The weekend box office should be gun crazy, what with the return of martial arts/ weapons maven Steven Seagal in the delightfully titled ”Exit Wounds” and the opening of the well reviewed ”Enemy at the Gates,” about two snipers who make the WWII Battle of Stalingrad into their own personal battleground.
But will moviegoers prefer their firepower vintage or contemporary state of the art? Box office anaylsts disagree. Robert Bucksbaum of Reel Source gives the edge to Paramount’s ”Enemy,” which stars Jude Law as a Russian rifleman, Ed Harris as his aristocratic German counterpart, and Joseph Fiennes (in his first leading role since ”Shakespeare in Love”) as a politically ambitious soldier who spreads word of their exploits. ”We’re predicting ‘Enemy’ will open in first place, with as high as a $13 million gross,” says Bucksbaum, who compares it to ”U-571,” another historical war movie that became a hit this time last year. ”The WWII theme is hot, and it’s a good film, with a strong marketing campaign that underlines how different it is to everything else out there.”
Gitesh Pandya of Box Office Guru is less sanguine, predicting an $8-9 million opening for ”Enemy” and maybe the No. 2 slot. ”Without American heroes and villains for the U.S. audience to relate to, the movie’s a tough commercial sell,” he explains. But both analysts say ”Enemy,” which at $80 million is the most expensive European production ever, will do most of its business overseas.
Meanwhile, homegrown action star Seagal could reverse his straight to video slide this weekend with the opening of Warner Bros.’ ”Exit Wounds.” Pandya says the urban set movie (opening at 2800 theaters, compared to ”Enemy”’s 1500) is likely to open at No. 1 with $9-10 million. ”Steven Seagal’s track record has been shaky in recent years, but teaming him with [rapper] DMX could bring out a whole different fan base,” says Pandya.
But that fan base had better be older than 17 but younger than 25, according to Bucksbaum. ”Number one, this is an R rated movie. Number two, people 25 and up are not likely to go see ‘Exit Wounds,’ even if they like DMX, because if they’re over 25, they’re going to remember seeing Seagal in so many movies that bombed and lost him a lot of his appeal.” Bucksbaum hesitates to offer a number for the Seagal flick. ”His movies haven’t done well no matter who they’ve paired him with,” he says. ”Even if you put him in a movie with Julia Roberts it wouldn’t look good.” Guess that shoots down their potential pairing in ”Erin Brock-o-Kicks.”