With a strong brand name and an extremely wide release (10th-widest ever in April), The Three Stooges has the best chance of defeating The Hunger Games this weekend. The Stooges starred in nearly 200 short films in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, and these shorts were later syndicated on TV (they also starred or were featured in over 20 movies). While most TV remakes don't go back to the 50s and 60s, there are a few recent examples that do. Bewitched opened to $20.1 million, while Get Smart was a solid hit with a $38.7 million debut. On the other hand, The Honeymooners adaptation bombed with a $5.5 million opening in 2005.
The Farrelly Brothers, who wrote and directed The Three Stooges, made the decision to bring the characters to the modern day while retaining the outlandish slapstick that made the group so famous in the first place. That makes for an awkward juxtaposition, though, and the reaction to the first trailer wasn't all that enthusiastic. Distributor 20th Century Fox clearly took note of how absurd the whole thing was, and ramped up their marketing effort as a result.
Stand-out ads include a drug commercial parody for "Stoogesta" and a spot that instructs women to send their men to see The Three Stooges while they go and spend a day at the spa. These have gone a long way to increasing awareness, though by exclusively targeting men they are limiting their potential audience (not that women were probably all that interested to begin with). Fox is hoping for a $10 million opening, though with such a wide release it should be able to debut at least in the mid-teen-millions.
The Cabin in the Woods was filmed back in 2009, before star Chris Hemsworth had even been cast as the title character in Thor. Thanks to MGM's bankruptcy problems, though, the Joss Whedon-produced horror satire has languished on the shelf for nearly three years, and even flirted with a 3D conversion at one point. Apparently, the time it took to get to the big screen wasn't indicative of quality, as the movie has so far received exceptional reviews (91 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes as of Thursday afternoon).
Regardless of the reviews, and the movie's prime Friday the 13th release date, it's unlikely to break out due to its reportedly meta nature. By keeping the twisty and self-reflective narrative under wraps, the movie has wound up looking like standard haunted house fare, and no amount of fanboy praise is enough to overcome this hurdle. Distributor Lionsgate (who took over for MGM) released the similarly genre-bending Kick-Ass at the exact same time two years ago—that movie scored $19.8 million on its opening weekend, a figure that's likely just out of Cabin's reach (Lionsgate is forecasting between $10 and $12 million).
With its schlocky, somewhat retro feel, sci-fi actioner Lockout is probably the odd-man-out this weekend. Aside from Taken, producer Luc Besson's recent movies have opened between $8 and $12 million. With a slightly smaller release, Lockout may have a tough time even reaching the low end of that range (studio expectations put it in the $6-8 million range).
Weekend Forecast (April 13-15)
1. The Hunger Games - $19.9 million (-40%)
2. The Three Stooges - $17.5 million
3. The Cabin in the Woods - $15.1 million
4. Titanic 3D - $11.2 million (-35%)
5. American Reunion - $10.8 million (-50%)
-. Lockout - $7.5 million
Bar for Success
Major TV adaptations almost always open over $20 million, and the Stooges really ought to be hitting that target as well. The Cabin in the Woods is fine over $15 million, while Lockout just needs to make it in to that Luc Besson sweet spot (around $10 million) to get a pass.
• Last Weekend's Forecast: 'American Reunion,' 'Titanic 3D' Challenge 'Hunger Games'
• Last Weekend Report: 'Hunger Games' Three-peats, Passes $300 Million Over Easter
• April Preview (Part 1): 'Titanic 3D,' 'American Reunion,' 'Three Stooges' & More