Forecast: Jessica Poised to Beat Arnold, Mark This Weekend

by Ray Subers

January 17, 2013

Arnold's back, but it looks like Jessica has his number over Martin Luther King weekend.

After a decade-long hiatus from leading man status, Arnold Schwarzengger is starring in The Last Stand, which opens in 2,913 locations this weekend. It's going after the same older male audience as Mark Wahlberg drama Broken City, though, which should keep both movies out of the top spot. Instead, it looks likely that first place either goes to holdover Zero Dark Thirty or new horror flick Mama, both of which star Jessica Chastain.

Out of the nine brand-new nationwide releases in January, eight of them are rated R. The only outlier is Mama, which is attempting to appeal to the PG-13 horror crowd. While Universal's marketing campaign has been light, it has also very clearly established the movie's scary premise, which finds supernatural occurances ensuing after two young girls are rescued from the woods and brought to live with their aunt and uncle.

Star Jessica Chastain is red-hot right now thanks to her recent Oscar nomination and Golden Globe win for her work in Zero Dark Thirty: her name isn't included in Mama's marketing, though, and her awards recognition is obviously more likely to help out the controversial CIA thriller. Instead, the big name being promoted is Guillermo Del Toro, who has become a go-to name in the horror world in recent years. His last big movie, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, disappointed with just $8.5 million in its opening weekend; Mama seems to be in much better shape, though, and Universal is currently forecasting low-to-mid-teen millions.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's last lead role was Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in 2003: soon after the movie was released, Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California in a special recall election, and was subsequently re-elected in 2006. After his second term ended in early 2011, he immediately began pursuing acting opportunities again, and The Last Stand is the first in a series of upcoming movies.

With hits like Total Recall ($119.4 million), Terminator 2: Judgment Day ($204.8 million) and True Lies ($146.3 million), Schwarzenegger was one of the biggest box office draws in the late 80s and early 90s. He hit a rough patch in the new millennium, though, thanks to disappointments The 6th Day ($34.6 million) and Collateral Damage ($40.1 million).

A decade later, though, audiences remember Schwarzenegger more for his classic movies and less for his recent bombs, so The Last Stand would appear to be well-positioned as a "comeback" vehicle. Unfortunately, Lionsgate's marketing hasn't really done much to push that angle: the likely explanation is that they already played that card for last Summer's The Expendables 2 by highlighting Schwarzenegger's supporting role. As a result, The Last Stand doesn't seem to be much of an event, and is instead looking at a fairly modest debut (Lionsgate is forecasting low-teen-millions).

Opening at 2,620 locations, Broken City also appears poised for an underwhelming opening despite starring the usually-reliable Mark Wahlberg. This time last year, Wahlberg movie Contraband opened to $24.3 million on its way to $66.5 million—Contraband had a unique visual flair and plenty of shots of Wahlberg punching people in the face, though, while Broken City looks like a fairly generic detective drama in which Wahlberg doesn't get to beat anyone up. As a result, don't be surprised if Broken City opens to half of Contraband's $24.3 million.

After earning $43.3 million through two months of limited and moderate release, Silver Linings Playbook is finally going very wide in to 2,523 locations this weekend. The movie was originally supposed to do this over Thanksgiving weekend, but The Weinstein Company smartly pulled back on that when they realized the movie's word-of-mouth would speak stronger than their advertisements (which were having a very tough time with the movie's tricky tone). On the heels of eight Academy Award nominations and a Golden Globe win for Jennifer Lawrence (who is hosting Saturday Night Live this weekend), Silver Linings Playbook should be able to make it in to the Top Five with over $10 million.

Forecast (Jan. 18-20)
1. Mama - $16.9 million
2. Zero Dark Thirty - $16.5 million (-32%)
3. Last Stand - $14 million
4. Broken City - $13.2 million
5. Silver Linings - $10.5 million
6. Gangster Squad - $10.1 million (-41%)

Bar for Success
Adjusting for inflation, Collateral Damage would have opened to over $20 million, which seems like a good level for The Last Stand. Broken City is okay at $15 million, while that would be a good start for Mama.

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2013 Preview

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