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Weekend Forecast for October 19-21, 2007

By Reagen Sulewski

October 19, 2007

You'd at least think that they could clean up after dinner.

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The deluge continues. After six new films hit wide release last weekend, an astounding eight films are set to open or cross into national release.

The likely champ of this motley and numerous bunch of films is 30 Days of Night. It certainly has the best concept of the weekend - one that makes you think, "now why didn't I come up with that?"

For a vampire, sunlight is an enemy. But high above the Arctic Circle in the wintertime, there's no sun for days, leaving any foolish humans as easy prey for about a month of unfettered killing and feeding. Sounds like a perfect place for vampires to party, doesn't it?

The film stars Josh Hartnett and Melissa George as a husband-and-wife sheriff team who must protect their remote Alaskan town against this invading horde of vampires. Based on a popular graphic novel, it's undoubtedly aiming at being a stylish and kinetic horror movie.

Dark in both literal and figurative ways, it's the first horror film in over a month, and launching in a traditional prime period for the genre. Sony is putting out the full court press on this one, with ads reaching a saturation point. That's probably necessary given the reviews (on the down side of average) and its stars (who are nursing a couple of recent bombs).

With these factors in mind, it looks just like the sort of thing that horror fans might eat up, although it's probably going to fall a bit short of the horror-action hybrids of late. Opening at about 2,800 venues, it should see an opening weekend of $18 million.

The recent wave of formulaic inspirational sports movies is just asking for a dynamite spoof to really knock the feet from out under them. Unfortunately, The Comebacks does not look to be that film. It looks more like the makers of this film had a bet with the makers of Epic Movie as to who could make a less funny film.

Directed by Tom Brady (no, not that Tom Brady), and starring David Koechner as Lambeau "Coach" Fields, The Comebacks goes after many of the recent sports films (mostly football) like Radio, Invincible, Remember the Titans, Dodgeball (how do you parody a comedy?), and Rocky Balboa – positing that these films could be funnier if only they featured more people getting struck by things.

Admittedly, this is a theory that very well could satisfy a large portion of audiences, though generally we're talking about the kinds of audiences that are confused by modern contraptions like toasters and clap approvingly when chimps do human things. Fox would be well served to hire wranglers for the ticket buyers to this film, to make sure they actually find their way into the theater and don't get distracted by a shiny object.

Depressingly, the audience for this film will not be in the single digits, as this formula for parodies has proven quite popular. It's time for the old ‘contraceptive in the popcorn' trick, as The Comebacks cruises to about a $14 million opening bow.

In slightly classier film news, Gone Baby Gone opens this weekend. Though directed by Ben Affleck (a fact that ads have gone to great pains to avoid mentioning), Gone Baby Gone is a potential awards contender.

Ben's little bro Casey stars in the film as a Boston detective called on to assist in the investigation of a kidnapping, in the hopes that his local connections can open doors that are closed to police. If it reminds you of Mystic River, well, that's pretty deliberate, as the film is based on a book by the same author, and Affleck is similarly aping its tone.

Gone Baby Gone boasts a pretty stellar cast, including Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris and Michelle Monaghan, and has received some of the best reviews of the year – currently sitting around the 90% mark on the Tomatometer. Astoundingly, Gigli-boy seems to have pulled it off. The biggest question is whether people will come.

Miramax is hedging their bets a little, opening the film in just 1,713 theaters, although they've advertised heavily for it. They seem to be trying for a prestige factor that will build in later weeks and they just might get it. Look for an opening weekend of about $9 million.

Rendition is one of two films this fall about current political events that feature Meryl Streep in leading roles; this one has the evil Meryl, on the side of "enhanced interrogation".

When an Egyptian-born engineer disappears on a flight into the United States, his wife, played by Reese Witherspoon, suspects that he may have been taken by the US government for questioning, on what they think are terrorist links (see: the Maher Arar case). Meanwhile, a CIA analyst played by Jake Gyllenhaal starts to question the effectiveness of interrogations he feels verge into torture, while Streep plays a CIA boss that is determined to get intel at any price.




