After a few weeks of hurling anything they had in their vaults at screens to no avail, Hollywood takes the radical step of just releasing a couple of movies this weekend, but ones that people actually want to see.
Weekend Forecast for October 7-9, 2011
By Reagen Sulewski
October 7, 2011
Leading the way is the year's clubhouse leader for the “I can't believe this is actually a movie” award, Real Steel, starring Hugh Jackman. Set in a near future where boxing has been banned and replaced with robot surrogates, Jackman plays a down-on-his-luck promoter who discovers an old fighting robot, and decides to get it back into shape for the ring to win a title (side note: I don't think that's how technology works). Along the way, he kindles a relationship with the son he never knew he had, and there's probably something in there about a crippled kid and a lost puppy or something.
Somewhere along the way from the first trailers to release, this went from “seriously, they're kidding, right?” to “robots are cool!”, with people embracing the hoary collection of sports movie cliches that this film inevitably will consist of. They clearly can't be responding to Hugh Jackman's presence as a lead, since his record of opening movies outside of the X-Men franchise is spotty at best. Van Helsing might be his only real win other than those, though Australia did earn $200 million worldwide after bombing in America. But after a month of dour, unappealing releases, moviegoers are probably looking for something that's a bit of goofy fun. This will probably play as a hybrid of a sports film and an action film, with an opening weekend around $22 million.
For those of us who can't quite get over the fact they remade Robot Jox, there's The Ides of March, a political thriller, starring and directed by George Clooney, who plays an Ohio governor on a run for president. The real lead of the game, however, is Ryan Gosling, who's well on his way to meeting his goal of starring in half the films released in 2011 (Jessica Chastain starring in the other half), as a political operative true-believer, who is nonetheless tempted into betraying his boss over a potential scandal.
While it's difficult to believe there's anyone left to be surprised that politics is a dirty sport, the political thriller is a long respected genre, if not always a tremendously lucrative one. The most recent of these was State of Play, which opened to $14 million on the backs of Ben Affleck and Russell Crowe. Gosling and Clooney combined should exceed that in terms of star power, and then you have Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright and Evan Rachel Wood to round out the cast.
Reviews are curiously tepid for the film, but it's hard to imagine this much talent being involved in a film like this that doesn't hang together well in some fashion. Indeed, that's what the ad campaign has to be banking on, that with all these names, there's something worthwhile to see for anyone who's a fan of thrillers. Without rapturous reviews, however, it's likely going to fail to break out to a large degree and should sit at about $16 million for the weekend.
Thus ends the rein of terror of family films at the top of the box office, with The Lion King and Dolphin Tale slipping down the charts. While Dolphin Tale's $40 million to date is certainly impressive, the bigger story is The Lion King proving the value of 3D re-releases. Three other Disney films have since been announced as 3D re-releases, with little surprise, considering the $80 million The Lion King has pulled in. For this weekend, look for Dolphin Tale to bring in $9 million and Lion King $6 million.
Moneyball performed solidly in its second weekend with $12 million, pulling it up to $40 million total, which is $40 million more than by all rights a film about statistical analysis of baseball should have. Credit Brad Pitt, Bennett Miller, Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin for spinning straw into, if not gold, at least copper here, especially against the end of the regular season of baseball and the playoffs. I'd look for this to draw $8 million this weekend.
Little else seems likely to make an impact from the returning slate of films – the cancer dramedy 50/50 might just eke over $5 million, while Courageous, the sort-of-out-of-nowhere faith-themed drama should be just below that. Dream House, the every-haunted-house-film-in-a-blender from last weekend, should fall to $4 million, while What's Your Number? is wishing it hadn't asked that question.