Joshua Rich's prediction: Harking back to his grittier beginnings, Scorsese's ''Departed'' will be impossible to outrun at the theaters this weekend

By Joshua Rich
October 06, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
The Departed: Andrew Cooper

Martin Scorsese’s The Departed is the big premiere this weekend, and, thanks to great performances from Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Jack Nicholson, it’ll easily finish in first place.

And, let me tell you, I’ll be so glad to see it succeed, because I’m really rooting for this movie. I was lucky enough to attend an early screening of The Departed a few weeks ago, and I think it’s great — Scorsese’s best since at least Kundun. (Yes, I’m the one who loved that movie.) I mean, I was totally giddy when I departed the theater after seeing The Departed. It reminded me of when I was 12 and I walked away from Empire of the Sun thinking that Christian Bale was the coolest kid on the planet and I wanted to be just like him. So I came home and found an old bandanna with Japanese characters on it and tied it around my head and strutted around the house for a few hours while imagining that I, too, was cool enough for John Malkovich to give me a Hershey’s bar. Nowadays, I’m a little old to be dressing up like people who I think are super neato, but the feeling’s the same: I just want to be these guys in The Departed. They’re so good.

The question, of course, is whether audiences will agree with me — and whether that kind of enthusiasm translates into big bucks. Scorsese has had a rough time of it, box-office-wise, pretty much throughout his career. Sure, his last movie, The Aviator, earned $102.6 million, but it was his only $100-mil-plus grosser ever. What’s more, his movies never have big openings (only Cape Fear opened north of $10 mil) but rather tend to build slowly over several weeks based on word of mouth and so on. Another negative is The Departed‘s hard-R rating. It’s very violent and filled with enough dirty words to fill a week’s worth of George Carlin performances. And yet — yet — I think it’s going to do really well, because we should never misunderestimate star power, and in Leo, Jack, and Matt, we’ve got three incredibly popular stars with proven box office records and devoted fan bases across all demographics. So look for the Warner Bros. release to earn $28 mil in more than 3,000-plus venues.

Speaking of star power, New Line’s R-rated-horror-remake-sequel Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, opening in over 2,000 theaters, has, basically, none. This actress named Jordana Brewster is the biggest name in TCM:TB, and you probably know her more from her appearances in the tabloids with Derek Jeter than you do from movies like D.E.B.S. This being October and the start of the horror movie season, however, the lack of so-called ”wattage” shouldn’t affect TCM:TB too much. It’ll bring in $20 mil.

Meanwhile, Lionsgate’s Employee of the Month features a few stars on the rise (Dane Cook and Dax Shepard) and one in a kind of limbo (Jessica Simpson). It looks kind of cute, but will make a mere $8 mil in 2,000-plus places — well behind Open Season‘s second-week take of $14 mil.

Oh, and by the way, if my box-office-prognostication hot streak continues for a fourth consecutive week, my bestest boss Jason has promised to name me’s next Employee of the Month and take me to one of those ”mind-blowing” Barry Manilow concerts that he just won’t stop yammering on about. (Copacabana, baby!) Fingers crossed.