'Daybreakers' is the second feature for the Australian writers/directors/brothers team and it doesn't have a very high hill to climb to beat their debut film, 2005's 'Undead.' That horror film, about residents of an Australian fishing village who are bombed by meteorites and turned into ravenous, hollow-eyed zombies, was undead on arrival in the U.S. But it had stars with names like Mungo McKay and Dirk Hunter, so the Hawke/Dafoe pairing is a major marquee upgrade. Starring in a vampire movie being released in January doesn't sound like a great career movie, but Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe are on board for the Spiereg brothers' 'Daybreakers,' one of three new wide-opening movies that will be swatted away like moths by James Cameron's runaway blockbuster 'Avatar.'
'Daybreakers' is the second feature for the Australian writers/directors/brothers team and it doesn't have a very high hill to climb to beat their debut film, 2005's 'Undead.' That horror film, about residents of an Australian fishing village who are bombed by meteorites and turned into ravenous, hollow-eyed zombies, was undead on arrival in the U.S. But it had stars with names like Mungo McKay and Dirk Hunter, so the Hawke/Dafoe pairing is a major marquee upgrade.
But the horror film is in tough among the incoming trio, which also includes 'Leap Year,' a romantic comedy starring the very popular Amy Adams as an American woman who travels to Ireland with the intention of proposing to her boyfriend on Feb. 29. En route, she has a roadside accident and is rescued by a scruffily handsome Irishman (Matthew Goode) who may make her rethink the object of her affection.
Coming off of two huge 2009 films -- 'Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian' and 'Julie & Julia' -- Adams will generate a lot of interest from young women, the same swooning demographic that made 'New Moon' a recent blockbuster. I think 'Daybreakers' and 'Leap Year' will go neck-and-neck (bad pun intended) for First Place Among New Releases honors. Each should sell around $15 million worth of tickets.
The third new release is the teen comedy 'Youth in Revolt,' starring Michael Cera -- everybody's favorite nerd -- as a, well, nerd who adopts flashy mannerisms in an attempt to get the attention of a girl who would normally not look at him. The film's R rating may hurt it with its target audience, primarily teenage boys. I see it doing about $7 million.
However the new releases do, they'll be looking up -- way up -- at 'Avatar' on Sunday night. James Cameron's 3-D dynamo showed signs of slowing during the week, but it's slowing from a pace that was beyond anything the movie world has seen. In 20 days, 'Avatar' went from zero to second place on the all-time worldwide box office list. Its combined total -- $374 million U.S./Canada, plus $760 million overseas -- of $1.134 billion trails only its older sibling, 'Titanic.'
The distance between 'Avatar' and 'Titanic' is huge, more than $700 million. But what seemed an impossibility a month ago -- that 'Titanic' could be displaced at the top -- is now a distinct possibility. One thing certain: 'Avatar' will break 'Titanic's' $28.7 million record for a movie in its fourth weekend. I expect 'Avatar' to do between $38 million and $44 million.
Popular holiday holdovers 'Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel' and 'Sherlock Holmes' should maintain their second and third place spots on the box office chart for at least this weekend. Both should sell between $16 million and $19 million.
Here's how I see the weekend going:
1. 'Avatar,' $38-44 million.
2. 'Alvin and the Chipmunks,' $17 million.
3. 'Sherlock Holmes,' $16 million.
4. 'Leap Year,' $15-16 million.
5. 'Daybreakers,' $15-16 million.
6. 'It's Complicated,' $10 million.
7. 'The Blind Side,' $8 million.
8. 'Up in the Air,' $7-8 million.
9. 'Youth in Revolt,' $7 million.
10. 'The Princess and the Frog,' $5 million.