– by Edward Douglas

Welcome back to the Weekend Warrior, your weekly look at the new movies hitting theaters this weekend, as well as other cool events and things to check out. 

Will This April Dump Weekend See Any New Movie Open Over $10 Million?

After the decent opening of last week’s The Fate of the Furious–though not quite as much as I predicted–it’s going to be hard for any new movie to make a mark against its second weekend even if it drops 55% or more this weekend, which is very likely. 

Probably the best bet to make money this weekend is the thriller UNFORGETTABLE (Warner Bros.), which pits Kathryn Heigl against Rosario Dawson and is the directorial debut by producer Denise Di Novi (Crazy, Stupid, Love). It also stars Geoff Stults as the ex-husband of Heigl’s character Tessa, who becomes engaged to Dawson’s Julia, making her the stepmom to the former’s daughter, and making Tessa do crazy things.

This type of domestic thriller was a staple of the ‘80s and ‘90s with hits such as Fatal Attraction and Indecent Proposal–both directed by Adrian Lyne, oddly enough. More recently, it’s territory where producer Will Packer has had a lot of success with 2009’s Obsessed ($68.3 million) and 2014’s No Good Deed ($52.5 million gross). Maybe it’s no coincidence that Packer is remaking the Lyne-directed Jacob’s Ladder as well. There was also 2015’s The Boy Next Door, starring Jennifer Lopez, which grossed about $35 million. There’s clearly an audience for this kind of movie.

That said, this is a strange movie for both of its leads. Heigl followed up her run on ABC’s hit Grey’s Anatomy with a number of romantic comedies, including the hits Knocked Up with Seth Rogen and 2008’s 27 Dresses. She did okay the next few years by continuing this with movies like The Ugly Truth, Life as We Know It and New Year’s Eve, but then something went wrong and she stopped bringing women into theaters. All three of her 2015 movies were released more or less to VOD, but at least none of them bombed as badly as the unfortunate 2006 release Zyzzyx Road, which famously grossed just $30 (that’s dollars, not millions) in its single theater release.

This may be an even stranger choice for Dawson, who has been doing pretty well as the core of the Marvel/Netflix shows, playing Claire Temple–the only character who has appeared in all five shows–but she already had a pretty good fanbase thanks to movies such as Sin City. It’s still a good idea to have her in the movie to counter Heigl’s waning popularity, and in hopes of bringing in more urban women who won’t be interested in other offerings this weekend.

While I don’t think Unforgettable will break $10 million this weekend, it’s probably the movie with the best chances at doing so with its release into over 2,300 theaters.

Disneynature has been using the weekend of Earth Day for many years to release their latest nature docs, and this year’s BORN IN CHINA (Disney) is all about cute, lovable pandas…aww.  Narrated by John Krasinski, the movie will indeed be going for that “aww” factor in getting kids and women into theaters, but it’s still a documentary and sadly, they don’t necessarily bring all the boys to the yard, as they say in the yard. 2012’s Chimpanzee had the highest opening for a Disneynature doc with $10.7 million, while 2009’s Earth is the highest grossing with $32 million. There’s nothing to point to Born in China doing much better than the $4 to 6 million opening range of more recent films, so that’s pretty much where it should be, especially as it competes with all the other family fare still playing well in theaters.

Offering something for older audiences is the historic drama The PROMISE (Open Road Films), directed by Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) and starring Oscar Isaac, Christian Bale and Charlotte Le Bon aka “budget Marion Cotillard.” It’s a movie set during the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th Century, and it centers around a romantic triangle between the three leads.  One has to assume Isaac’s status has increased by his starring role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but it’s doubtful anyone who saw that, or Bale in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight movies, will be interested in a grim movie like this. It will generally be targeting the same older audiences that helped Jessica Chastain’s The Zookeeper’s Wife do decently in a moderate release, although Open Road’s decision to open this in over 2,000 theaters may backfire if the business isn’t there to warrant it. A movie like this normally opens in limited release to build word-of-mouth, but it doesn’t even have good reviews from when it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, so it’s hard to imagine it can make much more than $4 million this weekend.

Probably the best of the bunch this week in terms of quality will be FREE FIRE (A24), the new film from British filmmaker Ben Wheatley (Kill List), a ‘70s shoot-em-up, starring Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, Sharlto Copley and more, all decked out in ‘70s clothes, wigs and facial hair. (No facial hair for Brie.) The movie all takes place in a warehouse where a gun deal goes wrong, bullets start flying, and people start dying. It’s a fantastic film that already played the Toronto Film Festival last year and SXSW a month back, and it will certainly be of interest to fans of the movies of Tarantino and Guy Ritchie.  Like the other movies this weekend it’s not receiving a lot of marketing, and A24 hasn’t really advertised how many theaters this will open in on Friday, though it should do a decent amount of business to maybe sneak into the bottom half of the Top 10.

