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Weekend Preview: Will There Be a Battle For Top Spot?

March 10th, 2011

Three films open at saturation level theater counts this weekend, and last weekend's number one film is still playing in over 3,000 theaters, so we could have a lot of depth in terms of box office strength. This time last year we had four wide releases, none of which were major hits. On the other hand, there was also Alice in Wonderland, which made more than $60 million during its sophomore stint alone. There's no film opening this weekend that can match that figure. In fact, all three films combined might not match that figure and 2011 will again lose ground against 2010.

Battle: Los Angeles is the widest release of the week, and the one generating the most buzz. Plus, as a sci-fi action alien invasion story, it should be a pretty easy sell to moviegoers. Granted, its reviews are not good, but they are not terrible either, and shouldn't hurt the film too much. A $10,000 per screen average isn't guaranteed, but it is also not particularly unlikely either. I think $30 million is the low end of its potential, while it might have a shot at close to $40 million over the weekend. Split the difference and go with $34 million over the next three days.

While most people are predicting Battle: Los Angeles will finish in first place this weekend, there are some differing opinions with regards to second place. Some think Rango will hold on well enough to grab the number two spot, while others think Red Riding Hood will open well enough to secure second. I'm not sold on Red Riding Hood's chances. It's aimed at the same audience as Twilight, which was a huge hit, but this film doesn't have nearly the same level of buzz. Also, its reviews are awful; at just 5% positive, they will likely be among the worst wide releases for all of 2011. On the other hand, Beastly earned terrible reviews from critics, but its target audience actually liked the movie and perhaps that will be the case here. On the other hand, Beastly wasn't exactly a box office hit and if Red Riding Hood merely matches its per theater average, it will open in with just $16 million. Let's call that the low end of expectations. On the high end, it could open with close to $30 million, perhaps even battling for first place. That's highly unlikely. I'm going with third place with just under $22 million, while Rango should take second with just over $23 million. That's close enough that if the pair finished in the reverse order, I wouldn't be that surprised.

The final wide release of the week is Mars Needs Moms, which is strangely struggling to build buzz. Granted, it has to deal with direct competition, but it's a family film opening in more than 3,000 theaters with the best reviews of the three wide releases. However, pretty much everyone is dismissing its chances at the box office and very few think it will reach the top three with many suggesting it could struggle to reach fourth place with barely $13 million. That seems very low to me. If Gnomeo and Juliet can open with over $25 million, this film should be able to reach $20 million during its debut. I'm not going to predict that much, but $15 million is reasonable, even if it is higher than the consensus prediction.

The Adjustment Bureau is the only other film with a shot at the top five (the difference between the fifth place film and the sixth place film could be about $7 million to $8 million, which is more than the sixth place film will earn). With a more mature target audience and 70% positive reviews, it could fall just 40% and add close to $13 million over its sophomore stint. If it does so, and Mars Needs Moms struggles more than expected, then it could finish in fourth place. Even the worst case scenario has it falling less than 50% to $11 million over the weekend, which comfortably puts in in fifth place.


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Filed under: Weekend Preview, Rango, Battle: Los Angeles, Mars Needs Moms, The Adjustment Bureau, Red Riding Hood