Last weekend, “Men in Black 3″ finally ended the box-office domination of “The Avengers,” which saw the superhero team-up movie smashing world records with the combined might of Thor’s hammer, Captain America’s shield, Iron Man’s snarky wit and the Hulk’s green fists. During this MTV Movie Awards weekend, “Snow White and the Huntsman” will do battle against them both, with “Thor” himself, Chris Hemsworth, in one of the title roles alongside Kristen Stewart, best-known for a little franchise called “Twilight.”
Will Stewart’s vampire fanatic fanbase focus their attention on “Snow White”? Will Thor’s Asgardian thunder rain down more box-office coin in this role? Keep in mind this isn’t the first “Snow White”-centered movie to hit multiplexes this year. Julia Roberts flopped in “Mirror, Mirror” just two months ago. “Huntsman” is headed to theaters with similar reviews (50 percent on Rotten Tomatoes’ “Tomatometer” at press time). So how will it do?
“It’s going to be close, but ‘Snow White’ should edge out ‘Men in Black 3,’ ” HitFix‘s Gregory Ellwood told MTV News.
MTV Next Movie Executive Editor Kevin Polowy concurred. “Its competition isn’t that daunting. ‘Men in Black’ did well last weekend but hardly gangbusters. ‘The Avengers,’ which is still hanging ridiculously tough a month after opening, might actually be more of a threat than last week’s big winner. But ‘Snow White’ has an alluring cast, the potential to draw all demographics, and most importantly for a summer blockbuster, a whole lotta action.”
Jeff Bock, senior box-office analyst at Exhibitor Relations, gave the edge to “Huntsman” over “Mirror, Mirror,” which opened at #3 at the box office with just $18.1 million. He credited the newer film’s stronger chances to its tone, likening its style to box-office juggernaut “Alice in Wonderland.”
“Universal’s ‘Snow White’ is the one everyone was waiting for; [this one is] done on a much grander scale, more akin to ‘Alice’ and very dark, like the Brothers Grimm fairy tale it spawned from.”
” ‘Snow White’ very clearly wants to be a ‘Lord of the Rings’-like swashbuckling epic, which should draw a bigger, more enticed audience,” Polowy agreed.
“The Avengers” is now the fourth-biggest movie ever, in terms of gross, domestically. The power of “Twilight,” of course, continues. But what will the success or failure of “Snow White” mean for the careers of its respective stars outside of their tried-and-true franchises? “This movie has been sold as Charlize Theron as the evil queen,” Ellwood pointed out. “You could argue that Universal hasn’t done enough to showcase Hemsworth in the movie, especially after the success of ‘The Avengers.’ ”
Bock was quick to note talk of a possible “Huntsman”-centered sequel. “Hollywood is pretty smitten with Hemsworth. In the end though, as an ensemble piece, this has very little risk involved for him. If it were to tank, the blame would likely fall on Kristen Stewart, with critics jumping on the ‘she can’t carry a film other than ‘Twilight’ ‘bandwagon. It is quite apparent when watching the movie that the real stars are Hemsworth and Theron, who both give powerhouse performances.”
“[The movie's success or failure] will be very important for Kristen Stewart,” Polowy said. “This is Stewart’s first high-profile starring role outside of ‘Twilight,’ and it’s loaded with variables. Can she open a summer blockbuster? Can she do action? Can she do accents? Can she refrain from biting her lip so much?”
“Any opening over $30 million outside of ‘Twilight’ is good for Stewart,” offered Ellwood. “If ‘Snow White’ has legs, it’s a sign she’s can easily transition as a leading lady in tentpole films once her days as Bella are over.”
Speaking of “biting” and “legs,” there is another film swimming toward the box office: “Piranha 3DD.” It’s 2010 predecessor, “Piranha 3-D,” was a surprise hit with critics (73 percent on the Tomatometer, which is like an Oscar for that type of horror flick). It didn’t collect huge amounts of cash, but it certainly did well enough for the Weinstein Company/ Dimension Films to warrant a follow-up, for which director John Gulager (“Feast”) took over for Alexandre Aja (“High Tension”).
However, despite the critical love for the last one, “Piranha 3DD” sat at a lowly 20 percent on the Tomatometer at press time.
“Critics loved the first Piranha because it exploited everything cheesy about campy horror films — and 3-D flicks — in tongue-in-cheek style. The sequel is merely exploitation of that success,” Bock said. “Based on the theater count of 75 theaters, you can see that this one will go belly up quick and flushed down the drain.”
Flesh-eating fish and “Snow White” aside, the $600 million question, as Polowy put it, is whether anything will beat “The Avengers” in 2012. All three of the experts we contacted agreed that only one film stands a chance. Which film is that? Let’s just say it involves a cape, a cowl and maybe a broken back.
“There’s only one candidate who could come close, and its name is ‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ ” Polowy said of the forthcoming flick, for which an exclusive clip will premiere at Sunday’s MTV Movie Awards. “Assuming [filmmaker] Christopher Nolan recaptures the magic of his last Batman blockbuster, and Tom Hardy’s Bane proves a viable replacement for Heath Ledger’s Joker, it will be close.”
“It will have to be as strong critically as ‘The Dark Knight,’ ” said Ellwood. “That may be the only way to pull in [people who visit the movies four to six times per year]. Besides the added benefit of higher 3-D ticket prices, ‘The Avengers’ became a de facto family film, something ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ clearly isn’t, which helped fuel its coffers. Warner Bros. will need strong repeat business and massive adoration for ‘Rises’ to overtake ‘The Avengers.’ It’s arguably Batman’s toughest challenge yet.”
Bock agreed it’s a huge challenge for Bats, one that may prove more defeating than anything Bane could cook up. “Even considering ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is probably the most anticipated threequel since ‘Return of the Jedi,’ ‘The Avengers’ is playing like Earth’s mightiest sequel. And that’s exactly what it is.”
“Sorry Batman, you’ve been busted by Hollywood’s box-office brigade,” he concluded.