It's big scary creatures all around this weekend, whether they're for all ages, or for just the ones who can take a particular type of them. The most consistent summer performer is back to match up against one of the summer's biggest gambles.
Weekend Forecast for June 21-23, 2013
By Reagen Sulewski
June 21, 2013
It would be difficult to write anything new about the decade-plus long dominance of Pixar in animation circles. Even their relative failures are on the level of other studio's hits, though on the flip side, they rarely break out on the upside. Although they've been known as the best producers of original content, like everything else in Hollywood, they've started trending towards the franchise. All of the studio's output this year fits that bill, although this week's Monsters University differs slightly in that it's a prequel, not a sequel, if you're actually counting that kind of stuff.
John Goodman and Billy Crystal return as the voices of Sully and Mike for the film, set as they are both just entering the Scaring Program at the titular education institution. While we obviously know they end up as work partners, here they start as rivals, with Sully representing the “jocks” and Mike representing the “nerds”, taking the bookish approach to scaring. Can Sully buckle down and learn how to be a good student? Can Mike loosen up and really “feel” scaring? If this all seems frighteningly cliched for a Pixar production, you and I are on the same page.
Putting a monster theme on the typical cuh-razy college caper film doesn't sound like the typical excellence that we're used to from this studio, but it's also true that the kind of things they excel at – characterization, overall story – don't “trailer” well. It's also worth noting that the main two characters here are decently established and loved and can hold their own in another scenario. Of course, that's what people said about Mater. A big difference here is that Monsters, Inc does not have the same icky feeling about it that Cars did, and this is not as obviously a cash-in for toys that Cars 2 was. Reviewers are also being kinder to the film, and while it's not the stellar levels we're used to from them, it's at least “okay” and not abysmal. The gags seem to trend towards the obvious, but stylistically, the film looks as good as any other Pixar product.
Ever since the first Monsters movie, the Pixar basement has essentially been $60 million, with the exception of Ratatouille. The big reason for Pixar to go to sequels is to get out of that tier by busting through the initial recognition difficulty. It's telling that Cars 2 battled bad reviews to get to that number, and decent reviews should be worth a significant number of tickets. Opening at over 4,000 venues, Monsters University should see its way to around $74 million this weekend.
Zombie movies meet star power in World War Z, the long-in-the-works, $200 million-plus adaptation of the Max Brooks novel, starring Brad Pitt. The story of a worldwide outbreak of a zombie-like plague, and directed by Quantum of Solace helmer Marc Forster, WWZ (as all the cool kids are calling it) gets away from the multi-story, Studs Terkelish oral history to focus on Pitt's NGO official who traverses the world in order to find the source and possible cure for the outbreak. Fans of the book have expressed a lot of displeasure about this, but a faithful treatment of the many, many episodes within it would take about 12 hours. The book as written is a series, not a movie.
One thing the book is famous for is its logistical treatment of a zombie outbreak, which does seem to be intact. Which isn't to say this is the actuarial equivalent of a summer blockbuster, as there seems to be plenty of tense action scenes featuring herds of crazed zombies. The scenes where the mobs build what essentially towers of infected people to get over barricades with lightning speed are particularly frightening, even if the CGI does start to show a tad in them.
This is one of the first really big budget treatments of the zombie craze, although it comes perhaps on the tail end of it. Then again, The Walking Dead is the biggest show on cable right now, and nothing ever happens in it. Imagine how excited zombie fans will be to get something in the genre where it does! I kid because I care. But the point stands – here is a huge treatment of the material with an A-list star, a talented director and a take on the material that appears to be capable of driving the most tension out of it – the truly scary thing about zombies in the modern sense is how they can strike at any time. The PG-13 rating is troubling for content but does maximize the reach, and I expect this will help it get to around $48 million this weekend.
Expanding to 650 theaters is The Bling Ring, Sofia Coppola's film about the real life gang of young criminals that robbed Hollywood starlets, including Lindsay Lohan, for their designer clothing and jewelry. Emma Watson as the lead makes this notable, but not much else does, although its initial weekend turned heads with about $42,000 per venue. I'd look for around $1 million for this expansion.
Man of Steel pulled an impressive $128 million in its first four days, surviving its first hurdle in the quest to bring Superman back to box office respectability. All things being equal, it's more of a $107 million apples-to-apples figure, but that doesn't change the outcome dramatically. Public reception has varied from extreme hate to mild admiration, so that's not the greatest bell curve ever. However, it's no critical flop, at least on first glance. With about $170 million heading into its second weekend, it's certainly erased the bad memory of Superman Returns. Winning a second weekend against Pixar seems very unlikely, but a second frame take of about $50 million seems like it could be achievable.
This is the End grabbed nearly $21 million off its gonzo apocalyptic premise, pulling good word-of-mouth in the process. While on the surface there might appear to be a bit of crossover with World War Z, this skews far more to the comedy end of things, and the self-lampooning performances of its stars offer something fairly unique in this movie marketplace. With the solid reception, I think some legs are entirely possible for this film, and a second weekend of around $14 million seems possible.
Now You See Me seems headed to around $110 million or so, and this weekend should add around $6 million to its total. The crowd-pleasing caper film uses magic effectively as a metaphor for movies themselves, and turns the whole notion of showmanship on its head. For a film filled with a bunch of second-tier stars, this is a great result.
A huge number of carryover films drop off the radar this weekend, as Fast and Furious 6, The Purge, The Internship and Star Trek Into Darkness all drift into the $3-4 million mark. It's time for the second wave of summer to hit, and these films are all just about exhausted at this point.