Weekend Box Office: Cowboys, Aliens, and Little Blue Men

A big-budget adventure flick, a rom-com, and a family film — I could have just described any summer weekend at the box office. It’s a tried-and-true formula. Two generic romantic comedies in the same weekend is too much competition and sales fall flat. Same goes for action/adventure films and kiddie fare. So what does this weekend have to offer?

In the action/adventure category is Cowboys & Aliens, starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford. And as goes the trend, this big-budget monster is likely to be this weekend’s box office winner. But after that, this Western/sci-fi hybrid steers off the beaten path. Cowboys? And aliens? The Universal/DreamWorks (NASDAQ:CMCSA) picture combines two classic genres for something quite its own.

In a summer dominated by superhero films and sequels, Cowboys & Aliens stands out. The film is directed by Jon Favreau, whose credits include the above-grade Iron Man films starring Robert Downey Jr. Playing a role as executive producer is Steven Speilberg, whose credentials don’t even need mentioning. His involvement alone is sure to guarantee Cowboys & Aliens makes a decent showing this weekend.

But more importantly, who doesn’t want to see what happens when aliens and cowboys meet? Don’t underestimate the novelty factor. And while the film is receiving mixed reviews, it’s tracking best with men over the age of 25, and its second best demographic is men under the age of 25 — two groups not terribly concerned with what the New York Times has to say about a film that has a stone-faced Daniel Craig taking out three men on horses in a matter of seconds.

This weekend’s rom-com, Warner Brothers’ (NYSE:TWX) Crazy, Stupid, Love, though sure to come in second place like so many of its predecessors, may have a slightly better box office for one particular reason: Ryan Gosling. With dark and quirky independent films like Blue Valentine, Half Nelson, and Lars and the Real Girl under his belt, Gosling is making his first foray into a big-budget, leading-man role. And from the trailer, it looks like he might be able to hold his own on screen with funny-man Steve Carrell and “it girl” comedienne Emma Stone. The heartthrob quotient is already there thanks to Gosling’s portrayal of the pining Noah opposite Rachel McAdams in 2004’s The Notebook. All in all, Crazy, Stupid, Love has the potential to have an above-average opening weekend for a romantic comedy.

This weekend’s final nationwide release is Sony’s (NYSE:SNE) The Smurfs, which combines CGI with live action to bring to life the little blue men from the Belgian comics and the 1980s TV show. The film stars Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, and Hank Azaria, with a voice cast led by Jonathan Winters, Katy Perry, and Anton Yelchin. Films for younger audiences tend not to make significant opening-weekend showings, but do tend to have staying power. The film is expected to gross in the mid-$20 million range and is likely to come in third this weekend, unless Crazy, Stupid, Love fails to find its standing in a summer flooded with sub-par romantic comedies. Smurfs could even see itself pushed down to fourth place by holdover Captain America, which opened to $65.1 million last weekend.