Weekend Forecase for January 27-29, 2006
By Reagen Sulewski
January 27, 2006
BoxOfficeProphets.com

Major League Baseball was never the same after it changed its umpire hiring practices.

Call it a transition week: In the last weekend before the Oscar nominations are announced, some films are making a final play for public mindshare, while the 2006 films are coming on strong.

Leading the way is the inexplicable sequel to Big Momma's House, imaginatively called Big Momma's House 2. Back when we still cared about Martin Lawrence, if we ever truly did, the first film in this series opened to $25 million based on the erroneous assumption that a man in a fat old lady suit was funny. It went on to earn $117 million pre-inflation, and remains his biggest success on his own. After his following four non-sequel films flopped, and flopped hard, it's tough to blame Lawrence for going back to what worked prior. And yet. You still had the choice of retiring to Bermuda rather than making more crap, Martin!

Anyhow, while the name recognition of this film seems likely to keep this film, whatever Lawrence still brings to the table after the failures of Rebound, Black Knight, et. al, is pretty much all it has. An astonishingly joke-free ad campaign leaves one to wonder why it took them six years to come up with this sequel, and what they thought it would get them. Lawrence himself seems hell-bent on trying to prove out the premise of the title of one of his ominous flops, What's the Worst That Could Happen? Another movie, I suppose. Opening on a large, 3,200 screen slate, it should still be able to bring in about $14 million this weekend.

Even as studios turn out the same old crap week after week (see: above two paragraphs), they seem to be taking stabs at bold moves of late; witness Universal's move to launch an arguably franchisable family film, Nanny McPhee, in the dead of January. Based on a popular series of books in Britain, it's essentially Mary Poppins, with warts. Starring Emma Thompson as the title character along with Colin Firth and a band of ragamuffins, it's an entry in the world of magical nannies for broken families genre, a rather specific one to be sure.

Although unlikely to have the same kind of crossover appeal as that other British kid-lit series, it's also going to be pretty palatable for most adults who have to accompany their children in for this one, and will probably cut down on the number skipping over to Brokeback Mountain. The overarching "English-ness" of it might keep some away, at least until it's a more proven commodity, which is reflected in the modest 1,900 plus screen count. Look for it to come in with around $12 million on the weekend and possibly hang around for more.

The third new wide release of the weekend is Annapolis, which more than anything else, seems likely to challenge Bloodrayne as Worst Film of 2006, and it's just the end of January. Set at the United States Naval Academy, it's like a pumped up, more testosterone-laden version of Top Gun combined with An Officer and a Gentleman, if such a thing can be imagined. James Franco, determined to kill all those "young James Dean" comparisons, stars as a hopeful recruit who runs into a ball-busting drill sergeant played by Tyrese Gibson. The requisite love interest is played by Jordana Brewster, which means that both Fast/Furious films are represented by alumnus, for better or worse.

A remarkably clich├ęd film, Annapolis grits its teeth and winds its way towards a boxing tournament, which is apparently the most important part of being a naval officer. Critically savaged so far, it currently sits at a remarkable 7% on Rotten Tomatoes, with equal disdain for its characters, dialogue, direction (from Better Luck Tomorrow's Justin Lin) and plot. Disney's seen the writing on the wall and has put this out in only a modest 1,600 theaters, which should limit it to about $6 million on the weekend.

The Matador is the final new release of the weekend, though it's technically a holiday season expansion. It's the umpteenth "Pierce Brosnan sheds his Bond image" film, though this film means it more than most. Playing a hitman in a mid-life crisis, Brosnan meets up with a mild-mannered businessman played by Greg Kinnear while on assignment in Mexico City. Yearning for a little human contact, he befriends him, nearly inducting him into his world of murder. A darkly funny buddy-comedy and character study, it's received raves for Brosnan's amoral and manic performance. Moving to 885 screens this weekend, it should see a total of around $5 million.

Underworld: Evolution was no surprise as the number one film of the weekend, though its total figure surprised some. Coming in with $26 million, it topped its predecessor's total, even as it looked to be a shoddily-made continuation of an already mediocre vampires and werewolves franchise. Lots of credit to Kate Beckinsale's wardrobe, I guess. Underworld dropped over 50% in its second weekend, and I can't see this film performing much better. Give it $11 million for weekend number two.

Brokeback Mountain continues its expansion, reaching a way-more-than-anyone-expected 1,652 screens this weekend. The way this film has been embraced, both by awards guilds and the public is one of the better surprises of the awards season, and is up to $43 million now. With this expansion, it could find itself as high as third place, and will cross the $50 million barrier earning around $8 million.

Syriana also makes a re-entry into the marketplace in around 1,600 theaters, though it's less likely to make as big an impact at this point. Searching for multiple nominations, the global politics film will at the very least add a few million more into its coffers.