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Weekend Forecast for January 19-21, 2007

By Reagen Sulewski

January 19, 2007

Someone forgot their safe word.

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Post-Golden Globe weekend this year has just one new release in wide distribution, leaving room for a handful of award hopefuls to expand or relaunch into multiplexes around the country.

The sole new release this weekend is The Hitcher, a remake of the 1986 horror thriller starring Rutger Hauer and a then on-the-cusp-of-stardom C. Thomas Howell (yeah, how'd that one work out for him?). Hauer played the title character, a psychotic criminal who frames Howell for his crimes after he picks Hauer up on the highway, and the hitcher tries to do away with the Howell character for good measure. That's gratitude for ya.

This update puts Sean Bean in the lead role (a fairly inspired choice) with One Tree Hill's Sophia Bush and relative unknown Zachary Knighton in harm's way as The Hitcher's target. The original film was never a giant hit, though it did attain a certain cult status through endless cable repeats. As such, it's a pretty good candidate for a remake, unlike a lot of the other classic horror films that Michael Bay's production company has set its sights on.

Whether they've done a good job on it or not is anyone's guess at this point, as it's yet another horror film that has not been screened for critics. In general, this means "bad", but then you already knew that, didn't you? Taking that into account, The Hitcher looks decent, as these movies go, so box office prospects are relatively strong. Opening on 2,831 screens, The Hitcher should see a weekend total of approximately $14 million.




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We now move to the numerous expanding films this weekend. The most significant jump is claimed by The Queen, which moves up to over 1,500 venues, close to quintupling its showings. Having earned $31 million to date, this telling of the events surrounding the death of Princess Diana and its effect on the British Royal Family has garnered the most attention for Helen Mirren's portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II, which won her Best Actress in a Drama at this Monday's Golden Globes. Prior to this award, the film had more or less run its course, reaching as high as tenth in the box office. It should crack the top ten a little higher this weekend, with a take of around $6 million.

Babel, the Best Drama winner at the Globes, makes the next biggest leap, from under 200 theaters to almost 900. The ensemble drama, which stars Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and a host of international stars that are becoming a little bit better known stateside, had been considered a disappointment up to this date, earning just $21 million so far. This win, combined with a possible Oscar nomination, should change that. Look for a weekend of about $4 million.

The Last King of Scotland increases its count by almost 500 venues, all the way from just four. This move will take advantage of Forest Whitaker's win for Best Actor in a Drama as the insane Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. The film itself has received outstanding reviews but has had only slight availability across the country, which is why it's not gone above the $1 million mark for a weekend, and has just $4 million in domestic box office to show for its efforts to date. Relatively speaking, this film will benefit the most from Oscar exposure, as it brings in another $2 million or so this weekend.


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