Thanksgiving weekend is normally one of the two biggest weekends of the year at the box office. It's a weekend when we can see huge studio tentpoles or a large number of smaller films, often family-oriented, or a mixture of the two. This year we see a combination in the two major new films, although the weekend will likely be dominated by holdovers.
Weekend Forecast for November 24-28, 2004
By Reagen Sulewski
November 24, 2004
Oliver Stone returns after a five-year hiatus from fiction films with Alexander, a historical epic about the life of the Greek/Macedonian conqueror, considered by some to be the greatest in history. After uniting Greece at the age of 20, Alexander then went on to conquer the area of modern Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and parts of India, or basically almost anyone at the time that wasn't still digging in their feces and howling at the moon. After controlling most of the world's civilization, he decided to head home, maybe to fix up that old shed in the yard, but died in Babylon under mysterious circumstances at the age of 32. Isn't it always the way?
Starring Colin Farrell in the title role - sporting a ridiculous blond wig - and a high-powered cast featuring Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, Val Kilmer and Jared Leto, among others, Alexander is shooting for the same epic territory as Gladiator and Troy. However, at just shy of three hours long, the film may prove taxing for even the most diehard swords and sandals enthusiast.
That the film is taking a critical savaging isn't helping either, with most reviewers calling it overblown and with, at times, laughable acting. Worse still are comments that it is dull and humorless, and others skipping all the niceties and calling it an enormous mess.
Shall I continue? That accent you hear from Farrell in the trailer was apparently on purpose, and then suggested to all the other actors. The most important aspect of Alexander's life to Stone is evidently his pansexuality (not that there's anything wrong with that). The trailer lacks a real money shot (a la Troy's 1,000 ships), and the one attempt, a horse rearing at an elephant, falls entirely flat. The punch line? This film cost $150 million to make.
I'm not sure the film is in quite such terrible shape right off the bat; we are still in the echo of the ancient bloody epic revival started by Gladiator, after all. And Alexander isn't an obscure figure at all, even in this day of lowered expectations in schools. However, there are just far too many negatives and not enough positives for Alexander the Great to conquer the world yet again. Debuting at 2,445 venues (I think exhibitors know something we don't), Alexander should be the highest-grossing new film of the week, but will probably fall short of the top spot, with about $28 million for three days, and $37 over five days.
The legacy of Tim "The Toolman" Taylor lives on in Christmas with the Kranks. Based on the John Grisham novel Skipping Christmas (and won't fans of The Firm be surprised), it features Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis as parents who boycott Christmas when their only child tells them she won't be home for the holidays. And, with how insufferable the season can get, it's an understandable sentiment. When she changes her mind, it's a scramble to get prepared for Christmas, and "hilarity" ensues.
It's at that point that the zany comic pratfalls and sitcom level antics take over, as it's a mad scramble for the Kranks to conform to everyone else's Christmas ideals. Also, Tim Allen can do Tim Allen-y things, like falling off the roof while putting up Christmas lights and paralyzing his face with Botox.
Amazingly, this film may actually have managed to throw under Ben Affleck's monstrosity Surviving Christmas from earlier this year, as scary a concept as that is. The blame can surely be laid at the feet of one Chris Columbus, who wrote the screenplay and seems to want to turn every thing into Home Alone.
I'm sure Sony is banking on the connection between Allen pratfalls and his Santa Clause movies to carry the day on this one, but that's an interesting theory to hang your hat on. Allen's movies seem to succeed in spite of him, not because of him. They should be able to milk some dollars out of the broad, family-friendly aspect of the film, but even a blitz launch of over 3,400 venues isn't going to save this from being a Thanksgiving turkey. Christmas With the Kranks should manage just $9 million over three days, and $12 million over the five-day holiday.
The battle for first place will be fought among Alexander and the top three films of last weekend, National Treasure, SpongeBob SquarePants, and The Incredibles. The early edge has to be given to SpongeBob, considering how well family films do over this holiday and its $5.5 million lead over The Incredibles. However, given the quasi-franchise nature of the former film and the fact that previous Pixar films have upticked over holiday weekends (and aren't alone in this, as with last year's Elf), you can't rule out a return to the top for Mr. Incredible and family. National Treasure will also be in the mix, though it doesn't seem to be getting quite the acclaim necessary to hold off the animated juggernauts.
In an exceedingly close race, it should be The Incredibles with $30 million, Spongebob with $27 million and National Treasure with $25 million during the Friday-to-Sunday period. The Polar Express will also compete for family dollars here, earning about $12 million from Friday-to-Sunday.
Three limited release films are expanding to take advantage of the holiday, and though all three were in the top 16 last weekend, it may be difficult for them to break the top ten. The film with the best chance of doing so is Finding Neverland, expanding to 513 venues, up from 57. The film about the creator of Peter Pan and starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet is in serious Oscar contention in most categories. Opening with a $14,679 per venue average in 13th place, it has laid a solid foundation for a run through December and probably into the New Year. Look for between $3 and $4 million for this film over three days.
Sideways, the latest from Alexander Payne, is also attracting serious Oscar attention, though its lower wattage stars may limit its box office potential. It is approximately doubling its venues to 497, though it should only hold steady in weekend earnings at about $2 million.
Kinsey is making the jump from 36 to 188 venues, after finishing 16th in its second weekend. Thanks in no small part to the free publicity granted to it by protestors, Kinsey is becoming a film to watch for the fall. It should earn a little over $1 million for the weekend.
Much like last year, Thanksgiving weekend will not see domination by any one film, but rather will see several films duking it out and sharing more or less an equal share of the box office pie.