The annual box office Easter-egg hunt gets underway this weekend, with four big new releases and a handful of strong holdovers all scrambling to see what goodies the old bunny has hidden away for them. Kids are on spring break, offices are closed on Good Friday, and the competition is fierce. In fact, three of the freshmen films have already opened: the family flicks Are We Done Yet? and Firehouse Dog bowed on Wednesday, and the horror pic The Reaping hit multiplexes yesterday. But on this most sacred weekend, it?ll be the decidedly unholy R-rated blood-and-guts fest Grindhouse that takes the three-day prize.
Well, sez me. As I?ve mentioned before, big weekends like this one are usually wide open when it comes to guessing the winner. Last time around, an impressive 86 percent of us correctly predicted that Blades of Glory would wind up at No. 1. But can we do it again? Please read on, and then cast your vote below for which movie you think will enjoy a weekend as sweet as Cadbury Crème.
THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE
The Weinstein Company · R · 2,624 · NEW
Quentin Tarantino is something of a living legend, I suppose, and the fact that he?s only directed four films since Pulp Fiction certainly adds to his mystique. But for as much as critics (like EW?s Owen Gleiberman, who gave Grindhouse an A) and his fans love him and consider every one of his movies an event, his box office track record doesn?t necessarily live up to that hype. Pulp Fiction is QT?s only release to clear $100 million domestically, and his last two movies, the Kill Bill flicks, took in good-but-not-great sums of $70 mil (Vol. 1) and $66.2 mil (Vol. 2). Robert Rodriguez, on the other hand, has managed to go more commercial, with the family-friendly Spy Kids series (total combined gross: $310.3 mil) and the graphic-novel adaptation Sin City, which made $74.1 mil. So despite all the external competition, this weekend?s biggest battle may take place inside Grindhouse (a three-hour affair for which QT and RR each created a violent film in the style of old exploitation flicks): Will it play more like a QT movie or an RR film at the box office? To me the answer is clear. Considering the vast amounts of gore and movie-geek winks and nudges herein, Grindhouse smacks more of Kill Bill than anything else. So look for it to bow in the same mid-20s range as QT?s last releases — and, hey, if you plan on seeing it, do yourself a favor and wait to eat till after the show is over.
Weekend prediction: $24 million
Blades of Glory
Paramount · PG-13 · 3,410 · 2nd weekend
Will Ferrell and Jon Heder have been skating strong during the week, earning $2 mil to $3 mil per day. Still, even on a moderate 42 percent drop, this time they?ll have to settle for silver.
Weekend prediction: $19 million
Meet the Robinsons
Disney · G · 3,435 · 2nd weekend
Last weekend, the animated kiddie flick scored the biggest-ever 3-D premiere, bringing in $7.1 mil on 581 screens (it played in thousands of other regular theaters and grossed a healthy $25.1 mil in total). Which bodes well for its second frame. Movies like this never decline too sharply (especially when children are out of school), and that 3-D appeal will help prop up Robinsons? box office tally even more.
Weekend prediction: $17 million
Are We Done Yet?
Columbia · PG · 2,877 · NEW
The premise of this comedy is intriguing: It?s at once a sequel to 2005?s Are We There Yet? and a bit of a remake of the Cary Grant classic Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (which, of course, was already redone as Tom Hanks? The Money Pit). If only reviewers were as interested as I am — the film is scoring a lowly 37 out of 100 on Metacritic.com. Still, star Ice Cube has a pretty devoted following (Are We There Yet? debuted with a very nice $18.6 mil), and this movie stands to have broad, cross-cultural appeal. Moreover, it opened with a decent $2 mil on Wednesday, trailing only Blades and Robinsons, and not by much.
Weekend prediction: $16 million
Warner Bros. · R · 2,603 · NEW
I really like Hilary Swank as an actress and she seems like a nice lady, so I wish I could write nicer things about her in this column. But for the second time in 2007, I have to remind everyone that the two-time Oscar winner has never been a big box office draw. Her Freedom Writers opened to just $9.4 mil in January (en route to a $36.6 mil total). And while this religion-based horror flick (which centers on the 10 Biblical plagues of ancient Egypt) arrives on a religion-based weekend with a cool concept, it?s not going to do a whole lot better. That it has been sitting unreleased for quite a while also portends a fate worse than frogs.
Weekend prediction: $12 million
THE OTHER NEW RELEASE
Fox · PG · 2,860 · NEW
I was prepared to argue that this perky pooch pic (about how Hollywood?s most famous canine befriends the son of a small-town fire captain) will see its four legs on screen translate into long legs at the box office. And I was prepared to compare it to recent big animal openers like Snow Dogs ($17.8 mil) and Eight Below ($20.2 mil). And then I saw that it earned a paltry $600,000 in its eighth-place Wednesday debut. And I realized that, yep, I had been barking up the wrong tree.
Weekend prediction: $5 million
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