Earlier this summer, just one wide release was opening every weekend. This week there are four. Each of these 2,000 to 3,000-screen releases, however, will have a hard time beating last weekend's Brave, which is in release on over 4,000 screens. The animated Pixar film opened to $66 million, so even a 50% drop will leave it above $30 million.
Ted (3,239 theatres) has the widest release of the bunch. I attended the screening with a Seth MacFarlane fan who was disappointed with the "Family Guy" creator's feature writing/directing debut. The fantasy concept of a foul-mouthed teddy bear and his adult best friend is pulled off with ease. The big surprise is that the comedy feels like a conventional rom-com, albeit with a talking teddy bear as the third wheel and romantic obstacle. FJI's Michael Sauter was more receptive to the "comedy, [which] wants to simultaneously shock, delight and knock you a little bit sideways," and predicts it will be a "smashing success." If its predicted opening in the high $20 millions counts, Ted may be just that.
Channing Tatum was actually a male stripper, and probably a good one too. He shows off his impressive dance skills and flips in Magic Mike (2,930 theatres). Steven Soderbergh directs the dance-fueled drama, which has received generally good notices from critics. FJI's David Noh disagrees. Except for Tatum, he wasn't intrigued by the dancers or their moves, and feels the whole movie has a "strange lack of sexiness." Cinema Blend's Katey Rich came out positively for the feature, noting that with its message "about dreams that curdle and get deferred, about how you need more money than what's stuffed in a G-string to make it in this world, but how those $1 bills can make it easier to wait" could have been "disastrous when combined," but "Soderbergh makes it look easy." During Thursday midnight screenings, Ted earned $2.6 million and Magic Mike $2.1 million, so both R-rated flicks are set to perform well over the course of the weekend.
A man finds out he has a half-sister after his father's passing in People Like Us (2,055 theatres). "Enough honest hurt pokes through to make it impossible to dismiss the film outright," FJI critic Daniel Eagan says of the "sentimental" film featuring soul-baring that's "simultaneously moving and manipulative." With a kind of generic premise and not a lot of marketing support, it could be tough for this drama to even crack $10 million.
Tyler Perry's signature funny grandma character returns in Madea's Witness Protection (2,161 theatres). Audiences have slightly tired of Perry's outings lately, but loyal fans should bring the comedy's opening above $20 million. The recession-influenced tale includes a church that was ripped off by duplicitous investors, a ripped-from-the-headlines premise that could pull in additional viewers.
Sundance prizewinner Beasts of the Southern Wild (4 theatres) opened on Wednesday, when it earned $6,700 per screen. That's not particularly high, but the weekend will be the true test for the unusual, expressionistic drama. Some are saying its box-office target will be similar to the one for Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life, another Fox Searchlight release which ended up with $13 million last summer.
Also in the specialty mix this weekend is Take This Waltz (2 theatres), an unwieldy exploration of a love triangle that left me with mixed feelings. I found most of the film boring but really liked the ending (when it finally happened). Moonrise Kingdom expands to 854 theatres this weekend. I've seen plenty of TV ads supporting the expansion, which I predict will unfold quite well for the strongly-performing release.
On Monday, we'll see which of the four releases broke from the pack, and if Beasts' debut adds more momentum to its critical buzz.