Friday, February 20, 2015

Box-Office Preview: Staying In The Shade

 Even as a trio of new films open on Oscar weekend the film adaptation of the erotic E L James book "Fifty Shades of Grey" (reviews) is expected to stay #1...

 The comedy sequel Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (reviews) is here. The 2010 original film follows four men, bored and unhappy with their lives, who travel back in time via a hot tub to a fateful night during their teen aged years in the 1980s.

While co-stars Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson and Clark Duke are set to reprise their roles for the follow-up, lead star John Cusack is not involved. Adam Scott will play an entirely new lead in the film.

In the comedy The Duff (reviews) we meet Bianca (Parenthood's Mae Whitman), a high school senior whose world is turned upside down when she discovers she's been labeled her social group's Duff (designated ugly fat friend), a sidekick of sorts to her prettier, more popular friends (Skyler Samuels & Bianca Santos).

She asks her jock neighbor (Robbie Amell) to give her a social makeover so that she can ask out the object of her unrequited affections (Nick Eversman). Bianca is determined to reinvent herself, enlisting her fellow DUFFs in a scheme to overthrow Madison (Bella Thorne), the school's evil queen.

The movie  McFarland USA (reviews) is based on the true story of a track-and-field coach (Kevin Costner) living in the California town in 1980 who put together a team of the mostly Latino youths in his area and tells the story of how they "overcame many social and physical hurdles to become champions."

Pamela McClintock of THR:

Universal's Fifty Shades of Grey will have no trouble dunking the competition in its second outing — the question being by just how much.

All eyes will be on the movie to see how steeply it falls off after its record-breaking $85 million debut over Valentine's Day and Presidents Day weekend. Most are betting that Fifty Shades will earn another $30 million over Oscar weekend, easily outpacing new entries Hot Tub Time Machine 2, teen comedy The DUFF and the inspirational sports drama McFarland, USA, starring Kevin Costner.

Fifty Shades, based on EL James' S&M-laced romance novel, is nothing short of a box-office dominatrix. On Wednesday, the film — costing a relatively modest $40 million to make — raced past the $300 million mark globally after clocking in at $102.7 million domestically and $209 million internationally for total ticket sales of $311.7 million.

Universal has yet to announce specific plans for the next Fifty Shades movie — James wrote three books — including whether Sam Taylor-Johnson will return to direct. Stars Jamie Doran and Dakota Johnson both have options.

The race for the No. 2 spot could potentially see a close race between holdovers Kingsman: The Secret Service, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water and the male-fueled Hot Tub 2. Generally speaking, most movies will take a hit on Sunday because of the Academy Awards ceremony. One new title looking to benefit from the Oscars is Wild Tales, which Sony Pictures Classics opens in select cities. The black comedy, from Argentina, is nominated for best foreign-language film.

From Paramount and MGM, Hot Tub 2 is tipped to earn $15 million or more. Director Steve Pink's sequel, opening nearly five years after the first film debuted to $14 million, returns most of the original cast, including Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clarke Duke and Chevy Chase, though no John Cusack. New faces include Adam Scott.

Hot Tub 2 isn't an expensive proposition, having cost $14 million to make. This time out, the crew inadvertently land in the future.

CBS Films' teen comedy The DUFF is tracking to open in the $7 million to $9 million range. Targeting girls, the movie is the first CBS Films title to be released by Lionsgate per their new partnership. Mae Whitman (Parenthood) stars as Bianca, who makes herself over after learning she's the "designated ugly fat friend" of two more-popular girls. The ensemble cast also includes Robbie Amell, Bella Thorne, Bianca Santos and Skyler Samuels.

The weekend's third new offering, McFarland, stars Costner as Jim White, the real-life coach who teamed with underdog kids to build a championship cross-country team at McFarland High School, a predominately Hispanic school in McFarland, Calif. The Disney film, costing $25 million to make, was originally supposed to open in November.

Directed by Niki Caro, McFarland also stars Carlos Pratts, Valente Rodriguez, Maria Bello and Morgan Saylor.

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