LRM Interview with Director Ben Wheatley

Joseph “Jammer” Medina’s Review 

Then there’s the Ridley Scott-produced alien invasion found footage thriller PHOENIX FORGOTTEN (Cinelou Films) that plays upon the famous “Phoenix Lights” UFO incident of 1997. It may be more interesting if there hadn’t already been a fake documentary about this incident that was very bad, and it’s hard to imagine this one will be much better. It won’t help that this Blair Witch rip-off features a lot of no-name actors, but even director Justin Barber is making his directorial debut. Honestly, there doesn’t seem to be any reason why anyone might see this before it’s on cable or DVD, so even with a moderate release into 1,500 theaters this isn’t likely to make more than $2 million this weekend. It’s a bomb that most people won’t even know about.

Last week’s “Top Pick” The Lost City of Z (Bleecker Street) will also expand into about 500 theaters in major cities, although it’s hard to tell if that will be enough for it to break into the Top 10, especially not knowing Free Fire‘s actual theater count.


(NOTE: Check back on Thursday night for any updates to these predictions due to changing theater counts, etc.)

Updated: 4.20.17 No dramatic changes except that we have an updated theatre count for Free Fire at 1,070 theaters and Gifted is making a bigger jump than expected into 1,986 theaters, though they’re both going to be on the low side of the Top 10.

1. The Fate of the Furious (Universal) — $43.5 million -56%

2. The Boss Baby  (DreamWorks Animation) — $10.2 million -36%

3. Unforgettable (Warner Bros.) — $8.5 million N/A

4. Beauty and the Beast (Disney) — $8 million -42%

5. Disneynature’s Made in China (Disney) — $5.2 million N/A (down .4 million)

6. The Promise (Open Road) — $4.6 million N/A (up .6 million)

7. Going in Style (New Line/WB) — $3.6 million -42%6

8. Smurfs: The Lost Village (Sony) — $3.5 million -41% (down .1 million and one spot)

9. Free Fire (A24) — $3.2 million N/A (up .6 million)

10. Gifted (Fox Searchlight) — $3.1 million -8%  (up .3 million)

— The Lost City of Z (Bleecker Street) — $2.4 million +2232% (down .1 million)

Phoenix Forgotten  (Cinelou) — $1.5 million N/A

Skipping this week’s “Top Pick” because of the movies I’ve watched, nothing really spoke to me, but with Tribeca Film Festival starting on Wednesday, that’s going to be occupying most of my time over the next couple weeks.

Festivals, Series and Repertory:

As I mentioned, starting tonight is the 16th Annual Tribeca Film Festival, which kicks off with Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives, Chris Perkel’s doc portrait of the Atlantic Records founder who is responsible for so many great acts, many who will perform after the film’s premiere at Radio City Music Hall. (Obviously, Whitney Houston won’t be one of them… because she’s dead.)

Another high-profile premiere will be Daniel Kaufman’s Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: The Bad Boy Story about hip-hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs as he’s about to reunite his Bad Boy family for two shows at Brooklyn’s Barclay Center. James Ponsoldt’s The Circle, starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson, gets a gala premiere a day before it opens.

I’ve already seen a couple decent foreign films like the Chinese King of Peking, and Rama (Fill the Void) Burshtein’s The Wedding Plan, which will open in a few short weeks, while The Divine Order is a witty and timely Swiss film about women trying to gain the right to vote during the ‘70s.

The festival has earned its reputation for the amazing docs that have premiered there, and this year there are docs about comedian Gilbert Gottfried, Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon, as well as the doc Dare To Be Different, a tribute to ‘80s alternative rock station, WLIR, with the premiere followed by a concert with some of that station’s greats like The Alarm (one of my all-time favorite bands FYI), Flock of Seagulls and The English Beat.

This year’s festival will once again host some amazing Tribeca Talks including one between director Jon Favreau and Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks with Bruce Springsteen, Noah Baumbach talking with Dustin Hoffmna and many more. These are becoming such big events that the Springsteen one is taking place at the Beacon Theater, but they’ll be holding a special Closing Night The Godfather/Godfather: Part II double feature at Radio City Music Hall, celebrating its 45th Anniversary with an amazing once-in-a-lifetime panel including Diane Keaton, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall and of course, Tribeca co-founder Robert De Niro to follow.

