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An inspirational true story versus hacky “remember this” jokes. On merits, 42 should be the clear winner this weekend, but Scary Movie 5 gives ample evidence that merit is generally not what gets people into theaters these days.

It’s good to put this weekend in context of the announcement that they’re going to remake Point Break. Though on its surface this sounds like a terrible idea, it is the future of cinema for now. Studios don’t know how to sell original product these days unless there’s a name attached, and there aren’t a lot of names out there right now that have a proven track record. Even some of the biggest names in the business, like Johnny Depp or Will Smith, are no guarantee of money in the bank. What are safer bets (at least for studios) are known quantities. And those are franchises and remakes.

Even if the remakes are nothing like the original, you have that name brand value, which means you’re got pre-existing awareness. Whether that awareness is good or bad is immaterial. Most films have a theatrical life of about four weeks. After that they’re done. Sure, bigger titles (or more to the point, fall titles) can play for much longer, but even a picture like Oz The Great and Powerful, which came out five weeks ago and has made $212 Million to date, is pretty much done now. And with the rise of Netflix, and with DVR, people don’t find movies like they used to. And though some people just go to the movies, with ticket prices as they are, people tend to go to things specifically. And at home people are more likely to settle on something, but the proliferation of cable channels means that it’s that much harder to hook audiences who may have stopped on a channel if they can find something they know.

So for many films, especially films in the off season, having something that makes people go “oh yeah, I know this” is the best way to hook them. Because even with a star like Harrison Ford, who’s been in movies for almost fifty years, there’s no guarantee people will show up. With Scary Movie 5, there’s name brand recognition, and the immediacy of the product. And that usually triumphs.

So let’s look at number for the week:

  1. Scary Movie 5 - $21.5 Million
  2. 42 – $16.5 Million
  3. The Croods - $14.5 Million
  4. G.I. Joe Retaliation – $11 Million
  5. Evil Dead – $10.5 Million

And then Sunday we’ll see what does best.

What are you going to watch this weekend?