As Hollywood prepares to close out January, studios are being faced with their annual dilemma: should they bother releasing a new movie during Super Bowl weekend? This year two studios said yes and will enter the fray -- one aiming at a younger female audience and another targeting a slightly older female crowd, but both may be looking for a weekend escape.
That Awkward Moment
Focus Features (a subsidiary of Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA ) ) has the week's highest-profile release with That Awkward Moment, a relationship comedy that centers on the question "So, where's this going?" The movie stars Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan, and Miles Teller as a trio trying to navigate relationships at a critical phase.
Impact on studio
Last October, Focus Features absorbed Film District with the latter's founder Peter Schlessel being appointed CEO of the company, which is under the Universal (read: Comcast) umbrella. As complicated as that sounds (and probably is), the end result is that a number of different people have an interest in this film. However, the real pressure for the studio is going to come next month when tent-pole pic Pompeii hits theaters. Any momentum the studio can get from Awkward will be welcomed.
Expectations range anywhere from $10 million to $15 million, with the more likely scenario netting out around $13 million. That takes into account the fact that a huge chunk of the younger demo will be otherwise engaged on Sunday. Yet last year, Lionsgate Entertainment had a lot of luck as its romance/horror/fantasy flick Warm Bodies netted $20 million over the same frame. Incidentally, Jordan has had some luck in this slot as well -- back in 2012 his Chronicle snared the top spot with $22 million thanks to a strong viral campaign.
Awkward could give two-time reigning champ Ride Along its first real competition for the top spot in weeks, which is ironic given both are part of the Universal portfolio. Either way, Universal is probably looking at its fourth week with the top film in the country.
Paramount (a subsidiary of Viacom (NASDAQ: VIA ) ) will also roll out a new release this weekend, but this one's aimed at a little older audience. James Brolin stars as an escaped prisoner who forces his way into the lives of a reclusive single mother (Kate Winslet) and her son (Gattlin Griffith) over the Labor Day weekend with (moderately) surprising results.
Impact on studio
Labor Day was originally envisioned as a film that could compete during award season … it didn't. While Winslet was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role, that was about it. Oscar voters shut the film out, as did the majority of the guilds. Now Paramount's plan to gradually roll out the movie to build buzz during award season is a moot point.
The interesting understory here though is that of director Jason Reitman. The son of famed director Ivan, Jason Reitman burst onto the scene with 2005's Thank You for Smoking and then earned back-to-back directing Oscar nods for his work on Juno and Up in the Air. Air was the director's first film with Paramount and many had expected his 2011 follow-up, Young Adult, to see the same level of success, but he was snubbed.
Now comes Labor Day, which marks back-to-back movies that have under-performed during award season. While that alone has to disappoint the studio, in terms of its 2014 slate, this is now just a burn-off release that Paramount hopes to make a little money off.
If the movie hits $10 million, consider that a win, as many estimates have it around $7 million. Still, Paramount's not betting its 2014 fiscal future on this film (or next month's teen drama Welcome to Yesterday, for the matter). A larger burden falls on March's Noah with Russell Crowe.
While it's not likely for Labor Day to see a huge opening take, the movie has two stars with a small but dedicated following who will probably enjoy the film. It's an interesting concept and Reitman is talented filmmaker … just because the critics snubbed it, doesn't mean the general public will as well. For a certain crowd looking to avoid Super Bowl mania, this will be a welcomed exit plan.
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