Weekend Forecast for April 21-23, 2006
By Reagen Sulewski
April 21, 2006
BoxOfficeProphets.com

~/Cause it's a thriller... thriller night/~

After three straight weekends with surprising box office performances, we may be looking at a cooldown just before the start of the summer season. Four new films hit screens in wide release, but none are likely to challenge the gaudy openings of recent weeks.

Silent Hill, an adaptation of a classic console video game, is the widest-released of these, and has the best box office potential, with a built-in fanbase and belonging to the red-hot horror genre. The film stars Radha Mitchell as a mother - trying to escape with her potentially imbalanced daughter - who stumbles upon the mysterious town of Silent Hill while searching for a faith healer. Permanently shrouded by fog (they've got to have a heck of a mildew problem), it seems to hold a series of secrets that includes an alternate reality ruled by demons.

Although many recent video game adaptations have been dire pieces of dreck, there's a caveat here in that many of them were directed by Uwe Boll. Resident Evil is probably a good model for this film, although Silent Hill purports to be more of a moody horror piece rather than that film's zombie-filled action. The film is largely starless, with the lead, Mitchell, best known from a role in Pitch Black and smaller supporting roles, and only Sean Bean really well known among its other cast members. It looks to be in able directing hands, from French director Christophe Gans, who was responsible for the international "every-genre-in-a-blender" hit Brotherhood of the Wolf. The kind of horror that's really broken out of late has been of the ├╝ber-gory variety, but this looks stylish enough to compensate. Opening on 2,900 screens, this looks good enough for about $16 million this weekend.

Filling the thriller genre for this weekend is The Sentinel, which comes so close to 24: The Movie that it can taste it. Starring Michael Douglas as a Secret Service Agent assigned to the First Lady's detail, the film revolves around a possible Neo-Nazi infiltrator in the White House who may be trying to assassinate the President, and the cover-up and possible framing therein of Douglas's character. Since Douglas has also been conducting an affair with the First Lady (these guys are thorough), played by Kim Basinger, there's secrets he'd rather not come out. Enter investigator David Breckenridge, played by Kiefer Sutherland, doing what he does best, uncovering moles. Another agent in the mix is played by Eva Longoria, taking time out from Desperate Housewives to kick some ass.

With the obvious similarities to Sutherland's day job, The Sentinel could attract an audience looking for a more compact version of a conspiracy-filled thrill-ride. He's not the lead, however, and Michael Douglas hasn't been a name that's meant box office for some time. Directed by Clark Johnson of S.W.A.T. fame, the film looks slickly made and has been presented well in commercials, but it's taking a critical beating, with the plot being ridiculed for its holes, though with the action and acting generally praised. That may be enough in this case for the first weekend, with a take of around $14 million.

Speaking of films that wink and nudge at TV, American Dreamz purports to be a satirical punch in the gut to the culture of American Idol. Directed by Paul Weitz of American Pie and About a Boy fame, it intertwines a bumbling, newspaper-avoiding Texan President (stop me if you've heard this one before), a pop idol singing contest with an acerbic British host and a handful of starlet wannabes, including a fresh-faced country bumpkin and a terrorist sleeper agent (I never did trust Justin Guarini). From this unlikely melting pot comedy, hopefully, ensues.

Satires, of course, are rarely the stuff of box office gold, and it's often difficult for this kind of film to walk the tightrope necessary for it to actually hit its marks and be accessible at the same time. The film has a decent cast, featuring Dennis Quaid as the President (affecting a familiar swagger), Hugh Grant as the insult-spouting host of the talent show, and Mandy Moore as one of the contestants. American Idol fans themselves are not likely to be interested in the film, not having shown evidence of a sense of humor in the past (unless you count sending Clay Aiken to stardom). Universal is putting the film on only 1,500 screens, and critical reception has been less than enthusiastic. With those factors, look for American Dreamz to come in with around $7 million this weekend.

Friends With Money is an expanding film, from a handful to 800 this weekend. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener and Joan Cusack, it is this week's lone critically praised film. There's probably a lesson here about the economy of Hollywood, but I don't want to digress this early on. Centering on a group of friends, three rich and married, one poor, single and working as a maid, the film covers their shifting relationships as well as the class divisions that arise and fall as a result of their stations in life. It seems to fairly closely track with the same demographic as last spring's The Upside of Anger, but with a little higher profile (See: Aniston vs. Joan Allen). With about $2 million in the bank so far, it should jump up to about $5 million on the weekend on these new screens.

The winner of the weekend should again be Scary Movie 4, unless Silent Hill proves to be more of a breakout film. Although the fall for this spoof should be large, it has a $40 million perch to start with. The two previous sequels have averaged a 55% second weekend drop, and I don't see much to contraindicate that for this edition. That still leaves it around an $18 million weekend, and a total figure after the weekend of around $70 million.

Ice Age 2 used the Easter weekend to stave off its extinction a little longer, though this meant a drop of just 40% in comparison to its over 50% the week prior. It's impressively racked up a total of over $150 million to date, and is closing in on the original film's $176 million total. It won't pass that this weekend, where it should earn around $9 million, but it will likely pass that in the next couple of weeks.

That likely came at the expense of The Wild, which opened to just $9 million despite having the strength of Disney behind it. That's a figure that almost certainly puffed some egos over at Pixar, showing how invaluable they are to that studio. Look for a drop to around $5 million this weekend, making it one of the first unqualified bombs of the CGI world.