Blockbusters return with a vengeance this weekend, after an underwhelming Thanksgiving weekend and a post-Turkey Day weekend with no new wide offerings. When Hollywood needs a short-term box-office boost, they can always rely on the tried and tested method of a sequel, two of which make up the prime offerings this weekend.
Weekend Forecast for December 10-12, 2004
By Reagen Sulewski
December 9, 2004
Opening early on Wednesday was Blade: Trinity, the third film in the Blade series. One of the classic "saved by video" franchises, it has inspired a third film despite the fact that neither of the first two films broke $100 million domestic. In three films, the series has had three different directors, though the job has fallen this time to the writer of all three, David Goyer.
Wesley Snipes is back of course, as Blade, and I can assume that the Trinity subtitle also refers to the trio of vampire hunters in the film played by himself, Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds, who clearly sprung for the Ultimate Bowflex. After vampires get sneaky and start running a smear campaign(!) against Blade as part of their world domination scheme, Blade finds himself hunted on all sides. A mysterious figure known as Drake (wink, wink) played by Dominic Purcell (of the late, lamented series John Doe) is their main nemesis.
It remains to be seen if this third film can introduce anything quite as brilliant yet so simple as the zombie-vampires of Blade II. The breakneck pacing of the first two is likely to be ramped up even further in this outing, along with the somewhat questionable practice of using CGI stunt doubles. However, in its first two films, the franchise has captured a decent fanbase and although this one doesn't look quite as inspiring as the first two, we should be looking at similar numbers to the second film's. It may have trouble matching Blade II's $32 million opening, mostly due to the Wednesday opening, but something in the high 20s should be in the cards.
Opening Friday is the film that will capture the number one spot of the box office, Ocean's Twelve. The follow up to the 2001 Christmas hit Ocean's Eleven, O12 brings back all the principals of the first film, adding Catherine Zeta-Jones (the twelfth, I assume). Although Danny Ocean's crew, led by George Clooney, got away with $160 million from the Bellagio casino's vault, they didn't get away scot-free. The casino's owner, Andy Garcia, figured out who was behind it (like it was that hard) and wants his money back, with interest. Now it just wouldn't be in the criminal spirit to give the money back, so they decide to steal the payback from someone else.
Moving the location to Europe - since they're too high profile to make the heist work in the United States - they also find a rival in "The Night Fox", played by French actor Vincent Cassel, who seems to have an old score to settle with Ocean.
Ocean's Eleven opened this same weekend in 2001 to $38 million, which wasn't quite the bang for the buck of the star power involved. No one went home crying, though, as the film ended up grossing $183 million domestic and almost $450 million worldwide. This more than paid for the stars, who had agreed to smaller salaries anyway, and whetted appetites for this sequel.
Warner Bros has not done the best job at selling this edition of the film, with some fairly underwhelming trailers and commercials, which basically just announce the existence of the film or feature uninspiring or unintelligible-without-context character moments. For fans of the first film, that's probably enough, but may not be enough to bring in those not already hip to Soderbergh's vibe. Add a little for inflation and we're looking at $43 million for the opening weekend.
Probably the most interesting film this week only opens at two venues. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, Wes Anderson's latest, has its NY/LA premiere this weekend, with expansions due in the next few weeks. For the second time, Bill Murray is his lead, playing a Jacques Cousteau type in search of a shark that killed his research partner. While on his revenge quest, he meets up with a potential long-lost son (played by long time Anderson collaborator Owen Wilson).
Anderson's quirky films somewhat defy description, though they are nominally comedies. For his fans (and we won't pretend we aren't among them here -- his last film, The Royal Tenenbaums won our award for Best Film of 2002), the trailer was exactly what they were looking for; a heavily stylized look, comedy that borders on the non-sequitur and an ensemble cast placed in a lived-in world. Bill Murray will be gunning for a second straight Oscar nomination here and we shouldn't overlook the many acclaimed actors in the cast, including Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe and Jeff Goldblum.
Spending three weeks a the top of the box office will do wonders for your bottom line, as National Treasure has found out. Cracking $100 million last weekend, it will fall to third place this weekend, barring some unforeseen circumstance. I fully expect Jerry Bruckheimer to take out insurance on Nic Cage at some point, to guarantee he can star in more of his movies.
Christmas With the Kranks held on well in its second weekend, falling 'just' 48% from its Thanksgiving total. Who would have thought that John Grisham fans would cross over so well with "Tim Allen getting hit in the crotch" fans?
Dropping the least amount in percentage terms was The Polar Express, which is inching closer to the $100 million mark, but will fall well short of its eye-popping budget figures which range from $150 to $270 million (the latter including P&A). It's a lump of coal and a candy cane for Robert Zemeckis this year.
After popping out a fantastic $16,000 per venue average last weekend, Closer expands by about 150 screens. However, the reception of the film was anything but uniformly positive, and word-of-mouth may stick a dagger in this one. People jonesing for a Julia Roberts fix have Ocean's Twelve to go to anyway. With expansion, this should hold at about $6 million for three days.
The Incredibles continues to move closer to the fourth overall spot for 2004, gaining on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. About $25 million short as of Tuesday, it should certainly pass that mark through the Christmas holidays, provided it can hang onto screens, which will be at a premium in the coming weeks.