Four new movies enter the marketplace this weekend, and each one potentially serves a specific audience niche. It's a tricky weekend to forecast thanks to the Academy Awards show on Sunday night, which generally takes away from the overall box office. Additionally, we have a wild card of a film that received more theaters than expected and was a huge buzz hit at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2005.
By Kim Hollis
March 3, 2006
The movie most likely to top the charts in March's first frame is 16 Blocks, a movie that puts Bruce Willis back in the action star mode that made him a breakaway star. He stars as a cop who must escort a fast-talking witness (Mos Def) the 16 blocks from protective police custody to the courthouse. Trouble is, there are quite a few people who have a vested interest in making sure that the witness never testifies. The film is directed by Richard Donner, who has a great comfort level in the genre as he was the helmer behind the Lethal Weapon films. Opening on 2,706 screens, look for 16 Blocks to debut with $15.5 million in its first three days.
Comedian Dave Chappelle provides the weekend's most unpredictable movie prospect. After coming on huge with his Comedy Central sketch series, which generated plenty of word-of-mouth both on the air and when the seasons were released on DVD, he became a bit of an enigma. He suddenly withdrew from the public eye, leaving his show abruptly during the filming of the third season. Rumors were sparked that he was either suffering from drug addiction or in need of psychiatric help, but he denied all those statements. He instead says that he was spending time in South Africa to do some soul searching and personal cleansing.
Then, a few months later in September of 2005, Chappelle's movie Dave Chappelle's Block Party made a huge splash at the Toronto International Film Festival. Rogue Pictures snapped up distribution rights, and in the week's approaching the movie's release, had planned to make it available in around 800 venues. Perhaps realizing that demand for the film was higher, the distributor upped the ante over the last week, increasing the available venues to 1,200 and raising expectations for box office performance. The film is pretty much exactly what the title describes - a block party thrown by Chappelle, featuring musicians such as Kanye West, Mos Def and Erykah Badu. The performances are interspersed with stuff like Chappelle inviting people to the party and doing a few bits. The movie is directed by Michel Gondry of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind fame, and awareness is high both in art house circles and amongst fans of Chappelle. Look for the film to do around $12 million over the weekend, but it certainly has the potential to surprise and do even better.
Many people are viewing Ultraviolet as a copycat of any number of films. Some see similarities in style to The Matrix, while others view it as looking suspiciously like Aeon Flux. Personally, I think it feels closest in theme and tone to Milla Jovovich's previous infection films, Resident Evil and Resident Evil: Apocalypse, with just a dash of the Blade franchise thrown in for good measure. Either way, while the movie looks stylish, it doesn't feel particularly original or unique. That doesn't mean that Jovovich's core audience (primarily young men) won't come out to see the film. It also has a bit of indie credibility as it was directed by Kurt Wimmer, who previously helmed the popular underground sci-fi flick Equilibrium. Ultraviolet should be in line for $11 million in its first three days.
The final wide release of the weekend is Aquamarine, a movie based on a young adult book by Alice Hoffman and starring Emma Roberts, daughter of Eric and niece of Julia. The movie follows two teenage girls who discover a mermaid in their beach club's swimming pool, and does look fairly cute for its audience. Along with Roberts, Aquamarine also features pop singer JoJo and Sara Paxton. It's should provide a fun day out for an under-served demographic, but even at that, is unlikely to do much more than $7 million over the weekend.