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Celebrating Valentine's Day a Month Early

January 15th, 2009

A busy week with four films opening wide, all of which have widely different target demographics. Hotel for Dogs is going for families, My Bloody Valentine is going for hardcore horror fans, Paul Blart: Mall Cop is going for fans of SitCom comedy, while Notorious is going for fans of rap. Add in a couple of holdovers, and it's a crowded marketplace. It is unlikely that any of these films will top last year's number one film, Cloverfield, but perhaps combined they will keep pace with last year's box office.

For the second weekend in a row, there's a horror film opening wide. However, unlike last week, this week's offering, My Bloody Valentine, is earning an R rating and that should please hardcore horror fans. However, in what might be the most surprising turn this week, it is also pleasing critics with an early Tomatometer score of 83% positive. Granted, it only has 6 reviews so far, but this is still an unexpected result. Even if the reviews drop to just 50% positive, or lower, it could come out on top with as much as $25 million, or it could struggle to reach $15 million. $22 million and first place is the most likely result.

After a relatively surprising win last weekend, Gran Torino has at least a shot at repeating as champion this weekend. It does have the benefit of strong reviews and some expansion in its theater count. But even so, second place with $20 million is likely as good as it will get for the Clint Eastwood effort. However, that would push its total to $71 million, which does leave it on pace to reach $100 million in total.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop is one of two saturation level releases coming out this week, but it is unlikely this film will be the top draw at the box office. Given its star and its performance with the critics, it feels too much like a rental to be a massive draw in theaters. Even most positive reviews note that the film isn't exactly deep, and many of the negative reviews admit there is some charm in Kevin Jame's performance. It could surprise and come out on top with $20 million, but third place with $17 million is more likely. On the other hand, it will probably find a decent audience on the home market, which will be more than enough to make the studio happy.

The widest release of the week is Hotel for Dogs at 3,271 theaters. The family film is looking to take advantage of the Martin Luther King holiday, which should help ticket sales somewhat; however, this is not the best long weekend of the year. In fact, for many people, it's not even a long weekend. That said, the reviews are better than expected and are currently exactly 50% positive, which should be enough to help sell a few additional tickets. Don't expect it to be the biggest hit of the weekend, but with $16 million over the next three days, it should do well enough to make the studio happy. And who knows, with a little luck it could finish higher in the top five than just fourth place.

Bride Wars matched expectations nearly perfectly last weekend, and with NFL playoffs revving up this weekend, it should show solid legs. Given the logjam of new releases, it has a shot at third place if the new releases struggle, but fifth place and $14 million over the next three days is more likely. It is hard to be overly impressed by the film's run so far, but it is very likely that the movie will show a profit early in its initial push into the home market, so the studio should be happy. It is becoming a solid mid-level hit.

The next wide release of the week is Notorious, the BioPic of slain rapper Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. Biggie Smalls. So far the reviews are just below the overall positive level, while the buzz is not quite as strong. Add in a theater count that is below the truly wide release level at just 1,637 theaters, and it could struggle to reach the top five, just missing that market with $13 million or so. Then again, this is within striking distance of third place.

The final wide opening of the week isn't really wide, nor is it actually opening. After two amazing weeks in limited release, Defiance is expanding on Friday to 1,789 theaters. Granted, it opened with a per theater average of more than $60,000, but it fell during its sophomore stint like it was a wide release. This is not a surprise given its reviews, but it doesn't bode well for its expansion. On the high end, it might earn $15 million, and perhaps sneak into the top five, but earning just half of that while finishing in the lower top ten is more likely.

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Filed under: Gran Torino, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Hotel for Dogs, Bride Wars, My Bloody Valentine, Notorious, Defiance