One look at what passes for the top new movie of this weekend and you'll run screaming back into Transformers. Oh, you crafty bastard, Michael Bay.
Weekend Forecast for July 8-10, 2011
By Reagen Sulewski
July 8, 2011
Since leaving King of Queens and falling under the umbrella of Adam Sandler, Kevin James has carved himself out a comfy little territory in the comedy world, making awful films that do well. And while two of them, Grown Ups and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, were with the help of Sandler, James became a star in his own right with the inexplicable success of Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which heralded the return of old school legs, opening to $31 million and closing with $146 million domestic. Earlier this year, we had the minor flop of The Dilemma, but everyone saw that coming and we were content to lay it at Vince Vaughn's feet. Now comes James' next test of his leading man prowess, in Zookeeper.
Here, James is essentially ripping off two franchises at the same time – Doctor Doolittle and Night At The Museum, as he plays the title character who discovers that his animals can talk – and they have romantic advice. While turning to a gorilla to help you with the ladies seems like an idea that could go spectacularly wrong, we're also talking about Kevin James, who could probably use all the help he can get. And that's pretty much all there is. Pitched a little younger than some of James' other films, Zookeeper will definitely test the patience of any adults, and probably a lot of the kids that go see this film, but James has earned at least one good will chance, and should take this film to similar heights as his other films, at around $28 million.
In the annals of career comebacks, Jason Bateman's would seem to be among the most unlikely. A teen idol who mostly disappeared for about a decade after the cancellation of his sitcom into a drug fueled haze, Bateman crawled back into respectability with Arrested Development, only one of the best TV shows of all time, then found a number of supporting roles in both blockbusters and Oscar winning films. After enough second-banana roles, 2011 has become the year when he steps out on his own for top-billing. This week's Horrible Bosses is the first of two summer films where he's at least the co-lead.
A round-about remake of Strangers on a Train, Bosses sees Bateman, Jason Sudekis and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's Charlie Day as three friends who find themselves in horrible work situations they're unable to extract themselves from and thus turn to the only logical solution: a murder swap.
In a strange casting twist, the secondary boss characters have quite a bit more fame than the leads – played by Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston, respectively – though it's their three subordinates that are being asked to be the draws for the film. Luckily for the film, R-rated black comedies are experiencing a brief and unusual surge in popularity, the most recent being Bad Teacher. The questions that always have to be asked in this situation is if it actually represents a trend, and if so, have audiences had enough, or even if it's just simply coincidence and more the product of actually putting out funny trailers for a change (Bateman's deadpans are a particular highlight). A radical concept, I know.
In addition to the solid trailers and extremely relateable concept, reviews for the film are unusually good. However, the lack of a top line star may keep it from starting out as strong as Bad Teacher or even The Hangover (which had comparable star power, but a much funnier premise and bulletproof trailer), probably relegating it to a Bridesmaids-esque performance, with the potential for a lot more down the line. I'd look for about $23 million as an opening weekend here.
Both these films are going to be dwarfed, however, by the second weekend of Transformers 3, which won the July 4th weekend with nearly $100 million in three days, and reached $200 million in eight days. This still marks a decline from the second Transformers film, but circumstance makes up a portion of that decline. Of course, there's undoubtedly some amount of the drop that can be attributed to dissatisfaction with the atrocity was Revenge of the Fallen, but it can't obviously be that large to make this much money this quickly. Setting aside the calendar-dependent 60%-plus drop of Revenge of the Fallen in its second weekend, the Transformers films have typically shed a little less than half of their box office each weekend, which would give Transformers 3 around $50 million, and a fairly easy win on the weekend.
Speaking of dissatisfaction, Cars 2 threw up the worst second weekend performance for a Pixar film since the first Harry Potter film sideswiped Monsters, Inc. ten years ago. It's entirely possible that Transformers 3 did much the same thing here, though I also put some of it towards the miserable reviews, by far the worst of the studio's history. This weekend will go a long ways towards telling which of those hypotheses is correct, but without a Christmas season to boost it, it's in danger of being the first Pixar film since A Bug's Life to not make it to the $200 million milestone. Look for around $13 million for it this weekend.
Bad Teacher also took a sizable tumble in its second weekend, though after opening to $31 million, it's already won its war. It probably won't find its way to $100 million domestic, but with a budget of just $20 million, it doesn't need to. Another lower-budgeted than you'd expect film is Larry Crowne, which underwhelmed with a $13 million opening, but cost only $30 million to make. It may bruise Tom Hanks' and Julia Roberts' asking prices, but shouldn't bruise the bottom line of Universal. Both these films should end up at around $8 million this weekend.