Studios certainly want to capitalize on moviegoers having a few work- and school-free days leading up to Christmas. This weekend, they’re piling on three major new movie releases, each debuting on more than 3,000 screens across the country. On top of that, Sony Classics and Fox Searchlight push their Oscar hopefuls.
The widest release of the week, ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies‘, actually opened to the masses on Tuesday night. While the ‘Hobbit’ series isn’t – and hasn’t been – on track to make ‘Lord of the Rings’ money, the finale is still shaping up to have a nice first-place opening. The climactic chapter in the trilogy wraps up the Smaug storyline and takes Bilbo Baggins and his merry pack of dwarves to Erebor, the city beneath the mountain. Because they’re light in numbers, they’ll have to fight smart in order to defeat the hordes trying to claim the gold-filled city for themselves. This second Middle-Earth trilogy hasn’t earned nearly the acclaim that the ‘Rings’ trilogy did, but those who enjoyed the last two installments ought to be completely satisfied with ‘Five Armies’.
Opening on almost as many screens is ‘Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb‘, the third and supposedly final entry to the series. Round Three takes the characters on a journey to save the magic that keeps the museum’s night life alive. Ben Stiller and a chunk of franchise’s cast return for one more night of mysterious and historical shenanigans, along with even more familiar faces in the mix. Aside from Stiller, ‘Secret of the Tomb’ also stars Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Rebel Wilson, Ben Kingsley, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Brad Garrett and the late great Robin Williams.
The final wide release of the weekend is the remake of musical ‘Annie‘. Originally expected to star Will Smith’s kids, the picture took a positive direction when a young actress that we actually like (Quvenzhané Wallis of ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild‘) was cast as Little Orphan Annie. The big appeal to this ‘Annie’ isn’t so much its cast – which also includes Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz and Rose Byrne – but writer/director Will Gluck, the man behind ‘Easy A‘ and ‘Friends with Benefits‘. Said to be much better than the trailers have made it out to be, ‘Annie’ tells the story of an orphan girl who escapes her hard-knock life for one with a wealth of love.
Sony Classics debuts the awards hopeful ‘Mr. Turner‘ on a limited number of screens this weekend. Timothy Spall leads director Mike Leigh’s biographical drama as the British painter J.M.W. Turner.
The biggest awards push this weekend is Fox Searchlight’s ‘Wild’, which expands to more than 1,000 screens nationwide. The film is gaining attention for Reese Witherspoon’s best performance in years, but is that good enough to make up for the overall lackluster picture? I think not.