Davis: Movies that dare go up against Star Wars

Other holiday fare should garner respectable $50 million at the box office.

Tina Fey (left) and Amy Poehler star in Sisters

Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens this weekend. If you did not know this already, you probably are not a Star Wars fan and maybe I can interest you in one of the other movies opening this weekend.

Hoping to capture the audience that doesn’t want to go to a “galaxy far, far away,” Tina Fey and Amy Poehler star in Sisters and is being described as Bridesmaids, but raunchier (which is saying something because Bridesmaids was not exactly tame). They play disconnected siblings who decide to throw one final party in their childhood home before their parents sell it.

The other movie going up against Star Wars is Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip. The fourth movie in the successful series, the Chipmunks learn that their “father” Dave is going to propose to his girlfriend in Miami, and the singing rodents don’t have a place in the new family. Alvin, Simon and Theodore go on a road trip to stop him, but only have three days to do so.

To see how these two might do against the juggernaut that is Star Wars, here is a look back at movies that have dared gone up against the previous entries in the series.

Going all the way back to the original Star Wars back in 1977, Smokey and the Bandit went up against it and won the weekend. To be fair, the Burt Reynolds classic opened in more theatres and he was the biggest star in the world at the time. However, even Reynolds and Sally Field could not hold off Star Wars and it went on to be the biggest movie of the year (Bandit was number two).

In 1980, The Gong Show Movie went up against The Empire Strikes Back and took a beating, but mostly because it was really bad. (Does anyone remember that there was a Gong Show movie?) However the other movie that opened against Empire fared much better. Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining opened on the same day in only 10 theatres, but it became a movie classic—almost as iconic as its competition that weekend.

The only movie going up against Return of the Jedi in 1983 was the women-in-prison exploitation film Chained Heat. Although it is hard to say if it would have been more successful had it not opened up against a Star Wars movie, Chained Heat and its two sequels acquired cult status but never really made a significant impact at the box office.

When Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace opened in 1999, everyone ignored the fact that The Love Letter starred Ellen DeGeneres, Tom Selleck, Kate Capshaw and Jack Black and promptly forgot about the movie. What was memorable was that Notting Hill was released a week later and the Julia Roberts/Hugh Grant romantic comedy became a respectable hit.

This may be the reason why Hugh Grant’s dramedy About a Boy was pitted against Episode II – Attack of the Clones in 2002. It became a respectable hit and was actually nominated for an Academy Award.

In 2005, no one wanted to go up against Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, except Warner Brothers dumping their much maligned Exorcist prequel called Dominion in a limited number of theatres.

Neither Sisters nor Alvin and the Chipmunks will come anywhere close to what Star Wars does, but given that they are both being released during the lucrative holiday season, they will likely earn a respectable $50 million each.


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