Following a weekend that shocked Hollywood bean-counters and shook them to their cores, the box office attempts a recovery with three films that attempt to appeal to three very different demographics.
Weekend Forecast for Jul 29-31, 2005
By Reagen Sulewski
July 29, 2005
First up is Stealth, which still has a long way to go to prove to me it's not an elaborate practical joke. The movie stars Jessica Biel, Josh Lucas and Jamie Foxx (who I'm pretty sure is wishing he lined up a better post-Oscar project right now) as Navy pilots in some sort of elite squadron. That is, until they get a new wingman, one that's an entirely AI pilot (cost? I'm thinking ten, eleven billion). Everything's hunky-dory, except for the pilots potentially losing their blow-stuff-up jobs, until the fancy new plane is hit by lightning. As we all know, lightning makes things evil, so they have a big problem on their hands as it goes "rogue". Who will triumph, Man or machine? (I'll give you two guesses.)
Directed by Rob Cohen, he of The Fast and the Furious and xXx, among other slick little numbers, it promises to be quite the enjoyable little ‘splosion fest, as long as you don't think about it at all. Luckily, Cohen's films never seem to take themselves quite that seriously. However, while cheesy fun may be just what the box office ordered, Stealth has neither the presence of Vin Diesel nor a prominent sub-culture like kit cars to exploit... I mean capitalize on. Opening in an extremely wide 3,495 theaters and advertised out the wazoo, Stealth should take the top spot of the weekend but without major star power, it should top out right at $20 million.
Catering to the strong kiddie market this summer is Sky High, which on the surface looks like an attempt by Disney to recreate the success of Spy Kids, but probably was pitched as "Harry Potter, but not so British and magicky". In a world where superheroes are commonplace, a special training school is needed for proto-heroes. One such kid, the son of the world's two most famous heroes (played by Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston), finds himself lacking purpose after not developing any powers of his own. Ah, it's the age old story of following in your parents' footsteps, although that typically doesn't involve stopping super villains.
When a villain does strike and hold his parents hostage, it's up to him and his super-powered schoolmates to save the day (Seriously, sound familiar at all?). Okay, so the Annoying Kid potential is going to be pretty high, but it definitely appears to have a sense of humor about itself (the inclusion of two ex-Kids in the Hall leans towards that) and the brightly colored pop-art decoration of the film along with its potentially creative use of effects should attracts kids in droves. Importantly, it also won't look intolerable to parents, so it does have some crossover potential. Look for this film to come in with a strong $16.2 million showing on its 2,900 or so screens this weekend.
The third wide opener of the weekend is Must Love Dogs, one of the first romantic comedies in some time. Starring the suddenly hip-again Diane Lane and Lloyd Dobler, I mean, John Cusack, it's an adaptation of a successful novel about online dating and the wackiness inherent therein.
Through a series of misadventures and dating disasters, Lane eventually finds her potential perfect man except for one thing - he insults her in various ways on their very first date. Meanwhile, also vying for her attention (cause let's face it, who wouldn't) is Dermot Mulroney's character, partially channeling Hugh Grant from the Bridget Jones films. Oh, it's all such a tangled web.
Must Love Dogs looks innocuous enough (aside from the creepy bit with Christopher Plummer in the trailer) and should hit the female market target dead-on. Unfortunately for this film, that's not that big a target. The two obviously parallels to this film are Under the Tuscan Sun and Serendipity, which both had one of the leads of this film as a box office draw, and opened to approximately $9 and $13 million respectively. Must Love Dogs looks a bit fresher than either of those comparison films, but is missing that real hook (read: Tom Hanks) to send the film over the top. It should earn a healthy $14 million this weekend, however.
Although last week's openers bombed, there was one positive box office story in last weekend's results; the surprising legs of Wedding Crashers. Dropping just 25% off its opening weekend figure (which practically makes it Titanic these days), it has become the world-of-mouth suggestion of the summer. Curiously enough, this seems to be happening even as it divides audiences into love-it and hate-it camps. In a weaker weekend, it could challenge for top spot, but it'll have to settle for $18 million and crossing the $100 million mark in just its third weekend.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory didn't fare quite so well, falling off 50% from its $56 million opening weekend. Although not necessarily surprising in this year of virtually no legs, it's also disappointing based on what other family films have done recently in summer. That said, it already has a healthy $125 million plus in the bank. It should add another $16 million to that total this weekend.
The vast majority of the remaining returning films seem to be racing each other to the DVD shelf. Fantastic Four recovered slightly after its ridiculous drop in weekend number two, but should return again to free-falling, earning about $7 million this weekend. The Island is the film that has proved Michael Bay's fallibility at the box office and is not long for first-run. Big action blockbusters that earn 1/3 to 1/5 of what they were supposed to do not become word-of-mouth hits as a general rule. The Bad News Bears probably has the best chance of last week's third to fifth place films, but even at that is only looking at $7 million itself. And all of these films have to look out for the surging nature documentary March of the Penguins, which cracked the top ten with over $4 million in earnings last weekend, and is still expanding screens.