As I suppose you’ve heard, there’s a big awards presentation thing happening this weekend in Hollywood. Rinko Kikuchi will be there! Should be a lot of fun. It should also cut into the grosses for the weekend’s major theatrical releases — after all, what dedicated filmgoer would rather hit the multiplex to watch Norbit than stay home and see Eddie Murphy possibly nab one of those little golden hunks of junk (thanks, PopWatcher Sasha!) at the Oscars?
Now, there’s a brief history of movies like The Passion of the Christ bowing to big numbers on Oscar weekend. But even with four new openers, that won’t be the case this time around. One thing I can forecast: The top star of the next few days will be one of my favorites, Virginia Madsen, who appears in two new movies, The Astronaut Farmer and The Number 23. Another prediction: The latter film will finish No. 1. And don’t forget, PricewaterhouseCoopers may be tallying the Academy’s votes, but you should cast your ballot for the film that you expect to come out on top at the box office. Our handy poll is at the end of this article — hey, it’s one contest that Helen Mirren can’t win.
THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE
The Number 23
New Line · R · 2,759 theaters · NEW
Has Jim Carrey’s star fallen? That question has been on the minds of movie pundits for years now, ever since the domestic grosses for Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events ($118.6 million) and Fun With Dick and Jane ($110.3 mil) came in well under those of the blockbusters Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas ($260 mil) and Bruce Almighty ($242.8 mil). Those stats are worth a raised eyebrow, sure, but I’d argue that without Carrey, Lemony Snicket and Dick and Jane wouldn’t have even come close to clearing the century mark. His mojo has taken a hit, no doubt, but there’s a little juice left. And that should help boost this dark and twisty thriller in which the star — gloomier than ever — plays a man obsessed with the titular integer. Certainly, without him, The Number 23 would be a much harder sell.
Weekend prediction: $23 million (seriously)
Columbia · PG-13 · 3,620 theaters · 2nd weekend
I was careful not to misunderestimate the box-office prowess of Nicolas Cage’s Marvel Comics flick last weekend, but its record-breaking $45.4 mil three-day opening truly wasn’t something I expected. So will it continue to surprise? I doubt it. Fanboy action movies like this tend to fall off sharply in their second weekends, so look for a hefty 51 percent drop from its debut.
Weekend prediction: $22 million
Reno 911!: Miami
Fox · R · 2,703 theaters · NEW
Thus far in 2007, only one R-rated movie has premiered with more than $14 mil: Smokin’ Aces. So the Comedy Central adaptation, therefore, should fall into that range. Then again, its pedigree — specifically, Fox, which also released the R-rated, TV-based comedy Borat to huge revenues a few months back — makes this the movie with the greatest chance of sneaking up on us at the box office this weekend.
Weekend prediction: $15 million
Bridge to Terabithia
Disney · PG · 3,139 theaters · 2nd weekend
After a super-strong $22.6 mil opening, the family fantasy has been playing well throughout the week, earning way more than a million bucks per day. The PG-rated Astronaut Farmer may steal away a little business, but not much, since well-reviewed kid-oriented flicks tend to hold on well.
Weekend prediction: $14 million
The Astronaut Farmer
Warner Bros · PG · 2,155 theaters · NEW
Reviews have been strong for this quirky family film about a man (Billy Bob Thornton) who builds a rocket in his barn (as of Thursday afternoon, it was scoring a dandy 72 out of 100 on Metacritic.com). Strangely, though, buzz has been low — I’m not sure if Warner Bros. knows how to sell it. (I can’t blame them; I’m just sayin’.) Given that neither Thornton nor costar Madsen are major box-office draws, this dramedy will have a hard time breaking out, especially against a powerful holdover like Terabithia.
Weekend prediction: $10 million
THE OTHER NEW RELEASE
Freestyle · R · 988 theaters · NEW
It’s another horror flick — about a woman who goes to Russia to uncover her personal history — released on just a few screens with little fanfare, and with a creepy poster featuring a doll crying tears of blood. As a friend of mine recently wondered: Since when did dolls replace clowns as the scariest childhood items around?
Weekend prediction: $4 million