martianfeature

At The Movies: The Martian
The Biggest Thing To Hit Mars… Since Water

Box Office Brasserie: Movie News For Movie Lovers

So, unless you are living on Pluto, you probably heard about NASA’s big announcement this week confirming that water does indeed flow on the surface of Mars.

I was slightly disappointed when I heard the news, because I actually thought they’d found, “the spice.” Yes, Melange on Mars. Dangit. There goes my chance at interstellar space travel before I become cosmic dust again.

As far as the scientific community is concerned, where there is water, there is life. While scientists would be overjoyed with even the tiniest speck of microbiological life, the folks at Fox Studios are hoping for much bigger things in their dealings with Mars: finding a box office beast.

They just might get it. Hoping to slingshot on the momentous H2O news (which must be something more than just coincidence), Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” takes flight in over 3,800 theaters and is expected to land with over $45M+ this weekend. Possibly even rocketing past “Gravity” which opened with $55M this very same weekend two years ago, and is the #1 opener of all-time for October.

The fourth planet from the sun, named after the Roman god of war, has been an uphill battle for Hollywood as it has been desperately attempting to sell Martian movies for decades with very little success.

Consider the casualties: Tim Burton’s “Mars Attacks!,” Disney’s “John Carter” and “Mars Needs Moms” and 2000’s twin picture probes, “Red Planet” and “Mission to Mars.” All failed to launch franchises, and none were particularly successful domestically or abroad.

The difference with “The Martian” is that it is based on the best-selling tome by Andy Weir which is really a fantastic read that is at once highly scientific and blatantly defiant in its unexpected humor.

On top of that, when you plug in a bankable star like Matt Damon, and a solid supporting cast including Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, and Michael Pena and have Scott at the helm, well that’s a payload that will certainly deliver the goods and likely be a huge worldwide hit.

Scott has previously steered sci-fi flicks to planet profitability with “Alien,” “Blade Runner” and most recently, “Prometheus,” and has just announced the sequel to that film, “Alien: Paradise Lost.”

“The Martian” carries with it a $108M budget, but that’s pretty much expected considering the scale of this film. While it won’t have IMAX screens at its disposal with “Everest” and “The Walk” taking up the majority of them, it will screen in 3D.

Robert Zemeckis’ latest film, “The Walk,” which debuted in 448 theaters on Wednesday with a decent, although not remarkable, $240k, should take its high-wire act to around $4M for the weekend.

That’s about half of what “Everest” was able to do when it opened in IMAX exclusive two weeks ago, but this PG-rated, $35M endeavor is one of those non-traditional releases, and may take a couple weeks to be discovered.

Zemeckis’ has a long history of making films that not only stand the test of time, but are a slow burn at the box office, including “Forest Gump,” “Contact,” “Polar Express,” “Romancing the Stone,” and “Back to the Future.” At this point, I’d just say trust him…he knows what he’s doing.

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Hey, remember when John Cusack was John Cusack and he was the coolest. I miss those days. I long for Lloyd Dobler (“Say Anything…”), Lane Myer (“Better Off Dead”),  Rob Gordon (“High Fidelity”)…hell, I’ll even take Adam from “Hot Tub Time Machine.”

These days, you’re more likely to find Cusack hanging out at the Gas n’ Sip completely alone, drinking beers with no studio execs anywhere…just him and a Redbox.  Hey, by choice, man!

I suppose you could consider yourself lucky though (debatable), if you live near the 103 theaters that the Weinstein Co. is releasing Cusack’s five-year-old drama, “Shanghai.” The pic also stars Yun-Fat Chow and Li Gong. Hey, it’s gotta be better than his last release, “Dragon Blade,” which was in and out of theaters (and not many of them at that) in just two weeks.

Lionsgate’s “Sicario” enters into wide release in 2,600+ cinemas this weekend after blazing the arthouse box office in limited and exclusive release the last two weeks. Coupled with great reviews and strong word-of-mouth,  the R-rated Mexican cartel drama should pop off with around $13M.

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WEEKEND ESTIMATES:

  1. The Martian – $58M
  2. Hotel Transylvania 2 – $29M
  3. Sicario – $13M
  4. The Intern – $11M
  5. Everest – $7.5M

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CHOICE CUT OF THE WEEK: Focus Features’ “The Forest” (Jan. 8, 2016)

There was a time, not long ago, when all the biggest chill pills were released around Halloween. Not anymore. January has actually been a hotbed of horror for quite some time and that’s exactly where “The Forest” will try to do its damage. Looks solid for genre fare.

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DEEPEST CUT OF THE WEEK: Universal’s “Crimson Peak” (Oct. 16, 2015)

These days, thanks to the success of Blumhouse Pictures and micro-budget mayhem, no horror film gets a budget over $10M–which is why its nice to see the modern-day horror maestro, Guillermo Del Toro, back to his haunting ways with a $55M ghost story. Trust me, this will be money bloody-well spent.

 

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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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“The Martian” Poster Image Courtesy of Fox Studios; Poster Design by Art Machine