It’s a rather subdued release schedule this week. There are three wide releases, but none on more than 3,000 screens, and nothing with anywhere near the buzz footprint of a Deadpool or even a Zoolander 2. I’m sure they weren’t expecting Deadpool to be a hit of the size it turned out to be and hoped to take advantage of a slow market, but now, who knows? Did Deadpool do most of what it was going to do in its opening rush, or will the great word of mouth give it legs and crowd out the smaller fare? And will any of that matter if nobody really wants to see these movies anyway?
Out of the new releases, it stands to reason Risen is probably going to have the best opening. Faith-based films seem to always draw good crowds, since churches usually arrange for bus trips for their congregations. It won’t be enough to make this #1, but these kinds of films usually have such small budgets, it doesn’t really need to be. And Risen has more firepower than the usual film of this stripe, with Kevin Reynolds behind the camera and Joseph Fiennes in front of it. Okay, “firepower” may be overstating it, but those are bigger names than you usually see in these things. Plus it has a somewhat interesting hook: the resurrection of Jesus as detective story. I doubt that’ll be enough to get the masses in though. It’s funny; I’m participating in a film draft of movies from the 1950s, and there are plenty of big budget biblical epics that were huge hits to choose from (like The Robe, The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur), but today? Outside of a novelty like The Passion of the Christ, it’s a niche market. How things change…
It seems like there should have been a bigger deal made out of Race. A film about Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Olympics opening during Black History Month? Why wasn’t this all over the place? Granted, it doesn’t have the most household of names attached to it, but it feels like something that should have gotten a bit more of a prestige push. The title isn’t really doing it any favors though; you hear “Race” and it could mean anything: race against the clock, a political race, ethnicity, cars, bikes, Johnny Quest’s friend… Well, you get the idea. And for a lot of people, 1936 might as well be ancient history for all they care about it. Still, it’s a significant piece of social history that has an inherently crowd-pleasing aspect to it. It’s surprising this hasn’t been hyped more.
What has been hyped is The Witch, a horror film that’s been getting steady buzz since it premiered at Sundance last year. I have to say, I love the setting for this: 17th century colonial America. Because at the time, this continent was basically one big haunted house for those coming from Europe. The only home they’d ever known was a couple of months back that way. Their settlements were these small pockets amidst vast tracts of wilderness. There were people living here already that they didn’t understand. And they brought with them boatloads of superstition and guilt. A situation just ripe for some paranoia and fear. So much of our American folklore sprung up from this period, so it makes for a fertile horror playground. And word is The Witch is the goods. It’s a horror movie, and, of course, HMO*, especially one with the word of mouth this has.
But will it be enough to overcome zombie Jesus? It’s a literal battle between Heaven and Hell. My money’s on the bad guys.
*Horror Movies Open. I say it so much, I’m just going to abbreviate it from now on.