Weekend Preview (11.6.09)

weekendthumbnails-1There’s some pretty thick competition at the movies this weekend as we head down the final stretch of the fall season and face the Holidays head on. So the question is, how early do you like your Christmas?

Disney is guessing now. They bet you think Halloween was so last Saturday. They’re siding with the retailers, who are getting ready to fill you heads with Holiday advertising and will gladly pull the trigger early if America overwhelmingly says “Bring on Christmas” and drops its dollars on A Christmas Carol this weekend.

I’m siding against that idea and I’m willing to say – hoping – that A Christmas Carol will suffer at the box office as a result.

We live in a society that over the last several years has basically said F*@% transitions. School supplies hit shelves in July, the Easter Bunny craps eggs all over the leftover Valentine’s Day cards and Christmas apparently starts before Thanksgiving. Retail businesses, among other things, have tried more and more to tell us what we want when we want it. I see A Christmas Carol as merely the latest symptom.

I think Disney is really pushing their luck here. Robert Zemeckis’ motion-capture animated films (The Polar Express,Beowulf) have constantly been reviewed as visually astounding but altogether unimpressive and word so far is “Carol” is no exception. That’s one risk. Second, to think it’s good enough to make a killing on the first weekend of November is a whole other gamble.

Personally, I believe Americans need their space between Halloween and the holidays. School and work fatigue is brewing but not full-on in the first weeks of November, cold weather is on the cusp across the country but not quite here – all these things, I believe, are reasons that the typical person is not ready for Christmas and won’t be ready for the 63rd re-telling of A Christmas Carol.

The good news is that the competition is thick for those who’d like to put off Holiday cheer for a few more weeks. Warner Bros.’ thriller The Box, one of my top-listed fall movies, comes out, as does off-kilter comedy The Men Who Stare At Goats starring George Clooney.

My Endorsement: Although I can’t say I’m surprised by the mixed reviews, I’m a huge fan of the cerebral and out-there filmmaking of Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly, so I expect to enjoy The Box. I’m also a huge advocate of anything Twilight Zone related and the script comes from the story for the episode “Button, Button.” I’m sure it won’t appeal to everyone, but this is my blog, so deal with it.

Red Flag: I’m not so much telling you to avoid seeing A Christmas Carol as I am telling you to wait until later. I don’t think it will be that bad – I happen to love that timeless story concept – but it doesn’t seem worthy of rushing out to the theaters right away. I’m just not in the mood yet for Christmas and I don’t think most of you are either. As for kids, I don’t think this movie is geared for them all that much either.

Box Office Prediction: This was one of the tougher weeks to sort out. Disney is going hardcore with a 3600+ theater release for A Christmas Carol, at least a thousand more theaters than the other new releases, next up being The Boxwith 2600. I expect “Box” to take in at least $20 million and my inclination would be to pick it over “Carol” if the two were on even footing, but they’re just not, so A Christmas Carol it is, though I’ll gladly be proven wrong, America. I’m going to guess close to $30 million for the Dickens’ CG revamp.

That aside, I’m confident in The Box coming in at No. 2, especially after what a similar target audience did with Law Abiding Citizen. It’s going to sweep up the teenagers at PG-13 and the brilliant choice of Cameron Diaz will make it easier for a female audience to agree to.

For No. 3 and No. 4, I’m going with some returners. I expect Michael Jackson film This Is It to lock in at three with somewhere between $15 – $20 million and I think last week’s second-place finisher Paranormal Activity will stay up in the Top 5 for the fifth weekend in a row because it’s only its second full weekend in full release.

No. 5 is where I’m sliding in The Men Who Stare at Goats. Although I don’t doubt the financial pull of George Clooney, this all male cast and quirky vibe is not going to make it tons of money. I’m comparing it to The Informant!from back in September, which made a cool $10 million, so I think around there, maybe a smidge more. It will finish very closely with “Activity.”

As you can see, I’m not being to kind to horror newcomer The Fourth Kind considering the parallels the marketing has tried to draw with “Activity” and the fact that despite what horror producers believe, Milla Jovovich does not sell tickets. I do see it coming up with $7-8 million, however, good enough to slide it ahead of the rest of last week’s Top 5: Law Abiding Citizen, Couples Retreat and Where the Wild Things Are.

  1. A Christmas Carol
  2. The Box
  3. This Is It
  4. Paranormal Activity
  5. The Men Who Stare At Goats


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