Take one Johnny Depp and call me in the morning.
That, coupled with a little Matt Damon, should be pretty good elixir for a box office that can certainly use a pick-me-up this weekend after two pretty crummy months.
Depp is teaming up with his Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski on Rango, a $150 million Paramount CG-animated movie that should gross at least $50 million at the domestic box office this weekend -- a solid opening benchmark that no other film has achieved in 2011.
Last weekend, Disney's lightly promoted CG-animated family film Gnomeo & Juliet won the box office in its third weekend, showing just how hungry the market is for family-oriented movies right now.
Scoring an 83 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, Rango, which voice stars Johnny Depp as a chameleon, looks poised to capitalize on some pent up demand.
Damon, meanwhile, is starring in the latest adaptation of pulp sci-fi novelists Philip K. Dick's work, playing a guy who is determined to get with Emily Blunt, despite the wishes and demands of a group of grey-suited men (which include Mad Men's John Slattery) who control everything. The $62 million romantic drama is projected to bring in more than $20 million this weekend, which is good news for Universal, given that the film's prospects have improved in the last few weeks.
Damon could a hit, given his last leading-man gig was the Universal bombGreen Zone nearly a year ago.
Also coming out this weekend: CBS Films' Beastly, which stars I Am Number Four's Alex Pettyfer as a narcissistic young dude who gets uglified by a witch. Sappy plot kicker: only finding true love with Vanessa Hudgens will get rid of the funky scars and tattoos. Neil Patrick Harris somehow got cast into this thing, playing a blind guy who befriends the stricken Pettyfer.
This movie actually looked interesting to me when I saw it previewed at a theater-owner conference in Las Vegas a year ago, but it's pretty niche, with CBS Films expecting only young females to pay for the ticket. It's expected to gross only around $8 million this weekend, but it only cost around $17 million for CBS to shoot.
Meanwhile, Relativity Media will debut its Topher Grace comedy Take Me Home Tonight this weekend, expecting to make about the same amount of money. The R-rated raunchiest co-stars Dan Fogler and Anna Faris.
Will all of this put the box office back into the black this weekend? Probably not, given that the year-ago comparison is a weekend during which Disney released Alice in Wonderland to the tune of $116 million.
Here's how we think the box office will shake out this weekend:
|Rango || We say: $50M|
|The Adjustment Bureau ||We say: $22.0M|
|The King's Speech || We say: $9.0M|
|Beastly ||We say: $8.0M|
|Unknown || We say: $7.9M|
|Hall Pass || We say: $7.0M|
| Gnomeo & Juliet ||We say: $6.5M|
| Just Go With It ||We say: $5.5M|
|I Am Number Four || We say: $5.0M|
| Justin Bieber: Never Say Never ||We say: $4.0M|