Two remakes of movies from the 1980s and a bird watching comedy enter the box-office arena this weekend, though reigning champ Real Steel should put up a strong fight as well. Reaching roughly 4,500 screens at 3,549 locations, the Footloose remake leads the way with the fifth-widest opening ever in October. The prequel/remake of The Thing hits 3,500 screens at 2,997 locations, while The Big Year opens at 2,150 venues, most of which are single-screen.
The original Footloose was one of the most popular movies of 1984, ranking seventh on the year with $80 million (or the equivalent of around $190 million adjusted for ticket price inflation). Directed by Hustle and Flow's Craig Brewer, the remake has had an aggressive marketing campaign pitching the movie as a fun, youthful dance flick for the MTV crowd (it's produced by MTV Films). The dance movie genre is a fairly successful one, with bigger hits like Step Up and Stomp the Yard opening to $20.7 million and $21.8 million, respectively. Footloose is saddled with a somewhat antiquated premise (Banning dancing? Really?), though, and the recent disinterest in remakes should translate in to a debut slightly below those two movies.
Two years before Footloose became a huge hit, John Carpenter's The Thing earned just $19.6 million, or around $53 million adjusted for inflation. 2011's The Thing takes place immediately prior to Carpenter's flick, which means it should technically be classified as a prequel. However, that's not part of the marketing, so the majority of audiences won't know that going in. With the same setting (Antarctica), an almost identical story (shape shifting alien terrorizes scientists), and the exact same title, most prospective viewers are going to assume The Thing is a remake, and therefore it should be addressed as such in box office discussions.
The Thing's marketing has mainly focused the icy terror around star Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and lately has utilized the vague tagline "We All Fear Something." None of this has been distinct enough to push the movie out of the confines of the horror remake genre, and there's no reason to expect this to debut outside of the range of second tier remakes like The Crazies ($16.1 million) and The Last House on the Left ($14.1 million). The movie does have one major advantage, though: it's the first pure horror movie in over a month, and gets the jump on the Halloween season ahead of Paranormal Activity 3. Universal's tracking suggests a low double-digits opening driven primarily by male audiences.
The Big Year is a bit of an enigma. With the director of The Devil Wears Prada and Marley and Me, and starring the formidable comedy trio of Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black, it's a wonder that The Big Year's marketing campaign didn't really kick off until about a month ago. That might be because the movie is about bird watching, which isn't exactly a thrilling premise. To mitigate that problem, distributor 20th Century Fox's marketing has largely ignored the birds and instead positioned it as a generic, feel-good bucket list movie. In the process, though, The Big Year has been stripped of any distinctive hook, giving audiences little reason to check it out.
In Box Office Mojo's "When Will You See It" polling, over 21 percent of users voted to see The Thing on opening weekend. While that's off from fellow horror remakes Friday the 13th (30.5 percent), A Nightmare on Elm Street (27 percent) and Halloween (26 percent), it's still incredibly high considering the relative obscurity of the original. Footloose shimmied its way to an 8 percent opening weekend score, which is up from all three Step Up movies and Stomp the Yard but a bit off from 2009's Fame remake (8.7 percent). Finally, The Big Year earned a 7 percent rating, which is down from practically everything the cast and director have recently been involved in with the exception of Gulliver's Travels (6.3 percent).
Weekend Forecast (Oct. 14-16): 1. Footloose - $18.3 million 2. Real Steel - $16.9 million 3. The Thing - $16.5 million 4. The Ides of March - $6.5 million 5. Dolphin Tale - $6.4 million 6. The Big Year - $6.3 million
Bar for Success Based on the general strength of the dancing genre and the overwhelming popularity of the original, Footloose should at least reach the high teen-millions. Considering it's a B-level remake, The Thing will get a pass at $15 million, while The Big Year should be in good shape in the low teen-millions.