franken

Box Office Brasserie:
Movie News for Movie Lovers

After a record-breaking heat wave that was MLK weekend, Hollywood is seemingly due for a cold spell. This is the doldrums of January after all; a marketplace that has only seen two films debut north of $40+M in the history of filmdom.

That box office deep freeze certainly could arrive in the form of Lionsgate’s “I, Frankenstein,” which has the marketplace all to itself, although it will be tough to topple January’s biggest opener of all time, “Ride Along,” featuring the comedic stylings of Ice Cube and Kevin Hart.

Cube has been making franchise films for decades, but everyone knows the real secret ingredient of last weekend’s box office blaze was Hart, who after a series of supporting roles and stand-up comedy concert movies, was more than ready to pop off.

He did…in a big, big way. Popcorn is certainly in his future, lots of it, as Universal was already talking “Ride Along” sequel even before it opened. Not a surprise, considering it carried a price tag of just $25M.

Heck, I’m not sure Rent-A-Wheel—who the motor-mouth comic did countless radio spots for—could rent him for 5 minutes these days, as he’s the new James Brown—the hardest workin’ man in show business, with no less than two additional films arriving this year—spring’s “About Last Night” and summer’s “Think Like a Man Too.”

With a $41M opening weekend and $48M over the extended holiday, even a drop of -50% should be enough for “Ride Along” to be 2014’s first repeat offender. I suspect it will hold a bit better than that though, probably cruising in at $23M or so.

Stitching IMAX and 3D together for “I, Frankenstein” probably won’t be enough to save the $65M horror/action flick, as it arrives from the producers of the “Underworld” franchise. And while Aaron Echhart has action star experience with “Battle: Los Angeles” and this past spring’s “ Olympus Has Fallen,” it doesn’t do anyone any favors when you have a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. Ouch.

The “Underworld” series spawned four films, all which opened in the $20M range, and averaged around $100M globally. And even though a genre film like “I, Frankenstein” not being reviewed for critics doesn’t mean much anymore, the lack of any sustainable fanboy buzz is a bit baffling.

Still, consider the similarly-themed “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” debuted the same weekend last year, which was also slayed by awful reviews, yet still cooked up $19M in its domestic debut and a sequel-worthy total of $225M worldwide. That’s probably the best-case scenario for “I, Frankenstein,” although far from likely.

I’ll admit, as far as horror genres go, Frankenstein is way down on the chopping block compared to vampires, ghosts, zombies, demons, aliens, evil robots, werewolves, dolls that come to life and even gelatinous blobs. And if fans feel the same way, well, it may end up on the lower end of the spectrum, with $10M-$12M, as early tracking has indicating.

That would be pretty awful for Lionsgate, who already had another costly 3D film, “The Legend of Hercules,” tank this year. To be fair though, they were merely the distributor on these projects, so let’s not kill the messenger…we’ll just rough ’em up a bit.  In summation: More “I,Robot,” less “I, Frankenstein” and this might have been a hit.

The last major live-action Frankenstein release was Kenneth Branagh’s 1994 version, which was shredded domestically, grossing just $22M, but made up for it overseas cinching up $90M. Interestingly, even Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie” underperformed a couple years back, debuting with a lifeless $11M and finishing with just $35M.

In limited release, Roadside Attractions is dishing out Vanessa Hudgens’ “Gimme Shelter” at 384 sites. The film looks like a reboot of an old after school special, featuring an abusive mother, pregnant daughter and a search for her long lost father–Brendan Fraser! Look, we all know Hudgens can act…didn’t everyone see “Spring Breakers?” I just think most people prefer to see her act…in a bikini.

Hey, at least Movieline’s Pete Hammond loved it, as evident by the trailer that’s crafted around every blurb Hammond blurted out: “Vanessa Hudgens is a Complete Revelation,” “An Unexpected and Stunning Performance That Comes From the Heart,” and “An Inspiring, Gripping and Powerful Experience.” Not gonna lie: when I get free popcorn and a soda at an advance screening I like just about everything, too.

