By Phil Contrino
With Hancock, Will Smith returns to the July 4th opening weekend that has been so good to him in the past.
However, this time around the Academy Award-nominated actor is veering slightly from the heroic characters he normally plays. His Hancock is a superhero that drinks, causes destruction and is generally disrespectful. Needless to say, it's a far cry from Smith's last two roles in I Am Legend and The Pursuit of Happyness.
The film itself also has more than its share of detractors and it's burdening Smith with the worst reviews he's received since providing his voice to 2004's Shark Tale.
Still, the fact remains that the former Fresh Prince is now one of the biggest movie stars on the planet and his presence alone guarantees big opening weekend numbers.
Yet what happens after that opening weekend? Will a crude character and negative buzz drain the energy out of the film as it moves deeper into its theatrical run?
“I don’t think so," said Chad Hartigan, Box Office Analyst for Exhibitor Relations, "I think [Will Smith is] one of those actors where people really do want to see him in anything. The fact that [Hancock is] a little different or a little darker, I don’t think will hurt. I think he’s just one of those people that can pull this or anything else off."
Another potential obstacle that Hancock may need to jump is the one-two punch of WALL-E and Wanted. Both films opened very strong last weekend and both pose very specific threats to Will Smith's flawed hero.
WALL-E could easily represent a much safer choice for family audiences who normally would have lined up for a Will Smith movie but were turned off by Hancock 's trailers. Also, Wanted has been very successful at grabbing the same adult, action-loving crowd that Hancock will be gunning for.
"There is the chance that all three of those movies are going to do really well and the business will be spread out a little more than we expected before," said Hartigan.
Meanwhile, Hancock has accounted for nearly half of the ticket sales on Movietickets.com today, and the Executive Vice President and General Manager for the site, Joel Cohen, is of the opinion that Smith, along with those responsible for WALL-E and Wanted, will have more to be excited about than fireworks this weekend.
“I think that again it’s going to be a strong moviegoing weekend overall. There’s enough product out there to really meet everyone’s needs”