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Weekend Forecast for December 7-9, 2007

By Reagen Sulewski

December 7, 2007

A critter sticks his tongue out at religious fundamentalists,

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After a brief pause for people to digest their Thanksgiving dinners, we get back into the heart of the Holiday blockbuster season.

The sole new wide release of the weekend is The Golden Compass, a fantasy film based on the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. New Line is hoping this becomes their next Lord of the Rings series, or even just to challenge the Narnia series.

The world of The Golden Compass is a multiverse, with multiple worlds to traverse between using a combination of magic and science. Characters also have daemons, a physical manifestation of a soul in the form of an animal that does battle for them. The complicated plot includes a magical truth-telling device and a quest for a substance that may somehow be related to original sin.

Newcomer Dakota Blue Richards stars as an orphan who uncovers a potentially world-shattering truth about The Magesterium, a religious ruling council. Her discovery leads to a civil war for control of multiverses and to save a group of children that are the subject of a dastardly experiment.

With a strong cast both in live action and voice over, including Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Ian McKellen, Freddie Highmore, Ian McShane, Sam Elliott, Eva Green and many more, The Golden Compass has plenty of potential considering the recent popularity of fantasy. However, something seems just a tad off about it, which will probably hold it back from being a true blockbuster.

For one thing, we have the difficult to explain plot, which doesn't come across clearly in any of the ads. Secondly, the graphics-heavy sequences don't look especially well done, and with audiences used to the relatively seamless integration of graphics and live action in recent fantasy, this may not be up to snuff. There is also the controversy surrounding the film's treatment of religion with Catholic Church officials particularly peeved, but there's little controversy that isn't good controversy in this respect. It all gets the film's name out there.




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Opening in over 3,500 venues and with little competition, The Golden Compass should win the weekend, but by how much is the question. Tracking indicates that audiences are giving this one a collective shrug, and it doesn't have stellar reviews to save it. Look for a relatively disappointing $32 million this weekend for it.

With just that film new in the offering to most of the continent, that leaves the typical early December mishmash and jumble of holdovers and Oscar-contending expanders. Disney's Enchanted leads them all, having grossed $70 million based on taking 80 years of fairy tale movie storytelling and ripping it all to shreds. I hope they had an encore planned. With just a couple weeks more to go until Christmas, it just needs to hang on a bit more to rake in some huge bucks over the big party that Hollywood calls Christmas week, and it should manage to stay in the mind's eye of the audience until then. For now, it'll add another $10 million in second place.

Beowulf continues its creepy "uncanny valley" run through the box office that has managed $70 million so far, which, full disclosure, is about twice what I though it'd have at this point. It's been able to ride what appears to be a new wave of technological achievement, as well as a clever marketing campaign (crypto-Jolie nudity! In 3-D!) to this mark, though they've certainly run into some cartoon prejudice. It should see about $5 million more this weekend.

Other family fare in theaters includes This Christmas and Fred Claus, although they're pretty divergent in tone. This Christmas crashed to Earth after a big opening weekend, though it's still in line for about $55 million total or more, if it can capitalize on Christmas week. Fred Claus is in the same boat of needing to hold out a couple more weeks, but I think it sheds too many screens by then to make much of an impact.

A lot of the remaining films are notable for their non-notability, and will be lucky to break $30 million. However, No Country For Old Men is chugging along as it slowly expands, making about $25 million before hitting the 1,000 screen mark this weekend. The Coen Brothers' thriller, a spiritual blend of Blood Simple and Fargo, has garnered incredible amounts of praise from critics, and has started to pick up end of year awards as the guild announcements start to trickle out. It's going to continue to make some noise over the next couple of months, and will add around $4 million this weekend.

With the weak slate in the Top 10, it may be a chance for limited release films to capture some attention with eye-popping per screen averages. The best chance for this would be Juno, the teen-pregnancy comedy starring Ellen Page and directed by Jason Reitman, It debuts on seven screens this weekend, and is a decent bet for some Oscar attention.

We also have limited releases of Revolver, Guy Ritchie's latest; Atonement, starring Keira Knightly and James McAvoy; John Cusack in Grace is Gone and an expansion for Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, the darkly comic caper film starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke and Marisa Tomei. If you live in New York or LA, you've got a bonanza of films to see this weekend. If not � well, there's always Hitman.


Forecast: Weekend of December 7-9, 2007
Rank
Film
Number of
Sites
Changes in Sites
from Last
Estimated
Gross ($)
1 The Golden Compass 3,528 New 32.4
2 Enchanted 3,520 -210 10.1
3 Beowulf 2,976 -273 5.2
4 This Christmas 1,879 +21 4.8
5 Fred Claus 3,185 -235 3.5
6 No Country For Old Men 1,324 +329 3.5
7 Hitman 2,418 -50 3.2
8 Awake 2,023 +21 3.2
9 August Rush 2,310 0 3.1
10 Bee Movie 2,707 -443 3.0

     


 
 

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