Will you be my valentine (er, valentines), dear readers? Pwetty pwease? Ah, forget about it. I already have a llllovah of my own — it’s called the box office! And it’s being one helluva difficult girlfriend this weekend. Four major movies are opening (Jumper; The Spiderwick Chronicles; Step Up 2 the Streets; and Definitely, Maybe), all with a strong shot at earning some big bucks. Also, there’s one federal holiday (Presidents Day on Monday) and one greeting-card holiday (Valentine’s Day). And, depending on how you look at it, this is either a three-day, four-day, or five-day weekend (most of the new films opened on Thursday, but my picks will be just for the Friday-to-Sunday frame). Phew!
I told you: The box office is being a pain! I mean, jeez, what a nag. I write it love letters twice a week on EW.com. I dream about it. I tell all my friends about it. What more does it want from me?
THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE
Fox · PG-13 · 3,402 theaters · NEW
In this mythos-laden, time-traveling adventure thriller, Hayden Christensen plays a ”jumper” with the ability to teleport and do all sorts of cool things. Rachel Bilson is his would-be llllovah, Jamie Bell is his mysterious friend, and Samuel L. Jackson (sporting a sort of Wesley Snipes-in-Demolition Man ‘do) is the leader of a secret group out to kill all jumpers. You know what it sounds a little like to me? Highlander! Hayden is Christopher Lambert, SLJ is Clancy Brown, Bilson is Roxanne Hart, and, uh, the kid from Billy Elliot is Sean Connery. Hmm. Maybe not. Anyway, the effects-heavy sci-fi/action flick, based on Steven Gould’s popular 1992 novel, comes courtesy of director Doug Liman, the man behind such boy-baiting crowd-pleasers as The Bourne Identity and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. It’s been several weeks since Cloverfield premiered (to a January-record $40.1 mil), so the dudes of America are getting hungry to see stuff blow up.
Weekend prediction: $37 million
The Spiderwick Chronicles
Paramount · PG · 3,847 theaters · NEW
Freddie Highmore stars in this fantasy-filled potential franchise flick, based on the popular kids’-book series, which is trying to become the next Lord of the Rings — and to avoid turning into the next Golden Compass-esque disappointment. On this weekend last year, Bridge to Terabithia (a film with a similar pedigree and fan base…plus girls) debuted with a strong $22.6 mil, so Spiderwick should land somewhere in between Middle Earth and the clutches of the Magisterium.
Weekend prediction: $22 million
Step Up 2 the Streets
Touchstone · PG-13 · 2,470 theaters · NEW
A sequel to 2006’s surprise hit Step Up (which debuted with $20.7 mil, finished with $65.3 mil, and made a small-level star out of Channing Tatum)? Solid gold, baby!
Weekend prediction: $16 million
Warner Bros. · PG-13 ·3,125 theaters · 2nd weekend
Now that we’re done applauding Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson’s ab-rippling, perma-tanned, treasure-hunting rom-com for its hefty $21.6 mil premiere at No. 1 last weekend, it’s time to get serious. How, pray tell, did one of the worst-reviewed movies I’ve ever encountered (only thing going for it is that critics hate the current Paris Hilton opus, The Hottie and the Nottie, more) do so well, especially when even audiences (who gave it a lowly B- CinemaScore review) were disappointed, killing word of mouth? Damned if I know. So why will it hold on well in its second frame? Simple: It’s Valentine’s Day weekend, people. Love makes folks do crazy things, like flocking to see crappy films. I guess it also means never having to say you’re sorry for doing so.
Weekend prediction: $13 million
Universal · PG-13 · 2,203 theaters · NEW
Think How I Met Your Mother for the film set: Soon-to-be divorcé Ryan Reynolds recounts his romances with Elizabeth Banks, Isla Fisher, and Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz as a means of telling his precocious 10-year-old daughter (Abigail Breslin) how he met…well, you get the picture. Is this romance aiming to draw lovebirds to the multiplex this weekend? Definitely. Will it fare as well as Music and Lyrics ($13.6 mil) or even No Reservations ($11.7 mil) did in their debuts last year? Maybe.
Weekend prediction: $8 million
FRIDAY EVENING UPDATE: As I wrote, this week’s new releases opened on Thursday, and numbers from that first day are now in. Jumper led the way with $6.625 mil in tickets sold on Thursday, but Step Up 2 the Streets ($6.6 mil) ran a very close second. Fool’s Gold banked $3.6 mil, and Definitely, Maybe was next with $3.1 mil. All four of those grosses are in line with expectations. The same can not be said, however, about the mere $2.3 mil earned by The Spiderwick Chronicles on its opening day. That’s a surprisingly low total, indeed, although the expensive fantasy flick should pick up a bit of steam when kids are out of school over the long holiday weekend.