Following one of the weakest box office weekends in three years, this weekend sees four new films that are hoping to break it out of the doldrums.
Weekend Forecast for September 15-17, 2006
By Reagen Sulewski
September 15, 2006
Gridiron Gang is the second football-themed true story film in less than a month, following August's hit from Disney, Invincible. Starring Dwayne Johnson (we all know he's The Rock now, right?), as the counselor at a juvenile detention center, the film follows his attempts to establish a football team in an attempt to rehabilitate them using the auspices of teamwork.
This film is based on a real coach and a real center, and is something of a hybrid of Remember the Titans and Dangerous Minds, combining the first film's use of football to bring rivals together (here, various gang members and ne'er-do-wells) and the latter's gritty urban setting. Rap star Xzibit is also featured in the cast. This looks to be a pretty good mix of action, humor and inspiring drama, if a bit formulaic.
The Rock has carved out a pretty respectable career in action and tough guy roles, blending his physical presence with an easy charisma and humor. His last two major films, Doom and Walking Tall, both opened to around $15 million, following The Rundown's $18 million and the Scorpion King's $36 million opening weekend. Gridiron Gang looks to be more in line with his last two films, though the potential for a breakout with this kind of inspirational sports film is always possible. Gridiron Gang should fall in the general range of Invincible's opening weekend, with about $14 million.
The Black Dahlia is the second of September's two Los Angeles unsolved crime films. Directed by Brian De Palma, it's the story of the infamous titular murder, which saw a hopeful starlet brutally disfigured and dropped in a Los Angeles vacant lot. The film covers the investigation conducted by two LAPD detectives, played by Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart, and their growing obsession with the sordid details of the case.
The star studded cast also includes Scarlett Johansson, Hilary Swank and Mia Kirshner as Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia. The film is one of the fall's big Oscar contenders, though it's been a decade since De Palma has produced a hit, and almost two since he's produced a critically acclaimed film. For the amount of hype surrounding this movie and its subject matter, one of the great unsolved crimes of the 20th century, The Black Dahlia the film may not be living up to it. Critics are tearing into the screenplay, calling it confused and befuddling. There doesn't look to be an L.A. Confidential-esque breakout, which was also based on a book by James Ellroy. However, it should outdo Hollywoodland at the box office, at least to start. This is mostly due to the benefit of its larger opening weekend, at around 2,200 screens. I look for a weekend total of about $9 million for The Black Dahlia.
The Last Kiss is an adaptation of an Italian film that won five awards in that country's Oscars in 2001. Starring Scrubs's Zach Braff, directed by Tony Goldwyn and written by Crash's Paul Haggis, it details a crisis of confidence as Braff's character enters his 30s, with a pregnant fiancée in tow and the end of his carefree days at hand. Enter Rachel Bilson, a flirtatious young college student that brings back his spark, and has him wondering if growing up is all it's cracked up to be.
Not quite romance, not quite comedy, not fully drama, this is a film that could be a tough sell to larger audiences, though Braff's TV popularity and minor indie hit with Garden State lend it credibility. The trailer is something of a gem and is its strongest asset, telling a compelling story in just two minutes. Whether this will carry out into a two hour movie is another story. Critics seem to think it's lost something in the translation, with about half dismissing it as treacle, and the other half enjoying the characters. This unenthusiastic response will probably keep it from breaking out, but it should manage about $6 million on 1,300 or so screens anyway.
The family entry for the weekend is the animated Everyone's Hero. Set in 1930s New York, the fairly surreal plot has a young boy named Yankee Irving in search of Babe Ruth's stolen bat in order to win back his dad's job as a security guard at Yankee Stadium. This after suffering a bonk on the head that leads him to discover that his baseball can talk to him.
The search for the bat leads him on a journey across the country to confront the thief, a former Yankee voiced by William H. Macy. Hilarious antics and blows to the crotch ensue. The film's most notable aspect is that its co-director is Christopher Reeve, and was the film he was working on at the time of his death. However, this is not featuring very prominently in the ads for the film, which are few and far between anyway. Fox seems to know it has a bit of a stinker on its hands. The voice cast also includes Rob Reiner and Whoopi Goldberg (as Babe Ruth's bat - yes, you read that right), neither of whom are likely to bring in the kids or their parents. Although it debuts on almost 2,900 screens, this movie is unlikely to make any kind of impact on the weekend, and should have a total of around $5 million.
The slate of returning films is almost wholly unremarkable in terms of their expected take, with none surpassing double figures in millions last weekend. The Covenant, an effects-filled supernatural thriller that looked more like an episode of some lost CW Network show, "earned" top spot with just $8.8 million. With few redeeming qualities, expect it to tumble dramatically this weekend, to about $4 million.
Hollywoodland failed to impress in its opening weekend with just under $6 million and sees its thunder stolen by The Black Dahlia. It probably has the best shot of any film at having legs, though, and should come in with around $4 million. Duplication is the theme of the weekend, with Invincible still hanging around to compete with Gridiron Gang. Look for it to come in with about $3.5 million, and coming very close to the $50 million milestone. The Illusionist expands slightly, and should stay above $3 million, with Little Miss Sunshine also having a shot at this meager total on the weekend. It's that time of year where we're seeing a lag between seasons, waiting for the new hits to come along and populate the box office.