Has summer box-office fatigue set in for you yet? I certainly hope not, because over the next few weeks you will be so deluged with pyrotechnics, CGI, and witty banter that you need to stay strong. (May I suggest a high-protein diet, and perhaps some carbo-loading in advance of heading to the movies?) Between Bruce Willis in Live Free or Die Hard, Pixar’s animated Ratatouille, and the imminent debut of the Michael Bay-directed Transformers, if you are a living, breathing American, you should be going to the movie theaters between now and the close of July 4 holiday weekend. Because that wacky weekend starts on a Wednesday this year, the studios have hedged their bets and programmed a tremendous amount of fare over the next 12 days. What’s going to win this weekend? Well, it’s all a matter of how you slice it. Read on to find out what I mean, then cast your vote for which film will be the weekend’s No. 1 in our poll below…
THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE
Walt Disney · G · 3,940 theaters · NEW
Do you think Steve Jobs planned to have the iPhone debut the same day as Pixar’s eighth animated movie just to prove that he does, in fact, rule the world? It’s hard to know, but one thing seems pretty clear: Ratatouille will continue Pixar’s unparalleled winning streak. While the movie about a French food-loving rat with a passion for cooking doesn’t seem like the easiest sell, Disney’s pulled out all the marketing stops for this Paris-based tale. It’s unlikely the movie will open to the numbers generated by Cars, Pixar’s previous movie, but the Brad Bird-directed flick should bow to some solid numbers, and if it’s like its Pixar predecessors, it will play on through the rest of the summer.
Weekend prediction: $42 million
Live Free or Die Hard
Fox · PG-13 · 3,172 theaters · NEW
Lucky for Pixar, 20th Century Fox chose to debut the fourth Die Hard movie on a Wednesday — giving it a few extra days to breathe before DreamWorks’ Transformers comes barreling into every theater in the U.S. next Monday at 8 p.m. That decision will give Ratatouille the win for the weekend, though Die Hard 4 will have a bigger overall gross by the time the numbers are tallied on Sunday morning. And you’ve got to give the Fox marketers some credit for turning a dozen-year-old franchise into a relevant popcorn bonanza. Even the PG-13 rating that the Internet geeks pounced all over as ”diluting” the franchise seems to be working in Fox’s favor. The opening numbers speak for themselves: On Wednesday the film bowed to an estimated $9 million, setting it up well for the weekend.
Weekend prediction: $35 million (five-day total: $50 million)
Universal · PG · 3,604 theaters · 2nd weekend
It seems that Evan Almighty‘s ark has already sailed, so to speak. There is little chance that this Steve Carell vehicle will be able to bounce back after its dismal opening last weekend. Between Ratatouille stealing away the family audience and Die Hard scooping up the older moviegoers, Universal is going to have to pray to a higher power that its very expensive comedy falls only 50 percent.
Weekend prediction: $15 million
MGM · PG-13 · 2,678 theaters · 2nd weekend
This psychological thriller from the Weinstein Co. proves two things: Harvey and Bob can still open a movie, and the horror genre isn’t dead yet. Perhaps it’s the Stephen King pedigree or maybe it’s John Cusack’s allure, but whatever the reason, the film surprised box-office prognosticators and bowed to $20 million. As one of the best-reviewed movies in this genre in recent memory, perhaps it will hold up well. The only fear is that with so much else going on at the multiplex, it’s going to get crowded out. It’s likely to fall the standard 50% — but for a horror film in this market that’s not so scary.
Weekend prediction: $10 million
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Fox · PG · 3,963 theaters · 3rd weekend
While this Marvel Comics sequel has performed well, its time in the sunshine has passed. In fact, the film will be largely cannibalized by fare from its own studio — in this case Die Hard.
Weekend prediction: $10 million
THE OTHER NEW RELEASES
Lions Gate · PG-13 · 441 theaters · NEW
This Michael Moore-directed feature, released by the same guys who gave us the controversial Fahrenheit 9/11, bowed in one theater last weekend to a tremendous $68,969 gross. The film, which tackles our very ill healthcare system, doesn’t have the same degree of controversy surrounding it as did Fahrenheit. However, there’s been a bit of a dry spell with documentaries this summer, and Sicko, with the always-entertaining Moore at the helm, may help fill that gap.
Weekend prediction: $7 million
Focus Features · PG-13 · 978 theaters · NEW
In the season of big movies, counter-programming doesn’t always work. While ads for this well-pedigreed chick flick seem to be ubiquitous, there is no guarantee women will flock to the theater to watch a woman die, even if the cast includes some of today’s greatest working actresses: Claire Danes, Toni Collette, Glenn Close, and the mother-daughter duos of Vanessa Redgrave and Natasha Richardson and Meryl Streep and Mamie Gummer.
Weekend prediction: $5 million