Weekend Forecast for January 26-28, 2007
By Reagen Sulewski
January 26, 2007

How many times did you get to say c**ksucker on Deadwood?

Oscar nominations are finally out, and several of 2006's films will be making their final runs at the box office starting this weekend. However, with few breakout hits in the mix, there's room for some new entries, including the four brand new films entering the market this weekend.

Leading the way for these is yet another in the seemingly endless generic "Movie" series, Epic Movie. After last year's execrable Date Movie, which decided that attempting to parody comedies was too hard, and simply tried to up the ante on the grossness, anything would have to be a step up. I probably shouldn't speak quite so quickly, judging by Epic Movie's ad campaign. Once again, we seem to have a movie that's aiming for the absolute least common denominator to make sure that even the stupidest and dullest in the audience get the jokes they're making about the most obvious targets in Hollywood.

While the Scary Movie franchise continues to see consistent strong openings (varying slightly on the quality of its targets), last year's Date Movie was a slide back in attempting to expand to non-horror parody, opening to $21 million, about half of the Scary Movies' average. Part of that may have been due to the weak targets it took on, which in theory has been corrected here. Among the movies being tweaked are Pirates of the Caribbean, The Chronicles of Narnia, Superman Returns and last but not least, Snakes on a Plane, last summer's ubiquitously hyped film. This one brings up the thought that they are making the same mistake again after all, making fun of a film that's not able to be pa. Well, that, or they're just not funny enough in the first place.

I would like to think that audiences are wising up to this kind of crap, but that appears wildly optimistic. Opening on over 2,800 screens this weekend, I look for it to win the weekend with about $19 million.

Smokin' Aces is the latest from director Joe Carnahan, who brought us Narc, and was then unceremoniously dumped from the set of Mission: Impossible III by Tom Cruise. A star-filled gangster film, it features Jeremy Piven as a Las Vegas-magician-turned-snitch who finds himself pursued by an entire bevy of hitmen who don't want to see him testify. Among those after him, either to kill or protect him, are Ben Affleck, Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta, rapper Common and Alicia Keys, in her first movie role.

A blend of comedy and a lot of violence, Smokin' Aces promises wacky mayhem with a few deaths mixed in, a la Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, or Snatch. Fans of that don't look to be disappointed – let me say two words to you: chainsaw assassin. Kind of like music to your ears, no? Critics have not been kind to the film due to its over-the-top action without much of a sensical plot. This isn't likely to turn off fans of the genre, but it may limit its crossover appeal. The cast might help in this regard, but I wouldn't count on that to any extreme extent. I predict about a $12 million weekend for Smokin' Aces, and a solid second place finish.

Catch and Release is our first romantic comedy of the year, starring Jennifer Garner and Tim Olyphant. Garner plays a woman whose fiancé has died, leaving behind some surprises, including a mysterious bank account and a child by another woman that she never knew about. As she deals with the death and this new information, she also finds herself falling for her fiance's boor of a best friend, played by Olyphant.

The movie was written and directed by Susannah Grant, who among other films, was responsible for Erin Brockovich and 28 Days, so her chick-flick credits are well earned. The cast also includes Kevin Smith, in one of his few roles outside his own projects, and Juliette Lewis. It's a harmless-looking enough movie and a possible return to form for Garner, who's still recovering from the disastrous Elektra and a year off to have a child. Launching on about 1,600 screens, its potential is somewhat limited, though a weekend total of about $7 million is still probable.

Finally, we have Blood and Chocolate, this week's awkwardly titled horror film. From the producers of the modern vampire chronicles Underworld, Blood and Chocolate tackles the werewolf mythos, with 24's Agnes Bruckner as a teen werewolf torn between her family's secrets and her love, representing her chance for a normal life.

Blood and Chocolate employs the same blue-tinted color scheme that just screams gothic horror these days (see also: The Covenant). It's definitely trying to invite comparisons to Underworld, with its $20 million plus opening weekends, but it lacks that series' stylish action and brilliant trailer. MGM has also not shown much confidence in the project, releasing it in just 1,200 theaters. It stands a chance with teen audiences because of its romance angle, but I think this is a case where a film's title definitely stands in the way of success. I see a weekend total of just $4 million in the cards.

Stomp the Yard managed to take advantage of a weak competing slate of films to capture top spot at the box office for the second straight week. Possibly the worst movie ever to win two straight box office weeks, its total box office now sits around $40 million. It should fall to around $6 million this weekend, losing ground to several of the new films and Night at the Museum, which passed $200 million last weekend, making it the fifth highest grossing movie released in 2006. It fell just short of recapturing the top spot for a fourth weekend, though it stands little chance against this weekend's releases. Give it $8 million over the next three days.

This brings us to the Oscar nominees. Dreamgirls is running strongest of them, and was the overall leader in nominations with eight. Crucially, it did not receive a Best Picture nomination, and three of those were in the Best Song category. At over 2,700 theaters this weekend, it can now be considered in full wide release, though it's already brought in close to $80 million. It should see a slight boost from the expansion and nominations, but without the Best Picture possibility, it will be muted. Give it $8 million on the weekend.

Other nomination-laden films that are expanding include Pan's Labyrinth, The Queen, Notes on a Scandal, Babel, Volver, Letters From Iwo Jima and Venus. The Departed also re-releases on over 1,000 screens this weekend. Of those films, Pan's Labyrinth was the strongest last weekend, earning $4.5 million. The heavily stylized, Spanish language fantasy film seems like it would be a tough sell, but this is a pretty strong result so far. Give it another $5 million this weekend. The Queen, with six nominations, and Babel, with seven, also stand to gain this weekend. Look for weekends of $4 million of each of them.