They’re Off to Seize the Wizard
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – Three films targeting very different audiences are attempting to dethrone the boy wizard from his box office perch this weekend.
But it’s unlikely that the eerily perfect wives of Stepford, the anti-hero Richard Riddick or a lasagna-loving animated cat will cast a spell strong enough to drive Harry Potter and his friends at Hogwarts from the top of the chart.
Last weekend illustrated the pure power of Potter. “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” the third installment of J.K. Rowling’s book series, generated a record $93.6 million in its debut weekend, the highest opening-weekend gross of the series. But with Universal Pictures’ “The Chronicles of Riddick” targeting young males, Paramount Pictures’ “The Stepford Wives” making a bid for older women and 20th Century Fox’s “Garfield: The Movie” looking to capitalize on the family audience, the box office will have to expand to accommodate all the new titles.
“Riddick” is the second film built around actor Vin Diesel’s character of Richard Riddick, following 2000’s “Pitch Black,” which did a modest $39.2 million and established Diesel as a star. “Riddick” is a testosterone-filled sci-fi adventure that looks to be generating a lot of heat in its demographic. Judi Dench and Thandie Newton co-star in the PG-13 actioner written and directed by David Twohy, who handled the same duties on “Pitch Black.”
Tracking appears to be strong, and with the movie bowing in 2,759 locations, industry insiders put “Riddick’s” opening in the $25 million-$30 million range. That should be good news for Diesel, whose most recent project, last year’s “A Man Apart,” fell flat. Although “Riddick” is not in a position to overthrow “Potter,” it could find itself in a contest for the second spot with “Shrek 2,” which pulled in $37.9 million last weekend. “Shrek 2,” which stands in 13th place on the list of all-time domestic grossers, also is on track to surpass “Finding Nemo,” in 10th place with $340 million, as the top-grossing animated film.
“The Stepford Wives,” co-financed by DreamWorks and starring Nicole Kidman and Matthew Broderick as the out-of-town couple who enter the seemingly idyllic community of Stepford, Conn., is the latest adaptation of the Ira Levin novel that was filmed in 1975. Directed by Frank Oz (“The Score,” “Bowfinger”), the film co-stars Christopher Walken, Glenn Close, Faith Hill and Bette Midler. Turmoil is said to have plagued the picture since preproduction, with Joan and John Cusack both dropping out and numerous reports of actor-director infighting on set.
But Kidman’s star power might be able to buoy the picture. Her most recent film, “Cold Mountain,” opened to $14.5 million in December, and “Stepford” is hoping to draw a much broader audience. Tracking on the film seems to have improved during the past few weeks, but mixed reviews, which often scare away the older female demographic, might put the picture in the $15 million category. The PG-13 “Stepford” will open in 3,057 theaters.
Garfield, the popular feline star of cartoons and his own comic strip, finally gets his first feature film. But it is an open question whether the animated cat will spark the interests of kids in today’s marketplace. Bowing in 3,094 locations, the PG-rated computer-animated/live-action feature boasts Bill Murray as the voice of Garfield, while Breckin Meyer and Jennifer Love Hewitt co-star as the human leads. The box office appeal of family-geared films can be difficult to predict, but insiders peg “Garfield’s” bow in the $12 million-$15 million range.
In limited release, Fox Searchlight will bow “Napoleon Dynamite” in four locations. The PG-rated comedy, acquired at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, centers on the nerdy title character and his antics in a small town in Idaho. Written and directed by Jared Hess in his feature debut, the film, which cost a reported $400,000, scored well with Sundance audiences and could turn into a sleeper hit.
United Artists’ high-school comedy “Saved!” will make a bid for the top 10 in its third weekend by expanding to about 500 theaters.
They’re Off to Seize the Wizard