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Weekend Forecast for February 11-13, 2005

By Reagen Sulewski

February 11, 2005

No *real* Cubans were hurt when Marty and I drove that Hummer over their shacks.

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Although Valentine's Day doesn't officially fall on the weekend, for box office purposes, this is the weekend that will count. As might be expected, a big romantic offering is out there, but there's also something to keep the kids occupied as the adults have their time alone.

Surprisingly enough, Hitch is Will Smith's first film as a romantic lead in his career. Despite his natural charm (or maybe because of it), he's stuck to action roles with the occasional reach into drama (Bagger Vance, Ali). With his star power, he probably could have a lock on being Tom Hanks ca. 1993-1996.

While the chemistry looks strongest between Smith and co-star Kevin James (and what an interesting movie that would be), Hitch features Smith as a famous New York City "date doctor", who says that he can help any man land the woman of his dreams. Imagine what happens when he meets the woman of *his* dreams and turns into one the blithering idiots he tries to help. That, my friends, is what we like to call irony (or being male).

You might remember Eva Mendes, the female lead here, as the best actor in 2 Fast 2 Furious, which is damning with faint praise if I've ever heard it. However, she has the potential to turn into something of a Cameron Diaz with this film, which is almost perfectly positioned for its audience. A light, non-idiotically plotted romantic comedy is tough to come by and this might fit the bill. Plus, doughy white guys trying and failing to act hip? Always funny.

Because Smith has never been a romantic lead before, the model is a bit spare for prediction. Probably the star with the most similar appeal would be Adam Sandler, who in reteaming with Drew Barrymore last year at this time, opened 50 First Dates to just under $40 million. That could be about right here, with Smith's lower negative baggage relative to Sandler offsetting the chemistry factor. Throw in the calculated bit of comic violence in the trailer and I think we're looking at a $45 million opening weekend.

With most of the big characters from Winnie-the-Pooh having already had their movie, and the chances of a "Rabbit's Big Coming Out Movie" slim at best, Disney has decided to jump the Hundred Acre Wood over the shark, with Pooh's Heffalump Movie.

A Heffalump, as A.A. Milne fans might remember, is the unseen beast that haunts Pooh and Christopher Robin. So revealing him and giving him his own movie seems like a bit of a desperation move. Neither of the last two Winnie-the-Pooh movies have done that well, with Piglet's movie opening to $6 million, and Tigger's, arguably the most popular character in the books, opening to just $9.5 million in 2000. There doesn't seem to be much to this film other than standard kid's fare, so I'll put it somewhere between the openings of those two, at $7.5 million. It's destined for video success anyway.

Hyping itself as the creation of the newest action star, Ong-Bak introduces Tony Jaa to the screen. Billed as a cross between Jet Li and Jackie Chan, Jaa is another in the list of Asian martial artists who do their own stunts on screen, although Ong Bak makes the explicit point of not using wire-fu. The plot of the film is... oh who cares about the plot, but it remains to be seen how well audiences will give the new kid on the block a chance. Opening on a smallish 387 screens, this film should be good for about $4 million.

Boogeyman scared up $19 million worth of business on Super Bowl Weekend, defying most predictions, common sense and good taste. OK, I can give it some slack for being produced by Sam Raimi, but this cheapo horror renaissance can die out anytime now. At any rate, it shouldn't last too long in theaters, and should drop to about $11 million this weekend.

The Wedding Date, the other major romantic offering this weekend, did not live up to its potential, opening to $11 million, albeit on a relatively small number of screens. Exhibitors are showing just a hair of confidence in the film, as it adds only 11 theaters when a large expansion would be very possible. Although critically reviled last weekend, its target audience doesn't pay much attention to reviews. I still wouldn't expect legs, and it should fall to around $6.5 million.

Are We There Yet? continues to impress with its legs, dropping just 35% against the killer Super Bowl Weekend, and crossing the $50 million plateau. While $100 million is probably out of the question for this film, $80-90 million sure looks possible.

If we're not careful, we might have the first Oscar ceremony in many years where none of the Best Picture nominees have reached the $100 million mark. With just a couple of weeks to go, The Aviator is closest at $75 million and pulling in a little less than $10 million a week. It looks like the only film that could make to that mark by the ceremony, though it will probably fall short. It's also starting to shed screens, losing about 300 this week. Picking up a few, along with most of the Oscar momentum, is Million Dollar Baby, which has earned about $40 million so far. Either of these two films, the odds on favorites to win the big prize, would have the lowest box office at their date of winning Best Picture since Shakespeare in Love, or depending on the next few weeks, all the way back to The Last Emperor.

A couple of noteworthy limited releases make their mark this weekend. Bride and Prejudice starring the indescribably gorgeous Aishawara Rai, is an Indian take on the Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice -- it's a Bollywood film without all the Bolly. It may be a film to watch in the Big Fat Greek Wedding way.

Inside Deep Throat is a unique documentary, taking a look at the infamous porn film Deep Throat that nearly took the genre mainstream in the '70s. Its rather sordid history gets a close-up look (but hopefully not too close) in 12 theaters this weekend.


Forecast: Weekend of February 11-13, 2005
Rank
Film
Number of
Sites
Changes in Sites
from Last
Estimated
Gross ($)
1 Hitch 3,575 New 44.8
2 Boogeyman 3,052 0 10.9
3 Pooh's Heffalump Movie 2,529 New 8.5
4 Are We There Yet? 2,810 +20 7.7
5 Million Dollar Baby 2,035 +10 6.8
6 The Wedding Date 1,705 +11 6.6
7 The Aviator 2,196 -334 4.1
8 Hide and Seek 2,525 -480 4.0
9 Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior 387 New 3.9
10 Sideways 1,619 -167 3.7

     


 
 

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