Some of the first fallout of awards season should be visible this weekend, as Golden Globe winners attempt to capitalize on their increased fame. The studio machine rolls on, however, and two new films hit the market along with a number of expanding films.
Weekend Forecast for January 20-22, 2006
By Reagen Sulewski
January 20, 2006
It doesn't take that much to get a sequel for a sci-fi or action film these days; just keep your budget under $30 million, deliver one solid weekend of box office, and you've got yourself steady employment. Underworld did just that, riding its stylized vampires vs. werewolves feud to a $20 million plus opening weekend in 2003, and arriving with a sequel this weekend, subtitled "Evolution".
Kate Beckinsale returns as Selene, a "death-dealer" in the war against the Lycans, although she now finds herself opposed on both sides after she turned against the high mucky-mucks in the vampire world. Something about campaign-finance reform, if I recall correctly. No matter. It's all about the tight leather outfits, stylized violence and moderately special effects, now isn't it?
There are two comparable sequels that immediately come to mind with this film, in The Transporter 2 and Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Both bested their original film's opening weekend take, the former more than doubling it in the same time period. Resident Evil's sequel wasn't quite so successful at expanding the audience, but did better than many might have expected all the same. Both were propelled by above-average advertising campaigns, which I'm afraid Underworld isn't able to match. That is to say, it all has a bit of an "it's been done" feel, where the original brought a fresh look to the marketplace. Also counting on the negative side are its not being submitted for critics and getting dumped in the wilderness of January, but it's certainly possible to get too caught up in this, as its fanbase is unlikely to pay attention to these factors. Watch for it to about match its original's performance, coming in with about $22 million.
One of the more unusual candidates for a wide release this year is The End of the Spear. Ever since the amazing success of the grassroots campaign for The Passion of the Christ, many other filmmakers have attempted to use that same religious population to attempt to promote their films. The End of the Spear is a story about a group of missionaries in Ecuador who are murdered by tribesmen, and their possible redemption afterwards. The film is largely name-free, with fans of '80s drama Our House possibly remembering Chad Allen. Similar to the recent The Gospel, this is a highly targeted film and may be successful within this group, but has little chance of success out of it. In any case, it launches on over 1,100 screens and should come in with about $6 million this weekend.
In what amounts to a lightning pace for him, Terrence Malick's latest film The New World arrives just seven years after The Thin Red Line. A de-mythed telling of the John Smith/Pocahontas story, it stars Colin Farrell as the 17th century English explorer and relates his contact with Native American tribes in Virginia.
As with Malick's other films, narrative gives way to symbolism and visual poetry, which are typically code words for "arty snoozefest". At two-and-a-half hours long, it's shorter and thus probably more endurable than The Thin Red Line, but moviegoers are likely on to him after the incredible critical praise brought many in for what was largely an unsatisfying experience at the theater. Screen count for The New World is only about half of that film, at just over 800 screens, which indicates that New Line is well aware of the difficulty surrounding selling this film.
The star of The New World, Farrell, remains an enigmatic character with regards to box office. S.W.A.T. was a moderate success for him as action film, earning $37 million in its opening weekend and breaking the $100 million mark. Alexander, on the other hand, was an unqualified flop, though that likely had more to do with the hatchet job of Oliver Stone. He's certainly an attraction in the right role, and is probably the biggest reason why the film is getting as big a release as it is. Curiosity should bring The New World to a weekend of about $6 million.
Expanding films dominate the rest of the story of the weekend, starting with the big winner at the Golden Globes, Brokeback Mountain. After winning the top prize on Monday night, the film bounced from ninth to first place in the weekday box office, which is remarkable considering it is still just on 683 screens. Attempting to take full advantage of this publicity, it expands to over 1,100 this weekend. For a film that few thought had any chance of commercial success or mainstream appeal, it's a remarkable achievement. Curiosity about Brokeback Mountain and its unconventional cowboy romance seems to be peaking, and greater acceptance seems to await. Give it a weekend total of around $8 million.
When is a $12 million figure for a CGI animated film a positive figure? When it was widely expected to make about half that. Hoodwinked was the first foray into the genre for the Weinstein Company, and was a twisted retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood story. The $16 million figure over the holiday weekend was impressive enough to convince another 600 theaters to pick up the film this weekend, and as the major family offering out right now, it should have an easy second weekend of close to $10 million.
Last weekend's number one film was Glory Road, which brought in just over $13 million over the three-day period. Only moderately well-received, the story of a groundbreaking college basketball coach and his all-black team in the 1960s will probably suffer the same 50% dropoff as last year's similarly themed Coach Carter, giving it around $7 million.
Opening in limited release is Albert Brooks' latest, Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World. The unwieldy title is both a help and a hindrance, as it represents both a flashpoint and an attention-getting subject. The film has Brooks hired by the United States government to try and mend fences by finding out just what makes Muslims laugh. A satirical film with a high tightrope factor, it's a film that bears watching. Opening on 161 screens this weekend, it should be good for about $1 million on the weekend.