By Reagen Sulewski
The end of April has, in the past few years, been a time when films
have tried to get a jump on the ever-earlier start of the summer
movie season. This is not one of those weekends, as it's a motley
crew of releases that greet the weekend before the unofficial summer
season officially starts.
Leading the way is the all-B-star cast of Identity, which becomes the
big fish in a small pond. In what looks like a film that was cast on
the set of Jon Favreau's Dinner For Five, John Cusack, John G.
McGinley, Amanda Peet, Ray Liotta and Alfred Molina, among others,
sync up for a spooky thriller about strangers in a motel that are
slowly knocked off one by one. What I'm reminded of most is
last year's Frailty, and not just because they're both titled with
short abstract nouns that end in "y." They share the interview style
flashback plot device and a general sense of spooky dread throughout
A film it also resembles in some respects is last year's Signs, which
effectively used limited information to build a buzz. Somewhere
between the $4 million of Frailty and the $60 million of Signs lies
the potential of Identity. Bet on somewhere towards the lower number
since despite the likeability of the cast and the sometimes scary
level of fandom surrounding John Cusack, no one in this film carries that crucial "box office draw" tag. As a group,
they are likely to have a bit of a "sum of the parts" effect, lending
the film credibility. Add that to the fact the spooky thrillers like
this one almost never totally fail, and Identity could be a solid performer
this weekend. A start of $11 million in 2,773 venues would be very
promising for this film, as it has potential to become a word-of-mouth
This week's entry in the "Hollywood Is Creatively Bankrupt Sweepstakes" is The Real Cancun, a new challenger for the
highest-grossing "documentary" record set last year by jackass: the movie
(somewhere, Errol Morris weeps). Real World producers Mary-Ellis
Bunim and Jonathan Murray saw an overcrowded and downward sliding
Reality Entertainment market and decided, "Why not while we still
can?" Essentially a Too Hot for TV video released theatrically, it's
probably appropriate that director Rick de Oliveria's only previous
directing credit was for a Playboy video. With a ridiculously cheap
budget (most of which was likely spent keeping the "actors" loaded)
it's practically guaranteed to turn a profit. But will you still
respect yourself in the morning? Perhaps the first movie in history
to get an R rating for "partying," this is more than just a sleazy
cash-in attempt; it's a trial balloon for many more films like it.
Remember how many game shows popped up after Who Wants to be a
Millionaire hit big? Be afraid. Be very afraid. $10 million will make this possibility very real.
Crime capers come in generally two forms; the glitzy, plot-driven,
star-powered ones like Ocean's Eleven and the upcoming The Italian
Job, and the smaller, character-driven ones that are all about the
psychology of the con, like The Score or Heist. Confidence falls
squarely into that latter category, being all about the clichéd
"biggest con ever" around which all these films inevitably revolve (no
one ever goes after the small fish).
It's easy to see why so many actors are attracted to movies like
Confidence as they get to act tough and menacing, but it's difficult for me
to decide which of the two ostensible leads of Confidence, Edward
Burns and Dustin Hoffman, are less effective as menacing gangsters.
Rachel Weisz on the other hand, makes an effective moll, so maybe I'm
being too hard on the movie. The director is James Foley, returning
to David Mamet-like territory ten years after Glengarry Glen Ross, and
the writer is a first-time script from Doug Jung, which makes it
difficult to judge. Hey, The Usual Suspects was practically a first
script and starred a Baldwin, so anything's possible. What's not
likely, though, is a strong first weekend, as Confidence will only steal about
$6 million from moviegoers to start.
It Runs in the Family takes the Parenthood gimmick and goes it one
better by having all the generations actually be related. Three
generations of Douglases work out their family issues on screen and
are bargaining that you are willing to pay $7.50 to see them do so.
OK, Kirk Douglas doesn't have many more movies in him but he probably
deserves better than this. It Runs in the Family doesn't appear to have much to
distinguish itself beyond this gimmick, and MGM may have another film
to add to its ever-growing list of botched campaigns and ill-advised
projects. Go rent Spartacus if you've got a real hankering to see
Kirk Douglas again. Launching on a sparse 1,207 screens, It Runs in
the Family may do as poorly as $4 million this weekend.
These films leave the door wide open for Anger Management to take the
number one spot for a third weekend. Closing in quickly on $100 million
total, it's performed neither above nor below average for a typical
Sandler film, and the addition of Jack Nicholson seems to have had no
real effect. Last weekend's Easter holiday mucks things up a bit as far as judging the future potential of the film, but the
third weekend is where the film's fortunes could really change and could mean the difference between $120 million and $160 million.
Anger Management deserves to be closer to the higher number than the lower, comparing it to Sandler's recent films. Inspired lunacy should be rewarded, in all
The surprise second place finisher for last weekend, Holes, gets a
chance to make its mark as a leggy film and it's almost certain that
it will. This "Goonies for Gen-Z" has all the makings of a film that
can run for many weeks, provided it doesn't get derailed by something
in early May. The under-15 age group is loyal to a fault, though, and
should power the movie well into the summer, and the second weekend
should be around the $12 million mark.
A film to watch in limited release this weekend is Better Luck
Tomorrow, which expands to over 300 venues from 13 last weekend. It
earned this expansion by bringing in the highest per screen average overall last
weekend, though not in the huge ranges that can be seen for
limiteds. A festival fave, Better Luck Tomorrow depicts a group of Asian students that
engage in a little extracurricular crime. A dark drama, it is clearly
capturing an audience and with a little luck, could develop into a
minor hit that could start with around $2 million this weekend.
There's just one short weekend to go under the summer season greets us
with blockbuster after blockbuster, so either you can take this
weekend as a breather, or you can sit and wait in anticipation of the
bounty awaiting. It's win-win!
Forecast: Weekend of April 25-27, 2003
Number of Sites
Change in Sites from Last
Estimated Gross ($)
The Real Cancun
Malibu's Most Wanted
It Runs in the Family
What a Girl Wants