Top dog. Bark up a win. Woof! Four new movies are coming out this week, and with any luck they’ll free entertainment-press readers from the inevitable puns (sorry, folks, but we just gotta) that come when a film like Beverly Hills Chihuahua barks up, sorry, finishes at No. 1.
Who’s got the best chance to unseat our canine champion? Why, that’d be the Leonardo DiCaprio-Russell Crowe-Ridley Scott thriller Body of Lies. Of course, yet another crowded weekend means that just about anything could happen. So read on for my picks and then take your own stab at this prediction thing in EW.com's Fall Box Office Challenge.
THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE
Body of Lies
Warner Bros. · R · 2,710 theaters · NEW
Last November, American Gangster opened with $43.6 mil before going on to gross $130.2 mil at the domestic box office — a big, if somewhat unexpected, hit for director Ridley Scott and stars Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington. So here we are a year later, with Leonardo DiCaprio replacing Denzel and a new real-world-set thriller narrative (based on the 2007 David Ignatius novel) revolving around the CIA and terrorism. Full o’ laughs, these guys! On the face of it, this movie should fare just as well as that one, considering its dead-even trade of the bankable Denzel for erstwhile King of the World Leo. Then again, reviews have been a little less than stellar this time around, competition for adult eyes is tighter (American Gangster’s biggest rival was Bee Movie), and, as we’ve discussed many times, most movies referencing current global politics haven’t attracted many viewers. Not to mention the fact that it’s often foolish to bet on an R-rated film bowing to more than about $30 mil — only the rare R-rated hits earn as much in their premieres. Like, well, American Gangster.
Weekend prediction: $25 million
Beverly Hills Chihuahua
Walt Disney · PG · 3,218 theaters · 2nd weekend
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Arf.
Weekend prediction: $20 million
Screen Gems · R · 2,461 theaters · NEW
Halloween is approaching, so get ready for our annual onslaught of horror movies! This one, for example, is about…oh, like it really matters. A year ago, Josh Hartnett’s similarly scary 30 Days of Night debuted in first place with $16 mil, although it had no major competition.
Weekend prediction: $13 million
Universal · PG · 2,808 theaters · NEW
It’s amazing that the story of Syracuse football star Ernie Davis — the first African-American Heisman Trophy winner, who passed away from leukemia at age 23 before ever playing in the pros — hasn’t been made into a movie until now, nearly half a century after his death. It’s also unfortunate that, noble and good as this film may be, it wasn’t released sometime earlier in the intervening 45 years. After all, relatively star-free, PG-rated sports dramas (Rocky, Chariots of Fire, etc.) used to be much better sells. And, come to think of it, even some of the best sports movies over the years (Hoosiers, Raging Bull, Rudy) have had a hard time putting the ball in the box office end zone.
Weekend prediction: $11 million
Paramount/DreamWorks · PG-13 · 3,614 theaters · 3rd weekend
If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I know.
Weekend prediction: $10 million
THE OTHER NEW RELEASE
City of Ember
Fox/Walden · PG · 2,022 theaters · NEW
Doesn’t the title make this film sound like it’s a post-apocalyptic chiller directed by a Brazilian auteur and starring, like, Julianne Moore and some British guy? Well, okay, the plot (based on Jeanne DuPrau’s 2003 young-adult novel) does indeed have something to do with a world in which people live underground for hundreds of years. But we’re definitely not talking about Children of Men here. Rather, City of Ember is a family film, starring cuddly Tim Robbins and Bill Murray, and that rascally Oscar nominee from Atonement, Saoirse Ronan. Certainly, the film could catch a Bridge to Terabithia/Journey to the Center of the Earth-esque wave and have a nice $20 mil-plus debut. But that’s not likely, considering how it’s opening in approximately 1,000 fewer theaters than those recent hits did.
Weekend prediction: $8 million