Weekend Forecast for October 21-23, 2011
By Reagen Sulewski
October 21, 2011

Children, this is what happens when you don't properly floss before bedtime

It's a packed weekend in terms of new films in the theater this week, but in all likelihood there's really only one you care about. Hey, that's one more than a lot of recent weeks, right?

After the stunning success of Paranormal Activity in 2009, grossing almost $200 million worldwide off a production budget that wouldn't cover Charlie Sheen's daily hooker bill, the team behind it quickly realized they had a problem on their hands – they'd written themselves into a corner. So for the sequel – which in Hollywood tradition had the budget spiral out of control to $3 million – they decided to expand the universe of the budding franchise and make a prequel. That worked to a modest degree – despite opening to $40 million, the worldwide take of the film actually declined from the original – killing off the Saw franchise in the process. So what's next? Uh... another prequel!

Paranormal 3 gets handed off to the directors of Catfish, no doubt after the directors of the last two films got bored of putting together night vision footage. This choice makes a kind of sense, since these guys are used to working with documentary footage that contains a mystery (then again, the last horror franchise to be handed over to documentarians was Blair Witch). Reviews are strangely positive for the film, though you really have to wonder if audiences are growing tired of the same-ol', same-ol'. Then again, we sat through seven Saw movies. This feels like a little different situation, though, in that they basically are all the same movie, with the same scare points and techniques, with about five minutes of actual scary footage. Hey, if you got people to pay for that twice, may as well try three times. I'm ready for some mold to show on this franchise's box office prospects, and I'd look for this to decline slightly from the monstrous opening of Paranormal Activity 2, to around $34 million.

On this week in pointless 3D, we have The Three Musketeers, which is approximately the 83 kajillionth version of the Alexandre Dumas novel brought to the screen, only this time, there's things coming out of the screen at you. Presumably swords, but I imagine there'll be a hat with a feather in it tossed casually at the screen, and we'll all be, like, “woo!”. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (i.e. not the good Paul Anderson) and starring Orlando Bloom (in a villainous role for a change), Christoph Waltz (in a villainous role as always) Ray Stevenson, Milla Jovovich, Matthew McFayden and something called Logan Lerman as D'Artagnan, this version of the story seems both over the top and stale at the same time, which is no mean feat for a film that puts airships into the 17th century. I mean, that's kind of like putting nuclear weaponry in the Revolutionary War (oh no, I've just given Michael Bay an idea).

Of course, even though it looks like a really intense side mission from Assassin's Creed, it's still likely to be better than 2001's The Musketeer, which ended the leading man pretensions of Justin Chambers (though he could break out of Grey's Anatomy any day) and also more or less ended the mainstream career of Mena Suvari, and that was just from their acting, and not the horribly out of place kung-fu choreography. This version seems to settle for “completely insane”, but misses that it's a Three Musketeers film, and mixing a film with literary heritage with a bunch of explosions is going to piss off both fans of the novel and the teenagers looking for an action film and wondering why everyone's in puffy outfits. We're also past the point where 3D works for 3D's sake so look for this to underwhelm with about $11 million.

Following these two films are two others that have more modest distribution plans, compared to the typical 3,000-plus blitz. Johnny English Reborn is the eight-years-later “wait, why?” sequel to Johnny English, Rowan Atkinson's bumbling James Bond parody. In this case, the why is mostly not related to us, since the first film earned a full 80% of its box office overseas, and a huge portion of the domestic returns were likely from Canada. Reborn already has $80 million in the bank from those territories, and anything from the US market is largely gravy. That's probably a good thing for its producers, as without the built-in affection for Mr. Bean, those board-in-crotch and funny-voice jokes go over like a particularly unfunny episode of Tim Allen's new sitcom (I'm speaking purely hypothetically here, but I feel safe with this example). So, presuming there hasn't been a sudden outbreak of Bean-mania in the US in the last eight years, I'm prepared to put this one down for a mere $5 million.

With a 900 theater release plan, The Mighty Macs screams “niche film”, though as a quasi-religious movie, it has to be taken seriously in that regard, thanks to the recent success of Courageous. Carla Gugino (who should probably burst into flame being put in proximity to anything religious. I mean, did they see Sin City? I guess probably not) stars as Carla Rush, a college basketball coach who led a rag-tag team from Immaculata College to three straight national titles in the 1970s. Of course, it was barely a sport at that point, so it's grain-of-salt time, not that I'm trying to dump all over them. Stepping back from the film, it's really nothing we haven't seen before in a sports movie, except it's women, and unless you find something hysterical about nuns-as-cheerleaders (which seems like it belongs in a… different… kind of movie) the novelty isn't going to last that long for you. I don't see this coming in with more than $3 million.

This means Real Steel gets unseated from the top of the box office after a two-week squat and about $55 million so far. Appealing to the robophiliac population, as well as those who like big, dumb movies, Real Steal is something of a triumph of marketing, as it progressed from a joke to a legitimate movie over the course of the year. With its massive, nine-figure budget, it's still hurting to reach profitability, but it's in a much better situation than it could, nay, should be. Look for around $9 million this weekend for it.

The remake of Footloose was second last weekend with $15.5 million, which is a really good figure for a movie that has no reason to exist (seriously, kids, old movies won't hurt you) and didn't even make sense when the original version of it came out. Do I expect fickle teens to give this dance movie legs (see what I did there? Ha ha ha OK stop hitting me!)? Let's just say they shouldn't hold out for a hero. Yeah, I deserve that one. Anyway, $7 million for the second weekend and it can count itself lucky to get that.

Rounding out the significant earning films of the weekend will be The Ides of March at around $5 million, and crawling towards a $35 million total (and out of Oscar contention), and the horror remake-cum-prequel The Thing, which should get cut in half to around $4 million.