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Quartet Try to Avoid January Blues

January 25th, 2007

The final weekend in January gives us plenty of new releases, but not much in terms of quality. Of the four wide releases opening this week, two are earning roughly 30% positive reviews and the other two are not being screened for critics. However, movie fans should not fret as several Oscar hopefuls are expanding this week and are giving moviegoers plenty of choice.

Epic Movie, from the people who brought you Date Movie. This is not what I would consider an effective sales pitch, which is probably why they latched their wagon to Scary Movie instead. However, moviegoers know which film this one is more likely to resemble. In fact, this one could earn the worst reviews of them all. At least Date Movie lived up to its name. Can you honestly say Nacho Libre was an epic movie? What about Snakes on a Plane? Let's face it, a better name for this movie would be Pop Culture Reference: The Movie. So expectations are really low with critics, but at the box office things are much rosier. It has a clear path for top spot but will likely finish well below the openings of the other, related films with an opening of between $15 million and $20 million. Logic dictates the film will earn on the lower end, but my gut says go with $18 million.

On the one hand, Smokin' Aces is earning merely 34% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and no one will claim that's a good score. On the other hand, it looks like it could be the best-reviewed wide release of the week. Also good news / bad news is the cast. There are a lot of amazing actors in this movie, but they are mostly character actors that don't have a lot of experience headlining blockbusters in recent years and that might hurt the box office. Best case scenario has the film squeezing out a first place finish, if Epic Movie struggles, but it will likely have to settle for second place with $12 million over the weekend. However, I still think the film has strong potential on the home market and could develop some cult appeal.

The first of the holdovers should be Night at the Museum. The film hit its last major milestone on the domestic scene last weekend when it crossed $200 million; however, it is far from done. It should add just over $8 million this weekend and is on pace to finish with close to $500 million worldwide, making it one of the biggest surprises at the box office of the past year.

Catch and Release should grab fourth place but it could do well enough to make a run at third, or even softly enough to miss the top five. Originally scheduled for an April 2006 release, the film was pulled from the schedule before being dumped in January. After that disappointing turn of events, it's not surprising that the film is struggling with critics. A Tomatoemeter score of 16% positive is not that terrible a result when compared to the month's average so far, but unfortunately for the studio, this film's target audience is a lot more likely to read and be influenced by reviews than those who want to check out Epic Movie, for instance. Also troubling is Jennifer Garner's recent track record. This is her first live action release since Elektra bombed in January of 2005 and she no longer has a TV series to help keep her name-recognition high. This film will unfortunately open with less than her previous few films, just under $8 million in its 1,622 theaters, but should have long much longer legs and might even top Elektra's final tally with $25 million.

Dreamgirls should round out the top five as the publicity from the Oscar nominations is still red hot. Ironically, the film could benefit from not receiving a Best Picture or Best Director nomination as practically every story on the Oscars has mentioned that fact. That said, the film has still peaked at the box office and despite seeing an increase in its theater count it will fall back to $7 million over the weekend while $100 million is still well within reach.

The final wide release of the week is Blood and Chocolate, the latest from MGM. The brand re-launched last year but outside a few long-running franchises, the studio hasn't had a real hit. Weak ad campaigns and short market reach continue to plague their films and Blood and Chocolate is no different. The ads are too generic, the reviews are practically non-existent, and the theater count is a mere 1,200. Expectations range from just missing the top five with $6 million to missing the top ten with $3 million. The latter seems more likely giving the film a $4 million opening weekend and a final tally of less than $10 million.

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Filed under: Night at the Museum, Dreamgirls, Epic Movie, Smokin' Aces, Catch and Release, Blood and Chocolate