While Jesus is hit and miss at the box office, Liam Neeson is pretty much as close to a sure thing as you can get, especially in beast-mode, where he has been the unofficial guardian angel of action/thrillers, starring in more than a half-dozen of them since 2009’s “Taken.”
Neeson’s latest, “Non-Stop,” will look to continue his winning ways, and the only man that’s blocking his path is the second-coming of Jesus in “Son of God.”
Fox’s PG-13 offering is actually more like Jesus’ Greatest Hits, as the film was cobbled together from Mark Burnett’s epic 10-hour TV miniseries from last year, “The Bible,” which aired on History channel.
Say whaaaaaaaaat? Yes, while the studio really isn’t going out of their way to hide that fact, they also aren’t extremely forthcoming about admitting it, either. One of the best-selling TV series of all-time is now going to try and double down on what was initially a $22M investment. And if presales are any indication (and they usually are) this might just delay Neeson’s #1 landing. It’s really in God’s hands, now.
Despite solid reviews, Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” had a very tepid reaction, as it grossed just $8.7M domestically in 1988. Meanwhile, Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” broke box office records, debuting with $83M and tallying $611M globally. “Son of God” is already a proven commodity, albeit one that most people have already seen.
Fact is, religious films are marketed very differently than modern day multiplex movies, using a variety of grass-roots campaigns and, what I like to call, covert email ops. How else do you explain the fact that whenever a religious film is being touted, I suddenly get more SPAM email than I do from Prince Nirobi of Sudan or even ChristianMingle.com
Makes you wonder if religious zealots are as dangerous as porn peddlers. I mean, the last email I received (about an hour ago) practically demanded that I help “expand the impact” for “Son of God.” With that kind of verbiage, I’m surprised it finagled its way past my Norton AntiSpam! God Bless propaganda!
Prerelease tracking I’ve seen indicates “Son of God” might hit anywhere from $15M-$20M, but its stock has been rising all week. And truth is, Sunday should be its biggest day at the box office, not Friday or Saturday, as many moviegoers will no doubt use theaters as their temples of worship on the Day of Rest.
Now if Jesus and Neeson teamed up for a film, they would certainly achieve holier-than-thou grosses, but, as it stands, there is an outside chance Jesus could take Neeson if church groups show up en masse. Yes, my headline will be ‘Jesus H. Christ!’ if “Son of God” wins the box office title, but I’m pretty confident “Non-Stop” will land at the tip top.
“Son of God” goes forth into 3,258 theaters and should compete with “The Lego Movie” for runner-up, while “Non-Stop” flies into 3,090 venues and carries a price tag of an estimated $50M.
Disney’s “The Wind Rises” expands into moderate wide release (496 theaters) this weekend after a solid start in 21 theaters last week, averaging nearly $15k per. Could see upwards of $2M, but probably closer to $1.5M as Hayao Miyazaki’s latest carries a PG-13 rating–not exactly kid stuff.
Sony drops “Stalingrad” exclusively into 308 IMAX 3D screens this Friday. The Russian WWII action flick has done bang-up biz in the motherland, but forcing people to pay exorbitant costs for a foreign film probably won’t stir up much interest in the US. Interesting strategy, but doubtful it will pay off as this has zero marketing behind it.
1. NON-STOP – $26M
2. THE LEGO MOVIE – $18.5M
3. SON OF GOD – $18M
4. 3 DAYS TO KILL – $6.5M
5. ROBOCOP – $5.5M
SPLICE OF LIFE: BLURBS, BLIPS, CUTS & CLIPS
“LEGO” CONSTRUCTS CINEMATIC EMPIRE
In a word: sequel. And pretty soon: threequel. With the runaway success of “The Lego Movie,” Warner Bros. is suddenly a major player in the world of animation and has already laid out the blueprints for their second installment, “Untitled Lego Movie,” which will jump into the summer blockbuster market on May 26, 2017.
No word yet if the in-demand directing duo of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are returning, but with $180+M in North America and over $300+M worldwide, they are well on their way to having one of the Top 10 movies of the year and are already set to double up this year with the duo’s “22 Jump Street” expected to do serious box office biz this summer.
WARNER BROS. FLOODS THE MARKET WITH NEW FLICKS
Besides “Lego 2,” the studio dropped some huge titles this week including Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest, “Inherent Vice,” which stars Joaquin Phoenix, and will roll out on December 12 of this year…just in time for awards season.
WB also set a date for Vince Chase and Co. as HBO’s “Entourage” will pull up to theaters June 12, 2015…the same day as “Jurassic World.” I can already hear Ari Gold on the phone with Warner Bros. execs: “You did what?!? Are you f’in outta your mind?!?” Hangs up. Throws phone in La Brea Tar Pits. End scene.
