Friday, March 11, 2011
Busiest release date ... ever?
If there's one governing principle we should all know about release dates, it's that they amount to one big game of chicken.
If two movies with ambitions to win the weekend are announced as scheduled for the same release date, and they appeal to a similar demographic, it's a battle of wills to see which will yield. One always does -- this is why you don't ever see two superhero movies released on the same date.
The conventional wisdom is that the movie that yields is the lesser commodity, but it doesn't always work out that way. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip got all the buzz when it debuted in the fall of 2006. Meanwhile, everyone expected Tina Fey's dopey little sitcom -- 30 Rock, which debuted about three weeks later -- to get left in the dust. Needless to say, it didn't work out that way. (How's that for a loose analogy? Especially since it's about TV rather than the movies, when "release dates" are not really relevant, but especially since both shows were the property of NBC?)
But even when the demographics targeted are not the same, movies with high expectations will still try to avoid direct competition with one another, especially on a weekend when something hot is coming out. Hot is hot, regardless of who it's intended for.
And so it is that a release date like tomorrow is quite unusual. None of the four major films being released this Friday are targeting the exact same audience, but they are all prominent enough in some way to be considered "hot." Whether they will cannibalize each other, or whether a victor will rise to the top, remains uncertain. What is pretty likely is that someone's going to go home unhappy.
Shall we take a look?
Red Riding Hood
Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke
Targeting: Teenage girls and dirty old men
Comment: Don't discount those dirty old men, who are just waiting for that moment of bodice-ripping by star Amanda Seyfried. (The ads make the movie look pretty sultry, and don't tell me there isn't something sexual about those thorns "penetrating" Seyfried in this poster.) This is clearly aimed at Twilight's audience -- I mean, Hardwicke even directed the original Twilight -- but don't be surprised to see it do better than your average movie that tries to ride the Twilight coattails. It's getting some interest outside its demographic, including from me. (Let's not ponder too closely whether I belong in that "dirty old men" group.)
Prediction for weekend box office: Third
Directed by: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Targeting: Intelligent teenage girls and intellectuals of all ages
Comment: I'd like to think this will do better than it will actually do. Even with two pretty hot properties in the central roles -- Alice in Wonderland's Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender -- my thinking is that this outside-the-box version of Jane Eyre will not be seen by as many people as I'd hope. That's too bad, because it's got an exciting director: Cary Fukunaga, who directed the excellent Sin Nombre two years ago.
Prediction for weekend box office: Seventh
Battle: Los Angeles
Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman
Targeting: Fourteen-year-old boys and Republicans
Comment: Aliens, explosions, end of the world ... it's a winning formula at the box office. Especially this one, which seems like it could be the first film to really benefit from the success of District 9. Like Neill Blomkamp's film, Battle: Los Angeles is shot like a documentary, giving it a gritty realism that viewers really want from their effects-laden action movies. (The documentary form has the effect of making the effects seem almost hyper-real.)
Prediction for weekend box office: First
Mars Needs Moms
Directed by: Simon Wells
Targeting: Children and stoners
Comment: As much as animation tends to do well, I'm not sure if this particular animated film will find great success. It hasn't been advertised very well, and space can be a tough fit for animated movies ... perhaps especially when there is another movie featuring aliens (Battle: Los Angeles) being released on the same day. Not only that, but Mars Needs Moms has to contend with Rango, which should be getting most of the kids who didn't see it the first weekend. (Even if Mars Needs Moms will probably be more appropriate for young kids than Rango.)
Prediction for weekend box office: Fourth
Other two top-five box office spots not yet mentioned: Second (Rango), Fifth (The Adjustment Bureau)
I don't do a lot of box office predicting on this blog, but I'll be curious to see how this one turns out. And really tearing my hear out deciding which one to see ... though, let's be honest, the 14-year-old boy in me will be standing in line for Battle: LA. (Leaving the dirty old man on the outside looking in.)