bobxmasfeature

Are You Ready For A Christmas Movie…
In Mid-November?

Box Office Brasserie: Movie News For Movie Lovers

After what seemed like an eternity of the box office blahs, the one-two punch of James Bond and the Peanuts gang finally delivered grosses worth boasting about this past weekend, debuting with $70M and $44M respectively.

Hollywood suffered its worst overall weekend of 2015 over Halloween, so having ticket sales light up was much needed, and exactly the kind of kickoff to the holiday season exhibitors envisioned.

Sony’s blockbuster and Fox’s blockheaded-buster will no doubt retain the top two positions this weekend as the three wide newcomers—Warner’s ripped-from-the-headlines miner-tale “The 33,” Lionsgate’s early Christmas gift “Love the Coopers,” and Aviron’s faith-based football flick (yes, another one) “My All American” will likely have the box office going Back to the Future, like it’s late-October all over again.

With cinnamon-infused pinecones wafting through the air at every turn, it’s almost enough to put a holiday spell on you. Almost. And those red Starbucks cups…well, they make the spirit soar.

Thing about Christmas movies, like “Love the Coopers,” is that if you launch them too early, they often immediately turn into a lump of coal. There’s no shelf life unless, of course, you’re the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

Now, I don’t mean to be a Grinch or a Krampus or a Hanukkahater, but Nov. 14 is too just too early for a Christmas comedy, despite what Target and Wal*Mart are telling you.  And besides, if you really need your Xmas fix, Hallmark Channel is already going full-on fruitcake, showing all their cookie-cutter classics.

In 2,400+ theaters, “Love the Coopers” looks to join films like “Surviving Christmas” and  “Deck the Halls,” and be quickly regifted…maybe on VOD or even on home disc by Dec. 25th.  Reviews haven’t been nice, in fact, mostly naughty, so don’t expect much more than $5M or so.

Warner Bros. is also tugging at the heart strings as it launches the Chilean mine-drama, “The 33” during that time of the season where people actually seem to have feelings and care about humanity. It needs all the help it can get, as awareness is pretty abysmal.

It is based on the inspiring true story, and the book entitled “Deep Down Dark,” which really is a great title, but I can see why they changed it, as the porn adaptation would have absolutely nothing to work with.

Hey, I love a good spelunking movie as much as the next guy, but couldn’t they have just said, “based on a true story…but, now in space”? That would’ve been cool. We know how this one ends: $7M in 2,400+ theaters.

Speaking of Hallmark-type movies, “My All American” kicks off in 1,500+ theaters and seems like the umpteenth godly movie about gridiron greats. Are there no other sports that have the attention of the almighty? Doesn’t God care about basketball? Badminton? Billiards? Bocce ball? Obviously not.

This fall’s “Woodlawn” has performed decently with $12M so far, and we’ve seen “Facing the Giants” stand tall with $10M. Newcomer, Aviron Pictures, is certainly swinging for the fences though, as ads on Monday Night Football don’t come cheap.

Truth is, this has a solid pedigree, as it’s another true-life story from Angelo Pizzo, the screenwriter of “Hoosiers” and “Rudy”—two classics in terms of the sports bio genre. Pizzo makes his directing debut here and may score upwards of $3M-4M. That said, there are some great college and pro match-ups this weekend. Will couch denizens really be motivated to go further than Costco?

To be fair, these are all modestly budgeted films, as “My All American” cost $20M, “The 33” had a price tag of $26M, and “Love the Coopers” just $17M. So they don’t have to make splashy debuts, they just have to survive the holiday rush.

In exclusive release, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt get cozy in Jolie’s second feature as a director, “By the Sea.” Universal drops her R-rated ode to 70s new Hollywood filmmaking (call it European cinema if you will) into 10 theaters this weekend.

“Mr. & Mrs. Smith” this is not.

However, if it’s anything like her last film, “Unbroken,” you know it will be gorgeous. However, finding a wide audience for what is essentially an arthouse film like this can be tricky, even though Jolie and Pitt are two of the most recognizable faces in cinema today.

Kudos to Universal for supporting her as she grows as an artist; it’s been obvious that the studio wants to form deep ties with her, and dropping $10M into her passion project is truly chump change, especially when you consider their trio of billion dollar hits—“Jurassic World,” “Minions,” and “Furious 7.”

Still, as films like “Labor Day” and even “Revolutionary Road” have proven, having high-profile actors in your film about martial discourse doesn’t necessarily sell tickets. Now, if you throw in a little adventure like “Romancing the Stone” or action with “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” well, then you’ve got something that appeals to the masses.

