Weekend Forecast for May 9-11, 2014
By Reagen Sulewski
May 9, 2014

Dave Franco is a better De Niro.

It's not quite the giant film that the summer season started with last weekend, but adjusting for genre and star power, this weekend's biggest new film may be playing in the same ballpark.

Neighbors is your classic culture-clash comedy, pitting a suburban couple (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) against a group of college students (led by Zac Efron) when they move next door to their frat. The harassment starts immediately, with the frat brothers viewing Rogen and Byrne as a perfect target for pranks and general butt-monkey treatment. There's probably something interesting sociologically that the straight-laced/uptight family protecting their property value is regarded as the sympathetic figures, and the Animal House-esque group of authority-rebellers are the antagonists. Particularly, that the All-American looking Efron (playing way against type here, or at least the dark side of his type) is the leader of their leader and that the schlubby Rogen is the viewer's representative. Times have changed, man. Something something zeitgeist.

An R-rated raunch-fest, it seems to want to be this summer's The Hangover, in being a film that captures a little bit of attention on opening weekend and builds throughout the summer because of its “gotta see it!” outrageousness. Reviews don't quite support that notion, although they're quite positive, just not “This is the comedy of the summer!” positive.

But other things working for this film are the heavy ad blitz for this, its simple, yet dynamite presence, and its interesting pairing in the leads. Rogen has been an inconsistent draw throughout his career, needing to be in pretty much exactly the right project to succeed. There's a natural jerkiness to him that needs to be balanced in just the right way, a la Knocked Up. This Is the End seemed to do that for him last year, but again relied on a great premise. Efron, meanwhile, has had troubles transitioning from teen idol status. Things looked great for him with 17 Again, and he had a decent hit with the straight-up romance The Lucky One, but his recent films have either been limited releases or limited appealing films, with this winter's That Awkward Moment never really finding a footing or any kind of cross-over appeal. Here, I can see cross-sector audiences going for the film, and the 1+1 of the two leads equalling 3, leading to around a $35 million opening weekend.

How desperate are parents for family entertainment? Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return seems to want to test that theory. An animated film with a budget in the dozens of dollars, it's set immediately after the events of The Wizard of Oz, with Dorothy yanked back to help her friends from a villain named The Jester. A musical, like the original live-action film, it boasts a fairly strong voice cast, particularly when taking singing into account, including Lea Michelle as Dorothy, Megan Hilty, Martin Short, Bernadette Peters, Kelsey Grammer and then some that are not... so known for their singing, like Jim Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and Oliver Platt.

Time was, any old animated film would hit regardless of quality. Family audiences have gotten more savvy, and the cheapness of this project is writ right on the surface of this project. Why go see this in theaters when there's better films available for $5 at the supermarket? This feels like it should come with a complimentary refund at the exit. I'd estimate a meagre $4 million take this weekend.

Finally, getting just a national release is Mom's Night Out. It was inevitable that the several Christian film releasing companies would eventually branch out from specifically evangelical movies. Affirm Films, which was behind Fireproof, Courageous and Soul Surfer, brings us a female-focused comedy about a group of mothers out for a night away from their kids, leaving them alone with the dads. Of course, they're incapable, and of course the moms get in over their heads out on their own. If only they'd stuck to their traditional roles! (Okay, so perhaps there is some message intended here.)

Notable names in the film include Patricia Heaton, Trace Adkins and Sean Astin, plus a host of lesser lights, but I mention those three in the context only of “oh yes, I know those names”, not in the sense of “oh yes, I'd pay to see those people in a movie”. Reviews are trashing the film, setting aside the subtle religious message and focusing on the terrible plot and unfunny jokes. While I appreciate the idea of diversifying output, a religious film company releasing a film without an explicit religious message makes me think, “what's the point?” Opening at just over 1,000 venues, this should gross just $3 million this weekend.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 should repeat at the top spot, even with the lackluster word-of-mouth and sequel status. Opening to $90 million buys you a lot of wiggle room. While Marvel films outside the Avengers project seem destined to second-tier status, Spider-Man is still somewhat special, and $90 million is nothing to sniff at for an opening weekend. It's a little short of where Captain America just opened to, which is probably not a thing people might have believed could happen about seven years ago, but here we are. Internationally, this is running a bit better, but domestically, it should wind up in the $250 million area, with a second weekend of about $38 million.

The Other Woman had an okay second weekend, falling to about $14 million. In some ways, this shows that this is an audience that has matured somewhat, in that female audiences now have their own Friday-night rush factor, if ever so slightly. Typically this is a film that might run well, but instead the revenge fantasy opened strongly thanks to anticipation. I'd look for about $9 million this frame.

Just sneaking in above the $5 million mark should be Heaven Is For Real, the religious themed film which seems to at least have a more developed sense of faith than the straight ahead “Repent or Die!” films that have been getting attention lately. It's still bee-lining in on about a $90 million final figure, impressive for a film with a fairly small budget. Finishing just outside this group will be Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Rio 2.