The Betting Table: Summer Edition - This Week: 1408
by Barry Wurst
June 22, 2007
Welcome to The Betting Table, a look at the weekend's theatrical fare and a place where you can place your bets on what will swim and what will sink.
Based on a short story from Stephen King (from "Everything's Eventual"), John Cusack plays the skeptic who checks into a haunted hotel room and Samuel L. Jackson is the voice of reason who tries to talk him out of it.
THE GOOD NEWS:
The studio is big on it, a rare thing when films see their release dates pushed back by months. This had it's opening date pushed UP and into a highly competitive season. The test screenings have reportedly been excellent and early reviews have been glowing. There hasn't been a Stephen King movie in a while, making this a novelty (unlike a few years back, when a new King adaptation was out every season). With Hostel: Part II on its way to DVD shelves, the field is now wide open for a new horror movie. The PG-13 rating means it will be emphasize scares over gore (like The Ring) and be ideal date movie material, rather than a barf bag endurance test. In a season of tired sequels, CGI-animated comedies and big budget action movies, this one provides a fresh alternative. With Identity, Cusack proved he can open a horror movie and his seemingly endless appeal will bring adults and teens, while Jackson can always open a movie (whether it winds up a hit is another matter). By themselves, Cusack and Jackson are ifffy box office draws, but together - golden.
THE BAD NEWS:
The director is Mikael Håfström, whose previous film, Derailed, was awful; can he milk genuine thrills from can't-miss material, or will this be his Hollywood swan song? The admitedly scary trailer looks like they took King's short, simple, and disturbing tale and pumped it up with ample special effects and needless subplots; will this play like an overblown extension of a tale that worked better on paper? Is a straight-forward ghost story even in fashion anymore? If the ending doesn't have an extra kick (a staple of every horror movie of the past 10 years), will audiences turn their noses at the rest of it?
Evan Almighty poses a real threat: its a PG-rated, family-friendly, mondo-hyped summer comedy, looking to squeeze summer bucks before Ratatouille creams it in week two. Even if the reviews are bad for Evan, audiences will line up for week one, as Steve Carrell is a big draw. It looks like 1408 will be stuck with opening in the #2 spot... yet, if it's as good as they say, it will make back it's $25 million budget in one weekend, will have some serious legs, and may the only film of the season that grosses $100 million without debuting at the #1 spot.
PLACE YOUR BETS:
Audiences check in, big time, as 1408 makes around $23 million in it's first round, but sticks around through the end of July, making $80-100 million before becoming a big rental in October. Meanwhile, the $175 million Evan Almighty will open big but may not make enough by summer's end to cover it's mammoth production costs. Now THAT'S scary!
Please don't actually place bets with money, just discuss what this weekend's box office may do!