Weekend Forecast for November 6-8, 2009
By Reagen Sulewski
November 6, 2009
The fall blockbuster season is upon us, starting off with the annual way-too-early-to-think-about Christmas movie, sharing the screen with three other major releases with varying degrees of star power. It's closing in on the time when, as far as Hollywood is concerned, it's your civic duty to hit the multiplexes in almost obscene numbers.
A new version of A Christmas Carol is the first contestant in the fall box office sweepstakes. Approximately the 73 bajillionth (give or take) adaptation of Charles Dickens' novel that helped to popularize Christmas in Victorian England, this version was directed by Robert Zemeckis using his ultra-creepy motion capture technology that he pioneered with The Polar Express. Jim Carrey stars as Ebenezer Scrooge along with the three ghosts of Christmas, Past, Present and Yet to Come, along with a host of other characters. Robin Wright Penn, Gary Oldman, Bob Hoskins and Colin Firth also voice notable roles, but it's really Carrey's show.
Apparently, Zemeckis felt that what this story needed was a visit to The Uncanny Valley, as these CGI creations still have the power to disturb. There's also some action thrown in, since if Dickens had a major failing as a writer, it was his failure to utilize explosions and accidental rocketry as a plot device.
Debuting in both 3-D and IMAX versions alongside the more traditional theatrical presentation, A Christmas Carol has the potential to become a rather huge hit. It's already got a leg up just from being more familiar to audiences than The Polar Express, and Carrey is about equal to Tom Hanks in terms of family pictures (see: Horton Hears a Who and Lemony Snicket). The 3-D gimmick also continues to be a huge selling point and has turned a couple of otherwise unremarkable films into pretty big hits. With a film that already has a high degree of built-in marketability, it makes it almost a slam-dunk.
The Polar Express was actually a slow starter when it first came out in 2004, opening to just $24 million in its first weekend of wide release, churning along towards $170 million at the end of its first run. Beowulf, as silly and non-family friendly as that looked, actually opened to more (although it died on the vine), which is in a way more impressive. With the combination of the classic story, heavily marketed lead voice talent and theatrical gimmickry, A Christmas Carol should open to around $50 million this weekend.
The Men Who Stare At Goats will probably win this year's award for "Title That Should Really Bring People Into The Theatre, But Will Actually Scare Them Away" (past winners: To Wong Foo! Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar and Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead).
Based on a supposedly true story, the film follows a journalist (played by Ewan McGregor) who investigates a secret US Military operation designed to focus paranormal abilities for combat. Guided along by a former member of that unit (played by George Clooney, looking very Sgt. Rock), they chase down two other former members of the unit (played by Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges) who are both attempting to pervert the exercise for their own ends.