After the phenomenal success of last summer’s “The Conjuring” ($318M worldwide) you just knew there would be a sequel. You were right, “The Conjuring 2” will haunt theaters October 23, 2015. No word yet on whether director James Wan will be back, as he’s just set to resume his duties on “Fast & Furious 7,” which probably doesn’t leave him much time. Let’s just hope Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are on board.
And last but not least, Will Ferrell is jumping on the Kevin Hart bandwagon as they team-up for the comedy “Get Hard,” which drops…er…extends into theaters March 27, 2015.
SONY GETS “GOOSEBUMPS”
R.L. Stine’s seminal kid’s horror series that has kept the flesh crawling on children since his books first hit shelves in 1992 is finally creeping onto the silver screen. Yes, a mere 24 years after first terrorizing tots, a big screen adaptation is set to haunt theaters March 23, 2016 with Jack Black starring and Tom Letterman directing. This reunites the tag-team who last worked together on Fox’s “Gulliver’s Travels.” While not a huge success stateside, the 2010 film ended up grossing $237M worldwide.
Goosebumps has sold over 300 million books worldwide and is available in 32 languages…which is probably one of the major reason Sony greenlit this project in the first place, as the studio is hoping to strangle this brand by the neck and shake out a whole new franchise. With over 60 books to draw inspiration from, there is no doubt this property has enormous upside.
An anthology TV series was hugely popular from 1995-1998, but this will be the first crack at a big screen adventure. The only surprising thing here is that the studio didn’t shoot for an October release considering the source material.
COMEDY LEGEND HAROLD RAMIS PASSES AWAY
The Ghostbusters are a threesome once again, as Ramis, who famously portrayed Egon Spengler, died on Monday, February 24 after a long battle with a rare autoimmune disease.
Ramis got his start on SCTV and The National Lampoon Radio Hour, before writing, directing and starring in some of the most beloved comedies of all-time, including “Animal House,” “Caddyshack,” “Vacation,” “Meatballs,” “Stripes,” and “Groundhogs Day.”
The quotability factor of his films is just plain off the charts. I think on every golf course around the world at any given time, someone is quoting Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield or Chevy Chase. “Caddyshack” is not just a movie, it’s a part of our culture. That’s the way his films were; there was always a familiar warmth to them, something that many say was a big part of his personality.
RIP Harold Ramis, thank you for sharing with us–you left an indelible mark and will have people smiling and laughing for generations to come.
CHOICE CUT OF THE WEEK: WB’s “Godzilla”
While the first trailer was a bit uninspiring, but the latest more than makes up for it adding a much-needed sense of impending doom…as well as more Bryan Cranston…which is always a good thing.
The haunting chorus of voices remind me of a similar mood-enhancing tactic utilized in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001” which bodes well here, creating an unnerving, spiritual presence…which is spine tingling.
No doubt direct Gareth Edwards is going to be a monster-of-a-director, as this marks only his second film, and his first big-budget blockbuster. This looks to be much better than people expect, and hopefully it is, because the last thing Warner Bros. wants is another “Pacific Rim” on their hands.
CHOICE RE- CUT OF THE WEEK: Paramount’s “Anchorman 2: Super-Sized R-Rated Version”
No doubt this variation will be included on the DVD/BLU-RAY as an extra feature, but what’s most interesting is that Paramount didn’t attempt to cash-in on this when the film came out back in December.
Sure, the PG-13 version did just fine, grossing $125M (up from the original’s $85M), but obviously these guys have darker sensibilities and releasing two different versions in theaters, for something like this, just makes sense.
Out of theaters last week, the new “Anchorman 2” is set for “One Week Only” in over 1,300+ sites, but I’m sure theaters will keep it around longer if people actually show up. The old “held over by popular demand” sorta thing, doncha know.
This is after-all, sort of an all-new movie, as the Action News Team has added 763 new jokes to replace the old ones. Sorta makes NASA’s discovery of 715 new planets pale in comparison, doesn’t it?
NPR: NASA UNVEILS 715 NEW WORLDS
Probably won’t be able to stay classy with all the f-bombs that are sure to drop in the R-rated version, but you know what, f*ck classy, this is comedy…and cutting-edge comedy pushes the envelope and, more importantly, people’s buttons.
CULT CUT OF THE WEEK: Sequential Film’s “Stripped”
A documentary about the decline of the newspaper industry and the comic strips that inhabit them is now playing on iTunes. Most interestingly, it features a film poster designed by ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ (Best. Strip. Ever.) creator, Bill Watterson–his first cartoon in 19 years. Nice sabbatical.
Check out Watterson’s poster here: www.strippedfilm.com
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.
“Non-Stop” Poster Courtesy of Universal Pictures; Poster Design by Concept Arts