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Weekend Forecast
for May 3-5

By Reagen Sulewski

Take a look overhead.

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can...

OK, so I'll be approximately the 765th person to lead off a piece about the Spider-Man movie this way. Originality is not the point here. The important thing here is to recognize how universal Spider-Man is. Few comic book characters have as easily a recognizable theme song, if they were even considered worthy of one in the first place. Admittedly, this puts it in the same category with Gilligan's Island and Three's Company, but the crucial factor is its recognition as a cultural icon (I think it's best at this point to leave out the requisite butchering of the theme for the movie by Aerosmith; there's always the version by The Ramones).

...spins a web, any size, catches thieves, just like flies. Look out! Here comes the Spider-Man

The Spider-Man cartoon was a Saturday morning ritual for me as a kid, even though I don't think I've ever bought a single Spider-Man comic book. Production values never were the highest; it was always a game of "spot the repeated frames", but hey, it was better than Rocket Robin Hood. Spidey comes from the world of print and ink, but the real cultural base for it is larger than just comics. I've seen and heard pundits refer to low comic-book sales - generally in connection with comparisons to the Harry Potter book series - which seems incredibly shortsighted, and is perhaps even tinged with jealousy. After all, this is the first film to make a serious run at the record weekend mark Harry Potter put up just six months previous. The Harry Potter series makes an important reference point, but only in the sense of blockbuster escalation.

Is he strong? Listen, bud, he's got radioactive blood

Marvel's troubles at getting their comic characters into a movie that doesn't...well, suck, are well-known; weak efforts like The Punisher and Captain America blot their record, and let's not even start on the Roger Corman version of The Fantastic Four, which never saw the light of day. Spider-Man, however, is Marvel's crown jewel, and considering all the bad productions that came out of Marvel, all the legal wrangling regarding Spider-Man's rights may have been a blessing in disguise. James Cameron was the name that stuck around for the longest time as a director, but the film eventually went to Sam Raimi, who in addition to the flashy Evil Dead series, has superhero-movie experience under his belt in Darkman. The selection of Raimi is as natural a choice as Tim Burton was for Batman.

Can he swing from a thread? Take a look overhead. Hey there! There goes the Spider-Man!

The value of the opening slot of the year has been prestigious and lucrative for several years now, even if that date keeps changing. I'm not quite ready to push that back into April just yet, so we'll leave The Scorpion King out of the equation for now. Last year it was The Mummy Returns, which shocked many by opening up May with a then-record non-holiday weekend of $68 million, which is so much for the idea that the opening slot has to be for the warm-up act (Hear that, Mr. Lucas? It is the sound of inevitability). I won't bore further, as everyone knows the examples of Twister and Gladiator.

The opening spot doesn't mean much without the advertising support behind it, which Sony, wisely, has committed to in full force. Several full trailers were released over the first half of the year, and TV commercials have been at saturation for weeks now. Even the promo tie-ins are at full awareness. They've slowly picked up the pace in the action in these commercials, too, moving from simple displays of the costume to some of the key battles and 'splosions. Early reviews also note that, while the action is there, it's not mindless, Tomb Raider-like action and there's plenty of solid movie-making present. As a movie based on one of the great pop-cultural icons of the last 50 years, looking as quality as it does, it appears impossible for it to do worse than a massive $70 million opening weekend figure. Given its gigantic venue count of 3,615, I predict even higher than that, and I expect it to make about $83 million this weekend.

Two smaller movies attempt counter-programming, but neither looks like they had much of a shot anyway. Deuces Wild rounded up all the neo-Christian Slaters, spiced liberally with cast members of The Sopranos, and delivers this half-baked-looking film about local mobs in New York in the 1950s. With 1,480 venues, this announces itself as a troubled release, and I don't see it performing much better than other recent youth bad-boy films like American Outlaws ($4.9 million on 2,068). About $3 million is the best this film can expect before a good life on video and pay cable.

Woody Allen keeps pumping out films with giant casts that almost no one sees; this will be his 34th behind the camera. Again he pairs himself with a much younger woman - this time Téa Leoni - thinking, correctly that at this point, the "How does Woody keep getting these women" jokes are so stale now as to be not worth making. It was only a matter of time. Small-Time Crooks was a bit of a resurgence of popularity for his films, but that $17 million total tells you how far from the main stream he really was before. Then there was Curse of the Jade Scorpion, a period noir comedy that failed to break $10 million. Hollywood Ending is his "wacky movie-industry comedy", but if ever there's an alienating concept for movies, that's it. The third film from Woody of his deal with DreamWorks, this doesn't look to break any of his box-office patterns, and a weekend total of under $3 million is almost inevitable.

The Scorpion King should be the film to take second place this weekend, but largely by default, as even with a disastrous fall, it's not going up with less than $7 million. It's also far enough out of the way of Spider-Man's box-office range that any lost business will be like evaporation from the ocean. A little under $9 million will push the total to about $74-75 million; however, it will have to work hard to avoid being the highest opening film to not break $100 million total (an infamous title held currently by Scream 3). Charging hard for second place, though, is Changing Lanes, which in its third weekend managed to hold on to only a 20% drop. This is one of the most miss-marketed films of this year, so perhaps it took a little while for the real nature of the film to make itself clear. Expect last week's two new films not to follow in that pattern, however, as 50% drops are probable for both Jason X and Life or Something Like It.


Forecast: Weekend of may 3-5, 2002
Projected
Rank
Film
Estimated Gross ($)
1
Spider-Man
83.3
2
The Scorpion King
8.6
3
Changing Lanes
6.8
4
The Rookie
4.4
5
Murder by Numbers
4.2
6
Ice Age
3.5
7
Life or Something Like It
3.2
8
Panic Room
3.2
9
Jason X
3.0
10
High Crimes
1.8


     


 
 

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