And it's Disney to the rescue! A thoroughly mediocre early 2015 season gets a boost in quantity - and maybe quality - as the Mouse House continues to dive into its back catalog for “new” ideas. But in a marketplace that only seems to want products it already recognizes, can you really fault them?
Weekend Forecast for March 13-15, 2015
By Reagen Sulewski
March 13, 2015
Coming on the heels of the live action production of Maleficent and the not-really-Disney-first-but-we'll-count-it Into the Woods, this weekend brings a non-animated version of Cinderella, starring Lily James (of Downton Abbey) and Richard Madden (of Game of Thrones) as the title character and Prince, respectively. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, it's the same old evil stepmother and stepsisters story, with Cinderella being a mistreated waif that gets her chance to meet her true love thanks to a fairy godmother. You know, the way all real romances start.
Indeed, Disney is playing this one rather straight, bucking their own trend of feminist perspectives on fairy tales, which include Enchanted, Tangled, Maleficent and Frozen. Which is not to say that Branagh's version is necessarily regressive, just a touch on the old-fashioned side. Then again, audiences are not known to all that particular about the politics of their fairy tales, and seem to take them as they come. Having Disney update (slightly) one of its classics for a modern audience is basically a natural move. It's the trusted studio for this sort of thing, and even sacrificing some of its youngest audience for this live action version shouldn't matter, as they'll gain it back in older audiences.
Reviews are solid, and the ancillary cast, which includes Cate Blanchett as the stepmother, Helena Bonham Carter as the fairy godmother (I feel like someone switched the call sheets), Hayley Atwell, Stellan Skarsgard, Rob Brydon... I could go on, but it's a stacked cast and it'll certainly help bring in adults in addition to families. Perhaps a bigger draw is the addition of a short film featuring the characters from Frozen, the $400 million+ juggernaut that has induced its own form of PTSD for parents of small children. The effect of the short is difficult to calculate, but we're already in strong territory for the film, with Maleficent having opened to nearly $70 million. Even going back a ways, we can look at the live-action version of 101 Dalmatians, which earned a heady $130 million in 1996. The appetite is there for Disney in all forms, and this hot streak shouldn't see any slow down this weekend, with an opening weekend of about $62 million.
Liam Neeson's run as the ass-kickingest old man in the movies is one of the stranger developments in the last decade. That appears to have mostly been bolstered by the Taken movies, and with the end of that franchise, the novelty may wear off as quickly as this weekend. Run All Night is less in the direct tradition of those films, and more in the recent A Walk Among The Tombstones, with Neeson playing a mob enforcer whose son (played by Joel Kinnamen) crosses the wrong mob boss (Ed Harris) by killing his son.
Also starring (Oscar winner!) Common, Bruce McGill, Genesis Rodriguez and Vincent D'Onofrio, it's a workmanlike thriller that wants to sell itself as a tense battle between two alpha males, but mostly gives us a bunch of gun battles and a twisty plot that maybe tries a little too hard. Without excellent reviews or a hook like “Liam Neeson, Wolf Puncher," Run All Night appears a little tired, and will likely open in the neighborhood of Tombstone's $13 million, perhaps a bit lower.
Our holdovers for this week are a bit of a sad lot, with the default winner from last weekend, Chappie, set for a huge fall. Neill Blompkamp's sci-fi/comedy/action/whatever film opened to just $13 million despite a big promotional push, and with terrible word-of-mouth, will likely fall to around $6 million this weekend.
That should put it in similar territory with Focus and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, though that number represents quite the difference in performance for each. Marigold should show some legs due to the age of its audience, who are often slow to make it to the theater, and tend to support films for a longer period. Meanwhile, we'll likely be saying goodbye to a number of films from relevance, as Kingsman, Fifty Shades, SpongeBob, McFarland USA and The Lazarus Effect all slip below $5 million this weekend.