One of the strangest career renaissances in recent memory continues this weekend, paired with a gimmicky re-release of sorts. It's another strange February slate, as Hollywood struggles to figure out what to do with spring.
Weekend Forecast for February 28-March 2, 2014
By Reagen Sulewski
February 28, 2014
Non-Stop is the latest in the very specific genre of films known as “Liam Neeson is a Very Old Man Who Will Kick Your Ass”, which started a few years ago with Taken and has continued on with a series of very unlikely premises, all of which make Key and Peele very happy. In this version of the story, Neeson stars as an airline marshal wrestling with an American accent and a mysterious killer aboard a trans-Atlantic flight, possibly in that order. He receives a message that claims that one passenger will be killed every 20 minutes unless a very large sum of money is transferred into an offshore account. Silly... until passengers start showing up dead, and with no trace of who killed them. I guess they shouldn't have had the fish.
The campaign for this film has been quite clever, mixing up footage of Terror in the Skies! with a rather novel campaign that puts viewers in the place of Neeson, asking them if they could solve the mystery, or spots the signs of the murderer. It's a clever little hook that in combination makes this a rather enticing film. Neeson's box office power helps make this look special in that sort of Die Hard/high-concept way.
Neeson has an able supporting cast, including Julianne Moore, Oscar nominee Lupita Nyong'o and a host of character actors, and director Jaume Collet-Serra has worked with Neeson before on Unknown. All the signs are here for a solid, if unspectacular hit in the vein of Neeson's recent action films. A weekend of about $24 million seems likely here.
Son of God is an odd duck, in that it's the rare TV to Movie transition that isn't a remake or reboot, but a straight up re-edit. Pared down from Survivor producer Mark Burnett's mini-series The Bible, this is that, but just the Jesus stuff (more or less. I mean, there's credits for Noah, Adam, Eve, etc. etc. so we're not talking quite that narrow). It's an odd case for a film, in that if you want to see it, you probably already have. The intersection of people who were interested in this but didn't get the chance to watch it on TV is probably quite small. In that sense, it's counting on people looking for an epic big screen experience.
Hollywood used to do these kinds of films all the time, particularly in the 1950s, but as with all genre ebbs and flows, they've largely been reduced to one-off special cases. The biggest one that comes to mind is of course The Passion of the Christ, which was lightning in a bottle. A bit of a cottage industry in Christian films has sprung up, though mostly involving modern morality plays. Actual historical epics are much fewer and further between, which means this could have some play in theaters. Christian audiences are tough to predict, as much of the marketing and legwork for these films is done outside of traditional avenues. For instance, The Passion counted on a quasi-grassroots campaign that took place in churches to get people into theater (as well as leveraging the controversy angle to the hilt). Likely there's some element of that here, but without quite the controversy (there was a slight blip regarding the resemblance between the actor who plays the Devil and President Obama, but his removal from the film quashed that angle). What it does have in to its advantage is a rather straightforward telling of the story, so that should be worth something. I think a weekend of about $17 million seems appropriate.
After three weeks, The LEGO Movie will finally not be the most awesome thing in the box office charts, though it does get to cross the $200 million plateau this weekend. With news of a sequel in the works, the pressure is off, but its fate is mostly cast at this point. Next stop, Best Animated Feature? At this point, it's going to take quite the film to beat it. Look for around $20 million this weekend.
Kevin Costner is a Very Old Man Who Can Kick Your Ass is a genre that may need some time to build, as evidenced by the opening weekend of 3 Days to Kill, at about $12 million. Still, the fact that it is 2014, and Kevin Costner was prominently displayed as the biggest reason to see a film has to be considered career progress for him. It should pull in about $7 million this frame.
There's a lot of films follow this that are about to go down in flames, or already in the process of this. Pompeii was severely unimpressive for a disaster film at $10 million, while RoboCop, Monuments Men and About Last Night all had poor weekends in terms of holdover. All will struggle to stay above $5 million this weekend.