‘Terminator Salvation’ Lackluster on Thursday

Terminator Salvation prepared for battle a day early with a solid but disappointing $13.4 million Thursday launch from 3,480 theaters. That’s slightly more than half of the $25 million opening day from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which was unleashed on the same Thursday last year. Indy was able to surge to $126.9 million over the Friday-Monday Memorial Day weekend thanks to strong family support. If Salvation follows the same pattern, the weekend total would be a respectable $70 million. Unfortunately for the Christian Bale starring film, despite the kid-friendly PG-13 rating, families have another option this year in the form of Ben Stiller.

Warner Bros. had hoped to revive the fledging franchise after the disappointing showing of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in 2003. Salvation’s trailer debuted in front of another WB juggernaut, The Dark Knight, last summer, which also starred Bale. After all, Bale was a key component in the resurrection of the Batman franchise. Unfortunately, the franchise may have not been as popular today as WB had hoped for. “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” was recently cancelled after struggling through two seasons on Fox.

As far as how the weekend should play out for the sci-fi action pic, Friday’s numbers should be about the same as Thursday. There should be a slight uptick on Saturday to about $14.5 million and then a 10% decline on Sunday for about $13 million. Monday should bring in an additional $10 million for a $51 million weekend tally and $64 million including Thursday. That would be a poor showing considering the $200 million price tag.

Another sequel will be released on Friday in the form of Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian at a mega-wide 4,096 theaters. In addition to the excellent release date, the PG-rated comedy is the first major family film in nearly two months. The original opened during the month of December, a release date which doesn’t generally yield massive opening weekends but instead the holidays allow films to display long legs. That’s exactly what Night at the Museum did with it’s $250.9 million domestic total, which was more than eight times the opening weekend. That kind of longevity will not happen for the latest Museum, but a much larger opening will help it keep pace. Ben Stiller’s latest should debut to a nice $60 million four day start.

Meanwhile, Star Trek held extraordinarily well in the face of direct competition. The $3 million it earned on Thursday was only 4% lower than Wednesday. The only downside for the sci-fi reboot is the loss of most of its IMAX screens on Friday to Night at the Museum 2. Still, strong word-of-mouth should carry it to $30 million over the long weekend for a fantastic running total of $192 million.

Angels & Demons has been slipping at a faster rate than Star Trek during the week so it should end up fourth for the weekend. The $2.6 million tally on Thursday brought the opening week total to $60.1 million, which is 41% lower than its predecessor’s first seven days. No one was expecting Angels & Demons to earn as much because of a less appealing storyline and mixed reactions to The Da Vinci Code scaring away many moviegoers. The good news for A&D is the second weekend drop-off should be less severe. Look for $28 million over the weekend for $88 million in 10 days.

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Box Office Data Source: Box Office Mojo

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Predictions for ‘Disaster Movie’, ‘Babylon A.D.’

Here are my box office predictions for the final weekend of the 2008 summer season:

3 Day (Friday-to-Sunday) August 29-31 Predictions:

  1. Tropic Thunder$12.5 million, -23%, $84.8 M total
  2. Babylon A.D. (3,390 theaters) – $12.4 M, NEW
  3. Disaster Movie (2,642 theaters) – $10.8 M, NEW
  4. The Dark Knight$10 M, -5%, $503.7 M total
  5. The House Bunny$8.9 M, -39%, $28.5 M total
  6. Death Race$6.9 M, -45%, $23.7 M total
  7. Traitor (2,054 theaters) – $5.8 M, NEW, $7.3 M since Wed. launch
  8. Mamma Mia!$4.4 M, +2%, $131.5 M total
  9. College (2,123 theaters) – $4 M, NEW
  10. Pineapple Express$3.8 M, -30%, $80.2 M total
  • Hamlet 2 (1,597 theaters) – $1.8 M, NEW (wide release), $2.8 M total

