Heady days in the life of old J.R. here, superfans. My football teams have been winning (even the Redskins pulled one out last Sunday). My expertise in the bloodline of Secretariat helped me carry my bar-trivia team to victory over — I kid you not — a handful of former Jeopardy! contestants last night at O'Brien's Irish Pub. And my box office predictions are getting spotter and spotter on as the fall progresses. Last week, as I’m sure you noticed, was my best yet since I started this movie prediction thing a while back, and I’m ready to do it again. Because I’m on a roll, baby! I’m like a stray piece of paper in the back of Willie Nelson’s tour bus.
Of course, I’m also a highly superstitious man, and I don’t want to jinx things. So I’m going to kick my confidence down a notch here. Especially because this weekend is a tough one to predict. Three new movies enter the marketplace — Sony’s animated Open Season, Disney’s action-adventure The Guardian, and the comedy School for Scoundrels from The Weinstein Co. via MGM — each playing on 3000-plus very wide screens, each appealing to a different demographic. Meanwhile, Jackass: Number Two is sure to be a strong holdover.
In situations like this, I think it’s always a safe bet to go with the talking-animal family flick, because it appeals to the broadest crowd and, like Michigan football, these animated films almost always win. (I also dig this particular movie’s tagline: ”The odd are about to get even.” It kinda reminds me of how I take names in this column every week, Buckeyes!) This past summer, Cars opened with $60.1 million, Over the Hedge debuted to $38.5 mil, Monster House did $22.2 mil, Barnyard bowed to $15.8 mil, and The Ant Bully premiered with $8.4 mil. Since it has been a while since we’ve had a major cartoon release and the kiddies are clamoring, I see Open Season’s opening falling somewhere in the middle of those numbers. Let’s say $25 mil and just see what happens, shall we?
As for the others, well, man, take your pick. The Guardian looks to be next in line, but, then again, Kevin Costner hasn’t been a box office draw since Britney was not yet a woman, and Ashton Kutcher is still unproven on the movie front. Interestingly, Mr. Demi Moore also lends his voice to Open Season this week, which would be interesting if it weren’t so sad. Answer me this: Do you think A.K. would be nearly as famous or successful as he is if he weren’t named ”Ashton Kutcher”? I mean, let’s say his parents called him, oh, I don’t know, ”Jason Adams” or something ordinary like that. Can you see a cool show like Punk’d hosted by a guy named ”Jason Adams”? Nope. Of course, I also don’t see a guy named ”Ashton Kutcher” earning big bucks on the big screen, so The Guardian will come in with a decent-but-not-great $17 mil, followed closely by Scoundrels with $15 mil and J:NT holding steady with $14 mil. Because, you know, audiences just can’t get enough of ”The Fart Helmet.”