Weekend Forecast for May 23-26, 2008

By Reagen Sulewski

May 23, 2008

He can still pack a mean punch for a senior citizen.

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In 1989, Memorial Day Weekend was still the official opening weekend of the summer movie season, and home to one of the biggest films of the year, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which was pretty much the only show in town. Almost 20 years later, it's not exactly the start of summer anymore, but other things haven't changed very much, with one of the most beloved movie characters of all time returning to the big screen.

This Memorial Day weekend, it's Indiana Jones once again as about the only film to see, in the fourth installment of the series, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Last Crusade's ride out into the sunset had seemed to close the door on Indy and his archaeological adventures, with neither director Steven Spielberg or star Harrison Ford all that interested in revisiting the character, but time, as well as faltering careers, can change a lot of things.

It's been eight years since Ford was in a film that broke $100 million, 2000's What Lies Beneath, which makes his return to his arguably second-most famous character a natural move. We pick up with Indy in 1957, at the height of the Cold War, battling Soviet agents (including one played by Cate Blanchett) in the search for a mystical artifact from South America that could grant ultimate power over the entire world. So, same ol', same ol', really.

Crystal Skull is a bit of a reflection back through the previous three films, including bringing back a very well kept together Kate Allen from Raiders of the Last Ark as Indy's love interest, Marion. There are also additional callbacks spread throughout the film for fans of the series, according to Spielberg, making this a great big cinematic nostalgia trip.


So, nostalgia is great and all, but does that make for a good movie? According to critics, it does a pretty good job of it, with the kind of action-adventure that's been missing from movie theaters for a long time. The Mummy was good and all, but simply doesn't quick pack that same punch. The addition of Shia LaBeouf as a greaser sidekick could be a little troubling, but the franchise has endured much worse than a cocky teen from a supporting character (Short Round, anyone?).

When looking at the box office potential of this film, it's important to note that Indiana Jones is one of the more iconic characters in film, and despite his 19-year absence from multiplexes, he has endured through generations. He remains a very big deal among people who saw his films the first time around, but younger generations have connected with it through DVD and through video games – so it seems almost impossible to overestimate the appeal that a new Indiana Jones film will have.

Opening in the third largest number of theaters in history, with 4,260, it should approach, if not break, some all-time records. A Thursday opening day might hurt it in that respect, but it still has last year's Pirates of the Caribbean 3 in its sights, which opened to $153 million with the same release pattern. As well as these things can be measured, it might start a little slower, but have better staying power, but that's all up to moviegoers. Look for a five-day total of $147 million, $133 million over the Memorial Day weekend.

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