4 Day Labor day Weekend Predictions:

  1. Tropic Thunder$15.8 million, -3%, $88.1 M total
  2. Babylon A.D. (3,390 theaters) – $15 M, NEW
  3. Disaster Movie (2,642 theaters) – $13 M, NEW
  4. The Dark Knight$12.9 M, +22%, $506.8 M total
  5. The House Bunny$10.9 M, -25%, $30.5 M total
  6. Death Race$8.7 M, -31%, $25.5 M total
  7. Traitor (2,054 theaters) – $7.4 M, NEW, $8.9 M since Wed. launch
  8. Mamma Mia!$5.7 M, +32%, $132.8 M total
  9. College (2,123 theaters) – $4.8 M, NEW
  10. Pineapple Express$4.7 M, -14%, $81.1 M total
  • Hamlet 2 (1,597 theaters) – $2.2 M, NEW (wide release), $3.8 M total

I know what you're thinking but 'Disaster Movie's strictly PG-13

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Box Office Data Source: The Numbers

‘Pineapple Express’ to Smoke Up The Box Office

This week, the two new openers, Pineapple Express and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, have chosen to get a jump start by opening on Wednesday. While both are comedies, they are targeting different genders so both have an opportunity to thrive.

The Judd Apatow brand of humor has been growing in popularity ever since The 40 Year Old Virgin hit it big back in August 2005. Since Virgin, the films that Apatow have been involved in (directing or producing) have, for the most part, become big hits at the box office. His films have helped some actors ascend to A-list status, such as Steve Carell. Carell headlined the star filled cast of Get Smart to strong results earlier this summer. Sony Pictures is hoping that last summer’s hits, Knocked Up and Superbad, have done the same thing to Seth Rogen whose name is above the title for the first time in Pineapple Express. This film is a real test for Rogen to see how much box office muscle he actually has. The ‘R’ rating will not hurt Express because this is what the audience has come to expect from an Apatow film. ‘R’ rated films have actually performed very well at the box office this summer, especially compared to recent years.

Tuesday midnight showings performed well and even exceeded Superbad. The high school set comedy opened on a Friday and posted the largest R-rated debut last summer with $33.1 million. For Express, look for $9 million on Wednesday (including Tues. midnights), $6 million on Thursday, and $29 million over the weekend for a strong five day start of $44 million. Even with Tropic Thunder debuting next Wednesday, the stoner action comedy could still ultimately smoke up 100 million greenbacks by the end of its run.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 is hoping to build on its predecessor’s decent box office run from 2005. The first Sisterhood also opened on a Wednesday to a 5 day start of $13.6 million and finished with nearly $40 million. In the three years since, the film has gained some new followers on DVD, and two of actresses, America Ferrera and Blake Lively, have gained exposure from being the stars of their respective hit television shows, Ferrera in “Ugly Betty” and Lively in “Gossip Girl”.

Female led films have hit it big this summer with Sex and the City and What Happens in Vegas getting ready to conclude with strong totals of $155 million and $80 million, respectively. Mamma Mia! is still very much a contender in its fourth week of its strong box office run, but there should be enough room for both films to thrive this weekend, even with overlapping target audiences. The estrogen fueled Sisterhood 2 should make out with $12 million over the weekend and an $18 million five day start.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

Even in its fourth weekend, The Dark Knight stands a chance of repeating again as box office champion. Pineapple Express will take away some of the repeat business from the 17 to 30 age group, but this blockbuster is playing to an extremely wide and diverse audience. Older moviegoers who are curious to see what the buzz is all about will not be distracted by anything else opening at multiplexes this weekend. Instead, Knight’s biggest competition will come from the start of the Summer Olympics, which tends to skew older in the television ratings. Still, Knight is not losing many screens this weekend. I’m going to make a pretty bold statement in predicting that the Batman will edge out Express with $30 million this weekend representing only a 30% drop from last week. That amount will also be enough to post the largest fourth weekend take in history. The total will soar to a massive $445 million, enough to dethrone Shrek 2 to become the top grossing film of the decade.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor has not been performing very well during the week. On Monday, it posted the largest drop among all wide releases and then again on Tuesday. There isn’t much in the way of overlap from the two new openers, which should help soften the blow. Look for a 58% drop to $17 million and a $71 million 10 day running total.

