Weekend Forecast for December 27-29, 2014
By Reagen Sulewski
December 23, 2014
For the second straight weekend, The Interview dominates movie discussion in the greater world, although this time it has the benefit of actually coming out (although it was a close call). That this comes at the expense of the three new wide releases coming out over the most lucrative two weeks of the box office is... a bit of a problem.
Likely to make the most immediate impact is Into The Woods, Disney's adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical about fairy tale characters and the consequences of their wishes. Synergy, they has it. Directed by Rob Marshall, who successfully guided Chicago to the big screen, but also, you know, Nine, it's a lavishly shot production of the gothic takes on Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood and The Baker and the Baker's Wife, among them. After the latter couple, wishing for a child, find out that their infertility is caused by a curse, they must journey into the woods (dun dun dun) to find the items that will lift it and satisfy the old witch who placed it. Encountering a number of famous fairy tale creatures on the way, they discover that a simple wish might lead to many more things that just what is wished for. While Disney stories often have a bit of an edge to them in fairy tale fashion, Into The Woods re-roughens up many of the edges that have been sanded off.
Starring Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp (well hidden in costume) and Meryl Streep, it's a well-respected cast that's a tad light on box office draw (except for the aforementioned Depp, but you can kind of see why he doesn't count). Musicals can also be a bit of a tough sell, though in a strange development, we have two proper musicals in wide release for what might be the first time in decades. The Sondheim connection is probably worth something, although it might be caught in that weird middle space of being too scary for young audiences, while seen as too slight a subject for adult ones. Ultimately, the production values and cast should win over a moderate audience, and I anticipate a weekend figure of around $18 million, with $13 million more on the 25th and 26th.
Arriving as an Oscar contender - but a lower-tier one - is Unbroken, Angelina Jolie's second film as a director. Telling the story of WWII veteran Frank Zamperini, an Olympic champion prior to the war, it follows him through being shot down in the Pacific and held as a POW by the Japanese Army. Subjected to all measure of rough treatment and torture, in large part as a way to break the spirits of his fellow prisoners, it's a tale of will, determination and survival. With a screenplay written in part by the Coen Brothers, the hope is that it is not the typical survival narrative and hopefully brings some deeper meaning to what is, to be completely honest, a slam-dunk cinematic story.
Relative unknown (at least in the US) Jack O'Connell plays Zamperini, which is probably of benefit to the story, if not its box office prospects. There are a few other sort of familiar names and faces present, including Garret Hedlund, Jai Courtney and Domhnall Gleeson, but it largely remains O'Connell's movie, for better or for worse. It's been mostly on the periphery of awards season, with just a handful of minor recognitions and was shut out of the Golden Globes, which, if they can't bring themselves to suck up to Jolie in this situation, well... Reviews have also not been too kind, and it looks as if Jolie has a bit of work to do in her directorial career (her proclaimed preferred one!) if she's to be taken as seriously as she wants to be.