Hollywood is only batting about .500 with this summer's collection of sequels, reboots and retreads, but will audiences actually embrace something original? That's the big question of this weekend.
Weekend Forecast for June 10-12, 2011
By Reagen Sulewski
June 9, 2011
Well, original-ish, in that Super 8 is not based on anything specifically. What J.J. “Lens Flare (I mean Jesus there's lens flare on the *poster*)” Abrams has admitted to is stealing Steven Spielberg's '80s action-adventure style off lock, stock and barrel. Though it's with Spielberg's blessing (he's on as an executive producer) and if you're going to steal someone's style, I can think of far worse people. This is very much a case of “they don't make that kind of film anymore” brought to life, with “that” being films like E.T. and The Goonies.
The film centers around a group of kids (mostly unknowns – though Elle Fanning of the Fanning Dynasty should be vaguely familiar to you) in a small midwestern town, who while filming a home movie (hence the title – it's a cheap film stock) accidentally capture a train crash, which happened to contain a secret government… something. Think E.T. if he didn't want to just eat peanut butter candy. Abrams is going a little more malevolent than the traditional Spielberg action film, grafting his Cloverfieldian sense of danger onto the coming-of-age/daddy issues (courtesy of the main kid's dad, played by Kyle Chandler) story.
Most of the detail of the film has been successfully kept under wraps with an idea towards keeping the surprise for the theater. As well, it's largely relied on viral marketing techniques, attempting to sell the film as a discovery. That's a double-edged sword, as without those details, it's difficult to sell the public that doesn't immediately grok to the nostalgia being offered up. You have to give points for integrity, but it may end up being something that ultimately costs Paramount a ton of money.
What gives some hope are the spectacular reviews, which could help beyond what's starting to look like an underwhelming opening weekend. This is why we can't have nice things, people. Alternatively, have fun at Transformers 3 and The Smurfs, jerks. But perhaps just like the '80s throwback this film is, it'll throwback to old school legs. With what looks like about a $35 million weekend, it'll need it.
You're not interested in the only other new wide film this weekend, unless you're a nine-year-old girl, or sort of creepy. Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer is based on a series of youth novels apparently modeled after the Ramona Quimby books. The plot: a young girl and her brother have wacky adventures in the summer. The End. I smell Oscars!
Aside from its demographic limitations, anonymous cast (Heather Graham being the only person in it you've heard of) and terrible reviews, there's very little else stopping it from breaking out. What? Oh. Right. Look for just $5 million for this in its opening weekend.
The characteristically deep mid-summer slate of returning films starts off with X-Men: First Class. Despite generally positive reviews and a solid trailer, it could only manage $55 million in its opening weekend, barely above the 11-year-old mark set by the first X-Men film. Which, when you factor in ticket inflation, is a number that leads to some Fox executives making sure their resumes are updated, you know, just in case. Such was the damage of X-Men 3 and Wolverine. But perhaps we just need to get used to these actors as the new personification of X-Men and the next film will do better. I mean, it'll have to. A solid result would give this around $32 million for a second weekend, but I expect we're looking at closer to $30 million than that.
The Hangover Part II fell the expected two-thirds in its second weekend, though it's still within spitting distance of $200 million, thanks to its ridiculously hot start. Does it get to $275 million from here? Probably not. Such is the character of sequels these days. Less extreme, but still exhibiting that characteristic, is Kung Fu Panda 2, which dropped 50%, and is going to need to strain its neck to see the $215 million the first film made. Both of these films should fall to about $14 million this weekend. You can throw Pirates of the Caribbean 4 in there as another franchise film quickly exiting theaters and due to end up well short of the standard set by its predecessors. It'll add about $9 million to its total this weekend.
That's about the same total that Bridesmaids, the only leggy film from the first six weeks or so of the summer, will put up in its fifth weekend. Seriously, whoever designed the ad campaign for this film needs a swift kick to somewhere painful.
A wildcard this weekend is Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen's latest, which has snuck up on people. Starring Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams as an engaged couple wrestling with their relationship while visiting Paris. Wilson's character is somehow transported back to 1920s Paris, where he encounters some of the legendary figures of that day, including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Salvador Dali, but finds the golden age ain't all it's cracked up to be. So far this has been good enough for $7 million on just a few hundred screens, with an expansion to around 1,000 this weekend. I'd look for a weekend take of around $5 million here.