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Weekend Forecast for April 29-May 1, 2011

By Reagen Sulewski

April 29, 2011

No one's a really good driver here.

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Hollywood studios just can't help themselves. The calendar still says April, but the first of the year's summer blockbusters is landing this weekend.

With Fast Five, Universal is heavily pushing the "summer starts this weekend" angle, and while the calendar may not agree with them (whatever, there's still snow on the ground where I am), it'll certainly bring the first summer-like level of box office performance of the year. The Fast/Furious series is surprisingly ten years old now, and is essentially Vin Diesel's entire career. It's also had one of the strangest arcs of a franchise ever, with the first hitting big, the second film opening strongly but dropping heavily as one of the worst films ever, the third film, a spinoff, nearly destroying the franchise entirely, and the fourth bouncing back to become the most successful of all of them.




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Fast Five threatens to take this to an entirely new level with the reunion of the casts of films 1, 2 and 4, sending them to Brazil to work on a heist together and then adding Dwayne Johnson as a federal agent hot in pursuit of them. This gives the series what it's never had – a credible bad/good guy to go up against Diesel (okay, and Paul Walker if you must), sort of a low-rent De Niro/Pacino pairing for muscled up action films.

So after four films of just throwing whatever at the screen and hoping it works, Fast Five now appears to be actually trying. While the series has always been about car fetishists, the stunt work has been amped up for this film, as the producers attempt to turn it into a heist series, Ocean's 11 with 350 hp under the hood. The drive off a cliff in particular is a selling point, and should sell some tickets all on its own. The target number here is 2009's Fast & Furious's $71 million – adding The Rock and getting no boost in the opening weekend would be a major disappointment – but there's not a lot of room above that number. The series has always trended very young, an audience that leans strongly towards the opening weekend, but that also means the market has a natural cap to it. Universal has done all they can with this film's campaign and should be rewarded with a $78 million opening weekend.

Three much smaller movies are also taking on this weekend, though none seem likely to make an impact. The generically-titled Prom may have the best chance, thanks to its theme and young, attractive cast, though Aimee Teegarden is really the only truly recognizable face in the crowd. Produced by Disney, it's a sort of Altman-esque overlapping story about a group of graduating high school seniors, and their hopes and fears and all that crap. Comparing it to Altman is of course doing it a tremendous favor, as it looks to redefine fluff. Any movie about Prom that's rated PG inherently lacks a certain verisimilitude, if you know what I'm sayin'. Opening at 2,700 venues, it should see an opening weekend of about $8 million.


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