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While this film probably couldn't be timelier, there are serious questions about whether the film can live up to its lofty topic. Many critics have bashed it for a simplistic treatment of a complex issue, as well as a couple of flat performances. Without this support, it's doubtful that multiplex audiences will come out in droves for what is assuredly a pretty dour film experience. Compare this to last weekend's Michael Clayton, which feels similar in tone (though not subject matter), and it shows that filmgoers aren't really in the mood for this kind of thriller of late. I predict about $7 million this weekend for Rendition.

The bad times keep on rolling with Things We Lost in the Fire. Halle Berry stars with Benicio del Toro in a drama about a widower that connects with her husband's (David Duchovny) best friend after his death, even though she'd completely avoided him before. Touching on the nature of grief, loss, guilt and all those other happy emotions, the film has garnered a significant amount of praise for Benicio del Toro's performance, along with a modicum of support for the remainder of the film.

The release pattern of Things We Lost in the Fire has it caught between two worlds; opening on just over 1,100 screens, it's too limited to make a box office splash, but not limited enough to put up gaudy per screen numbers. Berry's been having a rotten few years in films where she's not wearing leather for 90% of her screen time (and even then...) and del Toro, while brilliantly talented, has never brought in the big numbers. Look for just $4 million on the weekend for this one.

Into the Wild jumps into 658 screens after a few weekends in limited release, where it's earned $4 million to date. Sean Penn's latest directorial effort, it stars Emile Hirsch as Chris McCandless, a real-life trust-fund kid who abandoned his life to wander across America, ending up in Alaska. It's mostly an adventure story, though with a dark finish.

Into the Wild also stars Vince Vaughn, Catherine Keener, William Hurt, Jena Malone and a few other recognizable faces, but it's mostly Hirsch's show, for better or worse. With this expansion, it should now be able to crack the top 15 films, though top 10 will be hard with all the new entries. Look for around $2 million as it goes wider.

Rounding out the new wide films are two that have virtually no chance of making an impact. Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour and the Ten Commandments are two independently released films that probably couldn't be more diametric in tone, though they'll share a futility this weekend.

Sarah Landon is a film that looks quite ordinary – it's more like something that should be airing on Nickelodeon, and the acting is of the "card read good" variety. The Ten Commandments is about... well, you take a guess. This version is animated, and has a few recognizable names for voice talent (including Christian Slater as Moses!) but looks like it was done on someone's Amiga computer (kids, ask your parents). If either of these films cracks $1 million, that film's producers should consider themselves lucky.

Finally we come to the returning films. Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married? recaptured a bit of the Perry-brand magic, earning top spot with $21 million. The relationship drama was just what Perry needed after a slump with Daddy's Little Girls. However, all of Perry's previous films have suffered huge second week drops, and I see no reason for the pattern to change here. Give it $11 million for its second frame.

The Game Plan continued its solid run for Disney, adding another $11 million to its coffers in its third weekend of release and running its total up to $60 million. The Rock has very effectively proved his value as a potential family lead with this film, though much of the credit can also go to Disney's crack marketing team, who can sell just about anything to kids. Give this one $8 million for its fourth weekend.

A couple of thrillers took up the next two spots, with We Own the Night and Michael Clayton each earning a little over $10 million. These figures are simultaneously disappointing and expected, as both had the star power to open bigger than this, but also had significant challenges. Night faced copycat syndrome, with several similar thrillers opening in recent weeks, while Clayton was a legal drama that dealt with heavy moral issues. Watch for both to slide to around the $6 million mark this weekend.

The rest of a crowded slate will finish under $5 million this weekend and start to get pushed out as the Holiday season approaches – time is ticking for films like Elizabeth: The Golden Age and Across the Universe, especially if they want to be in awards contention.


Forecast: Weekend of October 19-21, 2007
Rank
Film
Number of
Sites
Changes in Sites
from Last
Estimated
Gross ($)
1 30 Days of Night 2,855 New 18.5
2 The Comebacks 2,812 New 14.1
3 Why Did I Get Married? 2,034 +23 10.8
4 Gone Baby Gone 1,713 New 9.2
5 The Game Plan 3,301 +173 8.4
6 Rendition 2,250 New 6.8
7 Michael Clayton 2,585 +74 6.5
8 We Own the Night 2,362 0 5.9
9 The Heartbreak Kid 2,782 -451 4.1
10 Things We Lost in the Fire 1,142 New 3.8

     


 
 

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