Many of the bigger events are already sold out, but you can still get tickets to many screenings, and there’s always the rush line, but if you’re in New York there’s little reason for you not to get to at least two or three Tribeca events.

Elsewhere in the city, the Film Society of Lincoln Center shines its light on documentaries with its annual series Art of the Real, now in its fourth year. I’ll readily admit that I haven’t seen any of the docs being presented and due to it running concurrently with Tribeca, I probably won’t be able to see much, but they do offer a great deal of variety and diversity in terms of international docs, so there’s probably a few things worth checking out.

Fathom Events has been getting into the repertory business and on April 23 and 26, they will screen Dustin Hoffman’s early film The Graduate on April 23 and 26 in select cities as part of the TCM Big Screen Classics series. It is indeed a classic.


A thankfully small selection of limited releases this weekend…the Weekend Warrior needs a break.

Narratives – Dramas, Comedies and Genre:

Brady Hall’s horror-thriller 7 Witches (Indican) follows a couple who have rented an island for their wedding day, not realizing that’s the day when a 100-year-old curse comes to fruition as a coven of witches rises to seek revenge for their treatment.

Winner of the Un Certain Regard Prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, the Finnish sports drama The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki (MUBI), directed by Juho Kuosmanen, follows the story of Olli Mäki, a Finnish boxer from a small town who had a shot at the 1962 World Featherweight title, but falls in love, potentially ruining his chances in the Finland vs. USA match. It will open in select cities including the Angelika Film Center in New York.


Pioneering California chef Jeremiah Tower is given the spotlight treatment in Lydia Tenaglia’s doc Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent (The Orchard), which takes a look at the life of one of the most controversial and influential figures in American gastronomy who helped pave the way for other superstar chefs.  Featuring interviews with Anthony Bourdain, Mario Batali, Martha Stewart and more, it opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.

Similarly, Jane Jacobs is showcased in Matt (Valentino: The Last Emperorb) Tyrnauer’s Citizen Jane: Battle for the City (Sundance Selects), which premiered at DOC-NYC last year. It looks at Jacobs’ frequent battles with Robert Moses as an early activist in the urban planning that turned New York City into the city that it has become. It opens at IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza in New York on Friday (as well as be available On Demand) and in L.A. at the Nuart Theater on April 28.

French actress Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds) teams with activist Cyril Dion to direct the eco-documentary Tomorrow (Under the Milky Way). After giving birth to her first child, Laurent realized the dangers her new son will have to face in an uncertain future, so she travels around the world looking for solutions that can help save future generations. It actually opened in a bunch of theaters last weekend but hits New York (at the Village East) and L.A. (Laemmle’s Music Hall) this weekend in advance of Earth Day on April 22. You can see the full list of theaters here.


Foreign Films: 

French filmmaker Bruno Dumont teams with Juliet Binoche for the historic satire Slack Bay (Kino Lorber), which opens at the new Quad Cinema and the Film Society of Lincoln Center Friday. It deals with the eccentric Van Peteghem family, including Binoche and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi–and the summer they spend at the family’s cliff-top villa at Slack Bay interrupted by two bumbling inspectors looking for tourists gone missing.


Kirill Serebrennikov’s The Student (Under the Milky Way), based on German playwright Marius von Mayenburg’s play Martyr, about a young man named Venya, who refuses to participate in his school’s mixed swimming classes, because it’s “against his religion.” When he’s exempted from attending, Venya starts using his new-found power against a teacher who disagrees with him.  It opens in San Francisco at the Four Star Theater Friday (following its premiere at the San Francisco Film Festival, which wraps up on Thursday), then in Chicago on April 28 and Miami on June 2.


Nicholas Hoult, Henry Cavill and Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus) star in Fernando Coimbra’s Sand Castle (Netflix), about a platoon of soldiers in Iraq just after the 2003 invasion who are sent on a dangerous mission to fix the water supply in a village.

Not a movie, but a new Netflix show I’m looking forward to seeing is Britt Robertson in the new sitcom Girlboss, based on the life of Nasty Girl founder, dubbed “the Cinderella of tech.”

Oh, and let’s not forget that the third season of FX’s Fargo starts tonight…that should also be great, based on the previous two seasons.

That’s it for this week, but join us again next Wednesday right here on LRM Online for a look at new movies, including Tom Hanks and Emma Watson in the tech thriller The Circle (Open Road), Eugenio Derbez’s comedy How to be a Latin Lover (Lionsgate/Pantelion) and the crime-thriller Sleight (BH Tilt), starring Jacob Latimore.

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(Text copyright Edward Douglas 2017. The Weekend Warrior logo designed by and copyright Tim Nardelli 2017.)