The Reject Report - Large

A long time ago in little place called Hollywood four films vied for the top honors, the #1 spot in the charts, the chance to say for one weekend they were biggest thing out there. One of these films is familiar to making that claim. This weekend sees the return of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace to movie theaters, and it’s bringing its good friend 3D along for the adventure. Other combatants going up against the George Lucas cash cow feature Denzel Washington playing training day with Ryan Reynolds, the Rock flexing his chest muscles, and Rachel McAdams forgetting who Channing Tatum is. Can you blame her?

There’s plenty in the way of counter-programming out there, so you might be inclined to say it’s anyone’s prize to win. Our good friend Jar Jar might have something to say to yousa.

BIG HITTERS

It’s a little movie called Star Wars. You might have heard of it. You might have also heard these 3D re-releases are all the rage these days. The Phantom Menace pulled in $431m domestic during its initial release in 1999, $924.3m worldwide, but that doesn’t seem to be enough for George Lucas. Despite the rage people have for Lucas and what he’s done with his films in recent years, this 3D re-release of The Phantom Menace will be pulling in its own chunk of change. Even some of those who are irate with the man will gladly lay down $10-15 to see a Star Wars movie, any Star Wars movie, on the big screen again, added 3D bonus or not. The re-releases of the original trilogy in 1997 proved diminishing returns with each release, A New Hope opening to $46.4m in January that year, The Empire Strikes Back with $27m in February, and Return of the Jedi with $19.9m in March. Nonetheless, the 12-year gap since Phantom Menace‘s original release and the 3D ticket prices will be enough to get it somewhere past $30m this weekend. Who knows? Lucas might even feel so good about it that he re-releases the original trilogy just how they were before his edits. Don’t hold your breath, though.

It’s the Yoda dance. It’s dub step. Don’t question it. Just enjoy it:

Denzel Washington can’t seem to do any wrong with these R-rated actioners. Nearly every one of them has opened to a $20+m weekend. Safe House looks to be no different. Its advertisements make it seem like yet another pairing of Washington and director Tony Scott, but that’s just what they want you to think. Safe House was directed by Daniel Espinosa, and he chose a nice, financial combination for his first American feature film. Washington and Ryan Reynolds in a movie where lots of bullets fly and lots of cars blow up? We’re looking at a $20m weekend for sure, and it could be closer to $25m. Expect somewhere in that range to keep the Washington streak alive.

Did you know Denzel didn’t know he was running a daycare center? Well, now you do. Here’s a little impression of what you might expect from Safe House. Hahaha, alright:

Channing Tatum is back, and this time he’s bringing his Kleenex with him. You can’t blame the guy for wanting to throw in a movie like The Vow every now and then between The Eagles and GI Joes of his career. Dear John pulled in $30.4m in its opening weekend back in 2010. That film came out the weekend before Valentine’s Day, too. Still, with Rachel McAdams as the co-star, an actress who isn’t exactly box office gold, and with another romance movie hitting next week in This Means War, the date nights might be skipping The Vow for something more entertaining and less heartbreaking. Who really wants to see a movie that puts them in a somber mood, especially when you’re out with your significant other. Look for The Vow to drop in somewhere around the $15-16m range. Expect GI Joe: Retaliation to do much better.

Speaking of GI Joe, another star from Retaliation has a movie hitting this weekend. You know Dwayne Johnson loves these kids movies like Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, a title that sounds like something Prince came up with. If he isn’t blowing stuff up or punching Vin Diesel in his big head, Johnson’s films tend to come in a little quieter at the box office, as well. Gridiron Gang opened to $14.4m in 2006 while Tooth Fairy pulled $14m even in its opening weekend in 2010. Journey 2 could fend slightly better than that with 3-D ticket prices involved, but don’t expect too much better. Mid $15m range is the best estimate for this sequel, which may have actually benefited from bringing back Brendan Fraser. I almost got through that without cracking myself up.

LITTLE OPENERS

Opening in limited release are Chico & Rita opening in select cities, Death of the Virgin opening in select cities, Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu opening in select cities, In Darkness opening in New York and L.A., Kung Fu Joe opening in select cities, the Oscar Nominated Short Films both live action and animated playing this weekend in select cities, Rampart opening in New York and L.A., and The Turin Horse opening in New York City.

Here’s how the weekend is shaping up:

  1. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace in 3D – $31.2m NEW
  2. Safe House – $23.5m NEW
  3. The Vow -$16.4m NEW
  4. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island – $15.5m NEW
  5. Chronicle -$12.8m (-41.8%)
  6. The Woman in Black – $11.9m (-44.5%)
  7. The Grey – $4.5m (-50.6%)
  8. Big Miracle – $4.3m (-43%)
  9. One For the Money – $2.6m (-49.8%)
  10. Underworld Awakening – $2.4m (-55.2%)

Told you the box office would bounce back. That’s exactly what it’s looking to do with that $125.1m estimation we’ve got here. The second weekend in February is generally a bounce back from the Superbowl weekend with Just Go With It hitting big in 2011 and Valentine’s Day raking the audience in in 2010. Even 2009 saw a bounce back with Friday the 13th taking out the Valentine’s Day counter-programming with a dull machete. Star Wars looks to do the same here with a lightsaber unless George Lucas has already replaced them with CG foam bats. Guess we’ll have to pay to see it and find out for ourselves.

We’ll be back early next week to go over the weekend numbers.

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