stevejobsfeature

It’s A Box Office Free-For-All!
Which Movie Will You See This Weekend?

Box Office Brasserie: Movie News For Movie Lovers

With all the hype and hoopla surrounding the record-breaking ticket sales of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” one might think that Disney’s sci-fi epic was actually opening this weekend.

Nope.

Even though “Episode VII” represents somewhere along the lines of 95% of all advance ticket purchases, breaking IMAX pre-sale records and obliterating the previous advance ticket sales leader, “The Hunger Games,” by a margin of 8 to 1, it doesn’t actually open until December 18. That’s two more months, folks.

That kind of complete dominance over the movie-going public can’t be a good thing for the films that are actually rolling out into theaters this weekend, right?

Right you are, mi amigo.

With four new films–“Jem & the Holograms,” “Rock the Kasbah,” “The Last Witch Hunter,” and “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension”–entering an already crowded marketplace, as well as Universal’s “Steve Jobs,” which expands into wide release, well, that makes this the biggest free-for-all atop the box office charts that we’ve seen in recent months.

Last week’s champ, “Goosebumps,” which debuted with $23M, also has a chance to take top honors, however Vin Diesel will certainly try to muscle his way to the top with “The Last Witch Hunter” which stakes out over 3,000+ theaters–by far the most of any new wide release.

And considering how strong “Steve Jobs” has performed in limited release–grossing $1.5M last weekend in just 66 theaters–the apple icon may just shine the brightest, possibly bringing in around $15M as it expands into 2,400+ venues.

Ok, but why not “Paranormal Activity?” We’re talking about a franchise that has grossed $811M worldwide, and even the last one, “The Marked Ones,” which was seen as a disappointment, still debuted with $18M.

Well, it would be a shoe-in for #1 had they not pissed off theater chains, many who refused to book it. Why? Well, because Paramount and Blumhouse have aggressively shortened the home release window to a mere 17 days for this installment.

In their defense, for the horror genre, that’s not really a bad decision, considering most of them don’t last longer than two weeks in multiplexes anyway.  Especially for a creaky franchise like “Paranormal Activity” that is nearly played out.

Sure, Blumhouse spent upwards of $15M on this installment (far more than any other) but it’s in 3D, folks!? YOU CAN SEE THE PARANORMAL ACTIVITY WITH YOUR SPECIAL GLASSES!

It’s hooks like that that have saved fading horror franchises for years, including “Saw,” “Friday the 13th” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” And you know what? It usually works.

This could be the dark horse of the weekend and end up taking the top spot, as fans pay the extra surcharge. The only thing working against it is that it will only be in 1,400+ theaters, or roughly half of what its predecessors debuted in.

Vin Diesel is a bad ass. A one-note badass. He is Dom and he is Riddick…but between the ultra-successful “Fast & Furious” franchise and his “Riddick” trilogy, he basically hits all the same notes. So watching him stretch is sometimes a bit painful…and more often than not, unintentionally laughable.

“The Last Witch Hunter” should appeal to his hardcore fans, but looks too janky and quite honestly, miscast, to be a real hit. I sure hope Michael Caine received a fortune for gracing the screen with his presence.  His timber certainly adds a much-needed boost of legitimacy. Lionsgate spent an estimated $50M with Brock Eisner (“Sahara”) directing, which means financiers will no doubt look to foreign markets to make up for the weak stateside grosses.

Doubtful it can reach what forecasters are estimating with $15M, but “Fast & Furious” has never been bigger, so we’ll see. I will tell you this…it will be the LAST, “Witch Hunter.” That I know for certain.

This we know for sure: It’s tough being a rockstar at the box office. Both musically-themed films, “Rock the Kasbah” and “Jem and the Holograms,” look like they’ll hit flat notes with audiences, with both grossing around $5M this weekend.

Hasbro may have had monster hits with their live-action adaptations of “Transformers” and “G.I. Joe” but “Jem,” based on the cartoon series from the 80s, is getting almost zero support from Universal and Blumhouse, however, even though grosses will be equivalent to the sound of a record needle violently scratching vinyl, it did only cost $5M. But unless Netflix picks up the sequel, this series is played out after one showing. Sorry, Misfits.

6 to 10-year-old girls and aging lady-hipsters will love this, but the much sought after family demographic likely doesn’t even realize this exists at all. And how the hell do you release a musical without an accompanying soundtrack? Has that ever happened in the history of ever? I mean, even Universal’s “Josie and the Pussycats” had a record you could buy.

Speaking of that similarly-themed movie, it tanked too, grossing just $14M in 2001, but Universal spent close to $40M making that one. Guess we won’t be seeing “She-Ra: Princess of Power” anytime soon.

I like Bill Murray. You like Bill Murray. Everyone likes Bill Murray. That said, I’d rather see his Christmas special for free (basically) on Netflix, rather than drop $10 bucks on his latest, Open Road’s “Rock the Kasbah.”

The sad truth is, most of his solo films make better trailers than long-form cinema.  Barry Levinson (“Rain Man,” “Good Morning, Vietnam”) directs, but that won’t save the $15M production, as Levinson hasn’t had a hit in decades.

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WEEKEND ESTIMATES

  1. Steve Jobs – $15M
  2. Goosebumps – $14.5M
  3. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension – $13M
  4. The Last Witch Hunter – $12.5M
  5. The Martian – $12M

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Broad Green Pictures releases the Sundance film, “I Smile Back,” in limited release and stars Sarah Silverman as a woman struggling with addiction and mental illness–crowd-pleaser, to be sure.

I mean, I’m all for powerful, harrowing performances, but just watching this trailer is enough for me to want to pop some happy pills and crank up some ABBA. This is depressing as hell.

Why can’t Silverman reboot “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” or “The Pink Panther?” That I would pay to see. Cuz I’m pretty much done with comedians baring their souls in dramatic roles. We know. You’re tortured. That’s why you use comedy as your outlet. So please, for the love of Rodney Dangerfield, keep doing comedy. Making large audiences smile and laugh is a powerful and special thing.

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In exclusive release, Focus Features drops “Suffragette,” a period piece about the British feminist movement in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The $14M pic stars Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne-Marie Duff and Meryl Streep, and, gasp, was directed by a woman, Sarah Gavron.

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CLASSIC CUT OF THE WEEK: “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension”

Yeah, yeah…you LOVED the new “Star Wars” trailer. Listen, J.J. Abrams will do a solid job shepherding the franchise, that’s what he does best.

However, if you want truly original science fiction, you need to watch Peter Weller, Ellen Barkin, Christopher Lloyd, Jeff Goldbum and John Lithgow (in perhaps his best performance ever) in 1984’s wonderfully weird sci-fi misfire.

Sure, the film tanked with $6.2M total and never did get that sequel promised at the end of the film, “Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League,” but it is a cult classic and struts its stuff with one of the best whistles in the business.

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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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“Steve Jobs” Poster Image Courtesy of Universal Pictures; Poster Design by BLT Communications, LLC