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Weekend Predictions: Will New Releases Finally Satisfy Box Office Hunger?

April 12th, 2012

After a fantastic three-month run in which 2012 only lost once in the year-over-year comparison and built a 20% lead over 2011, it looks like the box office is returning normal. This weekend there are three films opening wide: The Cabin in the Woods, Lockout, and The Three Stooges. However, despite the number of new releases, there are many who think The Hunger Games will remain on top for the fourth weekend in a row. This would be terrible news for everyone, with the possible exception of Lionsgate, which is the distributor for both The Hunger Games and The Cabin in the Woods, as it is a sign of profound weakness at the box office. How weak is the box office? There is a chance that all three films combined won't open with as much as last year's number one film, Rio, opened with. And there's a chance none of the new wide releases will open with as much as the second place film, Scream 4, opened with. There's little hope 2012 will walk away with a win this time around.

For a film to repeat on top of the box office chart, all it needs is a massive opening and a solid hold or weak competition. For a film to earn the hat trick, it needs solid holds and weak competition. To remain on top four weeks in a row, it needs anemic competition. The Hunger Games has anemic competition. There's almost no chance The Hunger Games will earn more than $20 million over the weekend, but it is almost as likely that it will come out on top. Look for $18 million over the next three days for a running tally of $334 million. This is more than enough to cover the film's production budget and its entire global P&A budget. Only about one in ten films break even just taking into account their domestic box office.

There is a bit of a debate about which of the new films will be the best of the freshman class. The Cabin in the Woods seems to have the edge in a couple of ways. Firstly, it has the most buzz, as it stars a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth and was co-written by Joss Whedon, who directed The Avengers, which kicks off the summer blockbuster season. Secondly, its reviews are living up to the pre-release hype and are currently at 91% positive. Even so, most analysts are predicting an opening weekend box office in the mid teens. Perhaps it will surprise and take first place with $20 million, but second place with $16 million is more likely.

The Three Stooges is the widest release of the week and its reviews are not nearly as bad as I was expecting. Granted, they are not great and are currently just 50% positive, but I was expected under 20% positive. That's how bad the trailer looked. Unfortunately, the trailer might have done too much damage and mixed reviews won't be able to overcome that. The film also has little in the way of star power and most analysts think it will struggle. Perhaps it will earn $18 million, which would give it a shot at top spot, but there's also a chance it will open with $12 million or less. Splitting the difference gives us an opening weekend of $15 million.

American Reunion should grab fourth place with $11 million over the weekend, which would lift its total to just over $40 million after two. This is well below expectations and the film will need to do well internationally and on the home market to break even.

Titanic should hold on a little bit better earning $10 million over the weekend. It has already made enough to pay for its 3D conversion, so all it needs to do now is pay for its P&A budget. Even if it can't do so domestically, it will have no trouble getting there worldwide.

The final new release of the week is Lockout. This film has the lowest opening theater count of the three films at 2,308, while it is also opening with the weakest reviews at just 35% positive. Expectations range from weak, about $10 million, to really weak, $5 million. Perhaps it will luck out and grab a spot in the top five, but sixth place and $8 million is a safer bet.


Filed under: Weekend Preview, Titanic, The Cabin in the Woods, The Three Stooges, The Hunger Games, Lockout, American Reunion