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Countdown to Halloween Begins

September 30th, 2010

It's the beginning of October, so it should come as no surprise there are a couple of horror films are coming out. More surprisingly, a couple of films released this week are also earning Oscar- or near Oscar-worthy reviews. (There's only three films, so there's some crossover.) Direct competition between the films could hurt, but hopefully not so much that 2010 falls behind last year's pace. It's not like last year was explosive at the box office, as Zombieland just missed $25 million at the box office, and it was the clear winner. Will any of the wide releases top that figure? And will the overall box office help 2010 maintain its lead over 2009?

If any film has a shot at topping $25 million, it's The Social Network. The film is generating a lot of buzz, including on social network sites like Facebook and Twitter. It is also earning some of the best reviews for a wide release all year at 97% positive. At this point, it has to be seen as a potential Awards Season player. On the other hand: David Fincher. This guy has made some amazing movies over the years, but his record at the box office has been inconsistent. He's only made one movie (Alien³) that didn't earn critical acclaim, but this hasn't always translated into box office success. For instance, Zodiac opened with just $13.40 million, finished with just $33.08 million, and that was on a budget of $85 million. There is a chance The Social Network will make less than Zodiac did. On the other hand, there is a chance it will open with more than that film made in total. Let's hope it's the latter, but I think it will open with $25 million, which is still enough to be considered a victory.

The only other film with a shot at top spot is Let Me In, but it also has a shot at missing the top five. For a film to have a shot at first to fifth means there's a lot of uncertainty here. On the one hand, there is a huge amount of buzz and the reviews continue to be among the best the year has to offer. On the other hand, its buzz is mostly around the Geek demographic, of which I consider myself a member. While Geeks tend to get really into certain things, we've proven time and time again that we are not reliable ticket buyers. Finally, the film is barely opening wide with a theater count of just 2,020. Best case scenario has the film earning just over $10,000 on the per theater chart, which would give it just over $20 million over the weekend. If The Social Network missed expectations, this would be enough for top spot. Worst case scenario has the film barely earning more than the Mendoza Line, and finishing the weekend with $5 million. Most analysts seem to think the low end is more likely than the high end, but I'm going with an opening of $12 million.

There could be a tight three-way race for third place between Wall Street 2, Owls of Ga'Hoole, and The Town, all of which should earn $10 million, give or take.

Wall Street 2 has been winning the box office race during the week and that could give it the advantage over the weekend. On the other hand, its reviews are only mixed and The Social Network does share a lot of its target audience. Both of these factors could hurt the film this weekend. I still think it has the advantage over the other two films, however small it might be, and it will place third with just over $10 million.

Owls of Ga'Hoole also earned mixed reviews, but as a family film, it should have better legs at the box office. Also, it doesn't have to deal with direct competition, and 3D screens, especially 3D IMAX screens, tend to have better legs. Look for a drop-off of just under 40%, which would leave the film with $10 million over the weekend for a total of $29 million.

The Town has already shown it has legs at the box office by dropping just 34% during its second weekend of release. Quite often films will hold on better during their third weekend of release when compared to their second. If this is the case here, The Town could earn third place with close to $11 million. However, I'm thinking that's just too good to be true and fifth place with just under $10 million is more likely. On the other hand, that would still lift its running tally to $64 million, which is likely more than it cost to make, advertise, and distribute. Assuming it can grab some Awards Season buzz, then it still has a shot at $100 million in total.

The final wide release of the week is Case 39, which is a film that just a couple months ago people were starting to think would never be released. Hell, just a couple weeks ago there were many sources that said it was going to be given a limited release, most likely the dreaded "Select Cities". Now it is opening in 2,211 theaters, which means it is actually a wider release than Let Me In. On the other hand, that's really its only advantage. The reviews are quite bad, although not as bad as some had feared. (Given the delays, some were predicting a single-digit Tomatometer Score.) In the battle of the Scary Kids: Jodelle vs. Chloe, despite my heavy Canadian bias, I'm giving the advantage to Chloe. On the low end, Case 39 might miss the Mendoza line opening with less than $4 million, while anything close to $10 million will be considered a massive victory. I'm going with $6 million.

One final note, Secretariat has a sneak peak this Saturday in just over 800 theaters. Check your local listings for more details.

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Filed under: Weekend Preview, Secretariat, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, Case 39, Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, The Town, Let Me In, The Social Network