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Weekend Forecast
for April 12-14, 2002

By Reagen Sulewski

Sex in the City: The Movie.

It's springtime, and of course the thoughts of young people everywhere are turning to mano a mano battles between lawyers and family men and tales of demonic serial killers. Oh yes, and wacky hijinx about that thing called love. Three vastly different films make the slate for wide release this weekend, and first place is yet again anyone's to take.

The marketing department for The Sweetest Thing has decided to make my job easier this week by directly stating which films they'd like to have it compared to. This wacky romantic comedy starring Cameron Diaz lends itself quite easily to two other films in which she has starred, There's Something About Mary and My Best Friend's Wedding, both of which earned well over $100 million. Neither of them really had Diaz as their protagonist, but hey, you don't really expect them to compare it to A Life Less Ordinary ($4.27 million total) or Feeling Minnesota ($3.06 million) do you? Even the movie's poster is trying to remind you of There's Something About Mary, with a near re-creation of the famous pose from Diaz on that sheet.

There's been rather a dearth of traditional romantic comedies in recent months; before 40 Days and 40 Nights, you really have to look all the way back to Kate & Leopold for a true date movie. The ads may be mockable to a certain degree, relying as they do so heavily on pratfalls and other physical comedy. On the other hand, Diaz has made her comedy career by playing the gawky and the goofy and this is playing on her strengths. The other factor to consider here is that there's simply a lot they can't show us, as they disguise a raunchy, R-rated film that comes by its rating honestly, with a citation for “strong sexual content.” The ideal audience for this film is Sex and the City viewers looking for something else to fill up their Friday nights. It will be interesting to see how many make the transition from HBO to the theatre complex. This has no hope, obviously, of passing her personal record opening weekend (that of Charlie's Angels) but a respectable $16 million would not be out of line. I think this is a film that has a much better chance with legs than in its initial weekend, if the quality is indeed there.

Remember how recently Ben Affleck was going to be the next gigantic action star? Bruce Willis was going to take him under his wing for Die Hard 4 and pass on the crown for stoic, bad-ass heroes. Then came the train wreck that was Reindeer Games. He's done mostly drama since then, getting the most exposure in last year's Pearl Harbor. Now he returns to the thriller genre with Changing Lanes. When I initially read the premise for this movie, it quickly became one of my favorite pitches since Speed. Something must have happened from pitch to script to filming to marketing though, as this looks to be one of the most botched ad campaigns I've seen in some time. It should be a slam-dunk really; it's a tale of road rage gone wrong on a huge scale. Instead, it's impossible to tell what the focus of the movie is. Although there are some indications from the odd review that there may be more substance than the ads indicate, this isn't getting across. It's nearly impossible these days to open a film with basic star power to less than $10 million and this film definitely has at least that, with Affleck and Sam Jackson. I would be surprised to see much more than $13 million for an opening weekend total.

Star power is definitely not something Frailty possesses in abundance, with featured stars including Matthew McConaughey, who hasn't been a draw since Contact, and Bill Paxton, who is also making his feature directing debut (his past directing credits are limited to the cult-classic music video "Fish Heads". We can only hope for something that surreal here). It's also saddled with an awkward title -- when theatre patrons are reaching for their thesaurus to figure out the title, it can't be a good thing for its expectations. Another strike against it is its long delay in release... I recall seeing promotion for this as long ago as early 2001. A rather large feather in its cap, however, is quotes from Sam Raimi, James Cameron and Steven King praising this supernatural thriller. The only other film I remember King lending a quote to is Evil Dead, although I'm sure it has happened more than once in a 20 year span. Really though, this is a small film that is getting a semi-wide release based on a few celeb pull quotes and a couple of second tier actors. Those quotes definitely help a lot, as they move it from a “why bother” to, at minimum, a “I'll keep that in mind.” I'm not a big fan of Bill Paxton outside of comedy, but his particular drained speech pattern sees very appropriate for the kind of Stir of Echoes/American Gothic film this looks to be. With a theater count of 1,497 screens, it'll have enough to reach a small, but likely determined audience for about $4 million.

The limited release to watch this weekend is Human Nature, which, for a change, takes most of its buzz from its writer. Charlie Kaufman, formerly of Being John Malkovich, wrote this script, which deals with a man who was raised as an ape and is reintroduced to society by a researcher played by Tim Robbins. Hilarity ensues and lessons are learned all around. Meanwhile an audience scratches its head and wonders what the hell they just saw. Hopefully this kind of oddness can be encouraged, and on 224 screens, this film may be able to parlay a $1-2 million take into an extended run.

Forecast: Weekend of April 12-14, 2002
Rank
Film
Number of Sites
Change in Sites from Last
Estimated Gross ($)
1
The Sweetest Thing
2670
New
16.1
2
Changing Lanes
2613
New
12.5
3
Panic Room
3119
+66
12.0
4
Ice Age
3011
-189
9.5
5
High Crimes
2747
+30
9.3
6
The Rookie
2520
-4
9.2
7
Blade II
2174
-387
4.8
8
Frailty
1497
New
4.3
9
Clockstoppers
2512
-51
4.3
10
Van Wilder
2104
-8
4.0


     


 
 

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