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Weekend Forecast for January 23-25, 2008

By Reagen Sulewski

January 22, 2009

If he stares at it hard enough, it will turn to wine.

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Which brings us to the real story of the weekend, in the expanding Oscar films. Eight films in total with Oscar nominations increase their screen count at least a little this weekend, expanding or re-expanding, though four of them are more significant than others. Slumdog Millionaire, with ten nominations, hits 1,411 screens, Frost/Nixon jumps to 1,097, Revolutionary Road makes it to 1,058 and The Wrestler is now on 566. Missing the boat completely is surprise Best Picture nominee The Reader, which actually loses screens.

Slumdog is already a success story, riding an audience-pleasing wave to over $40 million in box office, a remarkable sum for a quasi-Bollywood film with no recognizable actors to the North American audience (and quite likely none even in India, too). Watch for this to explode up to $10 million this weekend on the expansion and nod of approval from the Academy.

Frost/Nixon has lingered so far in only a couple hundred screens, and could have a huge boost as well. The story of the interviews between David Frost and Richard Nixon that cemented Nixon's reputation in the public after Watergate, it doesn't, on the surface, seem like a great concept for a film. It takes on the presence of a cat and mouse thriller, though, and has an interesting underdog arc. Directed by Ron Howard and starring the aforementioned Michael Sheen and Frank Langella, it's up for five awards and should pop up to about $6 million this weekend.

Revolutionary Road is a bit like the guy who crashes the wedding, but is a really good dancer. It's awkward, but no one really wants to tell him to go home. Widely predicted to be nominated for a slew of awards, including possibly Best Picture, it wound up with... three, Art Direction, Costume Design and Supporting Actor. Wooo! Throw that on the poster!

The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as dissatisfied suburbanites in the 1960s (I think called The Bickersons), who descend into bitterness as the banality and pressure of their lives tears them apart. All in all, a fun two hours at the multiplex, and it's been a divisive film among audiences and critics. With no big name Oscar nominees to trumpet (they'll have to fall back on Winslet's Globe), this shouldn't make much of an impact, with about $4 million.

The Wrestler has just two nominations, but one is a big one. Mickey Rourke's comeback turn as a broken down wrestler has driven this film to $5 million so far, which is kind of remarkable considering it's been on at most 144 screens and is a film about wrestling and stars Mickey Rourke.




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A kind of anti-Rocky, it's one dominated by Rourke and is at times, difficult to take. The trouble is getting audiences past the subject matter, though the nominations here (co-star Marisa Tomei gets her third in the supporting actress category) are the way to kick down the door of those perceptions. On its 500 or so screens, look for $4 million.

The biggest shock of last weekend was Kevin James proving his worth as a comic lead in the otherwise unremarkable Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which opened to $31 million in three days. Segways and fat guys - that's apparently the wave of the future in comedy. And who knew there were that many King of Queens fans? Let's hope this falls off quickly, to about $15 million.

Gran Torino would have hoped to be in the Oscar nomination discussion a few paragraphs up, but was completely ignored by the Academy. Oh well, Clint Eastwood will just have to console himself with his millions of dollars from making the film, which is closing in quickly on $100 million. Give it $13 million in its third wide release weekend.

My Bloody Valentine and Notorious both opened to around $20 million, but seem likely to be one-and-dones. The first hinges on its 3-D gimmick, which probably was exhausted in the first couple of days, and the second is a much-anticipated biopic with an impatient audience. Give each around $10 million.

Finally, among significant box office films, there's Hotel For Dogs, which I must admit, delivers on its title. Kids films can be something of a wildcard, though this looks agreeable and inoffensive enough to have legs, plus Paramount will be pushing the hell out of it to recoup their crazy $75 million investment in it. Look for $10 million out of this one, too.


Forecast: Weekend of January 23-25, 2009
Rank
Film
Number of
Sites
Changes in Sites
from Last
Estimated
Gross ($)
1 Underworld: Rise of the Lycans 2,942 New 22.7
2 Paul Blart: Mall Cop 3,144 0 15.5
3 Gran Torino 3,045 +73 13.6
4 Slumdog Millionaire 1,411 +829 10.3
5 Notorious 1,641 +3 10.2
6 My Bloody Valentine 2,534 0 10.0
7 Hotel for Dogs 3,271 0 9.7
8 Inkheart 2,655 New 9.3
9 Bride Wars 2,621 +607 6.1
10 Frost/Nixon 1,097 +944 5.8

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