Box Office to Keep 'Bad Company,' While 'Ya-Ya' Counter-Programs for Success
If one learns anything from years of studying the box office, it's this: never underestimate Jerry Bruckheimer.

With his distinctive stamp of gold-filtered camerawork and quick cuts, Bruckheimer has earned the title of uber-producer and then some. Quite simply, he has the Midas touch, proven by an unprecedented winning streak that's lasted nearly 20 years since his first big splash Flashdance.

His resume is stacked with such blockbusters as Beverly Hills Cop, Top Gun, Armageddon and Black Hawk Down. Even his "bombs" were really hits. As derided as Pearl Harbor was, it still grossed over $450 million worldwide and became the second-best selling DVD of all time. Bruckheimer even had a hand in producing the top rated TV show CSI.

With the release of Bad Company starring Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock, Bruckheimer returns to the early June action slot that he has owned before. It all started with the Dwayne Johnson, which took off on the weekend of June 7, 1996 with $25,069,525 and ended its run at $134,069,511, propelling star Nicolas Cage into superstardom. Bruckheimer and Cage teamed up again the following year on Con Air, which opened on the same frame to $24,131,738 en route to $101,117,573. Then came Gone in 60 Seconds in 2000, which accelerated to $25,336,048 in its first weekend on course to $101,648,571.

Now, Bruckheimer has been freed from his Cage.

Looking like a cross between last weekend's openers The Sum of All Fears and Undercover Brother, the CIA action-comedy Bad Company shares its title with 11 other movies, a little less common than what it was formerly called—Black Sheep—a title more than a dozen other movies are known as, most notably the 1996 Chris Farley comedy.

Originally scheduled for and promoted as a Christmas release, Bad Company has the dubious distinction of being the third movie postponed, ostensibly out of sensitivity over Sept. 11. The other two—Collateral Damage and Big Trouble—did not fare well with respective grosses of $40,063,538 and $7,125,449. While promoting Black Hawk Down, though, Bruckheimer said that he always thought Company would work better in the summer anyway.

Among Bruckheimer's oeuvre, Company is probably most similar to the odd couple pairing of Will Smith and Gene Hackman in 1998's Enemy of the State. That thriller opened to $20,038,573 at 2,393 sites in the pre-Thanksgiving slot—or around $24 million adjusted for ticket price inflation—on its way to $111,549,836.

The Bad Company trailer is standard-issue Bruckheimer, replete with a voiceover altered by sound effects and a visual and aural assault of action and comedy. At one point, though, the voiceover says "Things have gone from bad to worse," which is followed by Rock shouting "I want to watch Oprah!" during a car chase. One isn't sure if the voiceover is referring to the characters' situation, or the attempts at jokes. As for the TV spots, they're skewed to whatever channel they happen to be playing on. On the networks, Hopkins gets top billing with more traditional trappings. On MTV, the ads get a hip hop flavor and the billing is reversed to "Rock. Hopkins."

Before anyone harps on the seemingly incongruous pairing of Hopkins and Rock, keep in mind that Hopkins has shared the screen before with the likes of Emilio Estevez, Mick Jagger, Dana Carvey and Jennifer Love Hewitt (in the yet-to-be-released The Devil and Daniel Webster). Hopkins has long been a strong draw when paired with a younger male co-star in the role of his protege, and Rock has displayed some solid box office chops, especially with last year's Down to Earth ($17,268,883 bow on course to $64,186,502).

Infiltrating 2,944 theaters, the box office should be in Bruckheimer's hands once again with a No. 1 bow for Bad Company of around $23 million.

Last weekend, audiences were treated to the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. by way of Undercover Brother. This weekend, it's all about the sisterhood—Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, that is, starring Sandra Bullock, Ashley Judd, Ellen Burstyn and Maggie Smith.

With such hits as Hope Floats and Double Jeopardy between them, Bullock and Judd have a near Bruckheimer-like consistency when it comes to chick flicks, and Ya-Ya sees them sticking to the personae that audiences love them for—at least in the ad campaign.

What's more, Ya-Ya is based on a best-selling book that has a devoted following. Movies with a similar pedigree have done quite well in the summertime, including 1998's The Horse Whisperer ($13,685,488 opening en route to $75,383,563) and 1995's The Bridges of Madison County ($10,519,257 bow on course to $71,528,348).

"The critics are going ga-ga over Ya-Ya," the movie's commercials tout, and moviegoers will likely too—at least on the first weekend. With Enough and Unfaithful faded, Ya-Ya practically has the female audience to itself, which it could exploit to the tune of around $17 million this weekend from its 2,507-theater debut.

Incumbent The Sum of All Fears continued to display its potency during the weekdays, talling a powerful $43,089,892 by Thursday. With overall positive audience sentiment on its side, its fall-out rate could be in the 40% range, putting it at about $18 million and second place this weekend. That would propel its 10-day total to over $60 million, which could give it enough momentum to squeak past the $100 million mark.

"This summer, experience a movie you never expected, and an adventure you'll never forget." Sounds like the tagline for the latest sleeper hit—like a My Big Fat Greek Wedding or an Y Tu Mama Tambien—as opposed to one of the most anticipated movies of all time. But that's the new ad campaign for Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones. "Time Magazine calls it 'Exhilarating,'" it adds, culminating in a shot of Samuel L. Jackson saying, "This party's over."

Despite that, Clones is poised to level off this weekend, its fourth and last one that exhibitors are obligated to run it. The Phantom Menace eased just 22% on its same frame in 1999 to $25,632,861, and that was against the opening of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Given its sharper drop-off rate, Clones could fall around 33% to $14 million this weekend.

As Star Wars distances itself from itself, DreamWorks is banking on the Star Wars name to draw more attention to its $80 million traditionally animated Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, which has lassoed in a solid $44,345,051 in two weeks. New TV spots start off with the tagline "This summer, may the horse be with you" and feature a quote proclaiming the picture to have "Twice as much action as Attack of the Clones." Spirit could dip a modest 30% to $8 million this weekend.

On the same frame last year, uber-producer Joel Silver tried to pull a Jerry Bruckheimer with Swordfish, but came up with mixed results. The John Travolta action flick bowed in first place with a relatively modest $18,145,632 at 2,678 sites—somewhat muted by the NBA playoffs—en route to $69,772,969 and a lucrative run on home video. Shrek held onto second place with $16,520,052, off 41%, while Pearl Harbor dipped 50% to $14,721,419 in third. Sci-fi comedy Evolution wasn't fit enough to survive the summer, debuting at No. 4 with $13,408,351 at 2,611 venues and going extinct at $38,345,494.