Weekend Forecast for January 30 - February 1, 2015
By Reagen Sulewski
January 30, 2015

The one on the right is clearly trying to decipher his cut of the winnings.

Super Bowl weekend is often one of counter-programming, but that's sort of an irrelevant concept when there's a box office titan in the mix and isn't that a strange sentence to read. Studios are still trying this weekend, but honestly, not very hard.

Project Almanac is the only one of the four new wide releases with much commercial promise, doing so by straight-up copying a format of a movie that did well in the same release slot. Chronicle was one of the few recent films to succeed while taking the “found footage” genre outside the horror genre and giving us a super-hero version of that style. Opening to $22 million three years ago, two of its leading actors have since gone on to bigger and better things (i.e. summer tentpoles), as well as its director. Only time will tell (oh you'll see what I did there) whether the principals in this sci-fi found footage film can copy that result (I'm not betting on it).

In Project Almanac, five teenagers discover plans for a time machine, and like anyone with an ounce of curiosity, they proceed to build it and mess around with the timeline. Of course, as anyone who's seen any time travel movie knows, this is often a recipe for disaster, with the possibility of changing reality such that you or someone you care about never existed. Playing a bit like a teenage version of Primer with a bit of The Butterfly Effect thrown in for good measure, just realize that for some people The Butterfly Effect now qualifies as a classic film to be emulated and then weep into your hands. Now, while Chronicle looked exciting and fresh, Project Almanac looks rather stilted and over-produced and oh there you are, Michael Bay. That certainly explains some things.

Chronicle had a particular element of quality that Project Almanac seems to lack, and managed to show itself off as a film adult audiences might have a tiny interest in. Project Almanac is looking to draw teens only, with the cast in particular being a sticking point. I won't bother going through their names, but you've maybe seen them in passing, and none have really stood out to this point. While that isn't a death knell for either their careers or this movie, adults typically don't come out to movies starring kids they've never heard of. I'd expect a weekend of about $13 million.

Another recent January denizen, Kevin Costner, returns with Black or White, a heavy-handed race-based family drama. He plays the grandfather of a young mixed-race child who is placed in his solo care after the death of his wife (his daughter having been long gone). That he appears to be an alcoholic should really be enough to see custody go over to the Octavia Spencer (the child's other grandmother, and you can probably see where this is going now), but no, we get to have an argument about-but-not-about race as far as who's the best to raise a mixed-race child.

I find myself wondering exactly who the audience for this film is supposed to be, as it features a whole lot of things that people would really rather not talk about, and that need to be handled with some grace and skill to be worth paying for a ticket to be uncomfortable. With dismal reviews, under 2,000 venues and a lead actor who has not been seen as a draw by himself for about two decades, I'd say we're in single digit territory, maybe around $5 million.

Our third wide release, The Loft, is a remake of a Belgian thriller, about five men who share a secret apartment for hanky-panky away from their wives, so already we're off on the right foot with these guys. The trouble really starts when an unknown woman is found dead - presumably murdered - in the apartment, leading to waves of suspicion and paranoia amongst them. I mean, philandery is one thing, but now they'll never get their security deposit back.

Starring Karl Urban, James Marsden, Wentworth Miller, Matthias Schoenarts and Eric Stonestreet (~one of these things is not like the other/one of these things just doesn't belong~) as the suspects, this is one of those things that on paper looks like a good idea, but in execution seems like poorly done Hitchcock. Four years in the can, this is being given a pity release with no advance screenings, little advertising and under 2,000 venues. If this manages $3 million it should count itself lucky.

We have one last expansion of a 2014 film to deal with, Oscar's odd-man out, A Most Violent Year. Directed by J.C. Chandor, it stars Oscar Isaac as an immigrant rising up the ladder of crime in New York City in 1981. With echos of The Godfather and an attractive cast that also includes perennial contender Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo and Alessandro Nivola, it won three awards from the National Board of Review and seemed poised to make a splash at the end of the year. And then... nothing. Zilch. Nada. Negatory. Completely shut out of the Oscars, its marketing campaign deflated like, well no I'm not going to make the au currant joke here, but you can fill in that idea yourself. It's only earned about $1 million so far, and is getting a bump up to around 900 venues, which is barely enough to be a national campaign, but I guess they're trying, at least. Look for about $3 million this weekend, and hopefully an end to December 31st release slates.

American Sniper repeated at the top spot last weekend, which was expected, but with $64 million, which wasn't quite. That qualifies as “leggy”, and got it to $200 million in just ten days of wide release. There's some significant crossover of its target audience with the Super Bowl, so it ought to be hit more than most, but you also expect people who've made plans to see this to make time on days other than Sunday. I'd still look for Clint Eastwood's opus about tortured warriors to make about $39 million this weekend.

Following that we have Paddington, being a bit leggy itself, catering to the youth crowd, which should hit $7 million, The Boy Next Door, which earned $14 million last weekend despite howlingly bad reviews, and should fall to $6 million this frame, and The Wedding Ringer, which should slide in with $5 million in its third weekend. The Imitation Game continues its mild expansion, and should hit $6 million again this weekend, proving to be the film benefiting the most from Oscar attention.