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Weekend Predictions: Two by Two

May 26th, 2011

It's Memorial Day long weekend, which is one of the most important weekends of the year. Not only is it one of the most lucrative, but it can help set the tone for the rest of summer. 30 million people going to theaters, each seeing countless posters, trailers, etc. for upcoming releases is a boon for the marketing for those film. This is why when both new releases failed to make an impact last year, it was such a devastating result. This time around, there are two sequels opening, Kung Fu Panda 2 and The Hangover 2, both of which should earn more individually than Sex and the City 2 and Prince of Persia earned combined. There's a slim chance one will dominate the other, but in that case, the overall box office should still be a large step up from last year. But the best case scenario has both of them becoming monster hits, and that would have a positive effect on the rest of the box office for weeks to come.

Both Kung Fu Panda 2 and The Hangover 2 should open huge, but which one has the best shot at top spot over the weekend? That depends on how you define "weekend". Both films open tonight, but since tomorrow isn't a holiday, it's not technically part of the weekend. It could also depend on if you include holiday Monday as well. (On a side note, with regards to our contest, as always, we are only concerned with Friday through Sunday.)

With its older demographics, The Hangover 2 will get off to a much faster start and should win the race on Thursday. However, thanks to the Sequel Effect and the disappointing reviews, it won't show the same legs. Although to be fair to the film, while most reviews are negative, they don't appear to be aggressively negative. "Too similar to The Hangover" is the sentiment expressed a lot. This might not hurt the film too much over its opening weekend. It almost certainly will not be a serious issue on Thursday. Look for $21 million Thursday, $78 million from Friday to Sunday, and $19 million on Monday. [Ed Update: Overnight reports have the film earning $31.7 million on Thursday.]

When Kung Fu Panda opened in 2008, it earned amazing reviews, and even picked up an Oscar nomination. It is unlikely that Kung Fu Panda 2 will replicate its predecessor's critical acclaim. The reviews are good, but probably not Oscar-worthy good. (Although there's not as strong competition this year as there has been in some years.) As for its box office chances, it should more than match the $215 million earned by the original. Since tomorrow is a school day, it is very unlikely Kung Fu Panda 2 will be the big winner tonight, but it could grab $10 million or so. [Ed Update: Panda grossed an estimated $5.8 million on Thursday.] Over the weekend, it could grab north of $70 million, and take over first place on Monday with over $20 million. I am a little more bullish than most, but if the original can make $60 million on a non-holiday 3-day weekend, then this film should at least be able to replicate that. Kung Fu Panda 2 does have stronger competition, but not direct competition, while it has a large built-in audience thanks to the success of the first film.

Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is in a strange position this weekend. It's aimed at an older audience than Kung Fu Panda 2 and a younger audience than The Hangover 2, which means it could go through the weekend relatively unharmed. (Except for the harm it inflicted upon itself by its reviews.) On the other hand, it could see is audience hit on both ends, with families going to see Panda and older audiences going to Hangover. In addition to the weak reviews and the Sequel Effect, the holiday will also play a part in how well the film holds up. I don't think it will be a particularly pretty sight, and losing 60% over the three day weekend is likely. That will leave the film with $36 million from Friday to Sunday, and $45 million if you include Monday. With $100 million in the bank already, this will lift the film's box office to over $150 million, but matching its $250 million production budget could be tough.

Bridesmaids is already a success. It has earned more than originally predicted, it has earned twice as much as it cost to make, and, as a bonus, it appears to be on its way to $100 million. If the film can made $13 million over four days, then it should have little trouble getting to the century mark. Many are predicting it will make more than that over three days. Look for $14 million / $17 million over the weekend, giving the film a total of $85 million after three. It may fall out of the top five before it reaches $100 million in total, but at this pace, it will get there.

Rounding out the top five will be Thor, which is closing in on original expectations. It will hit $150 million by the end of business on Thursday, and it could add another $10 million over the weekend, if you include Monday.

There is a chance Midnight in Paris will find its way to the top ten with $2 million or so, as it expands from 6 to 58 theaters. With reviews that make it a potential Awards Season player, the film could become the best performing Woody Allen film in a long time.


Filed under: Weekend Preview, Thor, The Hangover Part II, Kung Fu Panda 2, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Bridesmaids, Midnight in Paris