In addition to the usual January lineup of December holdovers and expanding Oscar hopefuls, Hollywood is giving this first full weekend of 2006 a present of three actual new releases with a chance for success, even if the actual quality of them might be lacking.
Weekend Forecast for January 6-8, 2006
By Reagen Sulewski
January 6, 2006
The highest profile of these is Hostel, the obligatory cheap horror film for the month of January. Directed by Eli Roth, responsible for the truly awful but strangely hyped Cabin Fever, it also has the endorsement of one Quentin Tarantino, who has taken on the mantle of mentor of late, cashing in some of his recently re-acquired street cred from the Kill Bill films.
In the film, American tourists in Slovakia are told of an underground hostel filled with desperate and horny European women, theirs for the taking. Arriving there, they find the rumors to be true, but with a twist – after a night of pleasure, the hostel turns into a sadistic hospital from which they probably won't find their way out. Ultra-horror has made a bit of a comeback of late, with the inexplicably popular Saw films, some of the recent remakes like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and more.
The somewhat similar Wolf Creek failed to capture much attention over the Christmas holidays, and Hostel also faces the problem of a nearly anonymous cast. However, the last film to receive the QT endorsement in the title, Hero, opened to over $18 million (with, admittedly, a higher profile cast and a less intimidating genre). It looks suitably grisly enough to capture that middle ground of viewers who want to be freaked out, but exclude the timid. Opening the widest of the new films this week on about 2,100 screens, it should bring in about $14 million this weekend.
No longer content to play the idiot boy, Adam Sandler seems determined to farm out his old schtick to his friends, starting with this week's Grandma's Boy, filmed under his own Happy Madison production company and starring a lot of actors you've seen before in Big Daddy, The Waterboy and 50 First Dates, but really have no idea who they are.
Essentially trying to position itself as an Animal House kind of film, it features a series of sophomoric gags around a largely unimportant plot. Hey, just like early Sandler films! There's slapstick violence, surreal characters, scantily clad women (and yes, grandmothers) and a monkey that knows karate, which is going to be right up a few people's alley, though without Sandler in a prominent role in this film, it'll be a pretty tough sell. I see this coming in somewhere in the neighborhood of 1998's Half Baked, with about $7 million for the weekend.
The third new film of the week is Bloodrayne, another fine production from Uwe Boll. Ah, Mr. Boll. Wait, sorry, Dr. Boll. What joy you've given us with these ludicrous, nigh on unwatchable video game adaptations. Alone in the Dark and House of the Dead were legendary in how bad they were, and yet, more people are still willing to fund him to destroy the good name of video game adaptations. It's the name actors that he attracts that really leave me puzzled. This time around they include Oscar winner Ben Kingsley, Billy Zane, Michelle Rodriguez and Michael Madsen. Don't they know his reputation by now?
Anyhow, this film stars Kristianna Loken, of T3 fame, as a half-vampire, half-human in the 19th century who fights legions of demons for some reason. Like you really care about this film for how awful it looks. Alone in the Dark had about 2000 screens last January and opened to a pathetic $2.8 million. I don't see this one doing any better, and worse is even likelier.
Wider openings this weekend include Munich, which moves to 1,485 screens, Casanova, breaking the 1,000 mark after a limited run over the holidays, Brokeback Mountain, expanding to 484 screens, and Match Point, Woody Allen's latest, moving up to 304 screens. Munich and Brokeback both sit at around $15 million total to this point, with the latter doing so largely on the back of much Guild and award recognition. A wave of critical support is starting to lift this picture not only into an almost assured slot at the Academy Awards, but also into commercial respectability. With these factors in play, it should be able to bring in about $7 million this weekend. Munich, meanwhile, is receiving slightly less support from the end-of-year awards, with a couple of Golden Globe nominations and some guild support shown so far. Spielberg's opus on terrorism might be a little more accessible to audiences, but it's proving to be just as tough a sell. It should also come in with around $7 million for the weekend.
Casanova, the non-gay Heath Ledger movie, earned a solid $551 thousand on 37 screens last weekend, bringing it to a total of $1 million so far in limited release. The fictionalized story of famed 18th century Venetian explorer Giacomo Casanova, it stars Ledger in the lead, with Sienna Miller, the erstwhile paramour of a modern-day cad, Jude Law, as his love interest in the film. This film plays up the comedy aspect of the romantic comedy, no doubt angling for the Shakespeare in Love market. This looks decidedly more fluffy, and despite its Oscar pedigree (director Lasse Hallstrom has three Best Director nominations), it seems unlikely to contend in any major categories. Look for it to come in with about $6 million for the weekend.
Match Point is receiving buzz as one of the best Woody Allen movies in years, and right now it seems like more than just the hype that's followed a few of his more recent comedies. Set in London, and for once, not starring Allen in a narcissistic lead role, it covers a tennis pro that marries up in class, but is still intrigued by an American beauty (played here by Scarlett Johansson) and starts a potentially dangerous affair. It earned a tremendous $529,0000 on just eight screens last weekend, which may just lead to a decent weekend on expansion. Give it around $5 million for this frame.
This brings us finally to our returning films, led by The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, which recaptured top spot from King Kong last weekend, passing the $225 million mark in the process. Although family films are typically the hardest hit in the post-Christmas period, this also has become a blockbuster favorite and may be able to weather some of this period. Look for a drop to about $16 million this weekend.
The returns of King Kong in the last few weeks show a mixed bag of results. Sure, it started slower than most, if not all, expected. Yes, it lost first place. It is, however, within spitting distance of $200 million domestic, and showed a healthy carryover through Christmas week. $250 million may still be in the cards for Kong, though the three-hour run time is continuing to be a thorn in its side. I'm guessing Peter Jackson's next deal will require him to deliver a 150-minute or shorter film. Watch for a take of about $14 million this weekend.
Fun With Dick and Jane came in with a bit of a thud over the holiday, especially for a Jim Carrey comedy, though it has earned over $60 million to date. Sony is pushing hard on this one still, pressing its "#1 comedy" status and adding a handful of screens. It's a bit like getting blood from a turnip at this point, and it hasn't shown anything special in the way of legs to date. Give it about $9 million this weekend.