Johnny Depp and Jennifer Lopez, two stars whose best box box office days appear behind them, will try to bounce back in new movies opening Friday. But with the record-breaking reigning champ “American Sniper” turning into a cultural phenomenon, they may have picked the wrong weekend.
Lopez is featured in Universal Pictures’ R-rated erotic thriller “The Boy Next Door” as a high school teacher who becomes the object of a young neighbor’s obsession after a one-night stand. Rob Cohen directs and Ryan Guzman, John Corbett and Kristin Chenoweth co-star.
Depp tops the ensemble cast of “Mortdecai,” an R-rated action comedy from Lionsgate Entertainment set in the international art world. Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor and Olivia Munn co-star in the film, directed by David Koepp.
Those two films and Disney’s PG-rated “Strange Magic,” a computer-animated kids fantasy tale conceived and produced by George Lucas, will debut Friday against Warner Bros.’ Iraq War saga.
Which of the three openers will do the best is a tough call, say the analysts, with each projected to finish with between $10 million and $15 million. There’s no disagreement that “American Sniper,” directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper, will repeat as the top film. It exploded for $107 million in its wide opening, the best ever over for a Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend or the month of January. But how high can it go in its second week of wide release?
“American Sniper” added nearly $10 million on Tuesday, raising its domestic total past $120 million after five days in wide release. The buzz over its massive debut and rare “A+” CinemaScore from moviegoers would have been enough to assure a solid hold.
But critics have charged that Village Roadshow’s “American Sniper” wrongly glorifies the late Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL upon whose autobiography the R-rated film is based, and the passion and debate around that issue could trigger more interest. You don’t hit the box office heights that “Sniper” did without a broad base, but the Heartland of America and small town moviegoers made up a significant portion of its ticket sales. That’s a group that doesn’t normally race out to openings, so they could turn out in out-sized numbers again.
Advance sales for “American Sniper” were pacing far ahead of the openers on Wednesday morning at online ticket outlet Fandango. And it will remain in a market-high 3,555 theaters, which gives it another edge over the openers. “Boy Next Door” will be in 2,599, with “Mortdecai” in 2,648 and “Strange Magic” in roughly 2,600 locations. Given all that, a second weekend haul in the $45 million range seems very possible for “American Sniper.
“The Boy Next Door” is produced by Jason Blum, whose claim to fame has been making very low budget horror movies like “Paranormal Activity” that make oodles of money. But this will be his second foray into mainstream movies, following the music school drama “Whiplash,” a Best Picture Oscar nominee. “The Boy Next Door” budget is a very Blum-ish $4 million however, which all but assures profitability.
Lopez could use a hit. It’s been nearly a decade since she clicked in “Monster in Law,” her last live-action success, but she put her acting career on hold to concentrate on music after that and none of her films since then have broken out. Last January’s action film “Parker,” and the romantic comedies “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and “The Back-up Plan,” all underwhelmed.
With the caper comedy “Mortdecai,” Depp can end a box office bummer that goes back to the last “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie in 2011.
He plays the Wolf in Disney’s musical “Into the Woods,” but as a lead he’s bombed as a disembodied brain in last year’s “Transcendence,” as Tonto in 2013’s “The Lone Ranger” and as Barnabas Collins in “Dark Shadows” in 2012.
Those were all expensive movies, with “Transcendence” the cheapest at $100 million. “Mortdecai” has a $40 million production budget and was produced by Oddlot Entertainment’s Andrew Lazar and Gigi Pritzker.
Oliver Platt, Jeff Goldblum and Paul Bettany co-star in “Mortdecai,” which was written by Eric Aronson.
“Strange Magic” was inspired by William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” according to “Star Wars” creator Lucas, who came up with the story.
The fairies and elves tale is a musical and features songs like “Love is Strange” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.” They’re sung by a voice cast that includes Alan Cumming, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, Maya Rudolph and Kristin Chenoweth, who also appears in “Boy Next Door.”
Gary Rydstrom directed “Strange Magic” and teamed with David Berenbaum and Irene Mecchi on the script.