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Hitmen vs. Exorcists

January 27th, 2011

It's the last weekend of January, so it's one last chance for 2011 to avoid a catastrophic start. At the beginning of the month I thought that if January 2011 was 20% lower than January 2010, it would be bad news. As of the end of last weekend, that figure was closer to 30%. This weekend, there's almost no chance things will improve, as this time last year Avatar earned more than $30 million, while this year the top two films combined likely won't earn that much. Hopefully the two wide releases this weekend will be competitive with last year's two wide releases, but even that doesn't seem particularly likely.

It seems that most analysts are predicting The Rite will take top spot at the box office, but I'm a dissenting voice this time and I believe The Mechanic has an overall advantage. The Mechanic stars Jason Statham as a hitman whose boss is killed by the crime syndicate they both work for. So he teams up with his boss's son for revenge. The trailer is effective, while the reviews are better than expected and are right now at exactly 50% positive. That said, Jason Statham rarely stars in major hits and even a $15 million opening might be too much to ask for. However, even a $13 million opening could be enough for first place at the box office this weekend. On the other hand, a lot of analysts are predicting fourth place with $8 million to $9 million, so keep that in mind.

The Rite should also pull in about $13 million, putting it in a virtual tie for top spot. It does have a bigger star than its main competition; however, while Anthony Hopkins has a combined box office haul of nearly $2 billion, he hasn't had a $100 million hit in almost exactly a decade. This time last year The Wolfman came out and it was a massive disappointment at the box office. (Any film that costs $150 million to make but only earns $62 million domestically and $143 million worldwide is a bomb.) Additionally, the film is earning terrible reviews. Finally, the subgenre of the religious horror / demonic possession have been overplayed in recent years. Granted, they can still produce hits, but I see a collapse in the market, and very soon. Best case scenario has the film earning more than $20 million during its opening weekend. But it could also fail to reach that mark in total. Like I said, I'm going with $13 million and a virtual tie for first place.

No Strings Attached could also make close to $13 million at the box office, thanks in part to Natalie Portman's Oscar nomination. Granted, it wasn't for this film, but No Strings could still sell a few more tickets and hold up better than expected during its sophomore stint as a result. Also helping out are its reviews, which remain strong for this time of year, as well as the lack of direct competition. Look for close to $12 million over the weekend and $37 million in total, which puts it on pace to become a solid mid-level hit.

The Green Hornet is already a mid-level hit, but what it's looking to become is the first $100 million hit released in 2011. If it can earn $12 million over the weekend, that milestone will become very likely. On the other hand, failing to reach $10 million could put the target out of reach, especially if it starts losing theaters to its competition. The low end of the spectrum is more likely and it will likely finish with $10 million over the weekend, more or less.

After picking up 12 Oscar nominations, The King's Speech should hold on incredibly well this weekend, helping it secure fifth place with $8 million over the weekend to give it $70 million in total. At this pace, hitting $100 million is becoming quite likely.

Other major Oscar players that are still significant box office players include True Grit and Black Swan. The pair could finish in sixth and seventh place with $7 million and $6 million respectively.


Filed under: Weekend Preview, The Green Hornet, True Grit, Black Swan, The Rite, The King’s Speech, The Mechanic, No Strings Attached