It's a good old fashioned duel at the box office, with two films that couldn't vary more in audience and tone going up against each other, but both expected to perform strongly. Let the phony competition comparisons begin!
Weekend Forecast for March 7-9, 2014
By Reagen Sulewski
March 7, 2014
I tend to give the advantage to the family-targeted film, all other things being equal. In this case, it's Mr. Peabody & Sherman, an adaptation of the Rocky & Bullwinkle spinoff characters, about a time traveling dog and his child slave, er, adopted son. As voiced by Ty Burrell (who is suddenly *everywhere* in children's films), he's a know-it-all charged with protecting the sanctity of the timeline, and also hosting playdates for his son and the neighbor girl. When those two accidentally travel back to ancient Egypt, the ripples of the changes they made threaten to erase the present, and it's up to them to fix the past.
Playing a bit like a pre-teen Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, the film looks like it has a nice sense of whimsy and a frantic pace – and it would need to, in order to fit in all the historical figures it's presenting, from King Tut to Marie Antoinette to Albert Einstein. Burrell's Peabody character has a bit of a Poochy vibe to it from the ads, although that's admittedly from the canned material that's not actually in the film. Perhaps more important, it looks like it won't be entirely intolerable for parents, an extremely important demographic for boosting the box office of kids films. It's a gentle humor in the trailers, but with enough nods and winks at parents that the cue is there that they'll enjoy the 90 minutes they're there. Not Frozen levels of enjoyment, mind you, but something.
Reviews are decent, but not ecstatic, and I wouldn't count on residual affection for the cartoon driving too much business – they're about 30 years too late for that. We also all saw Rocky & Bullwinkle and saw how that turned out as an adaptation. But this looks like a solid, middle-tier animated film, and should be expected to earn around $42 million this weekend.
In the category of “sequels we apparently asked for” is 300: Rise of an Empire, which picks up where the 2006 smash sensation left off, with King Leonidas dead and the remaining Spartans dealing with a full-on invasion from the Persian army. Where the original film made a household name of Gerard Butler, this film hopes to do the same with Sullivan Stapleton as Themistokles, the leader of the Spartan forces. Presumably he gets to do just as much yelling and bare-chested, slow-motion hacking as Butler (no word on whether he gets to kick someone down an infinity well).
For continuity's (and her tax bill's) sake, Lena Headey returns as Queen Gorgo, as well as Rodrigo Santoro as Xerxes, the giant, effete god-King of the Persians. Directing duties have been handed over to Noam Murro, who has directed nothing like this in his career, and really almost nothing at all - though one wonders how hard it is to direct something when the main idea behind it is “you, dress in leather and run over that way!” Probably the only additional real recognizable name in the cast is Eva Green, who's making quite a career out of playing smoldering evil characters. Here, she's the head of the Persian navy, bent on revenge for some reason or another.
While 300 capitalized on a relatively innovative action technique on its release, it's become a bit stale at this point, and ripe for parody (not that anyone's done a real good one, Friedberg and Seltzer). Still, the brand of it apparently carries some weight, and knowing what you're getting yourself into, especially in action films, means something. Even the dire-looking Immortals managed a $32 million opening. Without the additional aspect of novelty, it won't remotely approach the $70 million opening of the original, and should be pointing more towards a $37 million start.
Non-Stop was another feather in Liam Neeson's late career action renaissance, winning last weekend's box office with $28 million. Between this and The LEGO Movie, Neeson's well in the running to be 2014's box office champ. Previous films in the Liam Neeson Kicks Your Ass genre have ranged from $51 to $145 million in final box office, and this should fall somewhere solidly in the middle of that. I'd give it $17 million this frame.
Speaking of The LEGO Movie, it faces its first direct competition, although it's unlikely to have all that much of an impact. Currently sitting at around $215 million and still making significant dollars, it is unquestionably the story of the year so far, and making a strong case for how good art can come out of these corporate tie-ins. Take note, Hasbro! Give it $13 million for its fifth weekend.
Son of God, the re-edited Bible miniseries brought to the big screen, earned $25 million in a solid bid to prove the soundness of recycling as a policy. Given the nature of this project, it seems likely that there'll be a huge drop in weekend two – the word-of-mouth was already out there and is what drove the first weekend's business. I'd expect about $10 million here.