Weekend Forecast for October 16-18, 2009

By Reagen Sulewski

October 16, 2009

Way to make the bird feel unloved.

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Without meaning to go for the obvious pun (honest!), this weekend has the potential to be a wild one. Now that you're done booing me and throwing rotten vegetables (why did you even keep them?) there are four films with unusual pedigrees hitting wide release this weekend.

Where the Wild Things Are is one of the stranger candidates for a book to be adapted to the big screen that you can think of. A children's book that's all of about ten sentences long, it's all the same a beloved classic for its memorable art and sense of adventure. The book follows a young boy named Max as he ventures out into the night in a wolf costume and stumbles upon a group of monstrous-looking but well-intentioned beasts, with whom he dances through the night. War and Peace it ain't, plot-wise.

However, Spike Jonze thinks he's seen something in the book, and he and Dave Eggers have turned it into a feature film with Jonze directing, in his first film since 2002. And hey, if there is any director out there that can turn just a germ of an idea into a workable concept it's Jonze, who's responsible for some of the crazier moments put to celluloid this side of David Lynch.

Jonze and Eggers position the book as a paean to youth and lost opportunities, creating a fantasy world that incorporates the outlandish and the sublime. Some of this might be a bit heady for kids, though there's still the fantastic creature design to latch on to. It's the rare kids movie with a greater appeal to boomers and Gen Xers than the actual kids it's nominally targeted at, with nostalgia as the driving force.


The voice cast for the Wild Things, while somewhat superfluous to its chances, is impressive, and includes James Gandolfini, Chris Cooper, Lauren Ambrose, Forest Whitaker and Catherine O'Hara, along with Mark Ruffalo and Catherine Keener in the added-on "real-world" plot that drives the story. Reviews haven't quite as rapturous as some might have hoped, but they are generally positive and I think that'll be enough to get people to check out this odd-looking film. Opening in a massive 3,735 venues, Where the Wild Things Are should find an opening weekend of about $37 million.

This fall's stealth horror film, Paranormal Activity, expands into 765 venues after a couple of weekends of the roadshow treatment. The virally advertised film earned a shocking $7.9 million on 160 screens in its third weekend, throwing up the kind of per screen averages normally reserved for NY/LA Oscar prestige screenings. This weekend is its first test to put up some truly massive numbers.

Its simple premise, showing us the footage created in a supposed haunted apartment, makes it a sort of suburban update of the Blair Witch Project idea, though it's managed to create its buzz in a much more subdued way, which is even more impressive. In 1999, you still had to go through the major media outlets, even if the Internet was a key part of its campaign. Now, you can almost entirely drive it through Twitter and Facebook and Digg, and still manage to create a blockbuster. Expect this to challenge for the second spot on the weekend with a total of around $19 million.

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