And with that, we're pretty much done with blockbusters for the summer. Oh sure, there's some franchises and high profile films left to go before Labor Day slows things down to a crawl, some this week even, but we're plumb out of sure things to trot out. The compensation – a ton of wide releases each week for the next while.
Weekend Forecast for August 12-14, 2011
By Reagen Sulewski
August 12, 2011
Already we're up to four new releases this week, deviating from the one or two a week we got from May through July. We even have a return of that old friend, the random mid-week opening, this time with The Help. An adaptation of the Kathryn Stockett novel, it stars Emma Stone as a young college graduate in early 1960s Mississippi who decides to document the life of the black women in her life, thereby discovering the divisions in their society. I know, I know, "white people discover life ain't so hot for black people in the south." At one time, this was revelatory for people.
In addition to Stone, we have Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer (from Ugly Betty) as the two main subjects of her expose, Allison Janney as Stone's flighty but supportive mother, Bryce Dallas Howard as the film's ostensible villain, a society girl trying to keep the apple cart from being upset. Reviews of the films are solid, though those that hate it really hate it a lot, calling it shallow and false. As well, few of those who like the film really champion it, though most single out its cast for praise.
Of course, with a Wednesday release, we already have an idea of how it's doing, as it started out with a decent $5.5 million, good enough for first place, at least temporarily. These Wednesday releases inevitably suck a good portion of the audience out of the weekend, so while it's better than not being first, there's no reason to expect the film's good luck to continue through the next four days. Typically an opening day like this should lead to an opening weekend of about $19 million, though that would represent an excellent showing for a film that's trading mostly on the popularity of a non-romantic novel.
Among Friday's films, the strongest looks to be the latest from the increasingly ludicrously-titled Final Destination series. We're up to film number five now, and the justifications for the bizarrely elaborate deaths are becoming thinner and thinner. The fourth entry in the series was the first in the 3D era, which gave it a little reason to be, putting a little novelty into the proceedings of watching people marched to their death by fate. So what have they got in store for us this time? More of the same, apparently, though there's a slight germ of an idea proposed in the trailer, that the anonymous teens who survive the initial accident (this time, a bridge collapse), can escape from death by having someone else killed in their place. I have to admit that this is at least a little interesting, though I don't expect the film to really follow through on its idea. It's way more interested in offing people with acupuncture needles and laser eye surgery machines.
The Final Destination, 2009's entry in the series, got a boost to its opening weekend to the tune of $27 million after the steady, inflation-fueled climbs of the other series. This didn't make much difference to the final total, or at least not a proportional one, finishing with $66 million and barely above the total of the first film in the series (which doesn't even account for inflation). The audience for these films isn't growing by any appreciable measure – simply becoming more urgent about when they see it. I see this backing off slightly from Final Destination 4's opening to around $21 million.
“Ripped From the Headlines” is something we've come to expect more from Law & Order franchises than feature films, but 30 Minutes or Less is a rare entry in that last category, albeit obliquely. Vaguely resembling a real incident in 2003, the film's plot centers around a slacker pizza delivery boy (played by Jesse Eisenberg), who is kidnapped and strapped to a bomb, then ordered to rob a bank by two criminals (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson). Enlisting the help of his school teacher friend (Aziz Ansari), he has to outwit both the cops and his captors to survive.
While there's a lot of different ways you could take this material (deadly serious might fit, since the man in the original story died), filmmaker Ruben Fleischer (of Zombieland) has chosen to go for madcap comedy. And if you just went off the commercials, it would look like they've succeeded, as there a number of truly hysterical set pieces. This may be a case of the trailers wildly outrunning the film in quality, as reviewers have been fairly unkind to it, citing pacing and tone issues.
The most obvious comparison for this film is Zombieland, which shares a director and lead, along with a highly gimmicky premise. However, there's an apparent quality gap of significant depth between these two films, and zombies trump caper films. This compares more directly with something like Cop Out (though hopefully far more competent) or Harold and Kumar films. I'd look for around $16 million for this film's start.
Finally, we have the Glee 3D concert movie, which starts a two week run this weekend. A documentary covering the TV show's summer concert tour, it's pretty much the definition of "if you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you'll like." If you simply want to see the cast of the show singing and dancing in a hastily slapped together plot … well, you can just tune into any random episode of the show. Also, you could pay $15 to see the movie, if seeing Heather Morris in 3D is worth it to you (suddenly this is starting to seem like a good idea).
Concert films have been hit or miss in the past few years, though this year did see Justin Bieber break the downward trend with a $29 million opening. Glee's fanbase is considerably less fanatic and smaller than his, and there's always been trouble in getting audiences to pay for something they can get for free, vis a vis adaptations of current shows. I'd say we're looking for something more along the lines of the Jonas Brothers concert movie, with around $11 million opening weekend.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes wasn't a surprise winner of the weekend, though it did still surprise many with the size of that weekend, earning $54 million. That's well down from the 2001 Planet of the Apes movie in both raw and inflated numbers, but after Tim Burton kneecapped the franchise this is a pretty remarkable showing. It's somewhat comparable to Batman Begins, for instance. Word-of-mouth has also been excellent, with the film's surprise quality working strongly in its favor for an extended run in these dog days of summer. Look for it to win another weekend with $32 million.
The news of the inevitable Smurfs sequel follows its breaking the $75 million mark over the weekend, with a modest drop to $20 million. Why do you do these things to your kids, parents? Give this $13 million this weekend.
Cowboys & Aliens lived down to its generic title with a hefty drop to $16 million in its second frame. Breaking the $100 million plateau may prove to be a struggle for this film, which has a reported budget in excess of $150 million, spelling a lot of trouble for everyone involved. Maybe Favreau shouldn't have passed on Iron Man 3 so quickly. Give it $7 million this weekend.
Even when there's a trend of audiences supporting R-rated comedies, they can still smell crap. The Change-Up debuted to $13.5 million, and makes for Ryan Reynolds' second high-profile failure in a row, not to mention taking some of the wind out of Jason Bateman's sails. The lesson here: don't make lazy movies in tired genres. Look for it to drop to around $6 million.
Also sliding in at around $6-7 million are Harry Potter 7.2, which officially is now the highest grossing movie of 2011, surpassing Transformers 3, Captain America, which has passed X-Men: First Class in the comic book war of 2011 and is closing in on Thor, and Crazy, Stupid Love, which isn't in any particular genre battle, but is simply earning gobs of money relative to its budget.