Weekend Forecast for July 18-20, 2003

By Reagen Sulewski

Pressed for time, Sony compiled the press kit in a photo booth.

What would the summer be without a noisy cop buddy action movie? "Exactly," says Jerry Bruckheimer. So, whether we wanted it or not, we have Bad Boys II, the headlining film for this weekend. The Summer of Sequels continues, though with the way it has gone so far both box office-wise and audience fulfillment-wise, it might be more accurate to start calling it the Summer of Lowered Expectations.

Bad Boys, released in April of 1995, became a lot more significant in retrospect than your average off-season action film normally would be. With the first feature directorial effort from Michael Bay and the first lead performances from Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, it was the most career-making movie of 1995. Now, if we'd known that these careers would lead to Armageddon, Wild Wild West and What's the Worst That Could Happen?, we might have been more apprehensive about giving these three the chance to be stars.

What's done is done, though, and with Smith's and Lawrence's careers reeling from a string of unimpressive films and Bay with several thousand edits just going to waste, the "return to what you know" move makes a lot of sense for all involved. It's similar to what Arnold tried recently with Terminator 3, a comparison that may or may not leave you excited for Bad Boys II. So what's the plot? Who cares? Bigger, faster, louder is the theme of the day to the point where it might as well be called 'Splosion: The Motion Picture.

The box office potential here depends a great deal on what appetite there still is for the Die Hard/Lethal Weapon style of action flick, as well as how much star power Smith and Lawrence still command. Despite its general awfulness, Men In Black II still managed a $50 million plus opening weekend last summer and this winter's National Security was a $16 million debut for Lawrence. Reviews have not been kind at all, but this is a relatively review-proof film. Just put up the footage of the exploding cars (one word about CGI car chases: ugh) and you've got your audience, though as the summer may be showing, they're starting to get a little wise to Hollywood's ploys. In 3,186 venues, Bad Boys II should be able to pull in a respectable $43 million over the weekend. With the reported budget of $75 million looking positively thrifty in today's economy, that should be enough to put it on the "happy face" side of the ledgers.

When you think "International Box Office stars," you generally make up a list of action stars and pretty boys like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Tom Cruise and Leonardo DiCaprio. Bonus points if you include Rowan Atkinson in this list, who has twice taken a film to $100 million before it ever hit American shores. The 1998 smash Bean made a ridiculous $186.7 million in international money compared to the meager $45 million from North American moviegoers, a ratio that becomes even more impressive when considering Atkinson's popularity in Canada. His Friday-opening film, Johnny English, has brought in $106 million to this point, making whatever it brings in stateside gravy.

Atkinson applies his considerable physical comedic skills to the spy spoof, but one wonders if there's anything that hasn't already been covered by Austin Powers and Peter Sellers movies. The spy spoof has proven to have legs as a genre and English, which appears to be aiming for a slightly younger audience than others with its PG rating, may grab some counter-programming money for Universal. On a modest 2,236 screens, look for $14 million for its first three days.

The past two years have seen a virtual explosion of films aimed at a young (teen and pre-teen) female audience. Mandy Moore brings the next entry in this group with How to Deal, a relatively adult shift to the "young girl finds the perfect boy" story, contrasting her arc with a haggard-looking Allison Janney (of West Wing fame) as her mother. A Walk to Remember was a decent-sized hit for Moore in 2002, opening to $12 million and finishing north of $40 million. Though the Hillary Duff and Amanda Bynes films have been successful to a similar degree, How to Deal doesn't appear to have the spirit of fun that these films did. It likely will not be able to repeat the performance of A Walk to Remember, especially when it's not the main show for the weekend. This should result in about $9 million for a start.

In a summer short on word of mouth hits, Pirates of the Caribbean stands out among an ocean full of shipwrecked blockbusters. With Bad Boys II and this film, Jerry Bruckheimer will be the producer of the top two films of the weekend. A movie of pure fun, Pirates could very well be the movie of the second half of the summer. With 30% drops signaling phenomenal performance lately, Pirates could do even better than that, earning $33 million. In any event, the $125 million mark will be passed during the weekend.

Moving in the opposite direction is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which may just be the flop of the year. There's no telling how much of a falloff from its first weekend might be in store, with the 70% barrier nearly broken by Hulk. Under $10 million seems assured, with $6-8 million as a fair range for this piece of cinematic crap. More comic book movies are a good thing, but let's do them right.

The July 4th openers were lucky to fall as little as they did. Terminator 3 dropped 56% to just under $20 million, while Legally Blonde fell a "mere" 46% to $12 million. Neither seems likely to recover to any great degree, though Terminator 3 does appear to getting a bit of a post-opening weekend push, a rarity in this ear of disposable movies. The animated Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas fell just 37%, helped out by kiddie audiences, but it's far too late for this disaster to recover. It sheds a ridiculous 1,000 plus screens in just its third weekend. DreamWorks may be able to sell computer animation but traditional animation remains a Disney stronghold.

Disney doesn't do too shabby with the computer animation itself, as Finding Nemo will pass the $300 million mark this weekend. Given the dramatic increase in each successive Pixar film and the huge leap in earnings from the November releases to this May release, the next film from this partnership will either be a monumental record breaker or a crushing disappointment.

Forecast: Weekend of July 18th-20th, 2003
Number of Sites
Change in Sites from Last
Estimated Gross ($)
Bad Boys II
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
Johnny English
How to Deal
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde
Finding Nemo
Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle
28 Days Later



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