Box office preview: Divide and conquer

That’s the studio strategy this week as three major releases with large and divergent natural constituencies hit movie theaters. All three movies are expected to do rather well by the folks whose job it is to guess these things, as evidenced by the small amount of daylight between the predictions showcased this week by the L.A. TimesBen Fritz and THR‘s ever jolly Carl DiOrio.

I don’t think there’s any reason at all to doubt that the family audience, which hasn’t had a new 3D animated comedy in a while to gawk at, will check out “Megamind.” Featuring the voices of Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Brad Pitt, and Jonah Hill, the film is the second of these comedies this year to focus on a putative villain after “Despicable Me.” This one takes a more superpowered spin with a pretty obvious spoof on the Superman mythos. Reviews are decent but muted, but the take is expected to be a very solid $50 million or so, which is not so muted.

Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Gallifianaki have a The reviews are substantially less positive for “Due Date,” which is to youngish men what “Megamind” is to families. I remember being unimpressed for the trailer for the new comedy from Todd Phillips starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Gallifianakis, but apparently the sheer star power and the tried and true comic premise of a mismatched twosome on a road trip seems to be enough here for the R-rated comedy to get something in the $30-35 million neighborhood. Personally, however, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it under-perform. Star power just isn’t what it used to be these days and this is clearly not a second coming of Phillips’ “The Hangover.”

With a cast that includes Thandie Newton, Phylicia Rashad, Janet Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg and the Oprah herself, “For Colored Girls” is pretty clearly for African-American women as far as studio marketers are concerned. Based on the acclaimed  poetry-based play of the 1970s by Ntozake Shange (full title: For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf), the movie is not getting much acclaim from critics, who once again are none too fond of Perry’s penchant for melodrama, though many do seem to be given Perry credit for at least trying something different this time around. On the one hand, Tyler Perry’s fans are clearly unconcerned about critics, on the other, this is a very different kind of material than Perry’s usual. An amount of $20 million is being bandied about. In any case, one has to wonder what feminist author Shange makes of this excerpt from Carl DiOrio’s piece:

“In addition to Tyler’s core audience, we’re going after fans who are familiar with the play,” Lionsgate distribution topper David Spitz said. “We feel this could be the Sex and the City for African-American women.”

With Oscar season upon us, a number of notable films are coming up in limited release, including the Valerie Plame spy scandal film “Fair Game,” the fainting-inducing mountain climbing ordeal picture, “127 Hours,” and the Elliot Spitzer ordeal documentary, “Client Nine.” Notable for being both good and probably not having a chance in hell at an Oscar, however, is “Red Hill” which I’m not mentioning here not just because we were granted interviews with the director and star, though that never hurts, I admit shamefacedly.

Ryan Kwanten and Steve Bisley in

  

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American Idol: another surprise and a big finale

Last night’s season finale of “American Idol” had a bit of everything. It even had another somewhat surprising ending, at least from where I sit. Ryan Seacrest promised that there would be a few tributes to outbound Simon Cowell during the night, and there were. But here is how the rest of the show went down, and we’ll sum it up as quickly as we can:

The Season 9 Top 12 sang Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” and once we saw the school kids dressed like Alice Cooper we knew the man himself would make an appearance and he did. But he didn’t sound very good.

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Why do you think they call them “Titans”?

There really doesn’t seem to be any way around it, “Clash of the Titans” will almost undoubtedly win the box office race this Easter and Good Friday weekend. Just anecdotally, I can see that interest is high for a remake of a swords-and-sandals fantasy flick that is a sentimental favorite for lots of guys, even if the original film is not really seen as the strongest movie in the cannon of the great stop-motion effects man, Ray Harryhausen, who turns 90 this summer. I’ve been hearing and seeing fairly enthusiastic chatter about this film from French-export action-guy director Louis Leterrier everywhere for months, including at my local Food 4 Less a couple of nights back.

Clash of the Titans

Critics like our own David Medsker may excoriate it for not even having impressive effects, and the Rotten Tomatoes crew as a whole may give it an unimpressive 34%, but you can’t really stop a titan, can you? Moreover, critics seem to agree that, especially in the post “Avatar” world, the retrofitted 3-D is not worth the extra money and audiences will get just as big a kick — if kick, there is, to be had — in cheaper 2-D. But, in for a penny, in for a pound, I suspect, will be the way of things and the roughly 2,170 3-D screens will be mighty crowded this weekend.

Indeed, a returning jolly Carl DiOrio over at THR informs us that the consensus among the box office guru types is that the film could well bring in over $60 million. He also mentions in his weekly video that Easter is traditionally a rather strong weekend at the box office. So, on the weekend that commemorates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as told in the Bible, hundreds of thousands of theoretically Chrisitan people all over the country will be seeing a movie that celebrates ancient pagan deities. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — I don’t really have a dog (or a god) in that particular spiritual fight. Still, maybe I should get a bit more worked up because Warner Brothers’ distribution Dan Fellman told DiOrio that: “We own males over and under 25…” All I can say as someone who falls into one of those categories, neither Warners nor Mr. Fellman own me and I think that’s actually kind of illegal. But, yeah, his movie will make some money and most of it will come from guys.

There are two other new movies coming out, but they both most definitely qualify as counter-programming and are primarily aimed at woman. Adult woman who are also African-American and the men who love them are pretty much the target demo for “Why Did I Get Married, Too?” — a sequel from the Tyler Perry ethnically targeted juggernaut.

Black Dynamite shows his softer side.I will point out, however, that alongside start Janet Jackson, Michael Jai White is in the cast. As everyone who saw him in “Black Dynamite” knows, if the Man wasn’t busy working overtime keeping him down, he’d already be a superstar. So, maybe I hope this does the usual Tyler Perry business and makes between $25-$30 million on a relatively low budget. The film hasn’t been screened for critics it appears. Why bother?

The PG-rated teen-centric weepy romance “The Last Song” starring Miley Cyrus, Greg Kinnear, and guest hunk Liam Hemswroth and adapted from a novel by the ever-popular Nicholas Sparks, who also co-wrote the screenplay, has actually been in theaters since Wednesday — what, you didn’t know that? The film has already done decent business from Ms. Cyrus’s devoted young fans and their moms despite predictably miserable reviews. Still, especially when Disney’s early take is discounted, it will still probably be fairly low on the b.o. totem pole come the Sunday estimates.

There’s no theater count up for it over at Box Office Mojo, and only a handful of critics have eve seen it yet, it appears (of them, currently 58% are favorable at Rotten Tomatoes) but the R-rated “The Greatest” open this weekend in apparently very limited release. Reviewer Jason Newman sure makes it sound like a solid, if heart wrenching, drama. It’s certainly got an outstanding cast with the eternally underrated Pierce Brosnan, the impossible to overrate Susan Surandon, mega-up-and-comer Carey Mulligan, and another potential superstar to be, Aaron Johnson of, dare I say it, “Kick-Ass.” Isn’t it weird that the spill-over notoriety from that couldn’t-be-more-different sure-thing hit will probably help this one move a few DVDs, at least?

Carey Mulligan and Aaron Johnson in

  

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