Now that the books have closed on the impressive - and occasionally surprising - box office month that was February, we welcome March with a trio of wide releases that will set their sights on three very distinct audiences.
By Kim Hollis
March 3, 2005
The highest profile of the three films is Be Cool, the ten-years-after-the-fact sequel to the highly-regarded Get Shorty, a deconstruction of the movie industry based on the novel by Elmore Leonard. A couple of years after the fact, Leonard followed that book up with a similar skewing of the music biz, which is the basis for the film that hits screens this weekend.
MGM has pulled out all the stops in a savvy marketing campaign that wisely targets every possible demographic. Naturally, they're going to appeal to the fans of Get Shorty, which made $12.7 million in its debut weekend on 1,612 screens (adjusted for inflation, you get a number closer to $18 million). It was a particularly successful film for that time, topping out at $72 million by the time it departed theaters and going on to have a long shelf life on video. Last week, MGM re-released Get Shorty on DVD in a terrific new package, employing synergy to its highest degree.
The advertising has gone much, much further than simply hitting fans of the first film, though. The studio has made a concerted effort to make Be Cool look like a film that can stand on its own. First off, they make sure to hit the homage to Pulp Fiction as they show stars John Travolta and Uma Thurman on the dance floor. Additionally, the film is looking to have a great deal of appeal to the younger generation thanks to the presence of Christina Milian, The Rock, Andre 3000, Cedric the Entertainer and Vince Vaughn, whose turn as a rap mogul wannabe totally sells the trailer.
If there is one concern with regards to Be Cool's potential, it's the fact that so far, its reviews have been less-than-satisfactory. At RottenTomatoes, the IGN-owned site that compiles movie critiques, Be Cool is currently sitting at 28%, putting it solidly in the "rotten" category. That said, there should be a number of reviews yet to come before the weekend, so that number has a chance to rise (or fall).
Of course, reviews don't matter much on opening weekend. With the proliferation of advertising on television (particularly in prime demographic target time during the NBA All-Star events), in movie theaters and online, awareness of the movie's release is high. MGM has been able to secure an ultra-wide release for Be Cool on over 3,000 screens, which should be able to help it along to a $25 million start over Friday-to-Sunday.
Next up is a film that sees Vin Diesel going out of his element as an action star and sliding into the safer realm of family comedy. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who made a similar move with Kindergarten Cop, it's a generally appealing fish out of water idea that doesn't really tread much new or original ground. Still, like Ice Cube's Are We There Yet? earlier this year, the advertising has done a fine job of appealing to its target audience (i.e. not me). Diesel's star has been tarnished somewhat recently, as The Chronicles of Riddick and A Man Apart were consecutive financial disappointments. It's far from a sure thing whether he can open a film; however, with the Disney name attached and their consistent marketing efforts, it's looking like a solid entry at the very least. Look for $17 million this weekend, and a chance for some staying power if it can follow the Are We There Yet? trajectory.
The final wide release for this weekend comes from Warner Independent Pictures, who generally doesn't put its movies in quite so many theaters as The Jacket will be receiving. Thanks to a creepy trailer and the presence of Keira Knightley and Academy Award winner Adrien Brody, the studio appears to be setting its sights higher for this project. It's certainly the best-reviewed of the three openers, as its 50% rating beats out The Pacifier's 38% to make it the cream of the crop. That said, the marketing has been rather slight; still, it's definitely going to appeal to fans of the psychological drama. It's getting a nationwide push in more than 1,300 locations, which should result in an opening weekend number of $5 million. That's a pretty solid result for a film that was looking like a limited release not all that long ago.
Last week, Diary of a Mad Black Woman surprised all prognosticators by coming in with a phenomenal $22 million debut. It does get to expand a bit this weekend; however, films of this genre typically drop pretty heavily in their second frame. Look for it to fall back to earth with $12.7 for the next three days, a number that is still higher than most forecasters gave it a chance to do in its opening weekend.
On the flip side of things, Million Dollar Baby should be the beneficiary of a fairly strong uptick on the strength of its Academy Award wins. Films of a similar scale that have won Best Picture before it have almost uniformly increased between 25 and 50%. We'll split the difference here to give it a $9 million weekend.