Word around Hollywood is that tracking is unspectacular for Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys (Lionsgate) and the Al Pacino/Robert DeNiro pairing in Righteous Kill (Overture). Coming off of the worst weekend at the box office since September 2003, the movie business could use a needle of adrenaline to the heart (a la Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction) and, although business will improve, there is probably no stealth blockbuster in the cards here.
I have learned not to underestimate Tyler Perry, and I am putting my money on The Family That Preys to win the weekend. Although he is by no means a critical favorite and like past films The Family That Preys has not screened for critics, Perry has a solid following, and he is continuing to make movies that feed his fan base while simultaneously working to broaden his appeal.
His new movie from Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta is not a “fat suit comedy” like Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Madea’s Family Reunion. Instead, this is a drama that intertwines two families – one black and one white – personally and in business, and it boasts Academy Award winner Kathy Bates (Misery, About Schmidt) and Oscar nominee Alfre Woodard (Passion Fish, Desperate Housewives).
The trailer and TV commercials for The Family That Preys portray a more-serious-than-usual Perry project (right down to the use of Jill Scott’s edgy “Hate On Me”), but that does not necessarily spell disaster. He knows what he is doing.Perry’s core audience is Christian, middle-class, African-American women, and this movie appears to be spot-on for that crowd (industry tracking looks solid with Females 25 Plus). It will not, however, grab the Under 25 business of his comedies, so I am predicting something in the $18M range.
That would make this Perry’s 2nd-softest opening behind Madea’s Family Reunion ($30M), Diary of a Mad Black Woman ($21.9M), Why Did I Get Married? ($21.3M) and this year’s Meet the Browns ($20M), and ahead of only 2007’s Daddy’s Little Girls ($11.2M). Still, given that he is attempting to reach for new fans, this would be a good opening.
It is not inconceivable that Righteous Kill could win the weekend, but I suspect it will finish at #2. It is hard to talk about this movie without mentioning producer Avi Lerner. According to IMDb, he has produced 214 movies in his career, many through his company, Millennium Films. In the last two years, 11 Millennium projects have reached US theatres, and they are some of the worst reviewed box office misses in recent history.
MILLENNIUM FILMS THEATRICAL RELEASES SINCE SEPTEMBER 2006
– domestic box office & percentage of positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes –
September 2006 – The Wicker Man – $23.6M cume – 15% Fresh on RT
September 2006 – The Black Dahlia – $22.5M cume – 34% Fresh on RT
December 2006 – Home of the Brave – $52,000 cume – 23% Fresh on RT
April 2007 – Lonely Hearts – $188,000 cume – 51% Fresh on RT
September 2007 – King of California – $268,000 cume – 62% Fresh on RT
December 2007 – Blonde Ambition – $6,422 cume – 14% Fresh on RT
January 2008 – Rambo – $42.75M cume – 36% Fresh on RT
January 2008 – Mad Money – $20.6M – 21% Fresh on RT
January 2008 – Blonde and Blonder – $42,183 cume – N/A (not enough reviews)
April 2008 – 88 Minutes – $16.9M cume – 6% Fresh on RT
May 2008 – War, Inc. – $580,000 cume – 31% Fresh on RT
It is still hard to believe that Al Pacino made the dreadful 88 Minutes (Sony) for Lerner, but now, he’s following up with the as-yet-unseen Righteous Kill. Overture has wisely kept the picture under wraps with critics (since Millennium’s last 10 films have an average Rotten Tomatoes score of 29% Fresh), and industry expectations are very low. How bad can a movie starring Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro be? One studio exec said to me, “They aren’t even good on the poster.”
It is depressing to see two of the greatest stars in movie history accepting roles in below average movies for big paychecks without any regard for legacy. It’s been a long time since we heard Pacino say “Fredo, you’re my older brother, and I love you. But don’t ever take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever.” Since DeNiro was staring into that mirror and simmering “You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me?” Since Pacino was leading a chant of “Attica! Attica! Remember Attica?” And since DeNiroshadowboxed while muttering “I’m da boss, I’m da boss.” But my hunch is that a fair number of unsuspecting moviegoers will read the stars on the marquee and buy tickets this weekend, and Righteous Kill could hit $16M.
The Coen Brothers return this weekend with their follow-up to Best Picture winner No Country For Old Men. The quirky, comic spy thriller Burn After Reading (Focus) stars Oscar winners George Clooney, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton along with Academy Award nominees Brad Pitt and John Malkovich, and the reviews are very good (71% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), but Ethan and Joel have never been sure things at the box office. The success of No Country, however, has put this movie in position to be the biggest wide opening for a Coen Brothers film ever, surpassing Lady Killers ($12.6M) and Intolerable Cruelty ($12.5M). I am pegging Burn After Reading for a possible $13.6M 3-day.
The other new wide release this weekend is the female-geared The Women (Picturehouse), a remake of George Cukor’s 1939 classic. Despite the presence of many of the very best American actresses working today – Meg Ryan, Annette Bening,Eva Mendes, Debra Messing, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Bette Midler and Candice Bergen – Murphy Brown creator Diane English’s feature debut will not be a Sex & the City-style box office surprise. The tracking looks good with Females 25 Plus, but $7.3M appears to be the weekend target.
EXCLUSIVE FANTASY MOGULS PREDICTIONS FOR THE WEEKEND OF 9/12
1. The Family That Preys (Lionsgate) – $18M
2. Righteous Kill (Overture) – $16.1M
3. Burn After Reading (Focus) – $13.6M
4. The Women (Picturehouse) – $7.3M
5. Tropic Thunder (Dreamworks/Paramount) – $5.3M
6. The Dark Knight (Warner Bros) – $4.2M
7. Bangkok Dangerous (Lionsgate) – $4.1M
8. The House Bunny (Sony) – $3.5M
9. Traitor (Overture) – $2.1M
10. Babylon A.D. (Fox) – $1.7M