Box Office Briefs: Can Depp and Damon Fix the Movie Biz?

Box Office Briefs: Can Depp and Damon Fix the Movie Biz?

Mar 04, 2011

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

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