Predicting the Holiday Weekend Box Office

Some programming notes. There’s a new crop of trailers that have come out in the last month, so I’m gonna be reviewing a bunch of them Wednesday. On Thursday I’m putting out my top 10 TV shows of the year list and then they’ll be in Sunday’s PopRox column in the paper. We’ll try to get local links on Friday, but who knows. all of this is subject to change, of course, but that’s what I intend to do.

So let’s hit the links before then:

not the start to the holiday season hollywood was looking for

Ruh roh. It’s been a pretty putrid box office year, and the news got worse this weekend when Sherlock Holmes ($40 million, down more than a third from the original’s opening weekend) and Alvin and the Chipmunks ($23.5 million, down more than half from the last one) both were terribly underwhelming. That comes a week after New Year’s Eve opened to $13 million — down almost 77 freakin’ percent from the original Valentine’s Day thing-a-ma-bob that is or isn’t the original, depending on who you talk to. So here we go into the biggest box office battle weekend I can remember with six, count ’em, six major movie releases starting Wednesday (release day in parentheses).

Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (Wednesday): Great reviews, huge per-screen numbers last weekend in a brilliant IMAX-only release and a really big international debut. The leader in the clubhouse. Prediction: $65 million Wednesday-Sunday.

Adventures of Tintin (Wednesday): Already a huge hit overseas ($239 million and counting), even though I still haven’t gotten a decent explanation as to who this Tintin character is. With Alvin and the Chipmunks disappointing, it’s positioned itself as the family movie to see over the holiday. Prediction: $60 million Wednesday-Sunday. 

the wild card of the holiday movie race

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Wednesday): The last thing this movie probably wanted — other than an early review — was the title of MTV’s top movie of the year. That immediately scared away everyone over 40, which would have been this movie’s core audience past opening weekend since they’re the ones that read the book and saw the original Swedish movies. Prediction: $35 million Wednesday-Sunday.

We Bought a Zoo (Friday): If any movie should have blinked in this game of cinema chicken, it was the one. When other movies started gobbling up these Christmas release dates, someone should have had the foresight to see how this weekend was shaping up and pump the brakes. There wasn’t one major release the weekend of Dec. 2, and this would have fit in perfect there and still been around for the holiday week. Although the last time a Christmas holiday was this crowded (2008), the schmaltzy, animal-centric Marley and Me was the biggest movie. Its production company? Fox. The studio on the schmaltzy, animal-centric Zoo? Yeah, it’s Fox. So there’s a formula at work here. Still think it should have moved. Prediction: $30 million Friday-Sunday.

War Horse (Sunday): Or maybe this should have moved to avoid the Spielberg-Spielberg showdown with Tintin. Either way, it’s going to make money. It seems pretty comparable to another Spielberg Christmas release, Amistad, so it will probably have those kinds of box office numbers. Prediction: $15 million in its first week.

The Darkest Hour (Sunday): The sleeper of the six because look at that list of movies and think about who goes to movies. What is there for anyone between 16 and 25 to be excited for? Dragon Tattoo? Word is going to get out pretty quick that you have to actually think when you watch it. Mission: Impossible? Tom Cruise is soooooo 20 years ago. So every kid home from college or off school for a week is gonna go to the movies and at least think about seeing this movie. If a quarter of them decide on it, this makes big money. Or at least bigger than you thought it would. Prediction: $25 million in its first week.

worst. actress. ever.

Interesting to find this today since I was Facebooking over the weekend on my least favorite performance in a movie I loved — Maxine Bahns in Brother’s McMullen. The only way I can describe her god-awful performance in that is if baseball sabermetrics were applied to movies, she’d have a negative Wins Above Replacement (WAR), meaning anyone could have come in and done a better job. A first-year drama student would have acted circles around her. But it also goes the other way — there are sometimes great performances in craptastic movies too. The only crappy movie I saw on that list was Green Lantern, and Mark Strong was OK, but nothing to say, “Wow, if he were just in it for 20 more minutes, this movie could have had something!” But that’s not true. That movie couldn’t have had anything.

What’s awesome about Matt Damon’s rant against Tony Gilroy for his original Bourne Ultimatum script isn’t that he basically called Gilroy a hack (and there is decent evidence to support that claim), but it’s that he owned up to saying it. I’m really, really tired of someone going off in an interview and then coming back and claiming they never said it. Bullcrap. 99.99999 percent of journalists don’t just make stuff up. They take copious, annotated notes and make sure everything they put into print was actually said. I’m sure a PR person got a hold of Damon and said, “Don’t worry, we’re just gonna attack the writer and say you didn’t say this, he’ll get fired and everything will be cool.” Which is what any good PR person is supposed to do, and most people with a PR handler would just say, “Let’s do it.” They pay a lot of money for PR firms, might as well use them, right? But credit to Damon for saying, “No, no, no, I said it, I have to apologize. It’s my mess, I’ll clean it up.” Matt Damon = cool guy. 

pretty hot for never landing decent jobs.

Are girlfriends of Marty McFly just cursed or something? Apparently Melora Hardin was first cast as McFly’s girlfriend — but got let go when the studio famously dumped Eric Slotz from the cast. She didn’t turn up again until The Office in 2004 (almost 20 years). Claudia Wells got the actual job, couldn’t do the sequel because her mom had cancer, and then never got a decent role again. Elizabeth Shue took over in 2 and 3 and then didn’t get another decent role until Leaving Las Vegas in 1995 and she hasn’t had much to sneeze at since then. If (when) they ever remake Back to the Future, hot young actresses should run not walk from the Jennifer Parker role.

Nice list of the best star casts ever assembled, though it’s probably a little too modern. There were movies made before 1994, I’m told. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World remains one of the greatest comedy casts ever assembled. I’ve always thought Clue was an underrated star cast, probably because it was the downside of the career of all those great comedians. And it’s not your traditional star-studded cast, but for a college basketball junkie at the time (me) Blue Chips was a wet dream cast. And even more modern, maybe some weight should be given to the actual quality of the movie. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Crash, but I certainly think it’s a better movie than six or seven of the movies on the list and the stars in its cast are just as good as any of the other movies.

I have up my Sirius over the summer after the radio was stolen and the company didn’t want to give me a free one back. So I haven’t heard Stern since then, and you know what? I don’t mind nearly as much as I thought I would. Now comes the next phase of my Stern Cold Turkey plan. Will I be able to avoid checking out America’s Got Talent with Stern in the summer? My quick answer is yes because I despise every reality competition show, and my love for Stern won’t be able to overcome that. But it’s the summer. There won’t be much on. I won’t have to keep up with it, I can just tune in to see what Stern is saying. So I can already see myself scanning the channels in July, coming across it and checking it out. What I do have a problem with, however, is Stern cutting his schedule to three days a week — one of the reasons I canceled my subscription — so that he didn’t have to work as much, and then taking another high-profile job. Not cool.

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