2007's first true event film hits the screens this weekend, threatening to shake up an already hot March box office.
Weekend Forecast for March 9-11, 2007
By Reagen Sulewski
March 9, 2007
300 is the latest adaptation of comic artist Frank Miller's work, after 2005's Sin City. Where that film was an anthology of hard bitten and ultra-gory pulp crime, 300 sets its sights on historical fiction. It tells the story of the Battle of Thermopylae, where in 480 B.C. (depending on which account you believe), as few as 300 warriors from Sparta held off as many as one million Persian soldiers, successfully defending Greece, albeit at the cost of every one of their lives. In 300, we get that basic plot, but turned up to 11 and then sprinkled with testosterone sauce.
Like the heavily stylized Sin City, 300's major attraction is its dramatic look and promise of kinetic and over-the-top action. Realists and purists should probably avoid this film or at least turn off their brains, as 300 takes ancient hand-to-hand combat and propels it to rather insane new heights. Like, waves of human bodies new heights.
The cast contains very few names familiar to multiplex audiences, though Gerard Butler and Dominic West might jog a few memories. The director is Zack Snyder, who made his big screen debut with the outstanding Dawn of the Dead remake in 2004. Critical reception is mixed, although this is not a film with an audience that will care much about reviews. Most were likely hooked from the first trailer, which quickly pegged it as a film to pay attention to, and perhaps the "yelling-ist" movie ever.
Apart from the stylistic connection to Sin City, another comparison for the potential appeal of this movie is Troy, which opened to $46 million in May of 2004. While Gerard Butler is no Brad Pitt, the overabundance of action and effects more than makes up for that. Opening at 3,100 venues, 300 should easily win the weekend, and may very well become the biggest opening film of the year to date. Look for a weekend figure of $49 million.
Almost no films are challenging it, with the sole new film in wide release being the independent release The Ultimate Gift. Released by Fox's new religious-themed distribution arm, it's an adaptation of a book about an arrogant young man who receives an inheritance from his uncle with a catch – to get it, he must perform 12 tasks. No word if staying a night in a haunted house is one of them.
The Ultimate Gift is directed by Michael Sajbel, who had a modest success with last year's One Night with the King, which came out of virtually nowhere to gross $13 million. While that was directly based on a biblical story, The Ultimate Gift may be able to capitalize on some of that same demographic that came out for an uplifting story of faith. However, it's debuting on just 797 screens, which will limited it greatly. Give it $3 million on the weekend.
This brings us to our returning films, starting with the inexplicably successful Wild Hogs, which grossed $39 million in its debut. Apparently gay-panic jokes and people getting hit by things are more popular than anyone ever thought. This figure makes it almost immediately the most successful film in a long time for most of its stars, who include John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy. And just when we thought we'd stopped encouraging those first three. The broad, sitcom-y humor of this film seemed to strike just the right chord, though I don't see any legs developing for it. It'll drop to second place this weekend with about $20 million.
Zodiac's nearly three-hour run length, along with its dour subject matter, seems to have limited it in its first weekend, as it brought in just $13 million for second place. David Fincher's latest earned critical and audience praise among those who did see it, but it was a tough sell overall. It may be able to show some staying power, but even at that it means a maximum of $8 million this weekend.
2007's current box office champ Ghost Rider may just fall off a cliff this weekend, as its comic book audience gets something new and shiny to look at in 300. Of course, this won't be before it crosses the $100 million plateau and convinces Nic Cage to option another six comic book scripts. What hath we wrought. Add another $5 million to its total this frame.
The rest of the returning films are not all that notable. Bridge to Terabithia handles the family film market again, as the Walden Media production closes in on $75 million total. The execrable Norbit is amazingly headed for $100 million, which again only encourages more fat suit movies and for Eddie Murphy to backslide from his Oscar nomination. The Number 23 continues in freefall, adding another notch to the list of failed serious Jim Carrey roles, and will top out around $35 million. All in all, it's a one-movie weekend.