Weekend Forecast for December 19-21, 2014 Part 2
By Reagen Sulewski
December 19, 2014
Although most coverage of Hollywood news is (rightly) focused on the... ahem... international incident ongoing and its fallout, there is still a weekend to talk about, with new releases and everything. Pity their marketing departments.
Settling old business first: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies opened on Wednesday with $24 million and change (okay, some of that is from showings on Tuesday night). This is without qualifications an impressive number for a two and a half hour movie on a weekday night, and puts it in a similar landscape with The Two Towers (but also, The Matrix Revolutions, so...). As this is the first of the Hobbit movies to open on a Wednesday, we're in a bit of uncharted territory, but the analogous behavior seems solid, with better-than-expected reviews lifting it slightly. It appears as if we've gotten a strong(er) finish than we expected, but it's still a situation where we're finishing it out of obligation more than genuine excitement. I'll stick with my $64 million prediction for the weekend – still an easy win, but not one that comes without any criticism.
Leading into totally new-to-us films (kinda): The Night at the Museum franchise concludes (we think) with Secret of the Tomb, which brings back most of the characters from the past two Museum films in a globe-spanning adventure to save some magical artifact or whatever and seriously does anyone over the age of 10 actually care? Anyway, Ben Stiller leads the resurrected Smithsonian exhibits, spanning the length of human history, to recapture the magic tablet from Lancelot, who is unaware of the danger it possesses. With the exhibits behaving ever erratically, and attacking patrons as they fade into insanity and dementia (hey hey, kids!), it's a race against time to fix everything.
In addition to Stiller, we have Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Ben Kingsley, that freaking monkey, and Robin Williams, in his last live action role, a sad fact for a couple of reasons. Rebel Wilson also adds herself in, in case you were looking for another reason to find this movie sad. Essentially a long action movie with bits of safe humor mixed in, it's aiming squarely at the heart of the inoffensive family entertainment market. That we even have a third movie in this series is thanks to the (eight years ago!) first film's surprising performance over the Christmas holidays, where it racked up three weeks at the top and five weekends in double digit millions. It should get some boost again from the holidays, but there's a two-headed decline in effect – both the aging out of the film's original audience, and the general fatigue for the series. The second film opened in May of 2009 to a truly impressive $54 million, but fell $75 million short of the first film's total box office. I expect this to fall a bit short of the $30 million of the 2004 debut of the franchise, with about $26 million.
Another family option this weekend is Annie, a remake of the classic musical about an orphan adopted by a wealthy billionaire and lifted up into the lap of luxury. In a race switch that's probably bothering someone who should really shut up about it, Quevenzhane Wallis (she of Beasts of the Southern Wild) plays the title character, with Jamie Foxx playing billionaire mayoral candidate Will Stacks (oh, I get jokes!). Looking for an angle for his campaign, he decides to choose an adorable little moppet to use as campaign fodder in an angle that people apparently wouldn't see through immediately. Her goofy, poverty-stricken ways charm Stacks anyway, and the crisis of the film comes as Annie's true parents are found and the billionaire has to decide how much he really wants to change. Because once again, it's the billionaire that's the important part of the story.