Predictions for the weekend of August 8-10, 2008:

  1. The Dark Knight – $30 million, -30%
  2. Pineapple Express – $28.8 million, NEW
  3. The Mummy 3 – $16.9 million, -58%
  4. The Sisterhood 2 – $12.4 million, NEW
  5. Step Brothers – $7.8 million, -53%
  6. Mamma Mia! – $7.3 million, -42%
  7. Journey to the Center of the Earth – $5.2 million, -22%
  8. Wall-E – $3.6 million, -22%
  9. Swing Vote – $3.5 million, -44%
  10. Hancock – $3.2 million, -37%

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Box Office Data Source: The Numbers

‘The Mummy’ Targets ‘Dark Knight’

Brendan Fraser and Kevin Costner headline their new films The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and Swing Vote this weekend with hopes of being known as the movie that took down The Dark Knight. For the The Mummy, maybe. Swing Vote doesn’t stand a chance, though.

Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

The latest Mummy is perhaps the summer’s first unnecessary sequel. There’s already been a spin-off, The Scorpion King, and that film’s reviews were sub-par at best, and it had weak legs at the box office. At least the main star has returned for this installment so that factor should help it some. The opening weekend tallies for The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, and The Scorpion King were $43.4 million, $68.1 million, and $36.1 million respectively. All of these films debuted six to nine years ago so the franchise may not be as topical as it used to be. Those films also had far less competiton to deal with since they opened in early May / late April. Of course, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor has Batman to contend with.

Rush Hour 3 encountered many of the same problems last August when opened to just $49.1 million compared to $67.4 million for Rush Hour 2. Six years had passed between Rush Hour 2 and 3 which is about the same amount of town since the last Mummy movie. Rush Hour 3‘s reviews were a franchise worst. Tomb‘s reviews are even worse at just 10% positive on Rotten Tomatoes, which is the lowest for its franchise as well. Debuting in 3,759 theaters, Tomb should open to around $44 million.

That might be low enough for The Dark Knight to reign for a third straight week but probably not. The record for the largest third weekend ever is the first Spider-Man with $45 million. Even more amazing is that Spidey did it on the same weekend that Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones debuted. That record will be hard to beat. I’m going with about a $40 million third weekend and $391 million running total for Knight, which would be the highest total ever after three weekends.

Swing Vote is gunning for an older demographic which is often under served this time of year. This movie won’t do much to draw them in because of a weak ad campaign and weak reviews. This is targeting a group that usually pays attention to reviews so 35% positive is not going to cut it. Launching in 2,213 theaters, Swing Vote will be lucky to hit $8 million.

Swing Vote

Predictions for the weekend of August 1-3, 2008:

  1. The Mummy 3 – $44.2 million
  2. The Dark Knight – $40.1 million, -47%
  3. Step Brothers – $16.2 million, -48%
  4. Mamma Mia! – $12.2 million, -31%
  5. Swing Vote – $7.9 million
  6. Journey to the Center of the Earth – $6.3 million, -35%
  7. Hancock – $4.8 million, -42%
  8. Wall-E – $4.3 million, -33%
  9. X-Files: I Want to Believe – $3.9 million, -61%
  10. Hellboy II: The Golden Army – $2.7 million, -47%

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Box Office Data Source: The Numbers

‘Step Bros.’, ‘X-Files’ Try to Take Down ‘The Dark Knight’

This weekend The Dark Knight will try and establish some more records as it enters its second weekend. The Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly starring comedy, Step Brothers, and The X-Files: I Want to Believe, the second film adaptation to the once popular sci-fi television series, will both try and steal some business from Batman.

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight has already set a gargantuan number of records, and this weekend, more should continue to fall. I’ve already detailed exactly what records Knight has broken thus far (click here for the article), but I’ll sum up the main records. It’s the quickest film to both $100 million and $200 million. Knight also lodged the biggest opening day, weekend, and week.

The largest second weekend ever is the $72.2 million take from Shrek 2 over the lucrative 2004 Memorial Day weekend frame. To match or beat that number, The Dark Knight would have to fall 54% or less from its opening weekend. For a sequel with such a huge debut, that may seem hard to accomplish at first glance. After all, the previous weekend record holder, Spider-Man 3 dove 62%, but Dark Knight has much better word-of-mouth, and the potential for repeat business is high. Instead, Dark Knight‘s hold should be comparable to another previous record holder, 2006’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. That film also opened in July and fell 54% in its second weekend. Knight’s daily patterns during the week have closely followed Dead Man’s Chest and the level of competition is also very similar so a similar drop should occur giving Dark Knight about a $73 million second weekend and a running total of $312 million, which would easily be the largest ten day start in history.

