Weekend Forecast: Is For Colored Girls This Year's Blind Side?

I know, I know: "Started drinking early again, eh, STV? Lionsgate's check cleared?" Well, yes to the drinking, but still: If you're a box-office watcher of any regularity, you'll know a Tyler Perry opening is cause for wild speculation -- and his new one may prompt some of the wildest yet before it's all said and done. But it's got a lot of competition to cut through this weekend; let's check it all out.

NATIONAL OUTLOOK

Megamind: DreamWorks Animation drops back in with a too-cute-by-half tale of a pseudo-comics villain (the title character, voiced by Will Ferrell) who must grapple with life's most basic existential questions when his good-hearted foe (Brad Pitt) is no more. It's 3-D, it's IMAX, DWA is generally on a roll and the family sector is pretty wide-open right now -- all of which translates to a guaranteed $50 million plus/minus a few OCD Tina Fey completists who simply can't wait another week to have this cultural consumption out of the way. So, like, $300? FORECAST: $50,000,300

Due Date: Todd Phillips follows up his blockbuster The Hangover with a relative curio featuring one of the biggest stars in the world opposite one of it unlikeliest. The set-up isn't quite "bachelor party in Vegas," however; Robert Downey Jr.'s expectant father must team up with Zach Galifianakis's effete slob to get cross-country in time for his child's birth. Warner Bros. is blowing it out promotionally, a far more aggressive strategy than the Hangover's long-legged sustain. This is date-movie material, sure, but is it a phenomenon? Doubtful. That said, it doesn't have to be. Sometimes a Planes, Trains and Automobiles rip-off is just a Planes, Trains and Automobiles rip-off. FORECAST: $31 million

THE PRIME DESTINATION

For Colored Girls: A couple weeks ago, pundits tripped over themselves to answer the box-office question du jour: Is Secretariat this year's Blind Side? It made for good (if inane) copy at the time, but they would have been better served blowing their quasi-intellectual wads on For Colored Girls. Let me clarify that I do not think this film will make $200 million. OK? Based on Ntozake Shange's choreopoem/play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, it doesn't have enough screens, it's R-rated, it's not exactly feel-good (abortion, rape, AIDS, infertility, child-murder, promiscuity, addiction, hoarding and the occult all factor in), and it's missing that home-run leading-lady performance to really anchor it among the crowded fall-movie slate.

But it has its own phenomenon potential. First off, it's a closer demographic match to Blind Side then Secretariat ever was, reaching out to a multi-ethnic female crowd with the promise of a deep ensemble and plenty of catharsis. Will the white Heartland Christians go for it? No, which is why it's 2,100 screens and not 3,100 like Blind Side. But secondarily, a $25 million opening would put For Colored Girls in prime Blind Side territory -- if that audience in fact comprises the whites and Latinas that Lionsgate's going for. (Don't believe me? Do you see Tyler Perry's name in the title?) A few key critics haven't let it down, either: Check out Manohla Dargis today in the NYT or our own Michelle Orange here at Movieline.

The thing is, most audiences will get this movie -- choreopoem or not, clunky direction or not, histrionics or not. They'll get the performances, and they'll get the topicality. And they'll talk about all of it. The key to its success is to replicate what Lionsgate and Perry have managed for most of his films -- shutting out the elite, entitled white cognoscenti who would tell you For Colored Girls is just "a Tyler Perry film." That it's empty calories, and clumsy, patronizing ones at that -- that you'd be so much better served at Hereafter or The Social Network or any of the other premasticated prestige films of the fall. But Lionsgate has to go one further on Perry's behalf: It has to block them out for weeks -- not just opening weekend, but next week and the week after, too, through all their second-guessing and would-be influence-peddling. It has to be the adult alternative to Harry Potter mania on Nov. 19, much like Blind Side was last year to New Moon. Mostly, it needs to prove everything by proving nothing -- indeed, by convincing that ideal crossover audience it has nothing to prove.

But whatever. They'll do their job, I'll do mine. I recommend it, and I recommend watching its trajectory in the weeks ahead. It could be interesting. FORECAST: $24.5 million

REGIONAL OUTLOOK

Many of you in New York and Los Angeles will have to grapple with For Colored Girls after fainting/vomiting/seizing up to the limited release of 127 Hours, which promises to be one of the best-reviewed movies -- with one of the highest per-screen averages -- of 2010. Opening far more quietly is Fair Game, featuring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn as outed CIA agent Valerie Plame and her firebrand husband Joseph Wilson; it's a little more accessible on 40+ screens, but buzz is worryingly low for a film of such roundly good performances and direction (by Doug Liman). Our review is coming up this morning, as is a chat with Watts. Awesome. Arthouse-wise I can't recommend much; the terrorist satire Four Lions is a massive missed opportunity and maybe 30-percent funny, while Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer is solid but probably best recommended for home viewing. Especially when you've got bigger fish to fry at the multiplex. Get to it, already.



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