It's two straight weeks of top flight dramas with A-list actors, ecstatic reviews and strong Oscar potential, which should also perform strongly at the box office. One could get used to this kind of thing. In related news, you should not get used to this kind of thing.
Weekend Forecast for October 11-13, 2013
By Reagen Sulewski
October 11, 2013
Captain Phillips stars Tom Hanks in a story about a real-life hijacking of an American freighter ship by Somali pirates in 2009, which was the first time most Americans heard the phrase “Seal Team Six”. While the successful (spoiler alert!) rescue mission was the larger takeaway from this for the general public, the actions of the captain while the hijacking was taking place are the focus of this film. The version of events as presented by director Paul Greengrass and writer Billy Ray isn't without controversy, as crew members have called them aggrandizing towards the captain. But basic accuracy set aside, we're talking about the film as presented as entertainment, and to what level it passes that test.
Greengrass has proven himself to be a superior director of action thrillers after taking over the Bourne series and providing it with its two best chapters, and has also tackled real-world drama, with the magnificent United 93, a more-or-less as it happened recreation of that fateful flight on September 11th. It's one of the greatest films I never want to see again. In addition to those films, you can also make some comparisons to Black Hawk Down and Cast Away by location and actor. That last point is important since it's almost entirely the Tom Hanks show – the Somali actors are all first timers, and hardly anyone in the rest of the cast rises to “that guy” status.
All of these factors point to an opening weekend somewhere in the mid-20s. Hanks as a lead has been all over the place recently, in large part to the kind of roles he's chosen. Your Toy Storys and your Robert Langdon films are partly driven by him, but mostly by the material. The showing of Larry Crowne, however, proves that just having Hanks isn't the recipe for a hit film. Although it shares very little thematically with the recent Prisoners, I think it's going for a lot of the same audience – adult film goers looking for intelligent entertainment. Reviews are as good as they could really be, and this should help it open up to around $27 million.
In a perverse sort of way, the weekend's other new film isn't that far removed, in that it deals with international terrorism. Machete Kills is the sequel to 2010's kitsch-action film which attempted to make Danny Trejo a star as a sort of ultimate tough guy. Robert Rodriguez returns to the Mex-ploitation genre, as Trejo's character is sent by President Charlie Sheen to do battle with an arms dealer (played by Mel Gibson) who plans to launch a nuclear weapon, and is defended by a group of mercenaries with unusual and elaborate weapons, including Sofia Vergara's boob guns. Now, I know what you're thinking – is America really ready to hate Mel Gibson? – but let's just work with the premise.
Rodriguez specializes in over-the-top, and Machete Kills seems to epitomize that aesthetic. Did I mention the boob guns? There's also a speedboat used as a weapon, armored muscle cars, and of course, machetes. It's keeping much to the formula of the first film and maybe just a leeeetle bit more ridiculous, which opened to about $11 million. The legend of the film grew a bit on video, but at the same time, this type of intentional kitsch has a natural ceiling. Although Rodriguez has grown previous ridiculous franchises (hi, Spy Kids), Machete Kills doesn't seem like a breakout. I'd give it around $12 million this weekend.
Last weekend, Gravity found its way to an October record weekend, which is one of those stats that's impressive only by exclusion. However, $55 million is nothing to sneeze at for a gimmicky sci-fi film that relies purely on action set pieces. Some of this was helped on by the premium tickets the film quite frankly demanded of viewers, with 3D and IMAX showings being a true value-added for viewers in this case, instead of the general money grab that it usually is. Word-of-mouth should also be in effect here, with virtually everyone whose seen it testifying to its excellence and then evangelizing about it. What this means in terms of legs is up for debate, but something around $37 million for its second weekend seems likely.
The weekend's top-heavy box office chart also includes Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, which has earned a decent but not spectacular $62 million to date. Still, if you're looking for family fare and not willing to introduce your kids to Machete just yet, this is kind of the only game in town. Give it $13 million for its third weekend.