So, you mean no other “critic” liked “Gimme Shelter?” With just 18% on Rotten Tomatoes…that appears to be the case. The PG-13 drama will probably be fortunate to snag $500k.

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WEEKEND ESTIMATES

1. RIDE ALONG – $23M
2. I, FRANKENSTEIN – $15M
3. LONE SURVIVOR – $13M
4. THE NUT JOB – $12.5M
5. JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT – $11M

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SPLICE OF LIFE: BLURBS, BLIPS, CUTS & CLIPS

UNIVERSES COLLIDE: DARING DC TAKES ON MIGHTY MARVEL

In case you just returned from banishment in the Phantom Zone, you might not have heard that Warner Brothers’ “Untitled Superman Batman Film” has been moved from its original July 17, 2015 release date and instead set to deliver blows on May 6, 2016. The ultimate showdown between DC’s most iconic superheroes isn’t the only fight brewing, though.

The problem? Marvel has already set “Marvel Untitled” for that exact date, and has pretty much owned the first weekend of summer over the last decade. So the fact that DC double-teamed Marvel is either a show of spandex swagger…or last-ditch lunacy.

They say there isn’t a rivalry unless both sides win a few box office battles. Well, if that’s the case, DC is barely a contender.

Over the last decade, Marvel has owned the multiplexes, with Fox, Sony, Paramount and now Disney dropping dozens of hit films, and more importantly, owning the pop culture pulse when it comes to superhero flicks.

Outside of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, DC hasn’t had much luck, offering up a dim-bulb in “Green Lantern” and the mostly shruggable “Man of Steel” reboot this past summer. I think we can all agree Iron Man is the real Man of Steel, as Tony Stark’s alter-ego outgrossed Superman this past summer, nearly doubling up on the all-American icon, $1.2 billion vs. $668 million.

So, what film might Marvel offer up? Rumors have persisted that “Doctor Strange,” “Captain Marvel,” “Black Panther,” or even another “Hulk” reboot may fit the bill.

But if Marvel is really gonna go head-to-head with DC’s most diabolical duo, or let’s call it what it is–a pre-Justice League movie–since Wonder Woman and possibly Lex Luthor, The Flash and Aquaman may make appearances, Marvel really has to up the ante if it truly wants to compete and go with “Iron Man 4” or “Avengers 3.”

While that might not be doable considering the time constraints of filming the “Avengers” sequel, what might work is something like “Avengers: West Coast,” or “Guardians of the Galaxy 2,” if that turns into a surprise hit this summer that many expect. And there’s always “Thor 3” or “Captain America 3,” too. Excuse me while I adjust my codpiece, cuz all these possibilities have me sweatin’ bullets; this is almost too tantalizing to comprehend.

Know this: Marvel isn’t going away without a fight. And why should they? They’re the tried and true box office champs. In fact, a Marvel entity has kicked off the summer slate every year since 2007, with “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” set for May 3, 2014, and “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” rolling out May 1, 2015. That’s nearly a decade of dominance and proof-positive that this galactic box office battle is just beginning. Your move, Marvel.

No matter what happens though, the real winner is audiences anyways, as I don’t know anyone that wouldn’t wanna see both films the same weekend regardless. Sure, a double-header may diminish the opening numbers a bit, but it certainly won’t affect the long-term bottom line. Hell, if neither budges, this will officially go down on 2016 calendars as Fanboy Day. In fact, that Friday will likely become a national holiday. Fanboy Nation…UNITE!

UPDATE:

Well, that didn’t take long. DC vs. Marvel: Round 2. Disney announced late Thursday afternoon that Marvel’s “Ant-Man” will now move from July 31, 2015 to July 17, 2015–you know, the spot “Untitled Superman Batman Film” just vacated. Just one problem with that; Warner Bros. already slotted “Untitled Peter-Pan Adventure” from director Joe Wright there. Hmm. Things are escalating pretty quickly. Pull up a chair and grab some popcorn…this showdown has just begun. Dun. Dun. Dun.

Here’s a little sample of what a DC vs. Marvel throwdown might look like.

