Following a strong showing by three films in the first weekend of October, another very full slate is attempting to continue this very-productive-to-date fall box office season.
Weekend Forecast for October 13-15, 2006
By Reagen Sulewski
October 12, 2006
Leading the way is The Grudge 2, the sequel to 2004's breakout J-horror adaptation, which starred Sarah Michelle Gellar and a creepy band of gray ghosts. It opened to an astounding $39 million, the third best opening ever in that month.
The film centered on a belief that anyone who dies in a violent manner leaves behind an essence that inflicts a terrible revenge itself on anyone who comes across it. After stumbling across a house that is possessed by such a spirit in Japan, Gellar's character has to outlast the seemingly unstoppable spirits that are chasing her as they seek to claim souls.
Well, not so unstoppable, as Gellar makes a cameo in this film to warn people away from the house. But do people listen? Hell, if Buffy can't handle it, do you think you can? Amber Tamblyn, best known from the TV show Joan of Arcadia, is the lead in this film, though like the first it takes the form of a series of seemingly unrelated vignettes all tied into the vengeful spirits. The first film was hammered critically, and kind of dribbled its way to $110 million total after its hot start.
The Grudge 2 is not being screened for critics, avoiding what is likely to be an even harsher response. I wouldn't expect audiences to treat it much better this time, as the concept is a bit stale at this point, and enthusiasm in J-horror projects seems to be waning, as evidenced by the weak effort put forth by this summer's Pulse. I would expect a drop somewhat similar to that of last weekend's Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel, which would put this at around $25 million.
Next up is Man of the Year, a political comedy that stars Robin Williams... wait, come back! Part Dave, part Bulworth, it riffs off the popularity and influence that so called "fake news" anchors have, and attempts to parlay that into real political influence. Williams plays Tom Dobbs, a comedian who enters the Presidential race as a joke. The punchline? He wins, based on his straight-talking message.
The idea is full of promise, but in the hands of Williams and director Barry Levinson, who's been struggling to find a hit since 1997's Wag the Dog, it looks as though they've decided to settle for clichéd, borscht belt humor. This is how he wins the Presidency? It seems light on the actual satire part (which is death anyway), with the concept doing most of the heavy lifting for its box office prospects.
Williams has been coasting for many years in his comedies (it's astounding to look at his resume and see just how few out and out comedy hits he's actually had) and this looks to be another case of the same. Still, give them some credit for the concept and saturation advertising, as well as timing, just as mid-term elections are ramping up, but before people are sick of election talk. This should bring it to around $13 million for an opening weekend.
The action offering for the weekend is The Marine, starring WWE wrestler John Cena. How this film escaped from premiering on TNT is beyond me, really. Stealing a plot from umpteen Jean-Claude Van Damme or Steven Seagal movies, Cena plays a marine (go figure) who returns from action to find his wife has been kidnapped by thugs for some reason that's really kind of unimportant to the plot, which is to have Cena kill as many people as possible, preferably with explosions.
Cena is the current WWE champion, which Vince McMahon and company are desperately hoping will make a big difference in the box office for this film. For some extremely charismatic wrestlers in the past, it has (see: The Rock, and stretching way back, Hulk Hogan), but Cena is a virtual unknown outside the wrestling world. Okay, so there's his rap career, too.
Earlier this year, See No Evil, starring wrestler Kane, debuted to just $4.5 million. This doesn't look much better, though the film is getting the benefit of a wider release. The actual product looks as awful and generic as can be, however, and crossover appeal should be non-existent. I would look for a weekend total of about $6 million.
Finally, we have One Night with the King, an independent film opening in 908 theaters. Released by the same company that brought us the Omega Code movies, the film is a Biblical story about the woman who would become Esther, Queen of Persia. The cast is a mix of respected names like Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif, and rather random actors and unknowns, like Tiny Lister (!) and with Tiffany Dupont (of several small TV roles) in the lead role. The film will be tightly marketed but is dealing with some fairly obscure subject matter, and has a best case scenario of about $3 million.
The Departed opened to just under $27 million to win last weekend box office chart, instantly becoming one of Martin Scorsese's biggest hits. Critical and public reception was through the roof, and instantly jumped out into the early lead for year-end Oscars. There are few better candidates for legs than this film, which can build on its solid cast and stellar word-of-mouth. Watch for it to come in with a strong $19 million for weekend number two.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning managed $18 million for its opening weekend, a significant drop from the launch weekend for the 2004 reimagining. However, with a likely tiny budget, this is pretty much all gravy. Expect the usual steep drop off for a horror film, especially one targeted at teens and without critical endorsement, for around $8 million.
Open Season had a strong holdover for its second weekend, earning $15 million to bring its total to around $43 million. As the main family option in theaters right now, it has a lot of the market to itself, and this leggy performance should continue for a least a couple of more weeks. Give it $10 million for this weekend, and close to a $60 million total.
Employee of the Month somehow tricked $11 million worth of ticket buyers to go see it, apparently based on the desire of people to see Dane Cook in something. I'd rather believe it was to get another look at Jessica Simpson in something, but I doubt we're that lucky. No, there really appears to be that many Dane Cook fans. I could take some solace if - as seems likely - most of them turned out last weekend, which would mean the film should drop steeply this weekend to about $5 million. We can do it, people! Restore my faith in the movie going public!
The Guardian didn't fare as well as Ashton Kutcher's other film in the box office last weekend, dropping 46% to just under $10 million, but with a respectable $32 million total after those two weekends. It's even overcome the poison of Kevin Costner that has affected so many of his films. Give it just under $6 million for this weekend.