Step Brothers will likely open to a liitle more than half of Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby‘s $47 million debut due to tougher competition, a lower theater count, and a harsher ‘R’ rating. Step, however, does benefit from being the first high profile comedy to target the 17-30 age group in over a month. About $25 million or so should result, which would have seemed sub-par if it wasn’t for Semi-Pro bombing earlier this year.

Step Brothers

The latest X-Files film will likely have a very disappointing opening this weekend. The X Files: Fight the Future launched in theaters to a potent $30.1 million en route to an $84 million total. Unfortuantely for the new X-Files, that was a decade ago when the series viewership was at its highest. The show has now been off the air for six years, and the last few seasons saw a significant drop-off in the ratings. Plus, on Rotten Tomatoes, the reviews are only at 31% positive versus 64% positive for the 1998 X Files. All of this combined with huge competition from the Caped Crusader suggests an opening of just $15 million.

I Want to Believe

Predictions for the weekend of July 25-27, 2008:

  1. The Dark Knight – $73 million, -54%
  2. Step Brothers (3,094 theaters) – $25.5 million, NEW
  3. Mamma Mia! – $16.9 million, -39%
  4. X-Files: I Want to Believe – $14.8 million, NEW
  5. Journey to the Center of the Earth – $8.1 million, -34%
  6. Hancock – $7.8 million, -44%
  7. Wall-E – $6.6 million, -34%
  8. Hellboy II: The Golden Army – $5.2 million, -49%
  9. Space Chimps – $5 million, -30%
  10. Wanted – $2.8 million, -45%

Box Office Data Source: The Numbers

Predictions for ‘Wall-E’, ‘Wanted’

Here are my predictions for the upcoming weekend of June 27-29:

1)Wall-E (3,992 theaters) – $63 million

2)Wanted (3,175 theaters) – $35.5 million

3)Get Smart – $20.7 million

4)The Incredible Hulk – $11 million

5)Kung Fu Panda – $10.9 million

6)The Love Guru – $6.4 million

7)Indiana Jones 4 – $5.3 million

8)The Happening – $4.7 million

9)Sex and the City – $4 million

10)You Don’t Mess with the Zohan – $3.8 million

UPDATED: My Wall-E prediction was dead on as it rocketed to $63.1 million, significantly higher than Pixar’s previous film, Ratatouille, which made $47 million on this same weekend last year but still below Pixar’s top openers, The Incredibles and Finding Nemo. Both opened to about $70 million each. Wanted was quite a bit higher than I expected with a $50.9 million opening, nearly doubling the previous high for a June R-rated debut. This was the first time in box office history that two films debuted to more than $50 million on the same weekend.

Box Office Data Source: The Numbers

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Prospects for ‘The Dark Knight’ Part II

I’ve already given my two cents on how high The Dark Knight can fly on the quality side. (For Part I click here) Now, I will delve into the box office potential of the second installment of the rejuvenated Batman franchise.

Batman Begins didn’t exactly light the box office on fire on its opening weekend. Begins opened with $48.7 million in June of 2005, only slightly more than the $42.9 million launch from 1997’s Batman and Robin, the last in a series of films which had a much different style and less serious tone than this newer series. (Although the comparison is not entirely fair since Batman and Robin opened on the more traditional Friday, but Begins debuted on a Wednesday, a day that is never included in the weekend take.) Batman and Robin suffered from horrible word of mouth and finished with only $107.3 million giving it a horrible 2.5 multiplier (total box office gross divided by opening weekend). A 2.5 multiplier may not seem horrible by today’s standards, but that is mainly because the industry has been trending towards a more frontloaded pattern. Back in 1997, that sort of collapse was nearly unheard of.

Batman Begins, however, showed off some strong legs, finishing its box office run with $205.3 million. That gave it a very impressive 4.21 multiplier, extremely high nowadays for an action film. Still, that total is a far cry from the $330+ million that each film in the Spider-Man franchise, the most lucrative of all recent superhero movies, has generated. Begins, though, has been able to build up its fan base from those who watched it for the first time on DVD, which has been available for nearly three years. This gives The Dark Knight a huge box office advantage over its predecessor.

