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Weekend Preview: Any Hope for New Releases?

January 14th, 2010

It's Martin Luther King long weekend, the first long weekend of the year, but not the biggest. It is also the weekend the Golden Globe awards will be handed out and that could have a larger effect on the box office in the long term. However, it might have a negative effect in the short term as people stay home to watch the awards. This could prevent the new releases from keeping up with last year's crop, which included the first $100 million movie of 2009 — a feat that is very unlikely to happen again this year. In fact, Avatar will probably continue to rule to box office as it overtakes yet another film on the All-Time Chart.

Early on Wednesday, Avatar slipped past Shrek 2 to move into fourth place on the All-Time Chart, and by the end of business on Thursday it will have about $450 million. That puts its about $10 million behind its next target, Star Wars Ep. 4: A New Hope, meaning it will climb into third place early this weekend. Thanks to the long weekend, the film could have an even smaller week-to-week drop-off than it did last weekend and that would give it a three-day total of $38 million. That might be a little optimistic, but just over $40 million over four days is not. This would leave it with more than $490 million during its run and if it wins any Golden Globes, it could see equally strong holds next weekend thanks to the free publicity.

The biggest new release of the week is The Book of Eli. Denzel Washington stars as a lone drifter traveling in a post-apocalyptic world with what he thinks is the one thing that will save the world. Reviews for the film have been mixed, but that is true of most films that are released this time of year and they are also better than those for the other two new wide releases. Denzel Washington tends to be a very solid performer at the box office and a lot of his films debut with $25 million, more or less. I don't think this film will be any different, so look for $25 million from Friday to Sunday and $30 million including Monday.

Jackie Chan's career is still going strong in his native Hong Kong and while his skill as a physical performer has diminished with age, his comedic timing is still sharp. So it is very disappointing for his fans to see him in a movie like The Spy Next Door. Granted, the film is aimed at kids and it is coming out in January, so there are lowered expectations, but looking at its Tomatometer Score and this film is clearly an early contender for Worst Movie of the Year. As I write this, there are 25 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and not one of them is positive. Ouch. (Last minute update: There is now one positive review. But, still... "Ouch.") Luckily, its target audience probably doesn't read a lot of reviews. In fact, its target audience probably can't read, because they are just too young. Look for roughly $12 million over three days and $15 million over four, which might be enough for the film to show a profit eventually. Since it is a Lionsgate film, it likely didn't cost too much to make.

The Lovely Bones finally expands wide this weekend after more than a month in limited release. The film started out really well with an average of $38,872, but it quickly fell after that to the point where I figured it would never expand wide. However, it showed strong growth over the New Year's weekend and now it expanding into more than 2,500 theaters. That said, its reviews are just not that good and the studio may have waited too long to give it a wide release. Expectations range from more than $15 million on the high end to under $7 million on the low end, which means it could place anywhere from third to eighth. I think $10 million / $12 million is the most likely scenario, which means it will be in a three-way battle for fifth place with Sherlock Holmes and Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakquel. Those two films might be close enough that they will switch places between the three-day and four-day weekends. For both Sherlock Homles and Alvin and the Chipmunks 2, the march toward $200 million continues, but neither will get there this week.


Filed under: The Spy Next Door, The Book of Eli, Avatar, The Lovely Bones, Sherlock Holmes, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel