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Will New Releases Have to Work Hard to Succeed?

September 2nd, 2010

Labor Day long weekend is the official end of summer vacation, although the summer blockbuster season has been over for a couple weeks now. It is arguably the worst long weekend of the year to release a film, but there are three wide releases this week hoping to buck that trend. While none really have a chance at being anything more than a mid-level hit, all three have a shot at top spot, and all three might top last year's number one new release, All About Steve. Meanwhile, overall 2010 should match 2009 with plenty of room to spare.

The three wide releases this week are, in alphabetical order, The American, Going the Distance, and Machete. These are three very diverse films aimed at very different target audiences, and all three have reasons why they could be the number one film, as well as reasons why they will miss out on the pole position.

For instance, out of the three movies opening wide this weekend, The American has the biggest box office star in the lead role. George Clooney has been the top name in five $100 million movies over his career, while he has been nominated for five Oscars in the past five years. On the other hand, the film opens on Wednesday, and that will deflate its weekend box office, as those most interested in seeing the movie will do so before the weekend starts. Its reviews are good, certainly better than one would expect for a September release, but the Wednesday opening will likely be the deciding factor here. Look for close to $15 million from Friday through Monday, and $21 million in total.

Going the Distance is likely going to be the widest release of the week, opening in 3,030 theaters, which could help it take top spot. On the other hand, it is opening with the worst reviews, which won't help the situation. Then again, as a romantic comedy, bad reviews are not exactly fatal, while I think the R-rating might be a bigger concern. Finally, neither of the film's two leads are exactly hot at the box office right now. A lot of analysts have this one opening with $15 million to $16 million over the weekend, but I think $12 million is more likely.

That brings us to Machete, the weirdest release of the week. How many movies start off as a fake trailer? Probably not a lot. Stranger still, it has the best reviews of the three wide releases coming out this week, at least at the moment. (It might switch places with The American by the time the weekend is over.) It is also the first time Danny Trejo has been asked to carry a major film as the lead, having previously been a supporting player in roughly 900 movies, most of which were directed by Robert Rodriguez. Okay, 900 is a slight exaggeration, but he's hardly an unknown commodity. There are a lot of strange things going on here, which makes predicting the film's box office opening a whole lot harder. I think it will be able to earn top spot with $17 million over four days, but I might be a tad optimistic here.

As for holdovers, Takers should lead the way with just over $11 million over three days and $14 million over four. This puts it within striking distance of first place, but if it does repeat on top with that amount, that would say a lot more about the sad state of the new releases than it would about any real strength in this film.

Finally, The Last Exorcism will likely see a very big drop-off despite its reviews. As a horror film, legs will be an issue, while its opening weekend internal multiplier was quite tragic. Look for $9 million / $12 million putting it in a virtual tie for fourth place.


Filed under: Going the Distance, Takers, The American, The Last Exorcism