Weekend Forecast for January 16-18, 2015
By Reagen Sulewski
January 16, 2015
What seems like the entirety of Hollywood descends on this weekend as many films expand to capitalize on Oscar nominations, while three others debut fresh for 2015. Even for a holiday weekend, this feels crowded, and someone's likely to get left out.
One of the expanding films should lead the way, as American Sniper (~get away from meee-heee~) expands into over 3,000 venues, riding on the back of six Oscar nominations including Best Picture (but not, crucially, Best Director). Bradley Cooper stars as the lead character, Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle. The film follows him through his multiple tours of duty in Iraq, as well as his difficulties in adapting back to society. The stress of making split-second decisions with lives on the line takes its toll on him in ways both obvious and not, and the film purports to tell his story, balancing the thrilling war scenes with the tense “return to home” scenes, or so it would have you believe.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, American Sniper (~mama let me beee-heee~) has faced criticism almost off the bat for what looks like a glorification of war, as well as Kyle's documented, shall we say looseness, with the truth. That's not likely to matter all that much to its core audience, who are naturally predisposed to rah-rah American war films with a meat-and-potatoes aesthetic, such that Eastwood is famous for. It also has a cracker-jack and slightly unusual marketing campaign, in which its commercials consist mostly of contained vignettes from the film. These are rather undeniably gripping and effective at getting across the point and tone of the film, and do an excellent job of making the film jump out in a crowded marketplace. That it received those six nominations helps to vault to the list of must-see films for people who follow this kind of thing (which I assume includes most of you reading this), whether you really wanted to see the film in the first place or not.
Strangely soft on the review front for a Best Picture nominated film, this appears to be one that the Academy is backing hell or high water, no doubt connected to Eastwood being an Academy favorite. Audiences are likely to follow them on this as these type of war stories - that is, those that aren't particularly critical of the motivations behind war while still focusing on soldiers - can prove to be quite popular. Last year's Lone Survivor was a significant hit around this time of year, and one of Mark Wahlberg's biggest grossers at $125 million. That Cooper (and his... shaky... accent) garnered a nomination for himself from this film can only help. In just four venues, it's already earned over $3 million, with ridiculous per screen averages close to $150,000. In its wide release, American Sniper (~I don't want your w... OK, I'll stop) should hit about $40 million this weekend.
Hollywood likes nothing more than repeating what's worked before, whether the things that happened around its success had any bearing or not on it. Hence, since we had a Kevin Hart movie open big last January, we get another this January. The dime store pitch for The Wedding Ringer goes like this: You know those socially awkward guys who don't have many friends but still need to look good for their wedding? Yeah, he can put together a group of “best buds” for you, so you can seem cool on your big day and oh this sounds so depressing I hope it's not a real thing.