I feel like the start of my column is like the opening to Saturday Night Live. I don’t want to get down to business, that’s just too professional, too cold, but then I'm also typing to myself. It’s a conundrum, this. Maybe I could lead with some jokes, or something.
THE MOST INTERESTING FILM OF THE WEEK
In terms of Box Office, no contest. Well, it will be a contest, actually. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End would like to be one of the biggest openings of all time, in line with Dead Man's Chest. But with a near three hour running time and none of the elbow room that Spider-Man 3 had, it's no surprise Disney went with the Thursday Night 8 PM shows.
Don't get me wrong, the numbers are going to be insane. I'm going to say $175 Million for the collective weekend four and a half day. The question will be if the pre-midnight screenings count. They might, but Spidey's records are likely in safe hands. Until next year. Or Transformers opens. Good gravy, those TV spots and trailers are all kinds of ass-kicking.
Though some have flipped for the third Pirates (Harry Knowles gushed over it), the reviews have been mixed, and there may be some fatigue from the last film. People are going to want to go anyway. This is where a weekend can really help a film's weaknesses. Everyone who wants to see Spider-Man has done so, and Shrek the Third is a kids film. There's only one other picture opening wide this week, and that’s Bug. It's R, and the marketing is offering a sneak preview of Hostel 2, which means a no-faith opening. Were PotC:AWE going against a crowded market, the results might be a little less favorable, but it's got the weekend to itself, and this freedom from choice (plus some great TV spots, and a collective sense of getting it over with) is going to get it over. And, to that end, with a steady influx of film coming from now until mid August, Pirates 3 should be more of a smash and grab than its predecessor.
Sadly, I think a lot of the attraction will be seeing the story's conclusion, but that is not what's offered. When films used to go on to be trilogies, the idea was that there was a contained story, but here... not so much. Rare is the film series that can continue being worth a damn after three (most after two), and they've supposedly set up a fourth film, perhaps with the idea of even more after that. I can't blame anyone for wanting to keep the door open, but this strikes me as bad business. Perhaps franchises are the new TV, seeing as how kick-ass TV can be these days. There's something to be said for the power and draw of a franchise, but it's always better when the story and material is artistically viable. The studios know they have to spend ridiculous amounts of money to have the billion dollar hits, and – outside of Transformers – I don't know how many blockbuster franchises can be launched, nor are scheduled to. In that way this summer is a huge turning point. So much of what we're getting are sequels, and there won't be another summer this saturated in "More of the Same" for a very long time. And Harry Potter's only got three left to go (Narnia... well, you're on your own). But, let me say this: it's both very exciting and disheartening times ahead. If we're lucky, someone really talented will get the keys. In all likelihood, it'll be Adam Shankman.
THE MOST INTERESTING INDIE OF THE WEEK
It's not Luc Besson's (word is that it's) dreadful Angel-A, so I'm going to say William Friedkin's Bug. All word is that it's a return to form. And with Martin Scorsese finally getting his Oscar and something of his groove back, perhaps the living directors of the Easy Riders, Raging Bulls era (sorry Hal Ashby, Robert Altman, etc.) will have some interesting third acts.
This weekend's tricky in that it's going to have a three day and a four day total. I'm mostly going to guess the three day's cause I'm lazy. Shrek the Third should hold exceptionally well and get well past $200 Million, while Spidey should take a moderate hit, but finally gross $300 million. After this weekend, $400 million is way out of the question now; at this point $340 million - $350 million is about right, and with international at less than $500 million, and most markets already open, it's likely the film will not hit ten digits all-in. Is this a disappointment? As always, yes and no. But it may slow the draw for Spidey 4, especially if the DVD sales are weak (and they're not going to be Amazing. Wocka. Wocka wocka. WOCKA!!!) Everything else is pretty much under $4 million, but I'll be nice and say that for the four day Bug gets to $10 Million, which should make everyone happy.
By Sunday night, I'm saying...
1. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End – $140 Million ($175 four day)
2. Shrek The Third - $87 Million ($110 for the four day)
3. Spider-Man 3 - $20 Million
4. Bug - $7 Million
5. 28 Epochs Later – $3 Million
And then on Sunday or Monday, I'll own up to the truth.