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Weekend Forecast for May 19-21, 2006

By Reagen Sulewski

May 19, 2006

My dear girl, I *own* the May box office campaign.

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There's a movie out this weekend based on a book. Perhaps you've heard of it.

It's hard to imagine a film with larger exposure than The Da Vinci Code. Awareness polls among Kalahari Bushmen have it running at about 37%. Based on the insanely popular Dan Brown book that sent numerous records for sales as well as least editing, the novel has become an international sensation as a conspiracy thriller wrapped up in history, religion and code breaking. Despite and because of the controversy involving the claims about the Catholic Church (and you know, "Sorry" just doesn't cut it with this Pope) in the book, it has become incredibly popular. The people who haven't read it yet could probably be listed in the closing credits of the film. "But it's fiction!" I hear some of you cry. Well... yes, and no. It's not half as interesting a story without the borrowed verisimilitude.

But I digress. Directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Jean Reno, Ian McKellen, Paul Bettany and more, the film is well above your typical literary adaptation in terms of built-in appeal. Hanks plays a "symbologist" called in to help in the investigation of a murder in the Louvre. He then finds himself wrapped up in a mystery that points to clues hidden in the works of Leonardo da Vinci. A secret religious organization is perhaps behind it, and seeks to cover up a 2,000-year-old secret (Hmm, what happened around 2,000 years ago, let me see... well it's..OH MY GOD!)

A potboiler thriller, it's hooked people around the world and has a premise ready-made for translation to the screen. Protests from the Catholic Church and the organization portrayed within it (Opus Dei) have only strengthened the film's visibility and it looked as if it would be unstoppable, with a combination of subject matter and star power. Cracks have started to form of late, though, with absolutely dismal reviews, including a Cannes screening where it was almost laughed off the screen. In fairness, it's tough not to laugh at that mullet.

With the reviews near unidirectional in the negative, it's certain to impact what probably would have been thought of as a review-proof film. Length is also a bit of a factor, at two and a half hours. It's still mostly bulletproof, and should bring out many of the types of moviegoers that don't normally trek out to the theaters, but it is likely not to be the world beater that Sony had hoped for originally. Opening at 3,700 plus venues, it's basically at saturation and should come in for a very strong weekend of around $71 million.

The family offering this weekend is Over the Hedge, Volume 7 of 212 for the year's CGI animated films. Based on a semi-obscure daily newspaper strip, it's a satirical take on suburbia through the eyes of a group of wild animals, led by a trickster raccoon and a laconic turtle. A cadre of celebrity voices are on hand, with Bruce Willis and Garry Shandling in the lead roles, with Steve Carell, William Shatner, Wanda Sykes, Eugene Levy and more as a part of the cast.




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DreamWorks has quickly become respected and reliable as the #2 animation producer out there today, if not the #1a. They've even been able to push mediocre looking films like Shark Tale to box office glory. That said, we're quickly approaching animation fatigue and it'll take a truly excellent film or a sequel to break through these days. Over the Hedge is not quite that film, though it's close. To succeed you need clever pop culture references for the adults and some broader, potentially bodily-function related, jokes for the younger audience, which this film appears to have. Willis as a voice doesn't carry quite the baggage as in live action and there's some fun looking bits involving Steve Carell's hyperactive squirrel. Opening on a truly massive scale at over 4,000 venues, Over the Hedge is an easy pick for a solid #2 on the weekend with around $33 million.

The third new opening film of the weekend is See No Evil, a horror film starring WWE personality Kane (Glen Jacobs). He stars as a psychotic killer stalking a house full of juvenile delinquents, as well as the cop who shot him previously, disposing of them with a nasty looking meat hook. Screams and gore ensue.

Teen horror has been an incredibly bankable genre of late, though See No Evil is likely to be in tougher than others for several reasons. Of the recent crop of WWE crossover hopefuls, only The Rock has shown enough personality and talent to open films on his own. Kane is no Rock. The anonymous teen cast is a little more anonymous than usual, and plainly, the film looks bad. Not screened for critics, it's also being dumped on just 1,257 screens, a sign of supreme non-confidence in the film. Look for it to open with a measly $4 million.

The Da Vinci Code ends two weeks of Mission: Impossible III's reign at the top of the box office, although that's one more than most people thought the film was going to get anyway. It close to halved its box office in its second weekend and it currently sits around $90 million total. It's not a horrible showing for its second weekend, but the public craziness of Tom Cruise likely kept it from experiencing the full benefit of its word-of-mouth. It should drop down to about $13 million this weekend.

Poseidon was a major disappointment for Warner Bros., opening to $20 million against an estimated $200 million plus budget, perhaps redefining the term disaster flick. This weekend, expect it to underperform further, with the capsized boat serving as an all too apt metaphor as it earns $9 million this weekend.

Though RV is falling steadily as well, it will probably hold on to enough viewers to remain in the top five for the weekend. Facing a lot of competition in the family market, the Robin Williams comedy should cross the $50 million plateau, earning about $5 million on the weekend.


Forecast: Weekend of May 19-21, 2006
Rank
Film
Number of
Sites
Changes in Sites
from Last
Estimated
Gross ($)
1 The Da Vinci Code 3,735 New 71.3
2 Over the Hedge 4,059 New 33.5
3 Mission:Impossible III 3,450 -609 12.9
4 Poseidon 3,555 0 9.6
5 RV 2,925 -611 6.2
6 See No Evil 1,257 New 4.3
7 Just My Luck 2,543 +2 3.3
8 United 93 1,306 -565 2.3
9 An American Haunting 1,265 -438 1.7
10 Stick It 1,100 -909 1.5

     


 
 

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