Weekend Forecast for
June 27-29, 2003

By Reagen Sulewski

I'd like the address of this strip club, please.

With summer in full swing, perhaps the epitome of the summer movie arrives in theaters. All flash and with the minimum required amount of substance, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle is all set to dominate the weekend box office. However, for once this season, it's not the lone new film to make noise. Though its much leaner release slate makes it impossible for it to challenge for a top box office slot, 28 Days Later has grabbed buzz as an uncompromising horror film and could be a smaller scale triumph.

Charlie's Angels was a 2000 success story, both financially and in the "it's miraculous it didn't suck" category. Now, this film is never going to be enshrined in the American Film Institute, but as popcorn cinema goes, it's a lot of fun and there's far worse ways to spend two hours of your time. Unexpectedly well acted (Sam Rockwell kicks ass), surprisingly twisted (Crispin Glover as a cane wielding hair-fetishist? Sign me up) and directed to within an inch of its life by MTV-vet McG, it redefines the term guilty pleasure. Oh yeah, and there are three incredibly hot chicks, too.

After a few years of finding little in the way of high profile roles, Drew Barrymore took things into her own hands, buying the rights to the Charlie's Angels franchise and producing the movie herself. Inviting Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu along for the ride proved to be a winning combo as the film opened to $40 million and finished with a respectable $125 million domestic. It's odd to say it considering that take but it also became a bit of a video hit and a sequel became inevitable.

Smartly, the Charlie's Angels team has decided to change almost nothing in the formula, consisting of wacky capers, scantily clad women, over-stylized direction and ridiculously elaborate action scenes. Bill Murray's out, replaced by Bernie Mac, but the real story casting wise is the addition of a revitalized Demi Moore.

Not seen on screen since 2000's Passion of Mind, she's apparently used the past three years well, building a time machine to bring her 1985 self to today. Her plastic surgeon and/or personal trainer is about to become very very rich. As savvy career moves for off the radar actresses go, this is one of the better ones in recent memory. Jumping into a proven franchise where she doesn't have to do the heavy lifting but can safely steal scenes, it's a textbook case of how to come back from obscurity. And all it took was the essence of 25-year-old Ashton Kutcher! (As an aside, if anyone could tell me where the line forms to help Jennifer Jason Leigh revitalize her career, I'd really appreciate it.)

Beyond the natural evolution of this film's audience, the other element that is driving CA: Full Throttle is a positively brilliant ad campaign. Designed to completely overwhelm the senses, it started with an over-the-top teaser, followed with an epilepsy-inducing trailer and has continued with an amazing series of electronica and rock fuelled TV commercials, most notably the "Thunderstruck" ad. Whether or not the film is any good, kudos have to go to the marketing department. The ceiling on this film is lower than your average comic book movie but it's still going to be in lofty territory. Utilizing every bullet in its arsenal, Charlie's Angels should beat the freshly-minted June record set by Hulk on its way to a $69 million weekend.

The digital film making revolution has been a tremendous boon to indie filmmakers, who have been able to make their movies that didn't require elaborate set-ups very inexpensively. The casual moviegoer probably hasn't noticed this phenomenon yet, as few mainstream films have come out of this movement so far. There's a Full Frontal here and a Time Code there and of course there's the "fundamentalist film making" of the Dogme series, none of which were truly financially impressive. The best known example of digital filmmaking is still the video portion of The Blair Witch Project. Another summer released horror film is hoping to supplant the memory of that film, and that new film is 28 Days Later.

Directed by Danny Boyle of Trainspotting and The Beach fame, 28 Days Later is an apocalyptic zombie film as social thesis, playing to the most cynical of human natures (and as always in zombie films, poking a bit at science). Waking up in a hospital, a native Londoner finds his city abandoned except for roving bands of murderous zombies. Can he survive? Is there a society left to survive for? Already a hit in its native Britain, it quickly gained a reputation as a terrifying film and a new kind of experience for horror junkies, who are always ready to embrace a horror film that's "about" something (not that there's anything wrong with ones that aren't). The relatively no-name cast (Christopher Eccleston and Brendan Gleeson will likely be familiar faces if not names) works in the film's favor in one way, in that it's much more effective without preconceived notions of the actors. The lack of recognition is not fantastic for the initial box office, but this negative effect can definitely be pushed up by word-of-mouth. Fox Searchlight has been giving this film the full court press in advertising though its screen count remains a relatively spare 1,200 or so. Even at that, 28 Days Later should still start out around the $8 million mark and continue on earning well through the summer months.

From the files of "Officially Skewed Perspectives" we have the reigning number one film, The Hulk. While it undershot the mark of several recent comic movies, a $62 million weekend is an impressive feat for any movie, and the shortfall between it and some of the other mega openers could be overcome with a good reception for the movie. However, that does not appear to have been the case. While the issue that kept the box office down on the opening weekend, suspicious effects, was solved to nearly everyone's satisfaction, a new issue cropped up that will stop Hulk in his tracks. The deliberate pace and heavy (for comic-book based movies) psychological underpinnings of the story left many unsatisfied. All the superficial indicators are against it developing a late set of legs; Cinemascores are mediocre, its numbers fell across the weekend and its weekday takes have been poor compared to the weekend figures. Individually, none of these indicators would signal trouble, but taken together it means tough times ahead for the big green guy. With the normal drop-off inherent to blockbusters added to a luke-warm reception, a drop of up to 55% could be in store. The Hulk should manage to stay above $30 million for this weekend, though, and will pass the $100 million mark on Saturday or Sunday.

Finding Nemo continues to swim the easy path through the summer, ending its fourth weekend still in second place and earning over $20 million after a mere 25% fall. Continuing on this pace would give the film an outside chance of passing Monsters, Inc. at $255 million as the highest grossing Pixar film at the end of this weekend. The change to a summer release pattern certainly has done them good. Even The Lion King's animated film record isn't out of reach at this point. Few could have expected a result this strong before the summer. Look for around $14 million leading into the big July 4th holiday.

Bruce Almighty will win a war of attrition to remain in the top five, beating out the sliding 2 Fast 2 Furious. The Jim Carrey comedy has held up reasonably well after its monstrous opening weekend. It's within spitting distance of The Grinch, Jim Carrey's previous record-grossing movie, but should fall short by a few million, ending in the $235-240 million range. 2 Fast, on the other hand, will have to work overtime to even match the $140 million of the original. As sequels go, this is a franchise-killing performance.

Killed before it even got a start is the American Idol franchise. From Justin to Kelly debuted with a laughable $2.7 million on 2001 screens and enters the "what were they thinking" file with films like The Adventures of Pluto Nash and Nothing But Trouble. Proving once and for all that AI viewers really like the spectacle and have virtually no loyalty, this horrible performance should nip in the bud a few dozen reality TV adaptations, for the good of all.

Forecast: Weekend of June 27-29, 2003
Number of Sites
Change in Sites from Last
Estimated Gross ($)
Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle
Finding Nemo
28 Days Later
Bruce Almighty
2 Fast 2 Furious
The Italian Job
Alex and Emma
Rugrats Go Wild!
Hollywood Homicide



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