The Punisher

Welcome to another Reject Report and welcome to a very cold December both outside and, uh, at the box office. It sure doesn’t look like you’ll be dodging too many crowds to see too many new movies this weekend — everyone’s started Christmas shopping.

This week we are getting only one new wide release that is in 2,500 theaters — Punisher: War Zone. The other two are Nobel Son and Cadillac Records which are both in less than a thousand theaters.

That’s basically it. Frankly, though, I don’t think too many people are interested in the box office this week, especially at these studios. They’re more worried about their own bottom line at the moment. I have been keeping up with the news of all the latest sackings in Hollywood at the various studios, and it is not a pretty picture at places like Paramount, Universal, and elsewhere. These are sad times in the movie industry.

On a more positive note, December is shaping up to be a great month for Oscar watchers and fans of these types of award-contending movies. That’s right: it’s Awards Season at the theaters. (I know, already: no one cares about these depressing flicks.)

Unfortunately, Oscar contenders have been in a dry spell at the box office for quite some time. Not a single one of the Best Picture 2007 nominees finished first for even one weekend at the box office last year (not even Juno), and we’re not seeing much change yet this year. Unless, of course, The Dark Knight rakes in some nominations in some of these top categories (ie. Heath Ledger). I have no doubt The Dark Knight will win something — it ought to be a lock for the technical awards, at least. It’s main problem is that it’s not an “awards-season”-type of movie, so these silly Oscar voters might end up ignoring it. Anyway, I am digressing big-time.

A few awards-season Oscar contenders are out there now, but they are showing on VERY few screens. Milk is now up to 99 screens and Frost/Nixon, directed by Ron Howard, debuts in three theaters in limited release. Milk is that biopic of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to San Francisco Supervisor. Sean Penn plays Milk, and the film is getting a lot of praise from a lot of people. It made it into the Top Ten box office last weekend, but I have a feeling it will be squeezed out this week due to too much competition at the top. Its only chance is if Cadillac Records tanks completely (more on that movie later).

I am predicting just over $2 million for Milk. As for Frost/Nixon, I don’t think it will come anywhere near the Top Ten, but it might make it to somewhere close to $100,000 if it absolutely packs these theaters it is showing in.

Anyway, December looks like it is shaping up to be a very big month for award-season movies, and a really bad month for blockbusters. At least, this week is shaping up to be bad.

The first movie I am previewing is Punisher: War Zone which stars Ray Stevenson and Dominic West. In this flick Stevenson plays Frank Castle, a.k.a. the Punisher, a man known for hunting down and killing many violent criminals, faces down his most deadly opponent yet in Jigsaw. This is a sequel to 2004′s The Punisher which had Thomas Jane in the title role.

This looks to be the highest grossing effort of the new movies rolling out this weekend, but I don’t see this one making it past $10 million. $9.5 million would be my guess.

Next is Cadillac Records which stars Adrien Brody, Jeffrey Wright and Beyoncé in a true story about the Fifties record label Chess Records. That label launched such names as Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and so on. Brody stars in the title role as Leonard Chess, the man who ran the label. Beyonce plays Etta James, Columbus Short is Little Walter , Jeffrey Wright is Muddy Waters, and Cedric the Entertainer, Gabrielle Union and Emmanuelle Chriqui are also in the cast.

This looks to me like a film likely to do about $3.5 million in business this weekend, as it opens in a little under 700 theaters.

Finally, there is Nobel Son, which is rolling out in almost 900 theaters and stars Alan Rickman, Bryan Greenberg and Mary Steenburgen. The plot revolves around the son of a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who winds up getting kidnapped and held for a $2 million ransom. What complicates matters is that the son and the father don’t get along to begin with and he refuses to pay the ransom.

So that’s the plot. I have to say I just don’t see this movie doing well at all. I have been looking around at the various websites and they don’t even have this flick getting into the Top Ten at all. This movie will be luck if it even gets to $1 million.

Those are the three new movies that have any hope of coming anywhere near you. If you’re wondering about Extreme Movie, that effort with Michael Cera in it, I understand it’s only in three theaters. Of course, these Oscar contenders that I talked about are in very few theaters. Don’t you hate it when you tune into these movie shows like “At the Movies” and the rest of them, and they tell you that Frost/Nixon or Milk is opening? Then you find out you have to live in New York or Chicago or San Francisco in order to see it? It stinks to be a movie fan in the boondocks. Instead of these Oscar contenders, you’re stuck with Four Christmases and other nice, clean movies. No wonder the box office is going to heck in December, then, if this is the situation in most places.

By the way, that’s my pick for the weekend box office: Four Christmases again, since there just isn’t much competition this week. The likely damages as I see it:

1. Four Christmases $17 million
2. Bolt $16 million
3. Twilight $14.5 million
4. Quantum of Solace $11 million
5. Punisher: War Zone
$9.5 million
6. Australia
$8 million
7. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa $7.8 million
8. Transporter 3 $6 million
9. Cadillac Records $3.5 million
10. Role Models $2.9 million

Let’s face it, it’s looking like a down week after what was a really packed November at the box office, what with Madagascar 2, Quantum of Solace and Twilight raking in so much money. November was like the summer season at the box office all over again — fun times for movie fans and box office watchers.

Here we are in December, though, and, what can I say? The Thanksgiving feast is over, and now it’s back to famine at the box office. Rats!

See you at weekend’s end as we count the loot here at the Reject Report.


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