This coming weekend is a melancholy one. 20-25% of people polled by research film NRG displayed some hesitation about going back to the movie theatres after James Holmes killed twelve and injured fifty-eight after opening fire during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. Although the tragedy was the work of one disturbed individual, it's colored the moviegoing experience, and some fear copycat killings. Domestic returns for the Batman finale have been slightly below projections compared to robust international returns, a sign that some feel squeamish about heading to the theatres in the wake of such a horrific event.
Hollywood, often an escape from reality, has become uncomfortably close to it. Both new wide releases this week have made changes to the marketing of their films because of their similarity to current events. Step Up Revolution excised a dancing scene involving gas masks from its commercials, but not the actual movie. The comedy The Watch was retitled from Neighborhood Watch earlier this year after a teenager, Trayvon Martin, was shot and killed by a member of a community's neighborhood watch. Plus, Gangster Squad will be reshot and has been pushed back from September to January, because a climactic scene involves a shooting in a movie theatre.
The Dark Knight Rises should drop around 60% from last week and land somewhere above $50 million. However, if it were to post the same drop as its predecessor, the Christian Bale starrer would end up higher, closer to $75 million.
Step Up Revolution (2,567 theatres), the fourth in a popular dance-centered franchise, has strong support among young females as well as Latino and African-American audiences. 90% of the screens will show the film in 3D, which should easily give the release a number somewhere in the teen millions. Critic Maitland McDonagh gives her endorsement of what really counts, noting that "this third sequel features the most frequent, energetically choreographed and performed dance numbers of the series to date."
Anchored by the funny quartet of Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and up-and-comer Richard Ayoade, The Watch (3,168 theatres) involves a group's puffed-up attempts to monitor the neighborhood, which they end up defending against little green men. The comedy "consistently settles for broad, often raunchy laughs," critic Michael Sauter notes with disappointment, leading to humor that feels "computer-programmed." Critics agree, giving the comedy just a 14% positive rating.
A kind of indie riff on Weird Science, Ruby Sparks (13 theatres) opened on Wednesday, averaging around $1,500 per screen on the day of its release. The fantastical comedy-drama centers on a young author who writes his dream girl into existence, a concept that's "charming, often funny, thoughtful, and just a little bit tedious," according to critic Wendy R. Weinstein.
"Sleazy, abhorrent stuff, but smashing good pulp," the NC-17 Killer Joe (3 theatres) has a story chock-full of violence, sex, and nudity. It's "too twisted and cruel for most people," critic Rex Roberts warns, but a subset of people may enjoy its pulpy take and trashy characters.
The staff at Film Journal are gaga for Searching for Sugar Man. With a 93% positive critics rating and 100% positive audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes, we're not alone. The documentary tells the story of a failed U.S. musician who lives his life completely unaware that he has become a huge hit in the isolated, apartheid nation of South Africa, and brings to the forefront all the what-ifs in life, as well as the vagaries of fame and fortune.
On Monday, we'll see how the box office does in light of last week's tragedy.