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Box Office Brasserie:
Movie News For Movie Lovers

With over 135+ films opening or expanding into wide release every year, It’s very rare to see only one new wide release drop in multiplexes on any given weekend, much less twice in as many weeks.  But that’s what we’re left with, after Paramount pulled “The Wolf of Wall Street” at the last minute, opting for a Christmas release. C’mon though, they didn’t have much of a choice considering Scorsese is Scorsese and he’ll roll out the final cut when he’s damn good and ready . And, quite frankly, he wasn’t ready.

Universal is the direct beneficiary of Scorsese’s tinkering, as the unlikeliest sequel of 2013, “The Best Man Holiday,” will have center stage all to itself. That’s not to say the R-rated dramedy wouldn’t have performed similarly even with Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill running amuck amongst women and wads of cash, it’s just that “The Best Man Holiday” needs every advantage it can get.

Writer/director Malcolm D. Lee (Yes, Spike’s cousin) brings us his (eagerly awaited?) sequel a mere 14 years after his original dropped in 1999. Remember the Y2K Skynet scare? Remember dropping the ball with Prince? Remember that movie “Bats,” with Lou Diamond Phillips? Well, it opened the same weekend and finished 7th with $4.7M, while “The Best Man” took the box office brass ring with just $9.1M. Yes, the only thing more rare than just one new flick in cinemas over the weekend is a movie sequel-izing with a debut of less than $10M.

Sure, it’s true, even a long-awaited sequel like “Anchorman 2” took nearly a decade to come to fruition, and if “Beetlejuice 2” does happen, we’ll be talking about 27+ years, but I’m pretty positive there’s never been much chatter in sequel chatrooms pondering: ‘Dude, when’s that “Best Man” sequel dropping?’

Full disclaimer: I don’t creep around sequel chatrooms, but if I did I’d probably be frothing at the mouth, discussing “Zoolander 2,”  “WaterWorld 2,” “Buckaroo Banzai & The World Crime League” and “Army of Darkness 2.” But that’s just me.  And I’m a 30+year-old Caucasian male. So take that for what it’s worth.

To be fair, the original “Best Man” only cost $9M, and ended up grossing $34M.  Though it only made $500k overseas when it debuted, the movie also looks to have done well in ancillary markets to warrant this new installment. This could be seen as a niche film, much like Tyler Perry’s brand, but the poster reunites the cast of the original movie, portends some fun holiday antics, and inevitably hopes to pull in fans of Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs and Terrence Howard.  Debuting in 2,000+ theaters (just like every Perry film) it will likely surprise a bit, finishing squarely in second place with upwards of $20M–a number that will probably warrant a trilogy.

The real story this weekend will be how well “Thor: The Dark World” sustains without any direct competition. Marvel’s sequel grossed $10.4M on Monday, which was a holiday for many, but still that’s a pretty incredible number and nearly double what the original was able to do its first weekday.

And while some pundits laughably scoffed at Thor’s $86M debut (even though it was $20+M more than the original), especially when compared to the enormous “Iron Man 3” opening, remember, this was the first truly big superhero film in the modern era to forego a summer release and tap into the holiday audience. The first, but certainly not the last, as summer seems to suffer from spandex-itis  by the time Labor Day rolls around.

“Thor” dropped -47% in its second weekend, while “Iron Man 3” fell -58%–expect “The Dark World” to fall somewhere between the two with over $40M.

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WEEKEND ESTIMATES

1. Thor: The Dark World – $43M
2. The Best Man Holiday – $22M
3. Free Birds – $8.5M
4. Last Vegas – $8M
5. Bad Grandpa – $7.5M

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“FANTASTIC FOUR” JOINS 2015’S MEGA MULTIPLEX ASSUALT TEAM

Fox’s “The Fantastic Four” reboot has scrapped plans for a spring 2015 release and will now forge a path into summer, which is shaping up to be four monstrous months of box office stomping, eye-popping popcorn pics.

Forget about summer 2014, 2015 is where it’s at. Consider this line-up: “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Susan Cooper” (Paul Feig/Melissa McCarthy), “B.O.O.” (DWA), “Inside Out” (Pixar), “Jurassic World,” “The Terminator,” “Batman Vs. Superman,” “The Fantastic Four,” “Ant-Man,” “Ted 2,” “Tomorrowland,” “Minions,” “Peregrine’s Home for Peculiars” (Tim Burton)…and we’re just getting started, folks.  BOOM!

And holiday 2015 isn’t too shabby either: “Bond 24,” Peanuts Film,” “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 2,” “The Good Dinosaur” (Pixar), “Inferno” (Da Vinci Code threequel), “Warcraft,” Kung Fu Panda 3,” “Mission: Impossible 5,” “Live By Night” (Ben Affleck at the helm again), and “Alvin and the Chipmunks 4.” Am I missing anything? Oh yeah, and “Star Wars: Episode VII.” Are you kidding me with that lineup, 2015?!?! Seriously.

