In the immortal words of Police Chief Wiggum, this is going to get worse before it gets better. Taking a week off did not, in fact, help things in terms of box office receipts. Now, a turn to the ol' razzle dazzle attempts to turn things around, but I wouldn't count on it.
Weekend Forecast for December 12-14, 2014
By Reagen Sulewski
December 12, 2014
Exodus: Gods and Kings is Ridley Scott's return to epic historical filmmaking, telling his version of the story of Moses, Ramses and the mythological Jewish exodus from Egypt. It's all done up as a big budget spectacle not unlike The Ten Commandments, although in a more secular fashion. Christian Bale stars as Batman, I mean Moses, with a creepily head-shaven Joel Edgerton as Ramses, King of Egypt and adopted brother, and a solid cast of actors that just don't seem right for this, including Sigourney Weaver, John Turturro and Aaron Paul (it'll be awesome when he calls Ramses a bitch) as well as actors like Ben Kingsley, who totally does seem right for this.
Scott has covered epic territory before, with Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven, and while this is certainly a Biblical topic, Scott has sold this as a more secular and scientific take on the ten plagues of Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea. This has been noted as an odd take on an explicitly religious and miracle-based story, but it's Fox's money, so they get to tell the story the way they want. It's similar in some ways to this year's Noah, which saw Darren Aronofsky tell a religious fable as a tale of obsession and family guilt. Statements about the movie from the principals haven't helped, as they've largely dismissed religious objections to narrative decisions and at times been openly antagonistic. It's a bit like JJ Abrams making fun of nerds right before a Star Wars movie and saying that light sabers aren't important to the film.
This probably wouldn't matter too much if the subject material were great, but that does not seem to be the case. Although some of the effects look impressive, giant waves have been done before and seem kind of old hat. The other elements don't inspire much in the way of awe, and the film's battle set pieces have mostly been hidden from ads, which is never a good sign for a film that is in part based on those production values and effects. Really, the vision that it gives off is one of camp and ridicule. The comparables here are Noah, which opened to $43 million, Kingdom of Heaven, at $19 million and Robin Hood at $36 million. I tilt towards the bottom end of this range. With all the negatives surrounding it and so few positives, I see this opening to about $22 million.
Debuting at an... interesting time, Top Five is Chris Rock's third film as a director, digging into many issues of race and celebrity, and feeling more than a little autobiographical. Rock plays a comedian-turned-actor (where does he get his ideas?!) who returns home to his family as he's planning a wedding and being following by a reality show crew. Following him through a period of publicity for a quote-unquote serious film, it delves into moments both comic and dark, exposing the inner workings of a comedian who's worried about the toll his work is taking on him, and whether he can still do it.
Rock has made the news in several outlets leading up to the release of the film, talking frankly about race in entertainment and the expectations placed upon performers. Also starring Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, Tracy Morgan (in perhaps his last real role), Kevin Hart, Romany Malco, Cedric the Entertainer and a host of Rock's comedian friends (Seinfeld, Sandler, Goldberg), it's something approaching a prestige film, and is grabbing comparison to some of Woody Allen's mid-period films, albeit tentatively. Debuting in just shy of 1,000 venues, it may have a chance to pull strong numbers thanks to a focused release strategy, as well as strong reviews making it a must-see. Even on this small number of screens, it should see a weekend figure of about $11 million.
Although Exodus will likely not be a strong opening film, its box office should be enough to knock off The Hunger Games from its top spot after three weeks. The post-Thanksgiving drop was frighteningly large at nearly two-thirds, though it did run its total to over $260 million. The gap between Mockingjay Part 1 and Catching Fire has increased to almost $80 million, and that should continue as we enter Christmas time. The bump it'll get from the holidays will be much more slight than last year's film, and exacerbate that gap, as well as that nervous feeling in the pit of Lionsgate executives' stomachs. Give it $12 million this weekend.
Penguins of Madagascar is dropping well into “mistake” territory, with just $50 million in the bank after two weeks of release and a sub $100 million take looking likely (with Christmas coming you never can tell). I wouldn't put it past DreamWorks to start kidnapping families with children and forcing them to see this film eventually, but for now I'd look for $6 million this weekend.
Big Hero 6 should hang around in relevant territory for one more week before possibly popping back up during Christmas week. Disney's foray into the realm of animated superheroes looks headed for around $225 million and probably an Oscar. This weekend should have it at around $5 million.