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Will 2011 Finally See Some Heat?

February 10th, 2011

2011 is over a month old and we've only had one film that you could call a mid-level hit, two if you want to be generous. Worse still, none of 2010's holdovers have been big either. $100 million films opening in January are very rare, but films earning $100 million during the month of January are not that unusual. In fact, most years the biggest hit of January is a film released in December. So with no new releases or holdover pulling their weight, 2011 is off to a terrible start. This could be the weekend that changes that. Not only is it Valentine's Day weekend, but we should have the first $100 million hit of the year opening on Friday, plus a couple of potential mid-level hits. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the month, I was expecting two potential massive openings, but that appears less likely now. It also makes keeping pace with last year nearly impossible.

It looks like Just Go With It will have a pretty easy race for first place this weekend. It has a lot going for it. It is a romantic comedy opening on Valentine's Day weekend. It stars Adam Sandler, who is about as reliable a box office star as they come, while Jennifer Aniston has also had her share of hits. Finally, there's almost no direct competition at the box office. On the other hand, its reviews are weak, even compared to the genre average. This might not be too big a deal, as Adam Sandler seems to be critic-proof. (See Grown Ups.) The best-case scenario has the film opening as well as Grown Ups did, perhaps a little better, but opening with $34 million is more likely.

I was expecting Justin Bieber: Never Say Never to open with a little more than that, but it appears most analysts are expecting it to have trouble translating its online buzz into real world ticket sales. That's not an unreasonable assumption to make, as that was the case for Scott Pilgram, Kick-Ass, Machete, and others. On the other hand, those films were all aimed at guys, so perhaps the female-centric nature of this film will help it reach number one with $40 million or so. Some analysts are predicting it will struggle to make half of that. For what it's worth, it is earning the best reviews of the weekend, although it's close, and there's no direct competition. I think it will to better than many are predicting with $30 million, but that's still weaker than original expectations.

Some think Gnomeo and Juliet might have a real shot at topping Never Say Never at the box office this weekend. However, in order to do so, it will really have to beat original expectations, while Never Say Never will have to under-perform, even when compared to lowered expectations. On the plus side, its reviews are good, but not great, and the level of buzz suggests $20 million is possible, even if $16 million is more likely. Its family-friendly nature and lack of direct competition going forward should help its legs.

Three films should be in a close race for the final two spots in the top five, each earning between $6 million and $7 million. The Eagle has the most uncertainty going in. It does star Channing Tatum, who has had three hits in a row, including Dear John, which opened this time last year. On the other hand, its definitely the smallest of the four wide releases and it will likely get squeezed out as a result. It's not like its reviews will be able to compensate for the small theater count or the lack of buzz. It could surprise and earn $10 million over the weekend, or it could miss the Mendoza Line. Just under $7 million is more likely.

The King's Speech will likely be close behind with $6.5 million, while The Roommate should be the odd film out at just over $6 million. However, it is quite possible that both these films will beat The Eagle over the weekend.


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Filed under: Weekend Preview, The Roommate, Gnomeo and Juliet, The Eagle, Just Go With It, The King’s Speech, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never