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Will Watchmen Win the Race to the Top?

March 13th, 2009

There are some who think there will be a close race for first place on the box office chart this weekend with Watchmen having a shot at repeating on top ahead of Race to Witch Mountain. I am not one of those people. After bowing to the majority two weeks in a row, I think Watchmen will see a bigger than expected drop-off, while Race to Witch Mountain will open with a larger than expected box office. On a related note, 2009's winning streak over 2008 could come to an end, as this weekend last year saw the debut of Horton Hears a Who, which opened with $45 million. That's more than the consensus prediction for the top film over this weekend. In fact, it could be more than the three new releases will earn combined.

Race to Witch Mountain is the latest family film starring Dwayne Johnson, who is no stranger to this type of film, as The Game Plan became the biggest hit in his leading actor career when it was released. Neither is AnnaSophia Robb, who as starred in Bridge to Terabithia and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. For that matter, Cheech Marin's last film was Beverly Hills Chihuahua and he shared screen time with Carla Gugino in Spy Kids. So far, Witch Mountain's reviews are a little weaker than expected, but at 41% positive, they are not so low that it will hurt the film at the box office. I think the special effects will bring in the older kids, the nostalgia over the original Witch Mountain films will bring in the parents, and the Disney label will help bring in families. Pie-in-the-sky could see this film earning $35 million over the weekend and $125 million in total. But just under $30 million over the next three days and just over $100 million in total is more likely. This is more than most analysts have predicted, so keep that in mind.

There have been several films released this year that have epitomized the term "front-loaded." I fear Watchmen will be another. After an opening weekend internal multiplier of just 2.25, and midweek numbers have sunk to just 11% of its opening day. A 60% drop-off seems almost guaranteed, while a 70% drop-off is not out of the question. Looking at those two extremes gives us a range of $17 million to $22 million, and I think the low end is a little more likely than the high end, so I'm going with a prediction of $19 million, of which $3 million could be made in IMAX theaters.

The second remake of the week is The Last House of the Left, which is based on the infamous film by Wes Craven. The 1972 original is considered by some as one of the first examples of Torture Porn, which is a genre I'm not interested it. That said, the reviews are better than expected and are in a tight competition to be the best of the week. Granted, 42% positive is not a Tomatometer score one could sell a film on, but for its target audience, it is good enough. The ad campaign, on the other hand, has not been as prevalent as I expected, and I was anticipating an opening theater count closer to 3,000. That said, there is a chance the film could pull in $20 million over its opening weekend, which would mean it would top original expectations. But $16 million over the weekend and over $40 million in total is more likely.

Taken should remain in the top five for yet another week with just over $5 million over the weekend and $125 million after seven.

Meanwhile, Madea Goes to Jail should place fifth with just under $5 million over the weekend and $83 million in total.

The final wide release of the week is Miss March, which is opening both stronger and weaker than expected. On the one hand, it is opening in just 1,742 theaters, which is lower than expected. On the other hand, it is opening with 8% positive reviews, which is higher that expected. Yes, I was expecting the film to earn closer to zero positive reviews; however, with only 12 critics even writing a review for Rotten Tomatoes so far, it could slump over the weekend. On the high end, the film could land in fourth place with $7 million and it could match original expectations. On the low end, it could fail to reach the Mendoza Line over the weekend, giving the film roughly $3 million and it would end its run with $8 million in total. The lower end is more likely than the high end, and I'm going with a $4 million opening and $10 million in total.


Filed under: Taken, Watchmen, Madea Goes To Jail, Race to Witch Mountain, The Last House on the Left, Miss March