Easter weekend boasts blockbuster film lineup

The market has finally started to pick up. Oz the Great and Powerful has been on a great run, The Croods opened to a strong $44.7 million last weekend (and should repeat a lot of business with the Easter holiday weekend) and Olympus Has Fallen surprised with a $30.5 million, the best opening for an action film this year (despite CGI that looked like a PS2 game with an overdose of anti-aliasing).

This Easter weekend does have a summer-esque lineup, with G.I. Joe: Retaliation, the new film based on the classic action figure franchise; The Host, the adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s sci-fi young adult novel; and Tyler Perry’s Temptation, the latest from the movie mogul Tyler Perry.

Directed by USC alumni Jon M. Chu (Step Up 3-D, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never), G.I. Joe: Retaliation acts essentially as a soft reboot of the 2009 original, with the majority of the cast replaced by action film stalwarts Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis. Despite the first film grossing more than $400 million internationally, to say that it wasn’t fondly remembered is an understatement. The only prominent returning character is Snake Eyes, which makes sense since he’s arguably the most recognizable character.

Though it has the advantage of being the first PG-13 action blockbuster of the year, there’s an air of uncertainty around it, mostly because of Paramount Studios’ shocking decision to delay the film just a month before its original planned release on June 29, 2012.

The common theory for the delay was that the studio wanted to reshoot the film to not kill off Channing Tatum’s character, Duke. However, the producers have recently said that there’s only about three to five minutes added to the film and their official reason for delaying the release was to convert it to 3D to maximize overseas revenue.

That still doesn’t explain why they would delay a summer blockbuster that was already showing TV ads, had action figures waiting to be shipped to retailers and even had their stars scheduled to appear on the press circuit.

The only explanation that makes sense is either the film was so bad that the studio freaked out or, more likely, that the failure of Battleship -— another Hasbro property — caused them to delay G.I. Joe: Retaliation to the next fiscal year to salvage the financial shortfall.

Nonetheless, the marketing has made the film look like a good bit of ridiculous cartoon fun, which may be exactly what American audiences are looking for, especially on a holiday weekend. The film is actually coming out a day early, on March 28, since there is typically a steep drop-off in box office sales on Easter Sunday.

It should inch past $40 million during its four-day weekend; although audiences finally got their action fix with Olympus, the PG-13 rating and the name recognition will help Retaliation. It remains to be seen if Paramount’s gamble will work out.

Going after the teenage audience is The Host, starring Saoirse Ronan and Max Irons.  Though other studios have tried and failed to create the next big young adult franchise, the advantage of this film is that it’s adapted from a series by Stephenie Meyer, the writer of the ultra-lucrative Twilight franchise.

What Twilight had that this movie doesn’t is a simple, timeless love story between two lead characters that anyone, especially teenage girls, could relate to. The vampires and werewolves in Twilight were just extensions of the romantic tension between Bella and Edward, transformed the story into a cultural phenomenon.

The Host, however, has a plot that seems like a young adult version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Science fiction is a much harder sell to the kind of audience that Open Road Films needs to turn this feature into a successful franchise. Meyer’s name will still get a decent enough audience though — likely around $15 million if not slightly less.

Temptation, the latest film from Tyler Perry, also opens this weekend. Say what you will about Perry — he’s been able to create one of the most successful media empires in the business, with television series, stage productions and many successful hits featuring the pistol-trotting character Madea (who will return to theaters on Dec. 13).

Outside of Madea, however, his films have been more hit-and-miss. The only non-Madea films of his that have done well were the two Why Did I Get Married features, which Temptation seems to be most similar to. The leads are attractive and the stakes are laid out clearly in the ads — it even has the stunt casting of Kim Kardashian to hype up its release.

But, considering that Perry’s films usually have very spiritual/Christian overtones, it seems silly to think that his regular audience will go see an extramarital romance on Easter weekend. Expect an opening on the lower end of Perry’s other films with around $16-18 million.

Though there are plenty of distinctive films for distinctive audiences, you have to wonder when there will finally be an actual Easter-themed/Biblical film that debuts on 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.