"Warm Bodies," a zombie romantic comedy inspired by Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," seems ideal box-office counter-programming to open on Super Bowl weekend. "Bullet to the Head," a Sylvester Stallone action movie, does not.
It's all about the demographics, say industry analysts, who believe enough young people will forget about the big game long enough to make PG-13 "Warm Bodies" No. 1 with around $17 million in sales. Warner Bros.' R-rated "Bullet to the Head," which would appeal most to older males more likely to be preoccupied with football this weekend, is expected to take in less than half that.
For years the Super Bowl weekend was seen as a box-office dead zone, but that hasn't been the case recently. Last year, the sci-fi fantasy "Chronicle" opened to $22 million and the Daniel Radcliffe horror film "Woman in Black" debuted to nearly $21 million on that weekend.
Both of those films scored well with young people, and "Warm Bodies" is positioned to do that, too. Summit Entertainment and its parent Lionsgate were behind the "Twilight' and "Hunger Games" franchises, so they know a little bit about marketing a movie based on a young adult novel, as this one is. Additionally, the month's releases have been predominantly R-rated and there has been a dearth of movies targeting young audiences. It will be on about 2,400 screens.
Jonathan Levine ("50-50") adapted the "Warm Bodies" screenplay from Isaac Marion's 2010 novel of the same name and directs. The story follows the zombie lad R (Nicholas Hoult) who saves Julie (Teresa Palmer) from an attack by other zombies. When their relationship takes off, it threatens to transform the lifeless world. Rob Corddry, John Malkovich and Dave Franco co-star.
"Warm Bodies" is generating more heat on Facebook and Twitter than "Dark Shadows," the Johnny Depp send-up of the TV series that opened to $29 million last May, and the critics like it.
It's facing "Bullet to the Head," Stallone's first film since last summer's "Expendables 2," which opened to $28 million and went to make $300 million worldwide.
Stallone won't have Arnold Schwarzenegger and the rest of the over-the-hill gang with him this time, and the opening weekend for "Bullet" is expected to be closer to the $7 million debut posted by Arnold's "The Last Stand" earlier this month. It will be on roughly 2,900 screens.
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Four days ahead of its release, "Bullet to the Head" was showing less Facebook and Twitter activity than "The Last Stand" at a comparable juncture, according to BoxOffice.com. Bigger things are expected from "The Tomb," which pairs the two aging action heroes and will be released in September by Summit Entertainment.
Walter Hill directs "Bullet to the Head," in which a hitman (Stallone) teams with a young Washington D.C. detective (Sung Kang) in a high-stakes investigation that leads from the back alleys to the power corridors of New Orleans. Christian Slater, Jason Momoa and Sarah Shahi co-star.
Alfred Gough, Miles Millar and Kevin King Templeton are producing the film, which is based upon a French graphic novel by Alexis Nolent, and premiered at the Rome Film Festival in November.
Meanwhile, Lionsgate is opening the action comedy "Stand Up Guys" on 600 theaters.
Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin star as aging con men trying to get the old gang back together for one last hurrah. Fisher Stevens directs.