Two years ago, The Expendables drew serious interest from male audiences by bringing together a large group of past-and-present action stars in to one movie. It opened to $34.8 million on its way to $103.1 million, which at the time made it distributor Lionsgate's second-highest-grossing title ever. Reactions to the movie were mixed, though: it received a poor 41% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and fans have awarded it an unremarkable 6.5 rating on IMDb.
In order to maintain interest, The Expendables 2 is upping the ante in regards to its ensemble cast, which is the main selling point for this aspiring franchise. Frequently-parodied action stars Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme (as a villain named "Vilain," of course) are the biggest additions, while The Hunger Games star Liam Hemsworth has been brought on board presumably to attract some interest from younger female audiences (though it's hard to imagine them turning out for such a violent, testosterone-heavy movie just because the future Mr. Miley Cyrus is in it). The movie also gives expanded screen time to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, though that impact is muted considering their cameos in the original were a central part of that movie's marketing effort.
Even with all these fresh faces, there is definitely a bit of a been-there-done-that feeling surrounding The Expendables 2. It also doesn't help that the movie is facing direct competition from The Bourne Legacy's second weekend. Lionsgate is anticipating an opening in the low-$30-millions right now, which would put it just behind the first movie's debut.
Paranorman is the latest movie from Laika Entertainment, the animation company behind 2009's Coraline. That movie was also released by Focus Features, and debuted to $16.8 million before closing with a very good $75.3 million. That opening is on the high-end for stop-motion animation: in fact, the top debut ever for the sub-genre still belongs to 2000's Chicken Run ($17.5 million), and recent underperformer The Pirates! Band of Misfits ($11.1 million) suggests that these movies really aren't huge draws right out of the gate.
Paranorman, though, may be able to break out a bit from these levels. The gothic stop-motion look aligns nicely with Coraline, and Paranorman's ads mix-in some broadly-appealing humor. Also, the movie generated serious awareness with some clever Olympics tie-in commercials. Finally, with Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days and Ice Age: Continental Drift fading, and The Odd Life of Timothy Green unlikely to break out, Paranorman has a fairly-open field with younger and family audiences. A good comparison seems to be Monster House which was also a dark animated movie centered around children. It opened to $22.2 million in Summer 2006, which is likely the high mark for ParaNorman this weekend.
Music drama Sparkle marks the last big-screen role for pop star Whitney Houston, who passed away in February shortly after completing work on the movie. Sparkle follows a female Motown group in the 1960s, and it was surely inspired to a degree by the overwhelming success of 2006's Dreamgirls ($103.4 million). While the buzz isn't nearly as high on Sparkle, the Whitney-factor obviously will inspire some curiosity, and the movie should play well with older woman. According to Sony, Sparkle has a good chance of matching its $14 million budget over opening weekend.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green kicked off its box office run a few days early with a $2.3 million Wednesday opening. That's nearly identical to last week's Hope Springs, which went on to earn $19.1 million over its first five days. That's a bit of an anomaly, though, with most patterns suggesting a number closer to $15 million for Timothy Green's five-day start.
Weekend Forecast (August 17-19) 1. The Expendables 2 - $37.1 million 2. Paranorman - $19.6 million 3. The Bourne Legacy - $17.4 million (-54%) 4. The Campaign - $13.6 million (-49%) 5. Sparkle - $13.1 million -. The Odd Life of Timothy Green - $10.5 million ($14.5 million 5-day) Bar for Success With the additions to the cast, The Expendables 2 ought to be getting close to the first movie's debut ($35 million or more). Based on the track record for stop-motion animation, anything north of $15 million is a fine start for Paranorman, while $15 million would also put Sparkle (three days) and Timothy Green (5 days) in great shape.