Box Office Guru Preview: Fool's Gold Hopes to Shine in Battle of New Comedies

Roscoe Jenkins, Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy also vie for box office.

by | February 7, 2008 | Comments

Hollywood plays the race card this weekend opening a pair of star-driven comedies, one for white moviegoers and the other for black audiences. Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson get the wider release with the romantic adventure comedy Fool’s Gold while debuting in 741 fewer theaters is Martin Lawrence‘s family reunion laughfest Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins. Adding to the mix is the standup comedy concert pic Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show which will also try to tickle funnybones from coast to coast. Not all three films will get to laugh all the way to the bank.

Five years and one day after their date flick How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days became a number one hit, McConaughey and Hudson reteam for Fool’s Gold. Directed by Andy Tennant (Hitch, Sweet Home Alabama), the PG-13 picture tells of an ex-couple that must band together to find sunken treasure. The Warner Bros. release looks like a winner on paper. Take two stars with a proven track record, put them in a film that combines romantic comedy with action adventure, and hefty grosses from both genders should come rolling in. The marketing has certainly been pushing all the right aspects trying to sell this as a Romancing the Stone for today’s twentysomethings and thirtysomethings.

But the film’s poor execution will be a major liability in the long run. Reviews have been among the worst of any film in this new year. Since Fool’s Gold will play to an over-25 crowd, the thumbs down from critics could have an impact. Bad word-of-mouth will certainly kick in after this weekend and hurt future weeks. Then again, critically-panned comedies packed with big stars usually sell pretty well with the paying public. Gold will play to the same crowd that powered 10 Days to a $23.8M bow and McConaughey’s 2006 rom-com Failure to Launch to $24.4M. Both skewed female and heavily white. The actor’s latest offering could open in the same neighborhood but should suffer weaker legs. Opening in 3,125 theaters, Fool’s Gold may bow to about $23M.

Hudson and McConaughey in Fool’s Gold

Moviegoers not up for Matt and Kate’s excellent adventure can spend the weekend with Martin Lawrence and his lively family in the Universal comedy Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee (The Best Man, Undercover Brother), the PG-13 film packs ample starpower into one film with co-stars Cedric the Entertainer, James Earl Jones, Michael Clarke Duncan, Mike Epps, and Mo’Nique. Four of the stars come from a standup comedy background which only raises the volume in the laughter department. The film finds Lawrence playing a self-help guru and talk show host in Hollywood who returns to his Georgia home to reunite with the family he left behind.

Roscoe Jenkins will pull in most of its business from the African American audience. Turnout should be robust given the starpower. Sure the family reunion story has been done a hundred times, but moviegoers will want to see all the big names under one roof giving them two hours of laughs. In the right film, and when surrounded by other marquee stars, Martin Lawrence is still a big draw at the box office. His comedy sequel Big Momma’s House 2 opened to $27.7M around this time of year in 2006.

Plus with this weekend’s Top 20 set to offer no other films led by black casts, direct competition will be minimal. The Ice Cube comedy First Sunday debuted to $17.7M a month ago and Martin and gang could do better. Reviews will not be very good, but that should not matter much. The only limiting factor will be the theater count. Debuting in 2,384 locations, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins could collect around $20M this weekend.

Martin Lawrence in Roscoe Jenkins.

For those who like their laughs purely from standup comedians on stage, Picturehouse releases Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show. The R-rated pic follows the Hollywood star and a group of comics on the road during their 2005 tour. Hannah Montana and U2 have had great success with their concert films over the last two weeks. But Wild West lacks the music and the 3D element that helped to make those two score at the box office. Most of the successful standup comedy hits at the box office have been from African American funnymen so Vaughn’s experiment does not have a proven formula to follow. Plus none of the comedians are big stars which is why Santa’s brother had to include his name in the title in order to grab the attention of potential ticket buyers. Most will probably wait for the DVD which is sure to have some unrated bonus material. Rolling into about 800 theaters, Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show could take in roughly $3M this weekend.

The marquee says it all.

Miley Cyrus rocked her way to the top of the charts last weekend with her Hannah Montana concert pic which opened to a scorching $31.1M with $15 tickets resulting in more than two millions admissions. The fan fever has spilled over into the midweek period as Monday and Tuesday grosses remained red hot with takes of $3.3M and $2.9M, respectively. A full-week tally of about $42M seems likely and with Disney extending the run of the film, more wheelbarrows will be needed to haul away the green. Still, most fans planned ahead of time to see Best of Both Worlds during the first week since it was promoted aggressively as a one-week-only run. Parents may hesitate to shell out more of the pumped up ticket prices for a second helping. Sales could fall by 45% to about $17M which would push the ten-day cume to an amazing $59M.

The Eye settled for a decent second place finish over the Super Bowl frame and like most fright flicks, should not enjoy a good hold on the second weekend. The new menu of comedies won’t provide too much competition so a decline of 50% would leave Lionsgate with about $6M lifting the total to $21M after ten days.

Fox’s female-skewing comedy 27 Dresses will take a direct hit from Matt and Kate’s reunion. Look for the Katherine Heigl film to fall by 40% to $5M for a 24-day score of $64M. Playing to a slightly different audience, Rambo took a sizable blow over the Super Bowl frame and should see its drop stabilize to 50%. That would leave the ultraviolent Lionsgate sequel with $3.5M putting the overall cume at $36M.

LAST YEAR: Following soon after his first-ever Oscar nomination for Dreamgirls, Eddie Murphy rocketed to number one at the box office with the powerful $34.2M debut for the comedy Norbit. The Paramount release went on to gobble up $95.7M domestically and about $160M worldwide. Opening in second with a respectable $13.1M was the thriller Hannibal Rising which went on to gross $27.7M for The Weinstein Company. The previous weekend’s top two films followed, but switched their order. Universal’s Diane Keaton comedy Because I Said So held up well and grossed $9.2M while the horror pic The Messengers fell harder and took in $7.2M for Sony. Rounding out the top five was the unstoppable holiday hit Night at the Museum with $5.8M in its eighth frame.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,

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