Weekend Forecast for April 27-29, 2012
By Reagen Sulewski
April 27, 2012


There's just one last week to go before we get into the real fun stuff. Keep strong, folks, keep strong. At least there's a nice variety of films this week, with four new movies running the gamut from kiddie to horror.

A pretty sure bet to lead the way among these is The Five-Year Engagement, the second collaboration between Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller as writer and director (and the third when you throw in The Muppets, where the two are credited as co-writers). This is one of those films that could be filed under “does what it says on the tin," as it portrays five years in the life of an engaged couple, played by Segel and Emily Blunt, as their wedding plans are delayed by career and family obligations.

By all accounts a fairly episodic film as befitting its nature, it's also from the Judd Apatow factory of comedies that combine wacky personality-based comedy with emotional catharsis. It also holds to the formula of calling in a group of strong supporting characters to steal scenes and build up the world of the movie, with notable performers including Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, Rhys Ifans, Mindy Kaling and last week's breakout star Kevin Hart.

The Apatow brand has been a pretty successful one, though I believe Engagement is going to rely a lot more on Segel. He had a nice one-two punch of Forgetting Sarah Marshall and I Love You, Man a few years ago, which both opened to around $17 million and gave him some street cred. Some supporting roles in a few other movies were added to that before he broke out in a big way with The Muppets, which he rescued from obscurity to help open to $29 million. I don't want to credit too much of The Muppets to his future movies since it's attached to a franchise, but it's something that's definitely gotten his face out to a lot of people as a leading man instead of just “that guy on that TV show." For her part, Blunt doesn't bring a lot to the equation, as she's been in a couple of big movies, though none as the main attraction or without a big name star to really carry the load. Reviews are solid but not spectacular, and the ads are decent but missing a big laughline, so I think we're looking at just a modest bump over Segel's previous starring roles, with around a $19 million opening weekend.

Children's films are handled by Aardman Animations this weekend, as they return to their traditional clay-mation format with The Pirates! Band of Misfits, after a couple of dalliances in CGI. Based on a popular book series, it's a wacky comedic take on life on the high seas, with an ineffectual pirate captain (voiced by Hugh Grant) placed in a pirate competition that leads through a bunch of historical figures like Charles Darwin and Queen Victoria. Also voicing characters are Salma Hayek, Jeremy Piven and Martin Freeman, so it's not your DreamWorks-level of superstar voices, but just respectable, I guess.

The film's cock-eyed take on pirates is evident right in the character names, with even major characters having names like The Pirate With Gout, The Pirate With a Scarf and The Pirate Who Likes Sunsets and Kittens (I mean, who doesn't?). Add this to Aardman's usual word play and sight gags and we're likely in for a film that has a lot to offer to a wide age range. Aardman's productions have struggled to break through even in the height of the animation boom. Flushed Away was only an $18 million opener, and the recent Arthur Christmas managed only $12 million. Chicken Run remains their sole unambiguous hit, and even that needed legs to hit the $100 million mark. This streak of middling performances should continue, with around $13 million for the Pirates this weekend.

The Raven is the horror option for the weekend, with John Cusack starring as writer Edgar Allan Poe, brought in to consult with 19th century Baltimore detectives when it appears that his stories are being used for a series of brutal murders (I assume they tried very hard to get Johnny Depp or Nicolas Cage for this). Looking every bit like a typical crime thriller set 150 years ago salted with a bit of Eli Roth, it seems to wear its ridiculousness on its sleeve, laying on the gothic atmosphere quite heavily. In fact, this feels quite a bit like a low-rent From Hell.

Cusack isn't a total stranger to horror, thanks to 2007's 1408, which was a mildly surprising hit. This likely had a little to do with its Stephen King connection, and if there's a literary name that's second to King's in horror, it'd be Poe (sorry, Clive Barker). That might make a bit of a difference, but Cusack hasn't been a huge draw in, basically, ever (I expect some angry mail bombs for this statement, including several from BOP staff). It's hard to have an out and out failure in horror, though, and I think it should be able to overcome the slightly cheesy ads to open to around $11 million.

One thing you can definitely say for Jason Statham, when I say the phrase “a Jason Statham movie," you know exactly what I'm talking about. Well, Safe is a Jason Statham movie. As typical for him, it follows him punching, kicking and kickpunching his way through a varied group of criminals, this time in service of protecting a little girl with a talent for memorizing numbers, but honestly, does it matter? We're here for Statham breaking people's tracheas in inventive ways.

With a couple of blips here and there, Statham's had a pretty consistent track record of opening films in the high single digits to low double digits, especially when he's the main banana in them (I think we can agree this is no Expendables). This looks marginally better than some of his films, in a sort of Tony Scott-lite way, but ultimately probably not enough to matter. I'd expect around $9 million here this weekend.

Which brings us to last weekend's surprisingly strong films. Think Like A Man blew past just about everyone's expectations to open to $33 million, possibly on the strength of Kevin Hart's stardom, and some well cut ads. While it'll be interesting to see whether this film follows the Tyler Perry model of legs and drops very quickly, or whether it manages to build some word-of-mouth, it's at least going to threaten a repeat at the top of the box office, especially if Engagement falters. I'll be a little conservative on this and say $18 million for a second weekend, which would have it fall just short.

The Lucky One beat the average for adapatations of Nicholas Sparks books with a $22 million opening, and gave Zac Efron a tick in the win column that he needed after Charlie St. Cloud (I give him very little credit for The Lorax). These have been a mixed bag in terms of legs, and even The Notebook dropped steeply in its second weekend before finding its status as a new classic. I'd look for around $12 million for weekend two.

The Hunger Games cares not for any of these other films coming in and disturbing it, with some of the stronger legs we've seen for a blockbuster since Spider-Man. I'd say we're definitely seeing some sort of multiple-viewings effect driving these numbers, though that's likely to dwindle off once May rolls around. In any case, we should get another $9 million this weekend to help push it one more spot up the all-time list, past The Passion of the Christ.

Despite opening stronger than any other Disney nature documentary to date, I don't expect strong things from Chimpanzee for its second weekend. All the films in this series seem very tied to their Earth Day debuts and sink like a stone following that. A $10.6 million opening is great, but under $5 million is almost guaranteed for this weekend.

I wish I could say the same for the third weekend of The Three Stooges, which held decently to earn close to $10 million last weekend. Its final total is probably somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 million, which isn't fantastic, but with a cheap budget, means it's probably en route to a nice profit.