Easter weekend sees four new wide releases hopping into the marketplace aiming to give the spring box office a boost.
Action audiences get The Weinstein Company’s two-for-the-price-of-one special "Grindhouse" while horror fans go for a scare with the religious-themed fright flick "The Reaping" starring Hilary Swank which opens on Thursday. Wednesday saw two competing family films bow – the Ice Cube sequel "Are We Done Yet?" and the pooch pic "Firehouse Dog." With Good Friday being a holiday for many, three-day numbers should reach healthy levels.
Moviegoers with three hours to kill and a love of death and destruction will line up for "Grindhouse," a double feature with separate films directed by indie heroes Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. The R-rated pic includes the former’s road actioner "Death Proof" starring Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson and Rose McGowan while the latter’s zombie flick "Planet Terror" stars McGowan and Freddy Rodriguez. Clearly the primary business will come from the young male fan base that Tarantino and Rodriguez hold dearly. Since there is so much overlap here, the grosses may not grow beyond what they’ve seen with previous hits.
"Grindhouse" has had some flashy marketing which is successfully generating interest. Plus there is starpower behind the cameras. Add in the two-for-one novelty item and the press tour that the cast and directors are on and it’s clear to see that a strong opening weekend will result. Debuts for similar ultraviolent R-rated films from the helmers include $22.1M for 2003’s "Kill Bill Vol. 1," $25.1M for the folowing year’s "Kill Bill Vol. 2," and $29.1M for 2005’s "Sin City." But cutting into "Grindhouse"’s potential will be its length which will force each screen to offer one less showtime per day compared to conventional two-hour films. Reviews have been very positive so the pic may reach a little beyond its core crowd of fan boys. Entering 2,624 theaters on Friday, "Grindhouse" could deliver an opening weekend gross of around $25M.
Following in the footsteps of Jim Carrey and Sandra Bullock from earlier this year, Hilary Swank gives it a go in the world of horror with the new religious-themed chiller "The Reaping." The R-rated film finds the two-time Oscar winner playing a scientist called in to investigate mysterious occurances in a small Louisiana town where locals believe Biblical devastation is on its way. Horror flicks with religious storylines usually connect with audiences and with "The Reaping" timed for an Easter weekend launch, a sizable four-day start is likely. The thriller should skew a bit more female given the protagonist while age-wise, the appeal seems broader than just older teens and young adults.
With the Thursday debut, Warner Bros. is looking to take advantage of the Good Friday holiday which will make Thursday night at the multiplexes seem like a Friday night. A Wednesday bow, which is common for this particular weekend, would have been more risky as bad word-of-mouth from opening day ticket buyers who return to work or school on Thursday would dampen weekend sales. Reviews have not been too pleasant, but the studio deserves credit for actually holding press screenings which nowadays is rare for a horror film. With "Premonition" and "The Hills Have Eyes 2" both fading away into the low single-digit millions this weekend, "The Reaping" is ready to cater to those in the market for a good scare. Warner Bros. attacks 2,501 theaters on Thursday and increases the run to 2,603 on Friday and could register an opening weekend of roughly $14M and $17M over four days.
Rapper-turned-actor Ice Cube conquered the kiddie movie box office two years ago with the surprise hit "Are We There Yet?" which grossed $82.3M becoming the star’s biggest career hit. For the sequel "Are We Done Yet?," Sony has replaced the road comedy element with a story about a family facing all kinds of obstacles fixing up their new house. There debuted to a solid $18.6M in January 2005 against almost no competition for family audiences. "Done" feels like the same dish served up again and has not really excited its target audience. Plus there is much more competition for it to deal with in the marketplace, notably Disney’s "Meet the Robinsons" which offers fresh new entertainment. Cube probably won’t see the same success the second time around but at least the grosses won’t tumble 82% the way they did when he took control of the "XXX" sequel. Now playing in 2,877 theaters, "Are We Done Yet?" could collect about $13M over three days and $16M over five days.
Families not in the mood for some fun with Ice Cube get to try out the boy-and-his-dog drama "Firehouse Dog" from Fox. The PG-rated pic about a celebrity hound that gets lost and later rescued by a firefighting team lacks the starpower and marketing muscle needed to deliver a strong opening. Between "Are We Done Yet?," "Meet the Robinsons," and even "TMNT," kids have enough choices this Easter weekend and will probably wait for "Firehouse Dog" on DVD. Bowing in 2,566 sites, the family film could open with about $7M over three days and $9M over five days.
Among holdovers, the Will Ferrell comedy "Blades of Glory" looks to lose its spot at the top of the box office, but should still deliver a solid sophomore spin. The comedian’s summer hits "Talladega Nights" and "Anchorman" both dropped by more than 50% in their second weekends. "Blades" has the Good Friday holiday to help soften the blow a bit. A 45% decline would give Paramount about $18M for the frame and a solid $61M after ten days.
Disney’s "Meet the Robinsons" also got off to a strong start last weekend, but will face stiff competition for families from both "Are We Done Yet?" and "Firehouse Dog." The 3D toon could slide 35% to around $16M for a ten-day cume of nearly $50M. The ultraviolent war film "300" may fall by 45% to $6M and lift its impressive haul to $190M. The worldwide tally should blast past $350M this weekend.
LAST YEAR: Still ranking number one with ease was the animated smash "Ice Age: The Meltdown" with $33.8M despite losing half of its opening weekend sales. Debuting in second was the Rob Schneider sports comedy "The Benchwarmers" with $19.7M on its way to $57.7M for Sony. New Line’s dance pic "Take the Lead" opened in third with $12.1M before finishing off with $34.7M. The Denzel Washington–Jodie Foster actioner "Inside Man" followed with $9.1M in its third heist. Rounding out the top five was another action thriller "Lucky Number Slevin" with a $7M bow on its way to $22.5M for The Weinstein Co. The Fox Searchlight comedy "Phat Girlz" flopped in ninth with just $3.1M before getting yanked with only $7.1M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com