Last weekend was one of the worst in years at the box office, as major studios avoided it and the fodder the smaller studios sent out landed with a thud. This week, we'll at least have one top-line film to start the reseeding process, as we might very well have only two films worth talking about on Sunday.
Weekend Forecast for September 14-16, 2012
By Reagen Sulewski
September 14, 2012
In the 2000s, Hollywood started reaching out to the video game world as a source of inspiration for films. For the most part, they led to a lot of one-and-out dreck films (DOOM, anyone?) but one in particular has shown a huge amount of longevity. The Resident Evil series brings its fifth film (sixth if we count that animated DVD) in ten years, neither fact of which seem like anything you might have bet on happening when the first one came out in 2002.
Retribution is the latest title for the series, which continues the story of Alice as she goes up against the Umbrella Corporation and its army of genetically mutated zombies, although it seems like there wouldn't be much of anything worth fighting for at this point. A decade of global zombie war seems like it would take its toll. Perhaps recognizing that, this film also takes a bit of a step backwards to fill in some backstory, acting as both sequel and prequel, giving us information on how the whole zombie outbreak started. In addition to Milla Jovovich's Alice, it also brings us a few other characters from past films to tell their stories, including Jill Valentine and Michelle Rodriguez's Rain, who you might remember as dying in the very first one so long ago.
The hallmark of the Resident Evil series has been its over-the-top stylized action and wild special effects, which with these last two films have expanded to the 3D realm. It's also been a triumph of marketing, as each film has managed to start out with a creative campaign that's fed off the film's underlying anti-corporate theme, parodying the slick look of product advertisments, and twisting them into the apocalyptic setting. The films have never been huge domestic earners, but have always had solid opening weekends. The most any of these has earned in the US is $60 million, off a $26 million start. However, with the last Resident Evil, the film's already strong foreign box office kicked into overdrive, bringing in an extra $295 million, a split that even the Ice Age films boggle at. In short, this film is really not for us, specifically. Thank Japan and Europe for this existing, though this should still get its solid first weekend of about $25 million.
3D plays a big role in the other wide release that matters this weekend, since it's a 3D re-release. Finding Nemo is the latest film to get this treatment, following in the footsteps of the Toy Story double feature, as well as The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, from the more traditional Disney films. It's a natural choice for them to go to, since it's still the highest grossing Pixar film that isn't a Toy Story film, and was one of the more visually striking of all their films.
These re-releases have tended to track well with the popularity of the original release, although Titanic, which relied heavily on repeat business, broke this pattern somewhat. The recently established floor is Beauty and the Beast's $17 million, while $30 million for The Lion King is a pretty good ceiling. There's always the possibility that enthusiasm for these re-releases has faded, but if anything I think they're growing a little. A lot of smaller scale releases of classic films have been making the run around North America this year, with audiences rediscovering the theater experience. I'll chicken out and take the middle road on this, giving it about $23 million for the weekend.
Hot off the heels of the surprising 2016 film, Rocky Mountain Pictures is back with Last Ounce of Courage, a film I confidently predict will not be as popular. It's a straight up dramatic picture that purports to be about military families coping with loss which then BAM! swerves into the phony “War on Christmas” business, and is as subtle as a Jack Chick tract. Although comparing agit-prop documentary to drama is a difficult business, they're definitely trying to appeal to the same group of people. The lower visibility of the inherent issue of the film isn't going to help, nor is the relative anonymity of its cast (it's hard to beat the marquee value of the president). This will be a small afterthought this weekend, with about $2 million in business.
So here's the thing when you're covering the weekend after the worst weekend in ages: all of the returning films suck and aren't going to make any money. The Possession is the best of a bad lot, at least in terms of money, and might get lucky with $5 million. I think the fact that it held not too badly for a horror film last weekend (47% drop) came about because we were testing the bottom limits of the “gotta see something” crowd. Now at least they have a choice. Lawless is the only other film to start out above $5 million heading into the weekend, and certainly won't keep its head above that level of water. Even the older films in this group aren't doing anything particularly interesting, like passing milestones or moving up the all-time list. It's going to take about two or three more weeks for things to get back to normal after this drought.