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Weekend Forecast for June 11-13, 2004

By Reagen Sulewski

June 11, 2004

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Having run out of mega-openers for the time being, Hollywood presents us with three middle-tier films for our consumption. However, all three come with the stink of failure pre-applied. With all three serving different markets, they shouldn't bump into each other; however, neither should they set the world on fire.

It's tough to go wrong with an action movie in early June, which would explain The Chronicles of Riddick. The sequel to 2000's Pitch Black, the film that launched Vin Diesel's career, is a sci-fi action/adventure in the tradition of Alien (meets Die Hard?), but also looks like an updated version of Dune. A cult of death-worshippers called the Necromongers, led by Colm Feore, wage a crusade to subjugate all humanity throughout the galaxy...and only one man can stop them. Diesel, who has successfully priced himself out of two franchises, badly needs this one to be a hit to reestablish his action credentials. That may happen, but it is far more likely that this will be a summer afterthought.

I have much love for David Twohy, the man who originated this series as writer and director (The Arrival and Below are both vastly underrated films), but this one looks sadly like it's been botched, or at the least doesn’t live up to its potential. Looking at his other films, they all started with a killer "what if?" concept and worked from there, while Riddick is focused on shoehorning a character into an action situation. The result is something that feels generic but in an unfamiliar setting, a contradiction that's ripe for disaster. However, it should at least start decently, as Diesel has opened two films over $40 million, and ignoring relics like A Man Apart and Knockaround Guys (which were held on the shelf for long periods of time), still has some cachet as an action star. This role may use it all up, but not before about a $30 million weekend, which might feel like a gift at this point.

I honestly feel sorry for everyone involved in Garfield - yes, even Breckin Meyer - as they've stumbled into the Fallacy of the Adaptation; just because something works in one format does not mean it will work in any other, including, and sometimes especially, movies. What was funny for three panels at a time (and sometimes not even that) doesn't a feature film make, especially when it becomes a soulless paint-by-numbers exercise. Bill Murray managed to get roped into this as the voice of the fat feline (I imagine it was one of the easier jobs he's ever done) in a rather naked attempt to convince adults they won't be bored to tears when they bring their kids to this movie. The kids themselves will have no idea who he is, though I expect numerous first crushes to develop around Jennifer Love Hewitt.

In the final analysis, creepy-looking CGI, an overall lack of jokes and basically an appearance 15 years too late to be relevant should sink this film at the box office. On the other hand, Scooby-Doo managed to wring two successful movies out of its tired concepts, though I'm pretty sure kids still watch that show, while Garfield is now just another Wizard of Id or Family Circus. Remember when this was an "edgy" strip? It will probably be only the number three family choice this weekend, opening to about $24 million.

Just as we thought the slate couldn't get worse, we have The Stepford Wives, a remake of the 1975 thriller about conformity and feminism. The update is a bit of a campy spoof of the idea, which isn't inherently bad, as '70s era feminism and anti-feminism look quite quaint from this time frame. A bit of skewering of both sides might make for an effective satire. The cast is very interesting as well, with Nicole Kidman (playing mousy) leading the way, along with Matthew Broderick, Christopher Walken, Glenn Close, Bette Midler and many others, a veritable who's who of respected character actors. However, the shooting was widely rumored to be a disaster and the finished product looks it. You could probably get whiplash from the tone changes in the trailer, and most of the actors look a bit lost as to what notes they should be hitting at any one time. Screenwriter Paul Rudnick never met a stereotype he couldn't suck the life or fun out of, and Frank Oz has lost his way on yet another assignment (following up the mess he ended up with on The Score). With star power, and pretty much only star power, The Stepford Wives might be able to salvage a $17 million opening weekend but it's about to be a freefall from there.

All this means another easy win for Harry Potter at the box office. It's difficult in any way to call a $93 million weekend disappointing, though the $41 million Friday had people expecting far more over the film's first three days. I'm willing at this point to place the blame on sequel-itis than any particular failing of the movie, as this is the first Harry Potter movie to open in the summer and have a Friday with its target audience out of school at the time. It's still the highest opening weekend of the three Potter films and is a bounceback from the dip of the second. It also has the benefit of ridiculously lucrative summer weekdays, which make an incredible difference, especially for children's films. With excellent reviews and an otherwise unoccupied audience, it should put up another $60 million weekend. If it can avoid the 50% drop-offs that befell Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban could easily outpace the $317 million set by the first film in the series.

Shrek 2 has already blown past that mark, with an amazing $325 million after just 22 days and breaking the fastest $300 million mark, doing it in just 18 days. It also has almost a month and a half to try and break the $400 million land speed record. Though its 47% drop in the third weekend is troubling, it was going against the 500 pound gorilla of Harry Potter, and that pressure should subside. Expect about $25 million to be added to Shrek 2's coffers over the three-day period.

The Day After Tomorrow was unable to find any legs in the post-Memorial Day period, falling 60% over comparable three-day periods, although that was not entirely unexpected. This disaster flick wasn't able to recapture the magic of Independence Day, though it's tough to beat a gimmick like aliens blowing up the White House. That steep drop means we're probably looking at a $200 million ceiling for the "very bad weather" film.

Expanding significantly is the teen religious satire Saved!, which makes it into about 550 theaters this weekend after making an impressive $11,000 per venue and finishing 13th in the box office rankings on just 31 screens. It's become quite the buzz film, offering sass and commentary on fundamentalist culture (and in some ways, taking over from Mean Girls). I would look for about $2-3 million in total here after this expansion.


Forecast: Weekend of June 11-13, 2004
Rank
Film
Number of
Sites
Changes in Sites
from Last
Estimated
Gross ($)
1 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 3,855 0 59.7
2 The Chronicles of Riddick 2,759 New 29.6
3 Shrek 2 3,843 -288 25.4
4 Garfield 3,094 New 24.2
5 The Stepford Wives 3,057 New 17.3
6 The Day After Tomorrow 3,210 -234 14.1
7 Raising Helen 2,103 -618 4.3
8 Troy 2,003 -747 2.9
9 Saved! 589 +558 2.5
10 Mean Girls 944 -873 2.0

     


 
 

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