By Sarah Sluis
In terms of quality, The Debt (1,826 theatres) leads the pack of new releases this week. However, the more likely winner of the box office will be The Help, which still has strong momentum. The Debt opened on Wednesday to slightly less than $1 million, which means it could be tough for the movie to even break $10 million over the weekend. Based on the Israeli thriller Ha-Hov, the spy pic boasts a starry cast that includes Sam Worthington, Helen Mirren, and up-and-comer Jessica Chastain. In a summer full of teen-oriented action films, this movie is made for adults. Critic Wendy R. Weinstein admires director John Madden, who "knows how to assemble a brilliant cast, let them make the necessary connections and ultimately create chemistry." Even though the movie, set in two separate eras, "slackens in its third act," on the whole it's "unnervingly good."
What's summer without people being gobbled up by sea creatures at the beach? Last year it was Piranha 3D, this year it's Shark Night 3D (2,806 theatres). I have to say, the plot for this one is highly original--or should one say, grabbing at straws? There are teens alone on a vacation in the brackish Louisiana Bayou, a man-eating shark, and a serial killer. Throw 'em all in the pot, stir, and if it earns enough, repeat.
Space terror picture Apollo 18 (3,328 theatres) applies the found-footage technique used in horror picture Paranormal Activity to space. Apparently, a top-secret mission to the moon went terribly wrong, and only recently was the footage leaked to the media. At the sunset of America's space program, the subject feels oddly appropriate. This movie shows the "real" reason why mankind never returned to the moon, which has to do with space creatures, not budgetary restrictions.
Combining spirituality and sports, the winning formula that gave The Blind Side box office success, Seven Days in Utopia is a "G-rated piece of American cheese," according to THR critic Todd McCarthy, which "will find open arms across a wide swath of the Bible Belt and through the South." With 561 theatres in its release, this drama could make a real impact if it can find the right audience.
On the specialty front, A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy sells itself with its title. While it's releasing in the indie market, the movie is "mindless but real summer fun," according to critic David Noh, which may appeal to audiences who want to lighten up and enjoy its "surprising dollops of charm and insight."
On Tuesday, we'll see if Labor Day provided an extra boost to the end-of-summer box office doldrums.