The weekend box office may look like a brawl between last week's winner, 'Iron Man 2,' and Russell Crowe's new 'Robin Hood,' but both will be battling against basketball playoffs for the attention of male moviegoers. While the Rustbucket should easily defeat Russ, both of their movies, along with Queen Latifah's hoops-themed romantic comedy 'Just Wright,' will take a hit from real-life drama provided by the NBA. Sure, Iron Man can fly, and Robin Hood is an expert archer, but does either hero have a decent hook shot?
The weekend box office may look like a brawl between last week's winner, 'Iron Man 2,' and Russell Crowe's new 'Robin Hood,' but both will be battling against basketball playoffs for the attention of male moviegoers. While the Rustbucket should easily defeat Russ, both of their movies, along with Queen Latifah's hoops-themed romantic comedy 'Just Wright,' will take a hit from real-life drama provided by the NBA.
On the surface, 'Robin Hood' seems like it should appeal to the same group of action fans as 'Iron Man 2,' given its familiar hero, its macho star, and the director (Ridley Scott) whose last period action epic with Crowe was the mighty 'Gladiator.' Are you not entertained? Actually, 'Robin Hood' is more a historical drama than an action spectacle, with Oscar-winning stars (Crowe and Cate Blanchett) whose appeal skews older. Why didn't Universal hold it until fall and market it accordingly, instead of sacrificing it against 'Iron Man 2'? Opening in 3,503 theaters, 'Robin Hood' will be lucky to open above $35 million, while 'Iron Man 2,' still soaring on strong word of mouth and playing on about 800 more screens, should decline only about 55 percent from last week, resulting in a $57 million take and an easy box office victory. Leonard Maltin and Todd McCarthy review 'Robin Hood'
The more interesting battle may be the one between the two new romance movies that are counter-programming against all the testosterone of Tony Stark and the Merry Men. The winner will be 'Letters to Juliet,' which is opening on 2,968 screens, compared to just 1,831 for 'Just Wright.' For 'Juliet,' the formula seems to be: Amanda Seyfried + legendary older actress (in this case, Vanessa Redgrave) + love stories for both + lush Mediterranean location = 'Mamma Mia' - campy ABBA soundtrack. Seyfried's romantic drama 'Dear John' opened earlier this spring with a stunning $30.5 million, though 'Juliet' lacks a familiar hunk like Channing Tatum to cement her drawing power. Still, the film should appeal to both older and younger women, to the tune of about $16 million.
You'd think 'Juliet' would be competing for the same audience as 'Just Wright,' but given the latter movie's all-black cast (contrasted with the very white casts of 'Juliet' and Robin Hood'), the Queen Latifah comedy should appeal primarily to African-American audiences. It's not an ideal weekend for a basketball-themed date movie, since women will have a hard time dragging men away from real NBA action to watch Common pretend to dribble. That, plus the movie's smaller theater count and Latifah's modest track record (her movies tend to top out at $38 million), suggests an opening of around $10 million.
Fighting for fifth place will be holdovers 'How to Train Your Dragon' and 'A Nightmare on Elm Street.' 'Dragon' has been in theaters five weeks longer than 'Nightmare,' but Freddy Krueger's legs are weaker, his word of mouth poorer and his sales dropping faster. Both films should take in around $5 million, with 'Dragon' eking out a slight victory.
Top 5 predictions:
1. 'Iron Man 2,' $57 million
2. 'Robin Hood,' $36 million
3. 'Letters to Juliet,' $16 million
4. 'Just Wright,' $10 million
5. 'How to Train Your Dragon,' $5 million
• Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.