplicate his films' second weekend performances, which is to say, imploding on dramatic scales. It and Something Borrowed (how many wedding comedies do we need? Stop it already, Hollywood) should both drop to around $6 million.