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Will There Be a Real Horse Race at the Box Office?

October 7th, 2010

There could be a real tight race for top spot at the box office this week, which is good news as it gives us something to talk about while we avoid the year-over-year comparison. There are three wide releases coming out this week; however, it is very possible that their combined opening weekend results will be less than last year's number one film, Couples Retreat. Even if 2010 avoids that fate, there's almost no chance it will keep up with last year's pace.

The three films with the best chance of reaching the top are: Life As We Know It, Secretariat, and The Social Network.

Life As We Know It is opening the widest, but it also has weak reviews with a Tomatometer Score of just 31% positive. However, while this is low enough that it will likely adversely affect the film's box office numbers, it is not that much worse than expected. On the other hand, the buzz is much weaker. Katherine Heigl was in Killers this past summer, which opened with close to $16 million. It does have better reviews and less competition, but also a weaker release date. Since it is a more straight-up Romantic Comedy and not an action comedy, it could do as well as The Ugly Truth or 27 Dresses, or it could bomb barely cracking $10 million. A lot of people think it will be the latter and even $20 million would be a surprising success. I'm going with $16 million, which would give it a virtual tie for top spot.

Secretariat is being described by many as this year's The Blind Side, and there are some obvious points of comparison. They are both sports movies with the focus on strong women rather than exclusively on the sport. They are both based on true stories. And they are both being floated as potential Awards Season Players. Secretariat's reviews are barely at the overall positive level, while the level of buzz is a lot lower. A lot of this has to do with Horse Racing vs. Football in terms of the number of people that actively follow those two sports. Football is the number one sport in the United States, while outside the Triple Crown, I doubt the vast majority of Americans could even name one important race. (I certainly can't.) The Blind Side made just over $15 million during its fourth weekend of release. I think Secretariat will be happy to match that figure during its opening weekend.

Last week's winner, The Social Network, should be able to take advantage of its reviews and the Oscar buzz and turn that into very strong legs. A sub-40% drop-off would not be terribly shocking, especially given the weak slate of new releases. David Fincher's previous film, Benjamin Button, fell just 30% during its second weekend of release. Granted, it also benefited from the holidays, so I don't think that's a legitimate goal to set. Topping $14 million over the weekend is possible, and even if it just fails to get there, there is a chance it will remain on top if the competition turns out to be weaker than expected.

Thanks to its family friendly nature, plus the total lack of direct competition, Owls of Ga'Hoole, should also hold on well. Look for a 40% drop-off to about $7 million over the weekend and close to $40 million in total.

The Town should round out the top five with just over $6 million over the weekend giving it a running tally of $73 million.

The final wide release of the week is My Soul to Take. On the positive side, it is directed by Wes Craven, who has created some of the best films in the genre. On the other hand, there's almost a total lack of buzz to go with the total lack of reviews. It could benefit from the proximity to Halloween and score fourth place with $10 million or so, or it could miss the Mendoza Line with less than $5 million. Despite the gulf in quality, it appears this film will open with more than Let Me In did last weekend, but it will be close at just under $6 million.


Filed under: Weekend Preview, Secretariat, Life as We Know It, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, The Town, The Social Network, My Soul to Take