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Weekend Forecast for March 2-4, 2007

By Reagen Sulewski

March 2, 2007

Felicity Huffman did what she could to save her husband the embarrassment of Wild Hogs.

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After two straight weeks of saturating the market with five movies apiece, the box office slows down a little with one large, one medium, and one small-sized wide release to open up March.

Leading the way is the middle-age-crisis biker movie Wild Hogs. Starring John Travolta, Tim Allen, William H. Macy and Martin Lawrence as four suburban biker wannabes heading out on the highway on the lookout for adventure, Wild Hogs sets out to be something like Old School for people that are still mourning the cancellation of Everybody Loves Raymond. Of course, that was a hit show forever, although I don't know anyone that watched it.

Full of slapstick humor and gay-panic jokes, Wild Hogs seems to redefine the lowest common denominator of comedy, aiming squarely at a market that will supposedly identify with the idea of middle class life as oppressive and stifling. It has a moderately strong cast to fill it out, though as a mix they're kind of odd. Allen's hits lately have come in Disney comedies, Lawrence is well on the downslide of the slope and Travolta has always fared poorly in comedies. Macy is a bit of an oddball out, normally sticking to drama, or at least comedies with respected directors, and not the guy who made Van Wilder. However, as an uncomplicated broad comedy, it could strike the right chord for middle of the road audiences. And it certainly looks better than Epic Movie, for whatever that's worth. Give it about $26 million for the weekend.

Zodiac represents the return of director David Fincher after a five-year absence. Tackling dark subject matter as usual, Zodiac is a version of the events surrounding the Zodiac Killer, who terrorized the San Francisco area in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It's told from the perspective of a San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) who was the recipient of Zodiac's numerous cryptic messages. Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards also star in the film as detectives and reporters involved in the case.

Serial killers are no unfamiliar territory for Fincher, who broke into the public consciousness with 1995's Se7en. This appears to be a little more straightforward than that grim and gothic tale, more of a crime film than a serial killer film. The typical chilly Fincher mood and style is still there though, and critics are so far raving about his work, with most reviews calling it subtle yet intense.




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Fincher is a name that's a cut above for directors, especially in the suspense genre, and the Zodiac Killer is well-known in crime lore. These factors, along with the respected cast, give Zodiac a shot at being a moderate hit. It opens in approximately 2,300 venues and should be able to win second spot this weekend with about $17 million.

The third new film this week is easily the most controversial and provocative. Black Snake Moan stars Samuel L. Jackson as a blues musician who sets out to tame a wild, promiscuous young woman (played by Christina Ricci), fearing she's got the devil in her. His tactic? Chaining her to his radiator. Okay, then.

Directed by Hustle & Flow's Craig Brewer, the film is decidedly off-putting in its premise and deliberately boundary pushing, which inherently limits the audience of the film, but is likely to attract some passionate followers. Brewer is clearly not afraid to delve into complicated and potentially unsympathetic characters, as anyone who saw Hustle & Flow would know. The cast also includes Justin Timberlake, in his second role this year that's intended to shed his goody-goody image.

Opening on 1,252 screens, Black Snake Moan will be a hard sell, but definitely has an actor in the lead role in Jackson that could lend veracity to the film. Ricci also plays the sexpot well, which is not to be overlooked. The notoriety that the film needs to succeed will put a bit of a ceiling on the film's grosses but it should come in with about $7 million this weekend.

Among returning films, Ghost Rider spent a second weekend at the top of the box office even after shedding more than half its business. Despite looking cheesy as hell and with effects that look programmed on an Amiga, Ghost Rider has earned an impressive $80 million after two weeks, giving Nic Cage a badly needed hit after the embarrassment of The Wicker Man. It should add another $10 million to its coffers this weekend, and will close in on the $100 million milestone very soon.

The Number 23 underwhelmed for second place and just $14 million. Jim Carrey's psychological thriller felt pretty artificial, and that hack Joel Schumacher very likely kept a huge portion of its potential audience from coming. I don't expect this one to have good word-of-mouth at all, and may fall to as little as $6 million in its second weekend.

Bridge to Terabithia remains the strongest family option out there, but also fell hard in its second weekend after an ad campaign that could best be called deceptive. Promising a Narnia-esque adventure story, instead it was a tragic story about loss, and left many off put despite being above average quality. I expect it to hang on a little better this weekend, with around $8 million.

Other films still making a bit of noise include the TV adaptation Reno 911!: Miami, which jumped from cable quite well to the tune of $10 million and should see around $6 million this weekend, Norbit, the film that cost Eddie Murphy an Oscar, which will probably hit the $100 million mark in two or three weeks, and Music and Lyrics, the big romantic comedy offering out right now.


Forecast: Weekend of March 2-4, 2007
Rank
Film
Number of
Sites
Changes in Sites
from Last
Estimated
Gross ($)
1 Wild Hogs 3,287 New 26.4
2 Zodiac 2,362 New 17.5
3 Ghost Rider 3,609 -12 10.3
4 Bridge to Terabithia 3,159 +20 8.1
5 Black Snake Moan 1,252 New 7.6
6 The Number 23 2,759 0 6.9
7 Reno 911!: Miami 2,702 0 6.2
8 Norbit 2,827 -318 4.9
9 Music and Lyrics 2,644 -311 4.3
10 Breach 1,496 +3 3.5

     


 
 

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