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Weekend Forecase for February 10-12, 2006

By Reagen Sulewski

February 10, 2006

I would like to, how you say, krunk the junk in your trunk.

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In years past, a weekend with movies from Harrison Ford and Steve Martin opening up might have been termed a blockbuster. In 2006, it's just a mid-February calendar-filler. How things change for our box office champs.

In fact, likely to lead off the slate of four new wide releases is Final Destination 3, a film series that stretches the credulity of its title in a way not seen since The Never-Ending Story and its sequels. An all-new cast of anonymous teens attempt to cheat death and his fickle hand, this time after surviving a roller-coaster accident. Fate seems to have a vested interest in these kids, as well as an inventive sense of humor. Grisly deaths await those who didn't have the sense to get dead in the first place.

There's little to really be said about these series other than that they fall right in line with the current popular trend of cheap horror. The two previous films have exhibited a nice upwards trend in opening box office, moving from $10 million to $16 million, even as the quality degraded substantially. Although this one isn't The Godfather, early reviews have treated it relatively kindly, and the figures for other shlocky looking horror films of late could lead a person to think optimistically for others of the same kind. Just how much of an appetite is there for horror? We'll get to see this weekend, but I predict a weekend of about $18 million for Final Destination 3.

Next up is The Pink Panther, officially a prequel to the classic Blake Edwards/Peter Sellers series of the '60s and '70s. Something similar has been tried before with a pre-Life is Beautiful Roberto Benigni in Son of the Pink Panther, but it failed miserably, with just a token release and under $3 million in total box office. So apparently it's time to try again with a real star (Sorry, Roberto).

Martin, as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau, is called on to investigate the murder of a soccer coach in connection with a valuable diamond (the titular Panther). Physical comedy and French-bashing ensue. Some of the original Pink Panther films were brilliant displays of timing and comedy, and some of them were kind of drecky. So there's potential here to not completely dishonor the name of the franchise. Of course, Shawn Levy, director of this film as well as the recent Cheaper by the Dozen remake, is no Blake Edwards. And while I can't help but laugh at poor Clouseau's attempts to order a hamburger, I'm a tad skeptical of this gag carrying a 90 minute movie.




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Also starring Kevin Kline, Jean Reno and Beyonce Knowles as the requisite femme fatale, this film is getting the biggest promotional push this weekend, along with the biggest screen count of over 3,400. This should lead to a weekend total of about $14 million.

The family offering this weekend is Curious George, an adaptation of the over 60-year-old children's book series about a rambunctious monkey and the Man in the Yellow Hat. Almost quaint in that it's a 2-D animated film in this day of 3-D, George offers a sense of fun and adventure pitched at the little tykes' set.

Will Ferrell voices the Man in the Yellow Hat, with other voice talent consisting of Drew Barrymore, Dick Van Dyke and Joan Plowright, though it scarcely matters for this film's target audience. Cross-over seems unlikely, since the film skews so young, although it's likely to see a long life on DVD. The highlight for adults might be the Jack Johnson penned soundtrack, which is a great way for adults to indoctrinate their children into the world of Hawaiian beach bum stoner music. Watch for this one to come in with a solid $13 million weekend.

Finally we have Harrison Ford's offering, the tepidly named Firewall. A kidnapping thriller, it seems to mark the exact point at which Ford (now 63!) has turned into Michael Douglas. In the film, he plays a security expert whose family is held by criminals unless he provides them with details about how to break into an impregnable computer system that he himself designed.

I struggle to come with a real compelling image or moment from this film's ad campaign, which seems destined to be one of those "he was in that?" films in the career retrospective montage for Harrison's honorary Oscar acceptance. Paul Bettany and Virginia Madsen give this film their level best, I gather, but we've long past the point where Harrison by himself can open a film that doesn't look special. Give this one a tepid $11 million on its opening weekend.

Last week's number one, When a Stranger Calls, is due for a steep fall, due to both direct competition in its teen horror category as well as the mercurial nature of horror in general. A top five finish with around $10 million is likely the best it can hope for.

Big Momma's House 2 shed 50% of its weight in weekend number two, perhaps signaling the end of Martin Lawrence's turn in a fat suit, although copycats are sure to follow given its strong opening weekend. It'll be lucky not to have a similar drop this weekend, leaving it with $7 million for this weekend.

Family films held over the best last weekend, including Nanny McPhee and Hoodwinked, though both those films face a challenge from Curious George this weekend. A figure of $7 million for McPhee is in store, and will bring it a total of around $35 million. Hoodwinked will be looking at a total of around $50 million after the weekend is done, and is a mild surprise for the Weinsteins after the film looked like a total failure early on.


Forecast: Weekend of February 10-12, 2006
Rank
Film
Number of
Sites
Changes in Sites
from Last
Estimated
Gross ($)
1 Final Destination 3 2,880 New 18.2
2 The Pink Panther 3,477 New 14.2
3 Curious George 2,565 New 12.7
4 Firewall 2,840 New 11.3
5 When a Stranger Calls 3,004 +5 10.4
6 Big Momma's House 2 2,733 -528 7.1
7 Nanny McPhee 2,148 +2 6.8
8 Brokeback Mountain 1,963 -126 4.1
9 Hoodwinked 2,085 -822 3.3
10 Something New 1,265 -1 2.8

     


 
 

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