Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton look likely to snatch the box-office crown from Jessica Chastain this weekend. "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" has the best shot at #1, according to industry forecasts, bumping the Chastain-led horror flick "Mama" from the top spot.
Jason Statham's "Parker" and the ensemble comedy "Movie 43" aren't likely to have a chance against the Renner and Arterton vehicle, which re-imagines the classic fairy tale characters as ass-kicking adults. Both stars recently gave MTV News tips on how to become a real-life badass.
Statham surely knows how to become one, as he shows off his action-hero moves in "Parker," based on a series of novels by Donald E. Westlake and co-starring Jennifer Lopez. Unfortunately, "Parker" sat at a lowly 13 percent on Rotten Tomatoes' "Tomatometer," which aggregates reviews from film critics. The studios kept critics mostly away from "Movie 43" and even "Hansel and Gretel," which is usually a sign of poor quality by critical standards.
"We all know January can be a dumping ground for studios — the abysmal openings of 'The Last Stand' and 'Broken City' prove that — but nothing says 'dropping a load' like the combined efforts of this week's releases," Exhibitor Relations box-office analyst Jeff Bock told MTV News. "Theaters are about to be hit with a Mississippi Mudcloud."
Most industry projections predicted $20 million to $30 million for "Gretel" this weekend, but Bock was more conservative, putting the movie behind "Mama" potentially with just $13 million. MTV Next Movie's Kevin Polowy erred on the side of caution as well, predicting it will hunt down about $15 million.
Both "Mama" and Oscar contender "Zero Dark Thirty" feature Chastain, but no film this month is as star-stuffed as "Movie 43," a series of vignettes strewn together by various directors (including Brett Ratner) featuring Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry and more. "I've often wondered why someone hasn't made another 'Kentucky Fried Movie' type film," offered MovieFanatic.com's Joel Amos. "Well, 'Movie 43' is it, but why hasn't it screened for critics? That is not a good sign. And given the huge cast, interest should be there. But can anyone say what the movie is about?"
Polowy shared Amos' sentiments. "It's like they don't want us to know what it's about! They've been hitting the marketing hard lately, but at the end of the day I can't see it translating to more than $10 million."
"Parker" will probably open with about $8 million, just like Statham's "Safe" last year. That will make him the second "Expendables" cast member to suffer from a weak debut this year, on the heel's of Arnold Schwarzenegger's "The Last Stand." Next weekend will see the release of Sylvester Stallone's "Bullet to the Head," which has dim prospects. "With Arnie's 'The Last Stand' crashing and burning last weekend and Sly's 'Bullet to the Head' destined to die a quick death next weekend, consider 'Parker' the tie that binds the three bombs together," said Bock.
A poor showing for "Parker" will also be a huge disappointment for director Taylor Hackford, who directed the award-season favorite "Ray," among other well-regarded films. Speaking of awards, "Zero Dark Thirty," "Silver Linings Playbook," "Lincoln" and other Oscar contenders still in theaters should continue to do well as the show gets closer.
In fact, it's not totally inconceivable that one of them could pull an upset, especially if "Mama" suffers the same second week attendance drop as this month's previous #1 horror flick. "The only way one of the Best Picture nominees jumps up to the top spot is if 'Mama' pulls a 'Texas Chainsaw 3D' and the other three new films flop outright," said Bock. "Maybe 'Silver Linings Playbook' will be #1 in its 11th week! That's gotta be some sort of record."