Even though this year has seen an explosion in CGI animated films that has threatened to remove the specialness of the "genre", there has always been a slot left open for the innovators of the genre, Pixar. With an unblemished record both critically and financially, they are the undisputed kings of animation, such that they have supplanted their parent company, Disney. Their latest offering is the quite generically titled Cars.
Weekend Forecast for June 9-11, 2006
By Reagen Sulewski
June 9, 2006
After anthropomorphizing toys, bugs, fish and making the best damned super hero/James Bond film in some time, bringing to life automobiles could be a bit of a backwards step for Pixar, though at least they're not being copied. Then again, the thing that has made Pixar the leaders has been their attention to detail and their brilliantly crafted screenplays that focus on character. It's the story, stupid. As well, John Lasseter returns to direct the film after sitting out of the chair since Toy Story 2.
The usual cast of celeb voices are on hand, led by Owen Wilson as a star on the NASCAR circuit (it's a world lacking actual people, apparently, leading one to wonder how these wheeled beings built towns, roads and a civilization. And if they didn't, do they ever wonder who did? That probably leads too far into theology and metaphysics for a simple Hollywood film, however) who, on his way to California on the old Route 66, gets in an accident and is stranded in a desert town. The locals (voiced by Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Cheech Marin, George Carlin and Larry the Cable Guy, among many others) adopt him in, and teach him about small-town life.
It's a plot that seems to bear a fair amount of resemblance to TBS staple Doc Hollywood, though one hopes there's a little more complexity. There seems to be, judging by reviews, which hail it, though perhaps not so rapturously as previous outings. It does seem like one of the first Pixar movies that it's been couth to doubt, ever since the first teaser. Audiences, especially the main target of families, aren't as likely to share this sentiment since Pixar has the bulletproof record so far. This subject matter seems laser-targeted at young boys, who are likely to idolize the subject matter, as well as awe at the more cartoonish look to the film. The past two Pixar films opened to a near identical $70 million, and I suspect that this one, on a release of over 3,900 venues, will be able to surpass those by a little. Look for around $75 million this weekend.
A film that existed for the sake of a marketing gimmick, the remake of The Omen was released on Tuesday, a.k.a. 6/6/06. Ooo, spooky. The gimmick seems to have worked, as it took in a record for a Tuesday opening at $12.6 million. Fox would likely want you to not think about how little competition there would be for this honor. Starring Julia Stiles, Liev Schreiber and a bunch of English character actors, The Omen is about the prophecies of the Book of Revelations, supposedly foretelling the birth of the Anti-Christ, the son of Satan.
Adopting the child of a woman who died in childbirth and naming it Damien (oh, you're just asking for it), Stiles and Schreiber move to England and start to discover some odd things about their son, like that he's got a big problem with churches, all their nannies seem to die, and there's that mysterious numerical tattoo. Demonic horror has been a mixed bag of late – The Exorcist prequel started decently at $18 million but died almost immediately. Last year's The Exorcism of Emily Rose fared better, opening to just over $30 million, though dying just as fast. The novelty wore off pretty quickly for Damien and company, and Wednesday's receipts fell by almost two-thirds. I expect that that's just the beginning of this film's slide, since critics are hammering it. Look for an opening weekend of $20 million, with a five-day total of about $40 million.
A third new film has more modest expectations. A Prairie Home Companion, from legend Robert Altman, opens on just over 700 screens this weekend. His trademark ensemble technique is put to use in the story of behind-the-scenes at a fictitious radio variety show filled with folksy charm. For authentic folksy charm, he's gone to the source and brought in Garrison Keillor. He's far from the biggest name involved, with Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Lily Tomlin, Tommy Lee Jones, and for some unknown reason, Lindsay Lohan all featured in the film.
On the night of the last broadcast of the show before the station is sold to a conglomerate, the film celebrates Americana and small-town charm (perhaps making for an interesting double bill with Cars). Altman's never been a big box office draw – Gosford Park, his most recent "hit", came in with $41 million total only after multiple Oscar nominations. It's the $10 million of Cookie's Fortune that's more typical. Look for around $3 million this weekend for Altman's latest.
The surprising performance of The Break-Up propelled it to first place with $39 million. The hook of the film, a battle of the sexes, proved irresistible, along with the built in story of Aniston and Vaughn's pairing. The heavily female audience should help to buoy the film in this and following weekends, though this has to be tempered by the fact that few thought the film was any good. It'll remain the main pick for unaccompanied adults this weekend, and should bring in another $23 million.
It took that top spot from X-Men: The Last Stand, which fell a stunning 66% from its opening weekend. Part of this is due to holiday inflation, but it's an extremely troubling figure any way you slice it. Easily judged the worst of the series, it has to deal with the fickle-by-nature comic book crowd and should fall like a stone, earning about $12 million this weekend.
Over The Hedge faces a real test this weekend. As the only film to show true legs this summer, it now has to go up against direct competition in its field from Cars. Ordinarily, this wouldn't be much of a factor, but then, it's Pixar. It's been a good ride, but it will take a slight hit to fall to $12 million on the weekend.
The Da Vinci Code is still hanging around for now, but was another big loser from the post-Holiday weekend, falling almost 50%. After a hot start, it's proving to be a bit of a disappointment relative to expectations, though $200 million is still in its sights.
In limited release, An Inconvenient Truth snuck into the top ten on just 77 screens. This was in part due to the extremely lackluster group of holdovers, but it's no small achievement on its own. It expands somewhat to 122 screens, and may be able to hang on against the three new films in the standings.