This weekend at the movies, Hannibal begins anew, the top two releases from last week attempt to show some post-Super Bowl staying power, and the Academy Awards nominees continue to enjoy newfound consumer interest. The likely winner this weekend, however, is yet another fat suit-focused comedy.
By David Mumpower
February 8, 2007
Eddie Murphy is an Academy Award-nominated actor. Read that again, then pinch yourself to make certain you are not dreaming or more accurately, having a nightmare. This statement is sadly true so there is no need to check Weather.com for temperature readings in Hades. The good news is that such a certain indicator that the end of days is at hand will have negligible impact on weekend box office...unless the world ends, in which case we will no longer be concerned with Norbit's opening weekend. Sunny optimist that I am, however, I plan to forecast the weekend anyway in anticipation of the human race surviving despite Murphy's nomination.
When you think fat suit movies, what comes to mind? Is it Alyson Hannigan in Date Movie? Martin Lawrence in Big Momma's House? Tyler Perry as Madea? Nope. The correct answer is Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps. Why is that? Look, let's not bogged down in semantics. It's the same actor in a similar type of role to what we will see with this weekend's top release, Norbit. Since The Klumps opened to $42.5 million and wound up earning $123.3 million domestically in 2000, Norbit automatically becomes the type of lousy looking movie we can't dismiss as being a box office non-factor...no matter how depressing that thought is.
For whatever reason, North American audiences have a fat suit fetish, and it's not our place to judge them for this perverted, pathetic, pr...whoops, that was starting to come across as judgmental. Anyway, the point is this. Eddie Murphy movies either open great or die hard. Norbit appears to be the former instance but not to the degree of The Klumps. Instead, I am forecasting this production to fall in the area of Daddy Day Care's $27.6 million. I believe it to be a more reasonable expectation for a mediocre looking comedy released in February. I expect a three-day tally of $26.8 million. And when that happens, let's all promise to give all the credit to co-star/goddess of love Thandie Newton. We don't want to encourage Murphy to keep wearing latex fat suits for profit. God help us all if he wins an Oscar.
Not to be outdone this week, Hannibal returns to the cineplexes for the first time since 2001. Hannibal Rising is another franchise reboot wherein the lead character is set at the formative years of his life. The question is whether this is more of a Batman Begins/Casino Royale situation or a Dumb and Dumberer/Son of the Mask. Relatively unknown French actor Gaspard Ulliel becomes the third actor to portray the infamous cannibal creation of Thomas Harris. Given that his predecessors were Brian Cox and Anthony Hopkins, the bar has been set high for Mr. Ulliel. Taking on a popular role is never easy, but when two of the finest actors in the world today already offered memorable performances, finding your own insight into the character is a tricky proposition at best.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ulliel's work in Hannibal Rising has been dismissed by critics and the movie's reviews thus far are nothing short of mean. Given that the Thomas Harris novel of the same name has been resoundingly spanked by critics and given that he wrote the screenplay, I guess this was unavoidable. Hannibal Rising seems destined for a $12 million opening followed by a quick exit from theaters.
Outside of the openers this weekend, the big mystery is the holdover appeal of last weekend's first and second place finishers. The Messengers, a production from The Pang Brothers, was the surprise winner last weekend with $14.7 million. I expect it to follow the horror genre's standard practice of falling off the face of the earth in weekend two. A 55% drop would mean $6.6 million. I'm a bit more optimistic about Because I Said So despite the crippling reviews. Its target audience is more likely to avoid opening weekend crowds. So, a 46% decline would mean $7.1 million over the next three days. This scenario is supported by the fact that Because I Said So has already passed The Messengers during the week, earning $250,000 more on Wednesday as an example. The other story to watch is Night at the Museum. Currently standing at $226.1 million, the Ben Stiller comedy needs another $8.3 million to become the #3 film released in 2006. It won't get there this weekend, but it needs to accumulate another $4 million or so to keep the door open. I expect this to happen but it's far from a foregone conclusion.