Friday, February 13, 2015

The Big Box Office Valentine's Weekend Battle Between Bondage Lovers and Super-Spies


 Scott returns to his box office prognosticating for what is traditionally one of the bigger weekends of the year, especially outside of the summer blockbuster season. We've also got a massive franchise that I predicted would be one of the biggest bombs of the year due to its content, but it looks like I massively failed on that account.

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Well, it has been a while since I have sat in front of the computer screen and prognosticated the possible successes (or possible failures... we don't want to rule that out) for movies on their opening weekends.  Over half of a year has passed, and I got to marvel at the below average numbers that films were pulling in during 2014, perhaps a fiscal indication of how audiences viewing habits have shifted.

Regardless of any of that, I am back now for what can be the first big weekend of the calendar year.  Grab your heart shaped chocolates, your sentimental cards of love and well-wishing, and your official Fifty Shades of Grey branded leather whip and dig in your heels for Valentines at the box office.

It is quite normal that some sort of romantic fare will pop out during this weekend.  In fact, it would be a major studio and scheduling error if it did not happen.  In the past we have seen up to four movies opening during the love holiday, luring couples from their norms and getting them to spend special, quality time together as they venture to theatres to sit in a large room with hundreds of strangers and refrain from talking to one another.  Along with date bait films, there can be instances of good old counter programming in there as well, such as two years ago seeing the latest adventures of John McClane as he refused, once again, to die easy.

Playing it safe with the couples' content is the usual, but this year we are seeing something different with the film adaptation of EL James' sensual bondage adventure, Fifty Shades of Grey.  The book became a massive global hit, with the Fifty Shades series selling over a hundred million copies.  It has a rabid and dedicated fan base, and advanced sales for the film are already showing the massive anticipation audience members have for it.

One site that I refer to at times for box office tracking has predicted this movie could make up to $95 million during its opening weekend.  However, I cannot be super confident in that number for a few reasons.  First of all, even though the books have sold many copies, the audience for a theatrical version may be a niche market.  Such a clustering of fans can skew perception because they will be quick to get things like advanced tickets but are not properly representative of the general audience.

On top of that, this is not your run of the mills date film.  If the trailers are an indication of the movie proper, the plot is as such - a woman falls for a well sculpted rich guy who turns out to be a serious freak in the bedroom.  There is not the typical structure of romantic films past, the kind that could bring both sexes to the theatre as part of their Valentine's Day activities.  It is quite possible that due to the structure and composition of the film this could be a very hard sell for women to bring their beaus with them.

Fifty Shades of Grey Opening Weekend Prediction - $60 million

The only other film entering theatres this weekend is counter programming in Kingsman: The Secret Service, directed by Matthew Vaughn.  His name not be one that is recognizable in many corners of the casual movie goers, he has proven himself to be very competent with the hits Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class, both of which he wrote as well as directed.

Kingsman has a very interesting cast, which shows action sequences involving Colin Firth as well as having Michael Caine, Samuel L. Jackson, and Mark Hamill.  Having seen the trailers, I have a feeling that this movie will have a great deal in common with Kick-Ass in that it is taking a very shop-worn genre and elevating it to levels of absurdity.  With Kick-Ass, Vaughn was able to take a style of film that generally finds success and love within specific pockets of fans and make it accessible enough to warrant a sequel.  The film was still no box office trump card, and made just shy of $20 million its opening weekend.

The marketing campaign has been strong with Kingsman: The Secret Service, and the cast may be incentive to draw out older audiences who may not have realized that this is an R-rated flick.  There could end up being a number of ticket holders who are shocked at what they see, especially if the tone is similar to what it was in Kick-Ass.  But by then it would be too late.  Their tickets already purchased and adding to the tally.  I think the inclusion of older, established actors may be the gem that takes this movie to a higher level than Kick-Ass, propelled a portion further due to it scoring 75% on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of writing this.

Kingsman: The Secret Service Opening Weekend Box Office Prediction - $27 million

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