Doubtful “By the Sea” will ever get a wide release, but is also doesn’t seem like that was in the plans from the get-go. This was an investment in the futures of Jolie and Pitt, who also serves as a producer on this film.

Most people buy trinkets and sip pina coladas on their vacations, Jolie and Pitt shoot a movie. How ya livin’ these days?

It’s also worth mentioning that three out of the four major film releases this week are from female directors. Considering the great disparity of men and women at the helm in Hollywood, that’s gotta be a record. Pretty cool, but a long ways away from equality week in and week out.

Speaking of that, “Sufragette” moves into moderate wide release in 496 theaters. Will be a good test for that film, as it has been providing solid numbers in limited release the last couple weeks.

***

WEEKEND ESTIMATES

  1. Spectre – $32M
  2. The Peanuts Movie – $29M
  3. The 33 – $7M
  4. The Martian – $7M
  5. Love the Coopers – $6M

***

CHOICE CUT OF THE WEEK: Pixar’s “Finding Dory” (June 17, 2016)

One of Pixar’s most beloved (not to mention highest grossing) films of all-time gets the sequel treatment. For you sequel-cynics, just be glad it’s not “Cars 3” (whoops, that’s coming summer 2017).

Pixar knows story. And you know they’ll do right by the characters here. Truth is, outside of possibly “Captain America: Civil War” this will likely be the highest grossing movie worldwide next summer…so you might as well just prepare to dive in hook, line and sinker.

Oh, and bring your box of Kleenex. Pixar does that better than anyone.

***

CHINTZY CUT OF THE WEEK: Universal’s “Warcraft” (June 10, 2016)

Remember “John Carter?” Uh-huh. Let me ask another question: Remember “Avatar”?

Legendary Pictures’ adaptation of one of the most massive online games of all-time is attempting to expand its fan base this summer, and “Warcraft” looks like it falls somewhere between the two–to be fair, though, it’s probably closer to Disney’s flop than Fox’s blockbuster.

Hollywood has a very short memory span. That can be good, or bad, depending on the project. They have to though, otherwise why would they spend $100M+ on a video game adaptation? Some day, someone will make an incredible video game adaptation; however, this doesn’t look like that film…despite the extremely talented Duncan Jones (“Moon,” “Source Code”) at the helm.

Thing about these big-budget, multi-platform properties is that there are a lot of short-order cooks in the kitchen. And sure, you definitely need more than one to make a Jurassic-sized blockbuster these days. That said, this trailer doesn’t look much different than “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “Lord of the Rings,” “Avatar” or, yes, “John Carter.”

When you don’t have something that knocks people’s socks off right out of the gate, outside of internet hype, you are left with something that feels soulless and is merely trying to duplicate success by riding on coattails, rather than creating true cinema magic.

That’s what’s missing here. This feels like an amalgamation of things we’ve seen too many times before. Hopefully I’m wrong, because I think there are a lot of legitimate stories in the video game universe that can be told on the silver screen. However, until there’s a “Pirates of the Caribbean” style break through, one that doesn’t feature a lady in tight spandex (“Tomb Raider,” “Resident Evil”), “big-budget video game adaptation” will always be a dirty word in Tinseltown.

***

CHOICE TV DINNER OF THE WEEK: Netflix’s “Master of None”

Let’s face it, binge-watching is sort of a right of passage for weekend “stay-cations” these days. And often, it’s a lot more fulfilling than what’s being offered in theaters these days.

Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None,” based on his best-selling memoir “Modern Romance” is about the best thing on VOD right now. Ansari has been hit and miss in movies throughout his career–always just a tad underused or slightly off–and is probably most well known for his stint on NBC’s “Parks & Rec.”

Here, he finally fulfills the promise that his stand-up routine make perfectly clear: he is the funniest guy in the room right now…and that’s always the person that is most in touch with the world around him.   He’s in touch, with himself, and you get to watch. Yes, in a perverted way. It’s not even close to politically correct, it says the things you’re thinking, and is probably the most honest representation of parenting on TV right now. That’s why it’s so right.

If you’re gonna do it right, you gotta do it yourself…which is why Ansari cast his real life mom and dad to play his parents. So hilarious.

***

Jeff Bock, NewsWhistle’s movie editor, is the senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations in Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at Jeff@NewsWhistle.com.

***

“Love the Coopers” Poster Image Courtesy of Lionsgate