The calendar ticking over to November is usually the start of a new group of films that act as tentpoles for the holiday season, kind of a mini-summer. For the three wide releases this weekend, you can understand the thinking that went into each of them as a studio's anchor for the fall – and yet, something went at least slightly wrong with all of them.
Weekend Forecast for November 1-3, 2013
By Reagen Sulewski
November 1, 2013
Sci-fi film starring Harrison Ford and based on a popular book? Sign us up, right? That had to be the thinking behind Ender's Game, which leads the way of this week's new films. Based on a young adult book by Orson Scott Card, it focuses on a secret training ground for young (like, pre-teen) military recruits drafted to fight in a war against a thoroughly alien enemy (referred to only as Buggers throughout – subtle) through the use of remote control warships.
It is in some ways a kind of basic training movie, albeit set around 12-year-olds. Asa Butterfield (best known as the title character in Hugo) plays Ender Wiggins, the focus of the movie, as he goes through an alienating training process that seems designed to drive the humanity out of him, something something military industrial complex. The story is mostly structured around the idea of what cost victory, with a side helping of humanity's natural cruel nature.
Harrison Ford has a significant role as Ender's training officer, and although the ads have been pushing him front and center, the film still codes mostly as a kid's film. Enthusiastic fans of the novel will still show up, but tell that to the makers of Starship Troopers and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. A proposed boycott based on Card's homophobic public remarks doesn't appear to have had any staying power, but you can't really boycott something you already weren't going to see. There's a huge series of books after this first one that I'm sure Lionsgate is hoping to have in a ready-made franchise, but getting past the first one seems a bit presumptuous. I'd give it around $26 million this weekend.
Animated film about turkeys release right around Thanksgiving? Kids should eat that up, right? That's the likely idea behind Free Birds, an animated buddy comedy starring Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson as turkeys. Wilson voices a bird that was pardoned by the President and apparently lives in the lap of luxury (for turkeys), while Harrelson is a radical freedom fighter for turkey rights. Somehow this wacky pair bands together to help break the chains of turkey slavery through time travel (wut) ... and well you can see how things entirely fall off the rails here. One imagines that the film entirely exhausts our national supply of bird puns to fill the gaps.
While reviews rarely matter for kids' films, they have been almost uniformly terrible - which is only fair, since its ads are an unholy mess and utterly baffling as far as letting people know what the film is actually about. Although, if you read the last paragraph, that's probably a good thing, and “look, kids, turkeys! And they're doin' stuff!” is maybe the better way to go. In the “questionable animal related animation” category, this may throw even below Turbo from this summer. Opening weekend should sit around the $14 million mark.
Hey, let's get four of the best actors of their generation and take them to a place where they can run wild and then make fun of how old they are? People love to be reminded of how they will eventually break down, right? So goes the subtext of the existence of Last Vegas, which brings Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline and the desiccated corpse of Michael Douglas together in yet another buddy comedy. The four play a group of friends getting set to send the last man of their group off into married life (DeNiro), and do so by throwing him a bachelor party in Las Vegas.
Sort of like The Hangover for the AARP crowd, it features some of the weakest, lamest attempt at comedy in a major motion picture in some time. If jokes about misunderstanding bottle service and watching 77-year-old Morgan Freeman barely jostle around and calling it “dancing” are your style, then this may just be for you. For everyone else whose sense of humor hasn't atrophied, well, there are plenty of other options out there for you. It's hard to imagine anyone under the age of 45 willingly taking in this movie, and that is not a main movie-going demo. I'd estimate around a $9 million opening weekend for this film.
Bad Grandpa made for a wildly successful return to cinemas for the Jackass crew with a $32 million weekend, but the Jackass movies have always been a bit of a one-weekend wonder. Not that it really matters for profitability sake – these usually break even by the second day – but legs are really out of the question. A second weekend of about $14 million should be expected.
Meanwhile, Gravity continues chugging along, with over $200 million in earnings and a fourth weekend over $20 million. There's nothing to particularly shake it from the box office, so it should hold on to around $14 million for its fifth weekend.
Captain Philips would be the legs story of the fall if not for Gravity, as it's headed for about $110 million or so off an opening weekend of $25 million. This could all change if there's some awards attention (as seems likely) so watch for that. This weekend, however, it should see around $8 million and change.