This weekend, "The Internship" may become the latest star-driven movie to get beaten by a lower-wattage production.
The comedy, which stars Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, appears set to follow in the footsteps of Will Smith's "After Earth," which last weekend failed to attract more moviegoers than its far less high-profile competition "Now You See Me."
According to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys, "The Internship" will probably fall behind the low-budget thriller "The Purge." The $3-million flick — which does feature some name-brand cachet in star Ethan Hawke — is expected to take in a robust $25 million during its opening weekend. (The film's distributor, Universal Pictures, is predicting a softer start of around $18 million.)
Meanwhile, "The Internship" is set to launch with $15 million — meaning it will fare worse than not only "The Purge," but also "Fast & Furious 6," which is entering its third weekend in theaters. (Fox doesn’t think the movie will debut with more than $12 million.) Either opening would be embarrassing for a movie starring Vaughn and Wilson, who were no doubt expected to re-create the success of their 2005 hit "Wedding Crashers."
But both Wilson and Vaughn have slowly been losing their box office clout since "Wedding Crashers," which took in over $200 million domestically. Immediately following the 2005 release, Vaughn appeared in a string of decent performers, including "The Break-Up," "Four Christmases" and "Couples Retreat." But his last two films — "The Dilemma" and "The Watch" — tanked. Wilson's luck has been equally as bad recently, appearing in flops such as "Hall Pass" and "The Big Year."
"The Internship," co-financed by 20th Century Fox and New Regency Pictures for $58 million, follows the comedians as they intern with people half their age at Google. The picture has not received positive reviews: On Thursday morning, it had notched a 32% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
"The Purge" hasn't fared much better with critics — it has a 48% rating on Rotten Tomatoes — but has nonetheless generated strong interest from moviegoers. According to Fandango, the movie is the most highly anticipated of the weekend, ahead of "Now You See Me," the sixth "Fast" film and "The Internship."
The movie, set in the near future, takes place in a world where crime is forbidden 364 days of the year; Hawke stars as a family man trying to protect his kin on the one day of lawless mayhem. Heading into the weekend, the picture is appealing most to young females.
Universal spent only $3 million to make the film, which was produced by Jason Blum, who has made a name for himself by making micro-budget movies that have big payoffs at the box office, including "Paranormal Activity" and "Insidious."
To keep the cost of the film so low, actors "basically work for free," Blum told The Times. If the movie is a hit, both the actors and filmmakers may see a bigger payoff.
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