The third weekend in June is a rarity thus far in the summer box office campaign. There are four new openers, but no real blockbuster titles. With no real favorites here, Cars is poised to repeat as champion, but even that is not guaranteed. Isn't it nice to have a box office weekend that isn't a foregone conclusion?
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
June 16, 2006
Nacho Libre is the project with the most upside. This film is Jack Black's first real headlining project since the well-received School of Rock, and also follows his recent performance as the human face of King Kong. For this comedy set in the world of monks and lucha libres, Black teams up with the creators of the cult hit Napoleon Dynamite, Jared and Jerusha Hess. Jared Hess directs the film from a screenplay he co-wrote with wife Jerusha and Mike White, the brains behind the script for the aforementioned School of Rock.
The trailer is the very definition of love-it-or-hate-it marketing, which is wholly appropriate for the Napoleon Dynamite people. That film has inspired hordes of fans to go out and purchase "Vote for Pedro" t-shirts, but by the same token, there are any number of people who came away scratching their heads. With Black a more known commodity and Nacho Libre emerging as the first pure comedy of the summer, it has a terrific chance at capturing the lion's share of the new product audience. Look for the funny, fat, fake wrestler to put See No Evil's real one to shame as it takes in around $27 million in its first weekend.
Running almost neck-and-neck with the Nacho for the honor of biggest new release of the weekend is The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. While the second film in the series was poorly received, it still managed a $50.5 million debut. As cynical as we are about the talents of Paul Walker, his absence here is sadly not going to boost the box office. Far from it. FF3 seems to have significantly less appeal than its two U.S.-based predecessors. The premise of rebooting with a Japanese backdrop and a focus on the immensely popular drift racing style might eventually strike a chord with audiences, but it will most likely be on video. New director Justin Lin should be able to take a cast led by mostly unknown Lucas Black and Bow Wow to a $22 million start. In hindsight, both Paramount and Fox would have been better served to not schedule their demographically similar films on the same weekend.
The intriguing dark horse candidate is Warner Bros.' The Lake House, which reunites Speed co-stars Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. The first pure romance of the summer (as opposed to the anti-romance of The Break-Up), The Lake House has two huge positives. The first is that it could easily be this summer's The Notebook. The second is that is has the most star power of any film in recent memory. For all of their faults, Reeves and Bullock continue to prove themselves as A-List movie openers. The idea of seeing the It couple from Summer 1994 seems to be appealing to women. A lot of women. The Lake House should open in the range of $17.5 million and could show staying power into August if it's well-received (and perhaps even if it's not well-received).
Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties has one thing going for it. A clever title. Perhaps it's unfair of us to say so, but that doesn't seem like enough. While the original film surrounding the antics of the lasagna-loving kitty did well enough, earning $75 million domestically, no one was clamoring for a sequel. Except Jennifer Love Hewitt and Breckin Meyer. Even the animators of the CGI cat probably think two years is too soon. That hasn't stopped Fox, though. Garfield 2 is raising the quota of unwanted sequels this summer from zero to one. Er, combined with FF3, that total is actually two. The film could be comfort food for families, the problem is that Cars and Over the Hedge already provide that. Fox will be happy with a $13 million debut.
The film we haven't mentioned yet is the one that should win the weekend. Cars was overestimated by a couple million last weekend but has restored some its heat with solid weekdays. A $34 million total would reflect a 43% decline while putting the film over $100 million in ten days. A decline more significant than this amount would indicate that Pixar is in danger of losing its Midas Touch.