Can anything stop 300? Until now, the violent period epic has faced little serious competition, and it has a domestic gross of around $140 million to show for it. So this weekend’s box-office battle — the most competitive of the year so far, in which the surprise smash hit faces off against a whopping six major new contenders — will be its first true test. And a familiar ass-kicking quartet should have King Leonidas finally bowing in defeat. That’s right, kids, Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo, and Raphael are back, and they’ll win the crowded frame…by a shell.
At least, that’s what I say. As we all know, in a jam-packed stretch like this, picking the winner really is anybody’s guess. So why not take a stab at it in the poll below? Last weekend, we all correctly predicted that 300 would return as champ. But this is a great opportunity to prove me wrong. And I invite you to try to do so — after, of course, you hear (er, read) me out.
THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE
Warner Bros. · PG · 3,110 theaters · NEW
I’ll admit that since I stopped being 11 about, oh, two decades ago, I had lost track of Master Splinter’s most notable protégés. Luckily for Warner Bros. (and its partner, the Weinstein Co.), a whole new generation has been turned onto the rambunctious reptiles thanks to a hot new Saturday morning cartoon, videogames, more comics, and so on. But will this fully computer-generated installment live up to its pedigree, which includes three live-action early-’90s flicks that earned a combined $256.2 mil domestically? Why, cowabunga, dudes! There’s been a dearth of escapist kiddie fare at the multiplex of late, and TMNT — featuring the voices of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Chris Evans, and the late Mako — will fill that void with nunchuck-swinging glee.
Weekend prediction: $26 million
Paramount · R · 2,806 theaters · NEW
Mark Wahlberg is as popular as ever, following his Best Supporting Actor nomination for the box-office hit and Best Picture The Departed. Without him, this R-rated thriller about an ex-Marine sniper who’s framed as a presidential assassin may have gotten killed at the box office. With him, it looks to debut as well as Wahlberg’s previous solo-starring effort, last summer’s football drama Invincible. Which, considering its rating and rivals, would be nice indeed.
Weekend prediction: $17 million
Warner Bros. · R · 3,280 theaters · 3rd weekend
Don’t think that the success of a movie about Spartans hasn’t irked me, a tried and true Michigan Wolverine, to the core.
Weekend prediction: $16 million
The Hills Have Eyes 2
Fox Atomic · R · 2,447 theaters · NEW
Depending on how you look at it, this is either the sequel of a remake (The Hills Have Eyes, which debuted last year with $15.7 mil, was a remake of Wes Craven’s 1977 cannibal-fest) or the remake of a sequel (because a follow-up to Craven’s original came out in 1985). Either way, the name recognition should help it bow better than many recent horror films (like Dead Silence, which made $7.8 mil a week ago).
Weekend prediction: $14 million
The Last Mimzy
New Line · PG · 3,017 theaters · NEW
Yes, it’s never wise to bet against a family film. Yet this one, directed by New Line honcho Bob Shaye, about some tykes who stumble upon a magical box of toys, might have a bumpy road to travel. That hefty theater count will help for sure, but competition from the Turtles will be stiff. Moreover, Mimzy‘s perplexing title brings to mind another recent children’s sci-fi adventure, 2005’s Zathura — a lovely movie that flopped at the box office.
Weekend prediction: $13 million
THE OTHER NEW RELEASES
Reign Over Me
Columbia· R · 1,671 theaters · NEW
The latest drama-ish movie from writer-director Mike Binder (The Upside of Anger) features Adam Sandler as an average Joe left shell-shocked by the 9/11 attacks, and Don Cheadle as the old friend who helps him cope. Happy times! Cheadle has never really been tested as a leading box-office draw, and while we know that Sandler is as bankable as they get, his track record in straighter fare (like Spanglish, which premiered with $8.8 mil in 2004) is poor. Decent reviews definitely help such adult-oriented pictures (and, early on, this one’s scoring an okay 64 out of 100 on Metacritic.com) — but they may not be enough to help Reign overcome its moderate theater count and downer subject matter.
Weekend prediction: $9 million
Lionsgate · PG · 1,518 theaters · NEW
The inspirational (and true) story of a swim team in 1970s inner-city Philadelphia stars Terrence Howard and Bernie Mac, and comes to a relative handful of theaters with high hopes. Which may well get dashed if it competes at all like 2006’s underappreciated inner-city drama, Akeelah and the Bee (which opened to $6 mil last April), or 2006’s underappreciated ’70s sports drama, We Are Marshall (which opened to $6.1 mil last December). Still, there’s one big wild card in Pride‘s favor: Its Super Bowl ad. Just look how well the other movie (Wild Hogs) that had a spot on this year’s big game has fared.
Weekend prediction: $6 million