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Inviting New Releases to Town

January 29th, 2009

It could be tough this weekend for 2009 to maintain pace with 2008 for a few reasons. First of all, this time last year was the first weekend of February, and this time it is still the last weekend of January. Secondly, it is Super Bowl weekend, and the two widest releases are aiming at a male audience. Thirdly, this time last year Miley Cyrus proved she was a box office powerhouse, and there's no equivalent this year. That said, while the top of the chart might not be that strong, there is a lot more depth this year. A lot more. In fact, there is a slim chance that the sixth place film will make $10 million or more at the box office this weekend, and it is unlikely that any of the new releases will truly bomb, unlike last year. (Also, the Super Bowl is a lot less interesting this year compared to last.)

Taken is a movie I have some issues with when it comes to predicting its box office opening. On the one hand, it has made some serious cash internationally and has so far pulled in $66.75 million with a few more openings yet to go. This suggests a $50 million total, or about $18 million opening. On the other hand, it feels very male driven with its rescue / revenge storyline, but it is coming out Super Bowl weekend. It is the widest release of the week, and the only saturation level release of the week, which should help, and its reviews are just shy of the overall positive level, which is a lot better than the average January release. On the other hand, I've heard some bad buzz here with some people questioning Liam Neeson's ability to handle the action scenes. Overall, the positives and the negatives add up to $18 million over the weekend, which is a tad higher than other analysts are predicting, but I think the ads have been effective in selling the movie.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop continues its quest for $100 million this weekend, and it should add $14 million over the weekend for a total of $83 million after three. At this pace, it will take more than a week to reach $100 million, but $100 million will be practically guaranteed.

The Uninvited is a horror film, and these tend to tilt heavily towards the male demographic. However, I think this film will earn a more balanced demographic this weekend for two reasons. Firstly, it is Super Bowl weekend, and a lot of men will be distracted. Secondly, it has a predominantly female cast, including Elizabeth Banks, Arielle Kebbel, and Emily Browning (from Lemony Snicket). (On a side note, the strong female cast is the reason I'm interested in the movie.) Reviews for the remake have been mixed, but better than expected. I'm not as happy with the ad campaign, which has been a lot less visible than the other two wide releases of the week. That said, the film has a shot at first place, if it can surprise while the competition stumbles, but third place and $13 million is a lot more likely.

There should be a four-way race for fourth place between holdovers Gran Torino, Slumdog Millionaire, and Underworld 3: Rise of the Lycans, as well as new release New In Town. The most likely scenario has the films finishing in that order with Gran Torino pulling in just over $10 million, Slumdog Millionaire earning almost exactly $10 million, and Underworld 3: Rise of the Lycans bringing in just under $10 million.

New In Town will likely finish seventh with $9 million or so. It is a "Chick Flick" opening on Super Bowl weekend, which should help, and the ad campaign is active. However, there are some troubling signs. First of all, the reviews are bad, even for a romantic comedy. When it comes to reviews for a romantic comedy, I ignore any critic that complains the movie is predictable, because of course it is going to be predictable. It's a romantic comedy! However, there have been more than a few complaints over the lack of chemistry between Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick, Jr., and that can be fatal for a movie like this. With an opening weekend theater count of just 1,941, I don't think the studio has a lot of faith in this movie, and there's a chance it could bomb with less than $5 million, or it could score closer to first place with $15 million. The lower end it more likely, and I'm predicting seventh place with $9 million over the weekend.

On a side note, not only is New In Town featured in our latest box office prediction contest, you can also bid on one of five signed posters on eBay. Check out both if you are interested in winning merchandise from the movie.

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Filed under: Gran Torino, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Taken, Slumdog Millionaire, Underworld 3: Rise of the Lycans, The Uninvited, New in Town