Though the box office can be pretty unpredictable, there are some basic elements that go into anticipating how well a film is going to do.
Some factors include: how other films have done recently, what weekend a film is coming out and what competition it faces.
This column will look at these elements to predict what films will come out on top over the weekend. Though this column is beginning in the traditionally quiet month of January, which is usually reserved for December leftovers, Oscar contenders and the occasional breakout, it’s still a pretty exciting time at the movie theater, especially since some really cool and interesting movies coming up on the horizon.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend has been a good launching pad for the box office in the past. This weekend we see Arnold Schwarzenegger in his first lead role in a decade in The Last Stand, the political drama-thriller Broken City, the Guillermo del Toro-produced horror flick Mama and the wide-release expansion of the Oscar-nominated Silver Linings Playbook.
Waiting in the wings this weekend is Mama, a new horror film from Guillermo del Toro starring Jessica Chastain — the current frontrunner for Best Actress for her performance in Zero Dark Thirty, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, better known as Jaime Lannister from HBO’s Game of Thrones. Despite del Toro’s accolades, attaching his name to a film hasn’t really done much for a film’s success, with films such as Splice and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark performing poorly. Mama does have a good amount of buzz, though, and the fact that it’s PG-13 means that teenagers who normally would not be able to go see such a horror movie can do so. It’s curious, though, that they haven’t really emphasized Chastain’s role in the film; it’s not every day a new horror film has a potential Oscar winner in the cast. She’s not easily recognized, though, since she’s sporting a black pixie cut. Despite that, it’s a PG-13 horror film, which is something that’s never good to underestimate, especially with a four-day weekend where teenagers have the day off. Expect a gross of $19.5 million for the three-day and $22.3 million for the four-day.
While the former governor and USC honorary professor has had his fair share of controversy since the end of his political tenure, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s newest film, where he stars as the sheriff of a small Texan town battling Mexican cartels, comes in amid an action-star revival.
Thanks partly to The Expendables franchise, in which the Governator had a brief role, there’s a sense of nostalgia for some old-school, amoral, dumb and loud fun. His fellow 1980s action stars, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis, both have new films coming out that are going for the same shoot-‘em-up approach. However, the advantage of The Last Stand has been its effective marketing campaign and the directing of Kim Jee-Woon, the Korean director of I Saw The Devil and The Good, The Bad, and The Weird.
Hurting its chances, though, is Broken City, a political thriller starring Russell Crowe and Mark Wahlberg. This time last year, Wahlberg was able to take Contraband to great numbers and overall, he’s been on a box office streak, especially with the surprise box office success of the summer, Ted. However, it’s attempting to be market itself as two things: a political drama and an action film. Without anything to make it stand out, its best chance is winning over the R-rated audience that isn’t quite up for the violent romp that is The Last Stand.
The Last Stand, though, should end up with the greater revenue, with $16.5 million for the three-day, $18.9 million for the four-day. The great reviews for it so far should only help it in the long run. Broken City will get the leftover adults with $10.7 million for the three-day, $12.1 million for the four-day — basically on par with State of Play, the 2009 political drama that also starred Russell Crowe.
Silver Linings Playbook expands wide and touts eight Oscar nominations, including nominations in every major category including best director for David O. Russell and all four acting nominations. Despite the awards buzz and the great performances from the entire cast, it just hasn’t been able to dramedies with audiences the way other indie romantic comedies have. The genre hasn’t done well at all lately, and that funk seems to be hurting the film’s box office numbers.
Nonetheless, this is the first film in more than 30 years to have nominations in every major category, which is definitely worth something. It’s the kind of film that couples can go to and the fact it does have some Oscar pedigree behind it should make it more enticing. Expect a $14.2 million three-day total and a $16.6 million four-day total.
So here’s how the weekend should turn out: Mama should capture the No. 1 spot for MLK weekend. In second place will likely be last week’s number one, Zero Dark Thirty, with a slight drop to $18.9 million for the three-day and $21.7 million for the whole weekend. When all’s said and done, the film could very well end up as the number one again. Running behind will be The Last Stand, followed by Silver Linings Playbook with Broken City in the fifth spot.
Robert Calcagno is a second-year graduate student in the School of Cinematic Arts pursing an MFA in Animation. His column “Box Office Beat” runs on Fridays.