Now deep into summer and in the middle of a losing streak that would make the Tampa Bay Devil Rays blush, Hollywood is sending out more and more blockbusters in the hope that something will stick and break this box office slump. The two new entries for this week could be enough, but it's going to be close. By Sunday, we may have our 20th straight weekend where our box office totals are down from 2004.
Weekend Forecast for July 8-10, 2005
By Reagen Sulewski
July 8, 2005
A few months ago, before panic started to set in, a Fantastic Four movie might have seemed like an obvious winner, given the recent successes of comic book adaptations, and Marvel adaptations in general. Personally, I think they're one year, three months and four days too late with this one, but that's neither here nor there (do the math. I'll wait). One of Marvel's flagship properties, Fantastic Four, like Spider-Man, was tied up in legal limbo forever and the technical difficulties in producing it prevented a bid-budget version until now. The less said about the 1994 Roger Corman (!) version, the better.
One of the more heavily hyped and/or advertised films of the summer, it also looks, at this point, to be one of the more troubled and desperate blockbusters this season. Like the Hulk movie two years ago, its FX are being questioned, and its plot, dialogue and characterization may or may not be up to par. Close to half a dozen trailers have been cut trying to sell the film, with most falling flat.
The decision to go with a relatively unknown cast must be giving Fox fits by now. Jessica Alba as Sue Storm, The Invisible Girl, is the most known cast member of the bunch, and though she's had a couple of solo successes, it's got very little to do with her thespian skills (some horribly delivered lines in the trailers aren't dispelling that reputation). Chris Evans as Johnny Storm, The Human Torch, appears to be having a ball and might be the best overall reason to see the film. Michael Chiklis of TV cop drama The Shield handles the role of The Thing, whose "costume" is one of the design decisions coming under heavy fire, the other being the stretch effect of Mr. Fantastic, played by Ioan "More Welsh Than You" Gruffudd. Julian McMahon of Nip/Tuck rounds out the cast as the villainous Dr. Victor Von Doom (and really, with a name like that, your career options are relatively limited).
There's every indication this film's been badly botched, and without a big name to draw people in, its safety net is going to be very small. Opening on 3,602 screens, it's due for an opening weekend of around $36 million and may not even capture the top spot.
The other opening film this weekend is Dark Water, starring Jennifer Connelly in a remake of a Japanese horror film. From the same pen as The Ring, Dark Water covers the spooky goings on of a grungy apartment building which may or may not be hiding a supernatural secret.
Remakes of Japanese horror films have struck a chord in recent years starting with The Ring, re-introducing mood and suspense back into a stale genre. Last October's The Grudge opened to nearly $40 million based on a spooky ad campaign and Sarah Michelle Gellar. Dark Water hasn't been nearly as well or heavily promoted, and lacking an obvious money shot, it may struggle out of the gate some. Summer horror can also be a tricky sell at times, although M. Night Shyamalan has made a career out of just that.
A solid supporting cast including John C. Reilly, Tim Roth and Pete Posthlewaite lends some weight to the film, but little box office clout, which will remain almost entirely in the hands of Connelly. However, she's more known at this stage than Naomi Watts was at the release of The Ring. Reviews are only middling for the film, but those that fall to the positive side are very supportive, praising the acting and atmosphere. On 2,657 screens, Dark Water should open to about $20 million and might have a good run through the second half of the summer.
War of the Worlds blew past the public meltdown of Tom Cruise to open to $112 million over six days, $77 million of that on the four-day 4th of July Weekend. The second strongest opening weekend of the year, the striking visuals and action set pieces were more than enough to get Spielberg and Cruise a much needed hit, to say nothing of the overall season. Word-of-mouth should follow this picture strongly, as it actually held back quite a bit from the trailers and ads, leaving a great deal to satisfy audiences above and beyond a few brief moments we already knew were coming. This should translate into a weekend of about $40 million and first place for a second straight weekend.
Batman Begins had another strong weekend and crossed the $150 million mark after its third frame, nearly earning $20 million over the holiday. With another $10 million this weekend, it will be headed for a $200 million total, a nice recovery after the potentially disastrous opening weekend it had.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith doesn't quite have the steam to reach $200 million, but $175 million looks likely for Pitt and Jolie, and ensures that Doug Liman has his pick of directorial efforts for the next couple of films.
Bewitched failed to hang on to its audience in its second weekend, nearly falling over 50% even with the extra day. Earning about $5 million this weekend, it should top out at around $60 million, right around standard for a Will Ferrell comedy or Nicole Kidman summer misfire.
Herbie: Fully Loaded showed some staying power over the holiday weekend, no doubt due to being about the only children's offering out there that hasn't already been seen six times. It and Madagascar were the films that held the strongest, dropping 30% or less over just the three-day traditional weekend period. Some fallback for both films is inevitable, but weekends of around $6 and $4 million respectively should be expected here.