Weekend Forecast for February 22-24, 2002

By Walid Habboub

Two thrillers are set to debut at theatres this weekend and one seems poised to run away as the number one opener. The supernatural thriller Dragonfly, starring Kevin Costner, will have a difficult time keeping up with Anne Rice's Queen of the Damned, starring the late R&B singer/actress Aaliyah. While both are aimed at a mostly adult audience, one will draw out horror fans while the other looks to capitalize on a familiar formula.

Queen of the Damned has had some early buzz around it mainly due to the cult following enjoyed by Anne Rice and her series of novels starring The Vampire Lestat. A character last seen in the monster hit Interview With The Vampire, Lestat has a large group of passionate followers who have been waiting for this film with bated breath. But this passionate following is only one of the reasons that this movie should do very well during its opening weekend.

The biggest story behind this movie is that it is Aaliyah's last role before her untimely death and the media has been making the public very aware of this fact. And while this in itself does not necessarily make someone want to see the movie, it is definitely generating a lot of free advertising for Queen of the Damned. Consequently, interest is very high within the African-American community mostly due to Aaliyah's presence.

Horror movies in general are quite popular and always have the potential to break out. For example, see Jeepers Creepers, a thoroughly eerie-looking movie that had a creepy enough advertising campaign that it surprised almost everyone at the box office. Not to say that all horror movies do well but generally, well made and well-advertised ones have a large potential to break out. The glossy, sexy look of Queen Of The Damned combined with a healthy marketing push and high awareness will likely see it debut quite strongly at the box office. ($17.5 million)

Dragonfly will have a more difficult time of it this weekend as it attempts to battle uneven and confusing ads. The tone of the original trailer seems to indicate a supernatural drama with a slight horror angle that could offer a few frights; very Sixth Sense-ish, if you would. At the same time, some of the TV ads are the kind of action-oriented ads that have very little action in them. These are kinetic ads in which nothing exciting really happens. A good example would be Vanilla Sky's advertising; an uneven schizophrenic ad campaign that's not sure how to sell a film beyond the name brands attached to it. Unfortunately for Dragonfly, the name brands it offers are less than top grade.

This movie comes at an interesting time in Costner's career. He's been knocking on the door of a comeback for a while now and he is still remembered more by many for Dances with Wolves, Field of Dreams and JFK than for Waterworld and The Postman. It is interesting that this movie has drawn early comparisons to The Sixth Sense, seeing as how Bruce Willis was at more or less the same point in his career in 1999 that Costner is now. Both the tone of the film and apparently the storyline draw a lot of parallels to the mega-hit, all the way down to the twist at the end, so it will be interesting to see if this finally puts Costner over the hump. As unlikely as that sounds, think of how likely it was that The Sixth Sense was going to resurrect Bruce Willis' career the Thursday before it opened.

Such a dramatic effect still is unlikely to happen especially as early as the opening weekend so I wouldn't expect Dragonfly to do runaway business right away. More likely, Dragonfly will see a modest debut with a possibility of long term excellence. ($11 million)



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