FINAL TRACKING: 'Body of Lies,' from Ridley, Russell and Leo, May Be Set to Win the War on Terror (and the Weekend); 'BHC' a Possible Strong Second, Followed by Football Biopic 'The Express' w/$16M!
by Steve Mason
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It is hard to think of a movie with a more impeccable pedigree than Body of Lies (Warner Bros.), set for wide release this Friday. Three-time Academy Award nominee Ridley Scott reteams with Oscar winner Russell Crowe for the fourth time in the film adaptation of the David Ignatius bestselling novel, adapted for the screen by William Monahan, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Departed. Add to the mix Leonardo DiCaprio, with 3 Oscar nominations of his own, and you have a project with exceedingly bright commercial and artistic prospects.
My regular sources tell me that industry tracking is softer-than-expected for this one, and reviews, as of Tuesday night, are a bit mixed (63 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes). I will still put my money on Body of Lies, however, to win the weekend. Four of Scott's last seven films have topped $100 million domestic: Gladiator ($187.7 million cume), Hannibal ($165 million cume), Black Hawk Down ($108.6 million cume) and last year's American Gangster ($130.1 million cume), also starring Crowe. When Sir Ridley has missed, of late, it has been with contemporary character pieces like the Crowe collaboration A Good Year ($7.5 million cume) and Matchstick Men ($36.9 million cume), although his Crusader epic Kingdom of Heaven ($47.3 million cume) was definitely considered a commercial disappointment. The fact is that Scott is at his best when it comes to smart action films for adults.
The undertow working against Body of Lies is that audiences seem deterred by any movie related to the War on Terror. Critical disasters on the subject like Lions For Lambs ($15 million cume) and Rendition ($9.7 million cume) have failed, and even very good films like In the Valley of Elah ($6.7 million cume) and The Kingdom ($47.4 million cume) seemed to take a significant hit in their profits. DiCaprio is 10 years Crowe's junior, and with recent quality hits like The Departed ($132.3 million cume) and The Aviator ($102.6 million cume) on his resume, along with his Oscar-nominated turn in Blood Diamond ($57.3 million cume), he puts some much-needed youth appeal on the table. I am projecting a possible $16 million-$19 million for this one, and if you pin me down, I will say $17.5 million.
Last weekend's big winner, Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Disney) will essentially have the family audience to itself again this week. The live action, Latino-flavored talking dog comedy is hitting "the sweet spot" with audiences, attracting Under 25s, moms and preteens, and its second-weekend plunge should be limited to something in the 45 percent range. That would give Chihuahua a very strong $16.6 million.
The Express (Universal), the story of Ernie Davis, the first African-American player to win the Heisman Trophy, is tracking decently enough. Harlem-born, Brooklyn-raised former Amherst College-football -player-turned-actor Rob Brown plays the former Syracuse Orangemen star, and sports movie veteran Dennis Quaid plays his coach, Ben Schwartzwalder. Early reviews are coming in very strong, with a Rotten Tomatoes reading of 83 percent Fresh as of Tuesday night.
Football movies generally open in the mid-teens in the late summer and fall. 2006's Mark Wahlberg vehicle Invincible scored $17 million in its first three days, while Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's Gridiron Gang managed a $14.4 million opening a few weeks later. It does not appear that The Express has enough traction to match the $20 million-plus openings for 2000's Remember the Titans or 2004's Friday Night Lights. I am pegging this biopic for a possible $14.1 million.
There is generally room for an R-rated horror flick at this time of year, and Sony's Quarantine fits the bill. Throw together a rare strain of rabies in a confined apartment building with lots of shaky camera work and plenty of screaming (courtesy of The Exorcism of Emily Rose star Jennifer Carpenter), and you probably have a decent little low-budget hit. This one could scare up $11.5 million or so, and a possible fourth-place finish.
The strong-holding Shia LaBeouf thriller Eagle Eye (DreamWorks/Paramount) is likely to spend another week in the Top 5. The D.J. Caruso-directed blockbuster may bank as much as $10 million more, staying on target for something north of $90 million domestic. That would mean just a 45 percent dip from its strong second weekend.
The lushly-appointed Saul Bibb costume drama The Duchess (Paramount Vantage), starring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes, is poised for a tidy expansion to about 1,100 playdates. With strong reviews and a heap of female appeal, this look at 18th-century notoriety may grab close to $6 million.
The other wide release is the Walden Media and Playtone co-production of City of Ember, being distributed by 20th Century Fox. The Playtone name means that Tom Hanks is the producer, but this one will not necessarily appear near the top of his resume. There is a lot of talent in the cast including Oscar nominees Bill Murray (Lost in Translation), Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) and Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Secrets & Lies), and Oscar winners Tim Robbins (Mystic River) and Martin Landau (Ed Wood), but the movie is only being screened for critics late in the game. This fantastical family film is unlikely to crack $5 million, and probably has a ceiling of $3.5 million.
FINAL PREDICTIONS FOR THE WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 10
1. NEW Body of Lies (Warner Bros.) — $17.5 million
2. Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Disney) — $16.6 million
3. NEW The Express (Universal) — $14.1 million
4. NEW Quarantine (Sony) — $11.5 million
5. Eagle Eye (DreamWorks/Paramount) — $10 million
6. Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist (Sony) — $6.1 million
7. The Duchess (Paramount Vantage) — $5.9 million
8. Nights in Rodanthe (Warner Bros.) — $3.9 million
9. NEW City of Ember (20th Century Fox) — $3.5 million
10. Apaloosa (Warner Bros.) — $3 million
* Religulous (Lionsgate) — $2.1 million
* Fireproof (IDP Films/Samuel Goldwyn) — $2 million
* An American Carol (Vivendi) — $1.75 million
* Flash of Genius (Universal) — $1.3 million