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Weekend Predictions: Is the Box Office Back with a Vengeance?

February 16th, 2012

We enter Presidents Day long weekend with a substantial lead on 2011. (Although we are way behind 2010's and even 2009's pace. I choose to focus on the positive.) There are some good signs going into this weekend. Depending on who you talk to, there are two or three films that could hit $20 million over the three-day weekend and five or six that could reach $10 million. The best new release of the week, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance could make more than $30 million over three days and $40 million over four. There is some bad news, as this weekend last year was also pretty potent with six films earning more than $10 million over the three-day weekend. However, 2012 has better strength at the top, which should help it earn yet another win.

Ghost Rider was a surprise hit five years ago, earning more than $100 million domestically and close to $250 million worldwide. However, it also earned terrible reviews and has become a bit of a joke since its first release. This makes predicting Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance a bit trickier. If the people who saw the first movie show up again, the film will be a huge hit, thanks to ticket price inflation. However, if the bad word-of-mouth the first film suffered from transfers to this film, then it could collapse by the time Monday rolls around. Early reviews suggest the latter is more likely. Granted, there are only a handful of reviews on Rotten Tomatoes at the moment, but they are all negative, and a few of them are aggressively so. On the other hand, it is the biggest release of the weekend and, while there are a number of films that share some of the movie's target audience, it should still win. The worst case scenario has the film opening in the low $20 million range over the three day period and finishing in the high $20 million range over four. On the high end, it could make more than $30 million over three days and $40 million over four. I'm going with $28 million / $35 million.

The film with the best shot at preventing a Ghost Rider win is The Vow. It won last weekend and set a record for a mid-week Valentine's day haul at $11.56 million. Granted, it fell 75% the next day, but it is still earning first place on the daily chart. Now that Valentine's day is behind us, it could drop 50% over the three-day portion of the weekend, which would give it about $21 million from Friday through Sunday and $26 million including Monday. Its reviews suggest a quick exit; however, the lack of direct competition should help at least somewhat. Look for $24 / $30 million over the weekend to keep it on pace for $100 million in total.

Speaking of $100 million, Safe House is on track to do the same. By the end of business tonight, it will have about $54 million, while over the next four days, it should add $26 million. Mixed reviews will neither help it nor hurt it at the box office, while the main competition is doing so poorly with critics that some moviegoers might decide to see this film instead.

This Means War had previews on Valentine's Day, but I'm not sure how much that will help its weekend box office numbers. The film's reviews are just 26% positive, which is not going to cut it for most moviegoers. Buzz is not overwhelmingly negative, but it is more quiet than anything else. As a romantic action film, it is most easily compared to Knight and Day and Killers. Neither of those films were huge hits and both had better release dates. Unfortunately, this film's reviews are closer to Killers' reviews and it might open in a similar neighborhood. The holiday should help it out a little bit, so look for $18 million over three days and $23 million over four.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island should get the biggest boost at the box office thanks to its family friendly nature and that might be enough to overtake This Means War from Friday through Monday, even though it might fall short from Friday through Sunday. I'm going with $18 million / $24 million over the weekend, which would push its total to $57 million after eleven days of release.

Star Wars Ep. I: The Phantom Menace will miss the top five, but should earn more than $10 million over the three day weekend. Look for $11 million / $14 million over the weekend, which might be enough to push its worldwide total past $1 billion.

The final new release of the week is The Secret World of Arietty, which is the latest from Studio Ghibli. These films tend to earn amazing reviews, but struggle to find an audience beyond a niche market. Expectations are rather low for this film and very few expect it to earn $10 million during its opening, even if you include Monday. It might struggle to earn half of that. I'm going with just under $5 million over the three-day portion of the weekend and just over $6 million over four.


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Filed under: Weekend Preview, Star Wars Ep. I: The Phantom Menace, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Safe House, The Vow, This Means War, The Secret World of Arietty, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island