Brits, witches and celebrities abound

Though this weekend features witches, an obscene amount of celebrities and Jason Statham doing what Jason Statham does best, looking back, last weekend proved to be great for Jessica Chastain and a very bad week for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Mama broke out with $32.1 million over the four-day MLK weekend thanks to moderately good reviews and a PG-13 rating; the film itself skewed heavily toward female audiences and moviegoers under 25, according to Box Office Mojo. Those moviegoers having Monday off definitely helped as well.

The other film starring Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty, had a slight drop to $18.6 million and is currently hovering around $55 million.  The controversy around the film’s depiction of torture has seemingly only driven more people toward it.

The Last Stand, though, bombed with just $7.2 million, making it one of the worst openings ever for Schwarzenegger. Though it seemed to have many different things going for it, the simple truth might be that people have overestimated Arnold’s appeal. Even before he became governor in 2003, his box office draw was waning with films such as Collateral Damage and The 6th Day underperforming. Not to mention then his post-political life hasn’t been without controversy, which could have turned people off.

The 65-year-old action star does have two upcoming releases, The Tomb with fellow ’80s action star Sylvester Stallone and David Ayer’s Ten, that could change his fortune. If not, studios might be less likely to throw money behind any big-budget project of his, such as King Conan or a fifth Terminator.

This weekend sees three distinctly niche films, with each representing their own specific trend: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, the latest “fairy tale for grown-ups”; the giga-ensemble comedy Movie 43; and the latest Jason Statham film Parker.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton and directed by Tommy Wirkola, the helmer behind Dead Snow, is the latest in a run of fairy tale remakes that started with the billion-dollar success of Alice In Wonderland and shows, such as Once Upon a Time.

Regardless of whether audiences actually want to see these kind of films (the primary motivation behind these projects seems to be “look how much money Alice and/or Wicked made!”), over the next two years we’ll be seeing “darker and edgier” versions of The Wizard of Oz, Maleficent, Cinderella, Pinocchio and The Little Mermaid.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters was originally scheduled to come out almost 11 months ago in March 2012.  Though the official reason was to wait for Renner to become more of a big name after The Avengers and The Bourne Legacy, the real reason seems to have been whether or not to release it PG-13 or R.

The studio decided to go for the R rating, and though that means it’ll be more gory and bloody, it makes you question just who this is trying to appeal to. The premise of a dark and serious Hansel and Gretel is a hard sell and it’s very difficult to strike that balance between being too silly and too serious.

It’s the same issue that befell Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and this film will likely have a similar result at the box office. Anything above $20 million would be a surprise, so expect a result around the $16 million that AL:VH got in the summer.

The other major release is Movie 43, which stars a dizzying amount of stars and celebrities. To name all of the celebrities would take up half of this column,but among the heavily featured stars are Emma Stone, Johnny Knoxville, Seann William Scott, Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, Jason Sudeikis, Christopher Mintz-Plesse — and the list goes on and on.

The film is a collection of comedy skits — think a modern day Kentucky Fried Movie, though how all of these skits are connected hasn’t been made clear at all. It seems this is the ultimate extension of the mega-ensemble comedy that started with He’s Just Not That Into You and continued with Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve. It seems the only point of this film is to see just how many celebrities can be in a single feature and it almost comes across as a parody of those films.

When your audience doesn’t even know if you’re an actual movie or one of those fake trailers you’d see on Jimmy Kimmel Live, it’s a pretty bad sign. This film, which isn’t even having preview screenings for the press, will be lucky to make more than $10 million.

Then there’s Parker, the newest film from modern action staple Jason Statham. This is slightly different from your typical Statham flick: It co-stars Jennifer Lopez, it was directed by Taylor Hackford (director of Ray and The Devil’s Advocate) and it’s based on the long-running crime novels written by Donald Westlake. In fact, the novel that this film is based on was the basis for 1999’s Payback starring Mel Gibson.

Though many of his films have never really broken out, you can certainly call the man consistent. Most of his films have opened between $6 million and $12 million and there’s nothing that seems to indicate otherwise for this one.


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.