The success of a sequel largely depends on how many of the previous film’s cast members return. Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne / Batman, Michael Caine as Alfred, Batman’s butler, and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox all return to play their respective roles. Even Cillian Murphy returns to play Scarecrow, one of the villains. The only major actor/actress not returning is Katie Holmes who played Bruce’s girlfriend in Begins. The character is staying, but Holmes has been replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal, which in my opinion is good news. Director Christopher Nolan also returns, which is critical to keeping the darker tone intact.

The villains in Batman Begins were not among the more famous (or should I say infamous) in the Batman universe. However, The Dark Knight cast Heath Ledger and Aaron Eckhart to play two of the most popular villains in the comic world, The Joker and Two Face. This, of course, adds to the must-see status of the film. I still hate to even mention it, but this is Ledger’s last film, and judging by the trailers and what I’ve heard, it looks like he has gone out with a bang.

There are several benchmarks and records that The Dark Knight is looking to beat, or at least come respectively close to. The best opening weekend of the year is the $100.1 million launch from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull over the always lucrative Memorial Day frame. Unlike Crystal Skull and Batman Begins, Dark Knight opens on a Friday, which is an advantage when it comes to the official opening weekend. If a film opens midweek, the days preceding the first Friday are not included in the opening weekend. The best total for a film so far this year is Iron Man‘s $304.8 million and when it finally exits theaters it will probably have banked around $320 million.

While its uncommon for a sequel to more than double its predecessor’s opening weekend, it’s not unheard of. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Rush Hour 2, American Pie 2, and Shrek 2 are recent examples of summer sequels that have more than doubled (or even more than quadrupled in the case of Austin Powers) their predecessors, and in all of these cases the films only had two or three years for the originals to build up their audiences on DVD or VHS, about the same amount of time The Dark Knight has had. Batman Begins’ leggy run in theaters seems to indicate that the sequel will be a new member in this elite group. A $100 million opening for Dark Knight would be slightly more than double Batman Begins, but the industry is pointing to a number that is even higher.

Of the 10 films that have opened to more than $100 million on their opening weekend, nine of them are sequels. The only film on the list that isn’t a sequel happens to be a comic book movie, the first Spider-Man with a staggering $114.8 million bow from 2002, which was the biggest opening weekend at the time. Only three films have posted higher debuts since, including one of its sequels, current record holder Spider-Man 3 with a gargantuan $151.1 million opening last year. While the openings got bigger, each Spidey film has made slightly less in total than the last. Of all of the recent comic book franchises, only the X-Men films have shown substantial growth, in both the opening and the total, from one film to the next. The first X-Men is often credited with reviving the at-the-time waning superhero genre when it debuted to $54.5 million in 2000 on its way to a $157.3 million total. X2: X-Men United made its way to theaters in 2003, a year after Spider-Man made the superhero a part of pop culture again, and it debuted to $85.6 million en route to $214.9 total, a substantial increase over its predecessor. Even the mixed reactions to X-Men: The Last Stand didn’t put much a dent in that franchise with its $102.8 million bow and $234.4 million total two years ago.

Another factor that must be considered is the competition that The Dark Knight will face. This summer is full of superhero and comic book films. Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk have already launched. Will Smith’s latest juggernaut, Hancock, about a down and out superhero, opens just two weeks prior to The Dark Knight, but the Wednesday release date Hancock is taking suggests that film will have exhausted most of its audience before Knight begins its crusade into theaters. Hellboy II: The Golden Army opens just a week before Knight, but that film will play to a more cult audience and will likely not put a dent in the Caped Crusader’s latest pilgrimage.

Two other wide releases open opposite The Dark Knight on the same weekend, but they play to different and much narrower target audiences so they will be mainly a non-factor.

Ultimately, at this point, it looks like The Dark Knight will open to at least $100 million with a more likely opening in the $110-$130 million range and with even a slight chance of breaking Spider-Man 3‘s $151 million record. That points to a total of at least $300 million, even if there is bad word of mouth, and if the word of mouth is positive or even merely neutral, then $400+ million is certainly possible, making it only the 8th film to cross that milestone. $400 million would also likely be enough to become the highest grossing film of 2008.

Well, that about sums it up. The Dark Knight opens Friday, July 18.

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Box office data source: the-numbers.com