Box office preview: 'Cowboys & Aliens' takes aim at 'The Smurfs' invasion
With the debt ceiling crisis still looming, this could be the final weekend before the entire American economy collapses in an explosion so magnificent that Michael Bay wouldn’t cut away from it for two whole seconds. Realizing that you may never have discretionary income again, Hollywood is offering three — three! — new major releases this weekend. One’s a genre mash-up whose title tells you exactly what to expect (Cowboys & Aliens), one is a TV-series adaptation whose title can be used as both a noun and a verb (The Smurfs), and one is a romantic comedy whose title, for reasons we may never know, contains two commas and a period (Crazy, Stupid, Love.). Here’s how I think the box office will stack up this weekend:
1. Cowboys & Aliens: $42 million
Just look at its fanboy pedigree: director Jon Favreau (Iron Man); writers Damon Lindelof (Lost), Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek), Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby (Iron Man); and producers Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, and Brian Grazer. Not to mention that it stars Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and James Bond (Daniel Craig). All that’s missing is Nathan Fillion, and the geek assembly would be complete. Anyhow, what the $163 million Cowboys & Aliens has going for it is star power (both in front of and behind the camera) and an easy-to-understand concept that should feel unique in a summer stuffed with sequels, superheroes, and superfluous 3-D.
However, the fact that Cowboys & Aliens isn’t based on a popular property (it’s adapted from a little-known graphic novel) may discourage some moviegoers, as will its mediocre reviews. And past experiments with the Western (see Wild Wild West and Jonah Hex) haven’t received the warmest of embraces. For comparison, the alien-themed Super 8 and Battle: Los Angeles both debuted to about $35 million. Cowboys & Aliens will open a bit larger than that thanks to its big-name talent, but don’t expect a monster smash.
2. The Smurfs: $32 million
This is the real wild card. Will the $110 million live-action/animation hybrid follow in the footsteps of Yogi Bear ($16.4 million opening) or Alvin and the Chipmunks ($44.3 million)? Unsurprisingly, reviews have been abysmal, but star Neil Patrick Harris is among Hollywood’s most likable actors, and I get the sense there’s a lot of nostalgia out there for these little blue guys. (At the time of this writing, the ticket service Fandango was reporting that The Smurfs was selling more tickets than any other movie.) Toss in a slight box-office bump from 3-D showings at 2,042 locations, and I’m thinking The Smurfs makes it past $30 million.
3. Captain America: The First Avenger: $31 million
Cap opened to a solid $65.1 million last week. The year’s other two Marvel-based movies, Thor and X-Men: First Class, dropped 47 and 56 percent their second weekends, respectively. Look for Captain America to drop somewhere in between those two figures — let’s say a tad more than 50 percent. With an “A-” rating from CinemaScore graders, it’s got encouraging word of mouth, but Cowboys & Aliens should steal a significant portion of its older male audience.
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2: $23 million
Deathly Hallows plummeted 72 percent last weekend, but keep in mind it was coming off of the biggest opening weekend of all time ($169.2 million). In fact, Deathly Hallows crossed $900 million worldwide on Wednesday, reaching that milestone in a record-breaking 15 days — three days faster than Avatar. The final Potter movie is well on its way to becoming the franchise’s only entry to pass $1 billion globally.
Domestically, the film should hold up better this weekend. The last two Potter flicks to open in July — The Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince — suffered large second-weekend drops of 58 percent and 62 percent, respectively. Their third-weekend declines, however, were more reasonable: 46 percent and 39 percent. For Deathly Hallows, a drop of around 50 percent seems right.
5. Crazy, Stupid, Love.: $17 million
After The Hangover Part II, Bridesmaids, Bad Teacher, Horrible Bosses, Larry Crowne, and last week’s Friends with Benefits, the moviegoing public could be the verge of suffering from adult-comedy fatigue. However, Crazy, Stupid, Love. is earning positive reviews, Steve Carell has been a consistent box-office draw, and — in case the marketing campaign hasn’t tipped you off yet — Ryan Gosling shows some skin. Now if only that title could be Photoshopped.