Box office in the last couple of weekends has been on a climb, but is about to be kicked into overdrive this weekend, with the addition of four new films, one of which may quite possibly break the March opening weekend record.
Weekend Forecast for March 31-April 2, 2006
By Reagen Sulewski
March 31, 2006
Back in 2002, before the novelty started to wear off, just about any film could become a huge blockbuster as long as you used computers to animate it. Witness Ice Age, with opened to over $45 million and was the first non-Disney, non-DreamWorks animated film to really make a dent in the marketplace, opening it up to all and sundry. It succeeded largely on the basis of a brilliant trailer that harkened back to classic Chuck Jones shorts and a creature named Scrat – who unfortunately did not feature all that much in the film. However, the gentle and generic comedy carried the film to around $176 million, and thus a sequel.
This time around... well, they're doing exactly the same thing. The centerpiece of the marketing campaign is Scrat and his misadventures with an acorn, with just a little more time given to characters voiced by Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Dennis Leary and Queen Latifah. While the first film took place at the start of a deep-freeze, this one is on the tail end of it, with a melt on the way (that's a short ice age). As well, where the first film concerned a missing human baby, this film is a love story, with the added crisis of an impending flood when a glacier inevitably lets go.
Ice Age 2: The Meltdown is ostensibly targeted at a young age demographic, though it still carries a cachet with adults from before CGI animation became diluted. In addition to a heavy regular campaign, the film has been cross-promoted to within an inch of its life, with Fox not missing an opportunity to push it on its TV network, including most outstandingly, working it into a plot of Family Guy. Because of this, I expect big things from this film box office-wise, with a weekend of around $55 million very likely.
Slither is a comic-horror movie that exists in the fine tradition of films like Tremors, Shaun of the Dead, and Eight Legged Freaks. Either that sentence really excited you, or you're wondering if I've started doing a lot of drugs. Directed by James Gunn, who brought us the unexpectedly great Dawn of the Dead remake, it takes place in a small Midwestern town that has a meteorite land in it, which naturally contains nasty, zombifying slugs in it that start to take over everyone in sight. It's up to our plucky townspeople, led by their sheriff (played by Firefly and Serenity's Nathan Fillon) to beat back the invaders.
Tone matters a lot in these kinds of films, of course, and this film seems to have it in spades, reveling in bad taste, comic gore and a general creep factor. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the film has received a generous reception from critics, who seem quite willing to take the film for what it is. Indeed, its rating puts it one of the most favorably reviewed films of the year on Rotten Tomatoes.
Even at that, it's tough to expect too much from this film, as the comic-horror genre has been traditionally self-limiting. None of the films I mentioned above did over $10 million in their opening weekends, and all really waited until cable to find their appreciation. Slither could be a bit of a different story, but figures close to some of the recent "serious" horror films seems unlikely, even with the solid Dawn of the Dead connection. Look for around $9 million this weekend.
The "coming-of-age in the hood" movie has started to come back lately, with ATL being this week's entry in that market. As you may have guessed from the title, it's Atlanta we're dealing with here, and it's loosely based on the life of rapper T.I., a.k.a. Tip Harris. Growing up among thugs and drug dealers but with the promise of more out there, a young kid, orphaned at a young age much choose his path. Danger, love and success are all out there for him, but which direction will he go?
Also starring Big Boi from Outkast, Keith David, Mykelti Williamson and a host of others from the Atlanta rap scene, this film boasts a strong musical component and a potentially compelling plot, if handled right. Reviews are kind, if middling, and a screen count of about 1,600 shows a good degree of confidence in the film. However, I think we're looking at a weekend of around $7 million. T.I. is no Eminem, or even a 50 Cent, and expecting the kind of money their films brought in would be foolhardy.
Finally, we have the film that has inspired the most eyebrow raises in many a year, Basic Instinct 2. Yes, Sharon Stone is back and still thinks she's a sex symbol. The action moves to England, where Stone's novelist character has attempted to escape to in order to get away from the murder case that surrounded her in San Francisco. History repeats itself, though, and when a sports star is murdered with a connection to her, she falls under investigation once again, with sexy results.
It's tougher to imagine a jokier-sounding sequel, considering that the Joel Esterhaus-penned original was, let's be honest here, not that good in the first place. Infamous for a surprise full frontal shot of Stone at her femme-fatale-ist, along with her character's bisexuality, it was a shock to the system of sex in cinema, strange as that may seem today. Since then Stone has become a laughing stock crazy person, and sexual politics have moved on to the point where none of what was shocking in the first film would faze most audiences (unless you put it in the Super Bowl half time show). Sony has definitely had second thoughts about making this sequel, burying it on a mere 1,453 screens, and an outright flop is in the cards. Let's be charitable and give it $4 million for the weekend.
Inside Man became the second-strongest opening film of 2006 last weekend (Madea's Family Reunion is still in the top spot for the moment), pulling in over $28 million, setting records for Spike Lee as a director and Denzel Washington as an actor (and coming close to Jodie Foster's mark). It's amazing what quality will do for your career. Well received by audiences, this should carry over well into weekend number two, being the prime adult choice of the weekend. Look for around $17 million, bringing it close to the $60 million dollar mark total.
V For Vendetta performed about as well as expected in its second weekend, dropping a little over 50% and basically sealing off the film from Matrix-esque legs. It's earned a cool $50 million to date however, and will certainly end up in the black for Warner Bros. Give it another 50% or so drop to around $6 million this weekend.
A few more films are hanging around with legs in Failure to Launch, The Shaggy Dog and She's the Man. In their fourth and third weekends, these films have all shown legs of around 70% holdover. These should round out the top ten for the weekend with between $5 and $7 million among them.