Historically, the Super Bowl weekend has always been one of the weaker weekends of the year for films simply because so many people, particularly men, are watching the big game. Last weekend wasn’t the worst, with the No. 1 film Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters beating expectations by being so bad it’s good while the other two releases bombed for simply being bad. Though the industry loves a rebound, this isn’t the weekend to do it.
The only film in the past few years that has ever broken out against the Super Bowl was Taken in 2009; however, many people forget that the film was already out in Europe for several months and was almost released direct-to-DVD.
Still, studios have had some mild success with releasing a film aimed at non-football loving audiences.
In 2010, Dear John became a moderate success and last year both Chronicle and The Woman in Black were able to find a sizable audience in spite of the big game.
This year, Summit Entertainment hopes to convince people to skip Super Bowl Sunday with Warm Bodies, a zombie romantic comedy. The zombie-genre revival that’s been going on for the past several years has yet to rescind, with The Walking Dead being the most-watched show on cable, a Zombies Mode being a staple of the Call of Duty franchise and even the bizarre zombie-esque news stories from last year (don’t do bath salts, kids).
You know a genre has hit the mainstream when filmmakers are able to make wild deviations. For Warm Bodies, starring Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer, we have a zombie protagonist who begins to come back to life as he falls in love. Though some people might dismiss it as a “Twilight with zombies,” the studio has done a good job with the marketing to sell a rather strange concept to a skeptical audience.
However, genre mashups tend to be one of the harder sells in the business, especially horror genres. For every Zombieland, you have a handful of bombs like Slither and Fright Night, even though those films had good reviews overall. Nonetheless, it’s the primary option for female audiences and it has a unique enough concept to intrigue the curious. It could surprise with more than $20 million, but a slightly lower amount is more likely.
The other film coming out this weekend is Bullet to the Head, starring Sylvester Stallone in the lead role. Though he’s been prominent in the box office, thanks to The Expendables franchise and the well-received sequels to Rocky and Rambo, this is actually his first solo feature since 2001’s Driven.
This film was originally scheduled to be released April 13, 2012, but was delayed to this weekend for undisclosed reasons. It doesn’t take an expert, though, to know that Warner Bros is effectively just trying to get the movie out without much fanfare. Not to mention that the audience this film is trying to appeal to will be too busy watching football on Sunday to see a generic action thriller.
Stallone has picked up a considerable amount of goodwill through successfully relaunching his most famous characters, but even his most die-hard supporters can tell this film won’t do well. It could end up earning the same numbers as The Last Stand, which was in the similar position of featuring an old-school action star trying to make a comeback but failing to do so.
Then there’s the gangster dramedy Stand Up Guys, starring Al Pacino and Christopher Walken as a pair of old criminals going out for one last night on the town before their past comes back to haunt them. If you feel surprised that you haven’t even heard of this film, it’s not your fault.
Despite the box office potential of uniting these two legendary actors in a film that’s essentially The Bucket List for wise guys, for some reason, Lionsgate saw fit to effectively dump the movie into theaters with hardly any marketing. It isn’t even releasing widely, only opening in about 450 theaters (the average wide-release film opens in 2,500+ theaters).
Though the reviews haven’t been great, you have to imagine that there would be at least a little bit of an audience that’d go see Pacino, Walken and Alan Arkin having a good time on the big screen. Sadly, with the nonexistent marketing, the miniscule awareness and in small release, this film might not even be able to make over a million this weekend.
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 Fridays.