The onslaught of films this fall continues for yet another weekend with four new movies hoping to find the success that for most films this year has been elusive.
Weekend Forecast for October 28-30, 2005
By Reagen Sulewski
October 28, 2005
Halloween weekend is upon us, and although contrary to popular wisdom, it's never been a spectacular weekend for horror films (most people are at parties). It's always been popular for studios to release a scary movie in this frame, or close to it anyway. This year's entry is Saw II, which might be one of the horror films to break through and become a bona fide Halloween horror hit.
Released during this same weekend last year, the first film in this series earned a shocking $18 million, obliterating its modest $1.2 million budget. The film centered around a serial killer who developed elaborate and gruesome traps for his victims, forcing them into sadistic games, while covertly monitoring them (get it? Saw?). It prided itself on being the sickest, most twisted member of the horror genre to come along. This sequel brings back the killer (known as Jigsaw) and several unlucky victims trapped in a room with a potentially lethal amount of nerve gas. If they can avoid the booby traps, they may be able to set themselves free, but I wouldn't count on it.
Despite featuring acting that was... below average... Saw became a huge hit on video after its $55 million take, which is one of the big reasons we have a sequel so fast. Director James Wan wasn't around for a second ride (I assume because of scheduling conflicts) but co-writer of the first film Leigh Whannell is, with the budget being just slightly higher than before, at $4 million. It would be almost impossible for this film to lose. The cast is roughly the same caliber, with Donnie Wahlberg and Dina Meyer maybe being the only names the average person would recognize in the cast. However, as the Jeepers Creepers and Final Destination films proved, cast isn't important for a horror film that people are interested in. Opening on a little over 2,900 screens, this film should build on its predecessor and earn about $27 million this weekend.
Another sequel to a surprising hit (albeit to a much lesser degree) is next, in The Legend of Zorro. Seven years ago, The Mask of Zorro broke out in the late fall to almost $100 million, which is saying something for a film headlined by Antonio Banderas. That film also introduced most of us to Catherine Zeta-Jones, and she returns for a role that she is, quite frankly, a little too big for now.
When it first came out, the swashbuckling adventure film was a bit of an outdated genre, though Zorro and other films since have brought it back, most notably Pirates of the Caribbean. Banderas is no Johnny Depp, for sure, although he was close to perfect for the role here, adding humor to the adventure. However, it seems like for the sequel, the director Martin Campbell, as well as the producers, have blinked and played it safe, trying to make the film more family-friendly. It's now The Legend of Zorro (And Wife and Son), and more's the pity, as this is exactly the kind of sidekick bloat that brought down Batman.
The plot at least has potential meat to it, set at the time of the introduction of California as a state. Rufus Sewell plays Zorro's main foe, the leader of some sort of conspiracy that is "500 years in the making", if you listen to the ads. The trouble is, there may not be much to care about here, with the gravitas of Anthony Hopkins or his equivalent sorely lacking. I predict that sentimentalism will give this film a decent opening of around $16 million, but with the edge and adult appeal gone from the film, its run could be short.
Nicolas Cage has yet another one of his mid-life crises on film in the Weather Man (I think we're up to about six now), about a Chicago TV weathercaster that's a failure as a father. Offered a move to the big time, the New York City market, he then has to deal with his crumbling marriage and a visit from his father (played by Michael Caine), a star in academia, but with failing health. Amidst all this, he starts to feel his life has been a waste and his chosen profession pointless. It's the feel-bad comedy of the fall.
Opening on just 1,500 screens, confidence in this film isn't running high, especially with the run of films Cage has had where he doesn't have a stunt double. The recent Lord of War even had some action to go along with its social message and only opened to $9 million. Although this film somewhat resembles the recent The Family Man, this is arriving in a deader time of year and at a time when audiences are getting a little bit sick of Cage. Look for this to open to a mere $6 million, with Cage to start lobbying for more and more comic book roles in the future.
The final new opener this weekend is Prime, starring Uma Thurman, Meryl Streep and Bryan Greenberg (who you might have seen in The Perfect Score) in a romantic comedy about therapy. Thurman plays a busy urban professional who starts a fling with a younger man, who we find out is the son of her therapist, played by Streep. Much wackiness and kvetching ensues, in what is essentially a plot that could have been right at home on an episode of Friends. Although Thurman has proved quite popular in films when she holds a samurai sword, as a romantic lead she's more or less unproven. This film opens on just 1,800 screens, which doesn't show a lot of confidence in the film on Universal's part, a studio that is having a miserable year so far. This will continue that trend, opening to just $4 million.
Doom won last weekend at $15 million and change, but this has all the hallmarks of a film primed for a historic second weekend drop. Bashed mercilessly by critics and with a classic front-loaded audience, this videogame-based movie seems positively destined for a short life at the box office. But then, The Fog was one of last week's best returning films in terms of holding onto money, so anything really is possible. I wouldn't bet on it, though, and I look for Doom to drop to around $6 million this weekend.
A couple of family-centered films should fare a little better among returners, in Dreamer and Wallace and Gromit. Both came in with around $9 million last weekend, with the latter, charming animated film posting its third strong weekend. It sits just shy of $50 million at this point, and has proven the viability of Aardman Studios, with Chicken Run not being just a fluke in the great animation rush of the late '90s and early '00s. Dreamer is less Earth-shaking, just a simple family story of a girl, her father and a horse, but ought to be a solid performer in the next few weeks. Look for both to come in at just over $6 million over the next few days.
A few blown shots at Oscars are still in the mix in the box office in Elizabethtown and North Country. The latter was a little more obviously focused on that goal, trying to appeal to the social justice conscience of the Academy, as well as the hot-chicks-dressing-it-down admiration society (you already have your Oscar, Charlize). Box office still counts in the Oscars, especially for Best Picture and the $6 million it earned, combined with a critical reception that screamed "next time, be less obvious about it" has pretty much killed its chances for any major awards. Cameron Crowe has won an Oscar before, so Elizabethtown couldn't be discounted, at least until it received a rather critical drubbing and took a rather astounding fall in the box office. Down almost 50% from its opening weekend, any shots it had are pretty much gone, now regarded as a "mere" romantic comedy. These films should both come in at around $3-4 million this weekend.