Man, the voices of Jim Carrey and friends just won’t shut up! I’m talking, of course, about Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! The movie has earned nearly $100 million in less than two full weeks of release, and it shows no signs of slowing down — not with an utter absence of rival kiddie fare in the multiplex.
Which spells trouble for this weekend’s four big openers (the comedies Superhero Movie and Run Fat Boy Run, and the dramas 21 and Stop-Loss), all of which are aimed at the same general young-adult crowd. Among them, I suppose Superhero Movie stands the best chance of bumping Horton out of first place. Then again, don’t be surprised if these four films just beat up on each other while Theodor Geisel’s cuddly elephant cruises down its clear path to victory. Okay, before I throw another metaphor into the mix, let’s move on to the picks.
THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE
Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!
Fox · G · 3,826 theaters · 3rd weekend
Even if it does fall to No. 2, this film will do so as 2008’s first major blockbuster. At this rate, a total take of $150 mil could be within reach, and that would place Horton in the all-time top 20 for computer-animated fare.
Weekend prediction: $19 million
MGM/Dimension · PG-13 · 2,960 theaters · NEW
Eighty-two-year-old Leslie Nielsen pops up in this latest spoof film (from the studio and several of the creative folks behind the Scary Movie franchise). But I’m not sure how much that dose of nostalgia will matter to Superhero Movie‘s key demographic — a group of people born, like, a decade after Airplane! premiered. No matter, though: Lately, genre-specific sendups have been hot at the box office, with a core constituency that is guaranteed to show up on opening weekend in virtually identical numbers. Date Movie debuted to $19.1 mil in early 2006. Epic Movie debuted to $18.6 mil in early 2007. Meet the Spartans debuted to $18.5 mil earlier this year. And this flick should follow suit.
Weekend prediction: $18 million
Columbia · PG-13 · 2,648 theaters · NEW
It would be so nice if I could say that 21 will earn $21 mil at the box office this weekend. But that’s not going to happen. I mean, I saw this movie — a loose adaptation of Ben Mezrich’s nonfiction book Bringing Down the House, about a bunch of MIT students who made a fortune counting cards while playing blackjack in Las Vegas — when it premiered at ShoWest in Vegas (where else?) two weeks ago. It was pretty good, though I had three nagging concerns regarding its fiscal future. (1) While 21‘s cast is both sexy (Kate Bosworth and Across the Universe‘s Jim Sturgess) and venerated (Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburne), it doesn’t feature a big star who’ll really fill seats. (2) Although gambling has invaded popular culture in recent years via the poker craze, said craze has actually evaporated into something of a daze these days, a notion supported in part by the tanking of Lucky You last year. (3) Sadly, for a variety of reasons, the few mid-range dramas that Hollywood does deign to produce anymore simply haven’t been clicking with audiences — last year’s most acclaimed among them, Michael Clayton, for example, earned a mere $10.4 mil on its first weekend of wide release. So I’ll bet that its young stars and slick marketing campaign may boost 21 a bit, but I won’t be doubling down.
Weekend prediction: $12 million
Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns
Lionsgate · PG-13 · 2,016 theaters · 2nd weekend
I was never good at science…which doesn’t really matter here because there’s absolutely nothing scientific about this prediction: Tyler Perry’s three biggest hits before this one all earned between $11 mil and $12.6 mil on their second weekends. There you have it.
Weekend prediction: $11 million
Run Fat Boy Run
Picturehouse · PG-13 · 1,133 theaters · NEW
Here we have the feature directing debut of David Schwimmer, about a dope (Hot Fuzz‘s Simon Pegg) who strives to woo back the pregnant fiancée (Thandie Newton) he left at the altar. Schwimmer is, you know, a Friend, and Pegg is certainly a very charming chap with lots of talent and a growing U.S. following. So why will this comedy struggle to cross the finish line? Look no further than its stifling combination of a smallish theater count and merely mediocre reviews.
Weekend prediction: $5 million
THE OTHER NEW RELEASE
Paramount/MTV Films · R · 1,291 theaters · NEW
It’s good to see Boys Don’t Cry director Kimberly Peirce back in the saddle after her mystifying, Kubrickian/Malickian nine-year absence, but I fear she won’t find a warm reception at the box office. Not for this film, at least, in which Ryan Phillippe plays a veteran soldier unwittingly called back to the front lines in Iraqi. Acclaimed as it is, Stop-Loss happens to be the latest in a recent line of global-political dramas, nearly all of which have fumbled financially. Thus, MTV Films is trying to play up the movie’s youth appeal (it also features rising stars Channing Tatum, Abbie Cornish, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt) — a ploy that’s likely to fail considering its pesky R rating.
Weekend prediction: $4 million