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“INDEPENDENCE” WILL HAVE TO WAIT

Hold off on those alien-kabobs. As we all know by now, summer 2015 is shaping up to be the grand-daddy of all summer sessions, as seemingly every viable film franchise ever is jockeying for audience attention.  That said, you can now cross “Independence Day 2” off that list as it was set to go head-to-head with Paramount’s “Terminator” reboot. Fox wisely decided to push the tentatively titled, “ID Forever Part I,” and will instead launch on the 20th anniversary of the original: July 1st, 2016.

Bill Pullman and director Roland Emmerich are set to return, that much we know, and it would make sense for Will Smith to suit up again, as he hasn’t exactly been Mr. 4th of July lately.  It sort of worked for “MiB 3,” so why not stay the course, fightin’ aliens and bustin’ out one-liners; might be just what the box office doctor ordered.  According to Emmerich, there are two version of the script ready to go, just in case Big Willy wants to reenlist.

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V-DAY IS THE NEW D-DAY FOR “50 SHADES”

After “Pacific Rim” hunk Charlie Hunnam dropped out of Focus Features’ harlequin romance adaptation, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” because of ‘scheduling commitments’ (ie he wanted people to respect him for his body of work, not the work of his body)  everyone knew it would be difficult to keep the August release date.

With a new lead, Jamie Dornan (“Once Upon a Time”), and a classy new date, February 13, 2015, all systems are go-go-a-go-go.  Yep, love is in the air. And by love, of course, I mean a box of chocolates, a dozen roses and a high-class porno.  Just think of the lusty marketing tie-in (or is it tie-up?) possibilities…if companies dare mingle with a minx of a movie that will certainly flirt with, if not fall head-over-heels for, the dreaded NC-17 rating.

This may be the most difficult movie since “Showgirls” to predict a gross, as you have to wonder what demographics will actually show up to theaters. I mean, let’s be honest, Cat Ladies can’t just up and leave their pride for more than an hour, that’s pussy-abuse! And it’s one thing to read a steamy sex story in the privacy of your own abode, it’s another thing to get hot and bothered in a theater full of horny strangers.

Maybe it’s the sexual awakening the world need, however, I think this pulp pic would be better served (for all parties) as the first big Hollywood release that swings both ways. Yes, I’m talking about the unspeakable evil that is…simultaneous theatrical and VOD . While most discussions on this topic make theater owners red in the face, I doubt they would even blush, especially considering that if “Fifty Shades of Grey” does end up NC-17 or unrated, it would mean most chains can’t or won’t book it anyways.  I know this flick is sixteen months away, but expect it to continue to heat up Hollywood until then .

Not to worry though, audiences won’t be entirely sexless in the late-summer next year; Sony has moved the Cameron Diaz/Jason Segel comedy, “Sex Tape,”  to the date vacated by “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Originally, it was set for 7/2/14, which would have put it on a collision course with Melissa McCarthy’s latest comedy, “Tammy,” then recently moved to 7/18, and now August 1st.

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CHOICE CUT OF THE WEEK: “DIVERGENT”

Is this the true successor to “The Hunger Games?”  Lionsgate/Summit, unlike nearly every other studio in town, has had substantial success in the YA genre–first with “Twilight” then with the aforementioned series.

Not surprisingly, they stick very close to the blueprint: heroine in peril in the not-so-dystopian future + true love interest (this time with tats) = box office bounty and a trilogy of films…that will actually become a quadrilogy when they split the final book into two films. Hmm. Seems like we’ve seen this before.

“Divergent” debuts March 21, 2014…the same weekend “The Hunger Games” began its journey two years ago.

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CHOICE CUT OF 1983: “SPACEHUNTER: ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE”

It’s entirely possible that Warner Bros. has Columbia Pictures (Sony) to thank for the success of “Gravity”–which has now earned over $475M worldwide and a substantial portion of that coming from the third dimension.

As indicated by the all-knowing, extremely authoritative voice over, “Spacehunter” is the first 3D movie that “puts YOU…in outer space.” Believe it or not, it’s 3D “as you’ve never seen it before.”  Whaaaa? Reeeeeally? In fact, little did you probably know that it was also “the first quality 3D film backed by a major studio.”  Wait, does that mean “Friday the 13th 3D” wasn’t a top quality film? Balderdash!

I remember watching this movie on VHS (maybe even LaserDisc) and thinking: “Wow, this really blows.” I obviously didn’t realize I was supposed to see it in 3D?!? How about a re-release Sony? Say, can you do a 3D retrofit on a film that was already in 3D? Does that make is 6D? 9D? I’m not really a math guy. #physics #science #rocketscience

WARNING: Make sure you pressurize you cranium before watching this, as the advancements in 3D might just blow your freakin’ mind.

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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.

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“Thor: The Dark World Poster” Courtesy of Universal Pictures; Poster Design by Concept Arts