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Will Pixels Have A Wacka Wacka Weekend?

BOX OFFICE BRASSERIE: MOVIE NEWS FOR MOVIE LOVERS

It’s on like Donkey Kong. For reals, this time, folks. I mean, seriously, Donkey Kong will actually be in theaters this weekend, large and in-charge. Barrel-rollin’ box office beastie-style.

Multiplexes are churning out the hits week in and week out, and this weekend’s late summer surge continues as three new flicks all look to step up to the plate at make serious contact—two, “Pixels” and “Paper Towns,” might even be ground rule doubles. The other, “Southpaw,” will be a slow build, buoyed by another strong performance by Jake Gyllenhaal.

Sony, the much-beleaguered studio, desperately needs a 1-up and that may come in the form of what is without a doubt the oddest film of the summer, Chris Columbus’ “Pixels.”

The problem with “odd” films is usually the fact that they often miss the mark by trying to seem too hip and just end up being relegated to obscurity—“R.I.P.D.” “Jonah Hex,” “Cowboys & Aliens,” “Land of the Lost,” “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”—to name a few.

Sony’s saving grace here is the fact that Adam Sandler and Kevin James are a dynamic duo that audiences seemingly can’t resist—how else do you explain the success of “Grown Ups” and its sequel?

Throw in the top tier ranks of video game characters and you have a film that looks like a strange relative of “Ghostbusters” crossed with a live-action “Wreck-it Ralph.” That should be enough power pellets for the alleged $90M film to snag the high score this weekend, unless, of course, families start reading the reviews, which currently have “Pixels” at just 12% on Rotten Tomatoes–one of the worst aggregates of the summer for a wide release.

Just putting Columbus and “Pixels” in the same sentence is strange, but don’t forget, the mastermind of “Gremlins” and “The Goonies” and director of “Home Alone” and the first two “Harry Potter” films always plays his best hand when dealing to family audiences.

From the trailers, it looks like Sandler is taking a break from the “sweatpants” stage of his career (you know where he looks like he just wakes up, rolls out of bed and the cameras are rolling), and might just connect with hipsters once again on the corner of  Space Invaders and Time Pilot.

In 3,700+ theaters, expect upwards of $30M+, as the PG-13 film should attract multiple generations of gamers and their families. Now, a true hipster would pay for his/her admission with a roll of quarters (two rolls if you’re splurging for IMAX), so keep that in mind, mustachio marauders.

Let’s just hope Barnes & Barnes get on the sound track, as their hit from the 1980s, hell, their whole album, is pretty radical, dude.

Now, in all honesty, I haven’t seen a Sandler film in theaters since, 2009’s “Funny People,” but I have a feeling 80s nostalgia may get the best of me and I’ll insert my coins in the box office slot. That said, I will undoubtedly feel like I do when my quarter gets stuck in a machine and want to kick the damn thing repeatedly. I know, arcade anger issues–I’m working on it, lay off!! That’s ok though, I know of a Dave & Buster’s nearby. They call it a joystick for a reason, folks. Pure bliss.

The new John Hughes has arrived. Let’s just get that out of the way. John Green, author of “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Paper Towns,” is connecting with teens the same way that Hughes did back in the day, delivering films that feel like life in real time—the happy, the sad, the misunderstood, the underdogs, the rebels, the fever dream that is pubescent youth…at once fleeting and forever…harnessing the electricity of truly being alive and living in the moment like only teenagers can.

That’s nearly impossible to capture that on film or TV, and since Hughes’ heyday, only a few films and shows have even come close in thirty years: “Can’t Hardly Wait,” “Dazed and Confused,” “Garden State,” “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “The Spectacular Now,” “Dawson’s Creek,” “Freaks & Geeks.”

With Fox’s “The Fault in Our Stars” shining ever-so-brightly last summer, debuting with an eye-popping $48M (topping Tom Cruise’s “Edge of Tomorrow” by $20M) and hitting $307M worldwide on a $12M budget, it was a given they would mine his other novels, and it certainly looks like an opening of $25M on 3,100+ screens may be in order for “Paper Towns.” That’s pretty solid, especially when you consider Judy Blume can’t even get one of her beloved novels adapted for the big screen.

Weinstein Co. is joining the summer box office parade with some serious fare, presenting what may end up being an Oscar-contender for Gyllenhaal in Antoine Fuqua’s (“Training Day”) “Southpaw.” Gyllenhaal is front-and-center as the main attraction, while Eminem is a producer with two new cuts on the soundtrack.

The R-rated boxing drama should hit hard with urban audiences and young mainstream and looks to add some real grit to the often mindless summer fluff, and that alone may keep it relevant through the dog days of August. Expect a solid opening round of $16M in 2,750+ theaters; however, reviews have been mixed.

Opening in limited release is Lionsgate’s “The Vatican Tapes.” Horror hasn’t necessarily lit it up this summer, and don’t expect this to, either, as the low theater count of 400+ essentially alludes to a vote of no-confidence from the studio and exhibitors.

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WEEKEND ESTIMATES

1. Pixels – $31M

2. Ant-Man – $29M

3. Paper Towns – $24.5M

4. Minions – $24M

5. Southpaw – $16M

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CHOICE OSCAR-BAIT OF THE WEEK: Fox’s “The Revenant” (Dec. 25, 2015)

After winning Best Picture with “Birdman,” Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is back with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy in a harrowing mix of revenge and coon skin caps.

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PRIME CUT OF THE WEEK: Fox’s “Joy” (Dec. 25, 2015)

20th Century Fox certainly has the goods this year, first Inarritu, then David O. Russell’s latest…and releasing them on the same day?!? “The Revenant” goes wide, “Joy” will be limited–for those keeping score. Once again Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper team up.  Geez, get a room already. Looks promising.

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Remember, folks, even with Joy approaching,  it’s still summer. Get out there and get some…just make sure to slap on some SPF first! Here’s your closing credits music:

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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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Pixels Poster Image Courtesy of Sony Pictures; Poster Design by Art Machine