The first and only time I ever met director Todd Phillips, we were at a junket for his movie “School for Scoundrels.” I had known that Phillips was a pretty well-regarded poker player — and that a home game he played in with Joe Francis and Tobey Maguire, among others, was fairly legendary in certain card-playing circles. When we both found ourselves waiting for our cars outside, I somewhat brazenly asked him what it would take to get a seat at that game.
He humored me. “You any good?” he asked.
“I like to think so,” I said.
“Well, the question isn’t whether or not you’re any good,” he deadpanned. “The question is: What do you do when Tobey comes over the top on you for $20,000?”
I make some joke about bodily excretion, and he laughed. I laughed. The matter was dropped. But the point was made. With his talent, ferocity — but most of all, his resources — Maguire would make quick work of me. We could barely be said to be playing the same game.
Boy, do I know of a bunch of directors, actors and studio executives that must be feeling the same way this weekend.
The first of this year’s summer blockbusters, Maguire’s “Spider-Man 3,” is so far and away the favorite in terms of box-office predictions that the question isn’t whether it’ll win the weekend, but whether it’ll break world records in the process.
The initial entry in the series, “Spider-Man,” wowed audiences to the tune of $114.8 million during its May 2002 opening, a record that wasn’t broken until last year’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.” “Spider-Man 2,” meanwhile, was good for $88.2 million, including a record $40.5 million Wednesday opening that brought the five-day total to $115.8 million. Combined, the two films have made $1.6 billion worldwide.
Will “Spider-Man 3” be far behind? The flick has already set box-office records in every Asian territory it’s premiered in, and while the initial buzz is lukewarm, the film will bow in 4,253 theaters across the U.S. on Friday — the widest North American opening of all time. It’s an “all-in” move of stunning enormity.
So stunning, in fact, that only one other movie is opening in wide release — appropriately enough for our metaphor, it’s the poker drama “Lucky You.” Starring Eric Bana and Drew Barrymore, this Curtis Hanson (“8 Mile,” “L.A. Confidential)-directed flick will launch in 2,500 theaters.
Other movies that aren’t even playing the same game this weekend include “Away From Her,” the acclaimed directorial debut from actress Sarah Polley; “Waitress,” a Sundance fave starring Keri Russell; and “Paris, Je T’aime,” a collection of short films about the City of Lights. These films will only open in four, four and two theaters, respectively.
The Predictions: After our lamentable 0-fer last week, we’re confident Zach Braff and the rest of our contestants chose the right film. But how much will “Spider-Man 3” make? While Larry and Josh both think the flick’s opening will be great, neither will go so far as to say it’ll be record-breaking. Not Braff. The New Jersey native and star of “The Ex” said that while the web-slinging superhero has to face three villains in his latest outing, the fourth casualty will be the box office.
What’s the #1 flick? How much will it rake in?
Josh Horowitz, MTV Movies editor: “Spider-Man 3” ($97 million)
“I think it’s safe to say ’Disturbia’ will not be repeating this weekend. Here in New York it’s Spidey week, and come this weekend it will feel like Spidey world with the first big juggernaut of the summer opening up. So how much will it take in? Despite a consensus that this third go-round doesn’t equal number two, it’s all about the black suit, and that means lots of green. $97 million.”
Larry Carroll, MTV News writer: “Spider-Man 3” ($117 million)
“Spidey’s already setting box-office records across Asia, and I fully expect that momentum to ooze across the U.S this weekend like a black superhero suit. The only question, true believers, is how much will it make? The original movie opened with about $115 million, and the last flick opened in the $116 million range. So, I’m gonna stick with the pattern and say $117 million this time around — which should be just enough to pay number three’s catering bill.”
Zach Braff, “The Ex” star: “Spider-Man 3” ($135.7-plus million)
“It’s gonna be ’Spider-Man 3’ and it’s going to make a zillion and a half dollars. People love Spider-Man, they’re amazingly well done. People love the action, the love — it’s probably the best-made [superhero series] there is. The trailer looks amazing. It’s going to set a record.”
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