Two Ashton Kutchers enter the ring. Only one will leave, unless Napoleon Dynamite and Billy Bob Thornton have something to say about it.
Weekend Forecast for September 29 - October 1, 2006
By Kim Hollis
September 29, 2006
None of the new openers is going to tear the world apart, and the animated Ashton Kutcher film Open Season looks to be tracking very closely in line with the Ashton Kutcher drama The Guardian. Given that there hasn't been much in the way of decent family entertainment in recent weeks, Open Season, which also features the voices of Martin Lawrence, Gary Sinise, Patrick Warburton and Jon Favreau, appears to have the best shot at breaking out. Sony Pictures Animation is hoping that this buddy story about a bear and a mule deer who rally the forest animals against the hunters who stalk them will attract the attention of youngsters and their families. As we've discussed several times over the past couple of months, the glut of CGI animated films in the marketplace has made the product seem far less special and exciting. This over-saturation has made predicting results a difficult proposition, but we'll still go out on a limb to pick Open Season to fight for top spot of the weekend on the backs of its talking animals. A three-day total of $15 million sounds about right, though that won't make for a particularly impressive per venue average.
That leaves The Guardian, the old-guy-mentors-young-guy movie starring Kutcher and Kevin Costner, as our second best opener. Remember when people loved Costner? Those days are long, long past, though he has shown some resilience with a solid performance in last year's The Upside of Anger. No, it's Kutcher who will actually be the draw here, though Buena Vista has assuredly done its best to market the product to both the younger and the older demographic. Sneak previews of the movie were intended to build some goodwill; unfortunately, word-of-mouth looks to be middling at best and the movie sits at around 41% at RottenTomatoes at the moment. The Guardian appears as if it will hold the September line and begin its run with a $13 million weekend.
The final new wide release will be carried on the slim shoulders of Jon Heder, who continues to benefit from the indie success of Napoleon Dynamite. Earlier in the year, he was able to somehow lead a Benchwarmers cast consisting of himself, Rob Schneider and David Spade to a ridiculous opening weekend total of $19 million. This time around in School for Scoundrels, he's paired up with the considerably more palatable Billy Bob Thornton, yet the buzz and marketing don't quite seem to match, which seems to have been a rather consistent problem for the new Weinstein Company and partner MGM in 2006. Directed by Old School's Todd Phillips, the movie features Heder as an unlucky guy lacking in self confidence. He enrolls in a class to build himself up so that he might win the girl of his dreams, but finds that things won't be so easy when his mean teacher (Thornton) has eyes for the same woman. Scoundrels also had sneak previews earlier in the month, and once again, word-of-mouth has been unkind (currently, the film has a miserable 22% fresh rating). Still, Heder's fans should propel the movie to a decent $11 million total and it will almost assuredly find success on video.
Last week, Jackass: Number Two was the lone bright spot in September, opening to a wild $29 million. The original Jackass movie turned out to have surprising staying power with a 44% second weekend drop, but 2002 was - believe it or not - an entirely different era at the box office. Movies with the Jackass type of fanbase rarely hold up well in their second weekends, and Number Two isn't going to be an exception. A second weekend total of $16 million should be about right, which would still be enough to win the weekend.