Joshua Rich's prediction: ''World Trade Center,'' Oliver Stone's tribute to 9/11 rescue workers, will be No. 1, doubling the opening-weekend take of ''United 93''

By Joshua Rich
Updated August 11, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
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Credit: World Trade Center: Francois Duhamel
type
  • Movie

No kidding around this week. I’m leaving all my usual snide jokes back on the veranda at Moonshadows in Malibu. Because Oliver Stone’s serious and sobering World Trade Center — the second major movie about 9/11, following last spring’s United 93 — is the weekend’s big debut. It’s the summer’s last highly anticipated film not starring snakes. And after it premiered to $4.4 million this past Wednesday, it’ll wind up at No. 1 come Sunday.

Now, releasing a drama about 9/11 is a tricky proposition to say the least, and I can see a lot of people saying that this shouldn’t be about money — and, in many ways, I agree with them. Indeed, Paramount is also sensitive to concerns: The studio is donating a portion of its WTC earnings to charity. At the same time, there’s no denying that Hollywood movies — regardless of what they’re about — are hugely commercial enterprises, and this film’s gross still matters on many levels. So I’ll proceed gingerly.

Stone seeks some box office redemption after his last historical epic, Alexander, tanked with $34.3 mil domestically (it did bring in a strong $133 mil overseas). Moreover, the filmmaker has never been a big money magnet: Platoon, which earned $138.5 mil in the U.S. and Canada, is really the only blockbuster of his career. Too, industry insiders know that WTC‘s performance will mark the first major referendum on the year-old Brad Grey regime at Paramount. This is the first big movie made on Grey’s watch. For all of the above, things are looking good. Thanks to strong reviews (the film enjoys a 71 percent ”fresh” rating on RottenTomatoes.com), Nicolas Cage’s star power, and an ironically uplifting plot, Stone and the studio can be confident that WTC will earn much more than the $11.5 mil that United 93 brought in during its first three-day weekend last spring. In fact, look for this movie to do more than twice as well, winding up the Friday-to-Sunday period with $25 mil in 2,957 locations.

Meanwhile, Sony’s Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby has been enjoying a victory lap around the box office after its huge opening. It held strong during the week, earning about $5 mil per day, and will cross the finish line in a Cal Naughton Jr.-esque second place, by the length of a spark plug, with $24 mil.

Left in the dust will be three new late-summer offerings, each with little buzz, few notable stars, and striking similarities to movies of the recent past — none of which did too well, mind you. Sony/Revolution’s Zoom appears to be in the mold of super-family flicks like Sky High and Thunderbirds. Look for it to gross a modest $12 mil in 2,501 locations. Disney’s Step Up follows in the dance steps of Take the Lead, which stumbled earlier this year. It’ll take a bow in 2,467 theaters with $11 mil. And Dimension’s Japanese horror remake Pulse opens in 2,323 venues and should do a bit better than the similarly themed feardotcom — I’ll say ninemilliondollars.

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type
  • Movie
mpaa
  • PG
runtime
  • 83 minutes
director
  • Peter Hewitt

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