Weekend Forecast for May 24-26, 2013
By Reagen Sulewski
May 23, 2013

We love realism in movies.

Although Memorial Day Weekend may have lost its position as the start of the summer movie season, it remains in some sense the weekend when everyone goes to the movies. Hollywood tries to plan this weekend as the “something for everyone” period – if “everyone” includes just the subset of people who like their movies turned up to 11.

Indeed this weekend is so INTENSE that it can't even be contained in four days, as The Hangover III debuts on Thursday – or as I put it, Warner Bros being determined to make the same mistake as Paramount, by leaking money away from the weekend total. It's also interesting from an alpha dog perspective, as it's clear that WB sees its property as the weaker one relative to Universal's Fast & Furious 6. Even though both of the previous entries in this franchise opened to roughly identical totals last time around, it seems fairly self-evident that Hangover III is working more from a position of weakness, both in a “why is this film necessary” sense, as well as from a “boy, that last one wasn't very good, was it?” stance.

The original was a bolt of lightning into a fairly tame comedy market, showing what a market there was out there for no-holds-barred “bad boy” comedy, and ran a $35 million opening weekend up to nearly $300 million domestic. The Hangover II was a fairly cynical capitalizing on the formula, essentially a scene-for-scene remake with a location change. However, the goodwill it purchased from the first film helped it open to $85 million and established a new record for R-rated films. The $250 million domestic total it earned based on that is by no means bad, but it did show a bit of weakness in the franchise. You can get people to show up, but there were a definite number of fence-sitters waiting to see if the film was any, you know, good, and not just a rehash with some gratuitous abuse of Ed Helms.

The Hangover III announces that they've heard us, at least to some degree, by declaring that this time, there's no wedding, no bachelor party, and somehow, the events of the first two films are going to add up into something more meaningful. I'm not quite sure I buy this, but points for trying, I suppose. But let's be honest with ourselves – the real reason we're watching this is for the singular comedic performance by Zach Galifianakis, who has made “no normal person reacts like this” into an art form. Throwing that into a hijinks-heavy plot is necessary for there to be a movie, but in this sense, he's almost like Johnny Depp in the Pirates movies. One wonders if there's a point of too much, but with this being the promised conclusion of the series, we'll either not reach that, or reach it just in time for the end of the character.

I think we can count on some inevitable fall back from Hangover II's opening weekend, both due to calendar configuration, as well as the damage done by the quality of that film. I don't think we're looking at a full-on meltdown, but a three-day total of about $60 million might be enough to show Warner Bros. that ending this series now is the right call.

Conversely, the Fast and Furious franchise continues to get bigger and bigger, defying all logic, as it reaches its sixth installment. After nearly fading into oblivion with the roundly mocked Tokyo Drift entry, the return of Vin Diesel to the cars-and-guns-and-splosions franchise, then the subsequent addition of The Rock, made this into one of the largest franchises in recent memory. All this based on not much more than “car go fast."

After the supposed retirement of Diesel and Paul “Luckiest Bastard Ever” Walker's crew in Fast Five, we need an ultimate evil plot to bring them back into action which can somehow be solved with really fast driving (it's funny how many things come down to that). So we get a para-military organization that's able to take down a military convoy in some exotic location and take possession of ... something bad, does it matter what? It's The Thing They Have to Get. Anyhow, the gang's all back, including a rather daring gambit of bringing in Michelle Rodriguez, who had a rather prominent death in the first film. But *Jedi Mind Wave* that never happened now. Whatever. Car still go fast? Car go fast through *plane*! And that's what this ultimately boils down to – how crazy can they make this film and still hold it together as a script? Pretty crazy, apparently. File this under “giving people what they want”, and we should see a three-day total of around $75 million.

Epic arrives this weekend into what's been an uncharacteristically sparse family film market this year, as just the third animated feature of 2013. From Ice Age and Robots director Chris Wedge, it's a fantasy adventure with parts of Alice in Wonderland, Lord of the Rings and Ferngully all thrown into a blender. Amanda Seyfried is the voice of the lead character, a teenager pulled into a fantasy world full of fairies and sprites and talking animals and such, who are in a battle against a group of evil things of some description, who have the destruction of the natural world in mind.

Epic seems to ride a precarious balance between “serious” family adventure filmmaking and the sort of slapsticky pop culture filled films that marked the worst excesses of the genre. It's heavy on the celeb voice casting, including Josh Hutcherson, Colin Farrell, Beyonce, Aziz Ansari, Jason Sudekis, Steven Tyler, Christoph Waltz, and Pitbull for some odd reason. Despite all this, it looks to have little crossover appeal for adults. Not that a film just for kids is such a bad thing, but it does tend to limit those film's potential. While gorgeous looking and well-reviewed, it's got a bit of the same problems as Rise of the Guardians from last Christmas – just far too kiddie to be taken seriously. Expect this to come in with around $33 million over three days.

However successful Star Trek Into Darkness may end up being, it's hard to do anything but characterize its $70 million opening weekend as, at best, a missed opportunity, and at worst, a large disappointment. Coming off a nearly $80 million opening for the rebooted franchise and strong word of mouth, J.J. Abrams sequel to the space adventure franchise was supposed to blast off into the next stratosphere of opening weekends, somewhere around $100 million or more. While the opening as it stands doesn't represent any kind of franchise killing disaster, it does show that Paramount has some work to do in order to expand the franchise, particularly to younger audiences. The Memorial Day weekend should give it a nice holdover, to $42 million, but which should still leave it a little behind the pace of the last Trek.

Iron Man 3 had the typical 50% drop off in its third weekend, but that still meant $35 million over the frame. Such is life when you start out with over $170 million. Already at $340 million, it should be in spitting distance of the all-time top 20 once the holiday is over, and should have little trouble reaching $400 million overall. Marvel Phase 2 is off to a rousing start.

Lastly of significant films, we have The Great Gatsby, which should cross $100 million this weekend, a first for Baz Luhrmann. While not receiving quite the overall raves that fans of Luhrmann, F. Scott Fitzgerald or Leonardo DiCaprio might have hoped, it's quite a decent showing for an adaptation that's high on style and low on immediate box office hooks. I'd give it around $13 million this weekend.