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QT’S “HATEFUL EIGHT” DOESN’T STAY ON THE QT, SO QT QUITS IT

Nothing says disgruntled auteur like one who takes away his toys away before anyone has had a chance to play with them. Or in this case, saddle up to them.

After word got back to Quentin Tarantino that the new script for his proposed western, “Hateful Eight” leaked, he put the kibosh on it, telling anyone who would listen that he simply wasn’t going to make it anymore. Well, piss up a rope.

Here’s a tip for Tarantino: It’s 2014—there are no secrets…not even in North Korea. The world is wired like never before and secret Internet police are everywhere. In fact, they may be hacking into Tarantino’s laptop as we speak, if only to sneak a peek at his award-winning grocery list.

Who cares if the script got out there…the proof is in the pudding and no one congeals a pic quite like Tarantino, the maestro of mash-up moviemaking that, like him or not, leaves a unique imprint on audiences with his flashy flicks that are, if nothing else, visually enthralling and endless conversation starters.

Whether it got out now, or when production was to begin, it was bound to happen. I mean, with hundreds of crewmembers having access to it, and most of them about as trustworthy as penny stock traders. Not sure if this is just Tarantino’s way of bowing out ungracefully, or him wanting a little ego-stroking.

Word on the street is he gave the script out to six people, three of them actors, and soon after, agents starting calling him pitching their clients. In a fit, Tarantino announced he was shelving the project and simply publishing it instead. Besides, he has “ten more where that came from.” Oh yeah? Who are you gonna show those to? Maybe head over to Koreatown and rent out a private karaoke booth for exclusive readings next time.

Whatever the why, it surely had nothing to do with financing, since his last two pics have been the highest grossing films of his career: “Inglorious Basterds” ($321M) and “Django Unchained” ($425M). Every studio in town would jump in bed with him, of course, that also means getting between the sheets with The Weinstein Company, too, as he is their go-to guy.

The western is far from dead in the capable hands of Tarantino, and obviously showmanship and theatrics are alive and well too, but secrecy isn’t really a viable option when making motion pictures anymore, especially not with a personality as prolific as Tarantino.

People talk. They get excited when Tarantino discusses a new project. If he wants to do a book, fine, but audiences are most enchanted with his filmmaking skills, and since he only does a project every three years or so, this may just be Tarantino’s way of changing his mind about what he wants to do next.

Idle speculation aside, what about turning it into a scathing anti-Hollywood satire titled, “The Sinful Six,” where a crazed director goes on the warpath to hunt down those who betrayed him. Blood. Bullets. Redemption. Rewrites. What more could Tarantino fans want?

Hey, if QT’s not doing a western, or revenge thriller, how about rebooting Sam Peckinpah’s classic trucker flick, 1978’s “Convoy.”  Would love to see what he could do with this. Catch ya on the flip flop.

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CHOICE CLIP OF THE WEEK: Disney’s “Maleficent” (May 30, 2014)

Is this the second-coming of Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland,” which grossed over one billion worldwide? Don’t be surprised if it is. Unspooling over the lucrative Memorial Day Weekend, expect magical results for the Mouse House, as they continue to dip into their classic cartoon stable, transforming the timeless tales into live-action tentpoles. No one is calling this a sleeper hit… it already looks like one of the biggest films of the summer.

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CULT CUT OF THE WEEK: “Frankenhooker” (1990)

I know I watched this growing up, in fact, I’m pretty sure I recorded onto VHS along with “Re-Animator” and probably “The Toxic Avenger.” That’s a triple-feature treat right there! Yet, after watching the trailer I have no recollection of “Frankenhooker” whatsoever. I blame Tang, mostly. It’s also a sure sign that I’ve gotta break my VHS player out of moratorium and watch this. What’s that you say? It’s not 1994 anymore? Every crappy film that has ever been made in the pursuit of crappyness is available to watch on YouTube…for free? Uncut? Well, there you have it, folks.

“Some assembly may be required.” Classic.

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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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“I, Frankenstein” Poster Courtesy of Lionsgate; Poster Design by Ignition Print