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Witch Wins the Race, but Box Office Slows Down

March 17th, 2009

For the first time in a long time, 2009 showed signs of weakness at the box office as all three new releases were unable to match expectations. Overall the box office was down 14% from last weekend to $101 million. More troubling was the fact that is was down 16% from the same weekend last year. However, to be fair, this weekend last year saw the debut of Horton Hears a Who, which was the biggest hit of 2008 at that point and opened with $45 million.

Race to Witch Mountain earned top spot on the weekend chart with $24.40 million, which is right in the middle of expectations. It is also a slight improvement over Dwayne Johnson's The Game Plan and AnnaSophia Robb's Bridge to Terabithia. Its reviews, on the other hand, are only mixed and it is hard to judge where the film will go from here. Evidence suggests that is will hold on rather well this weekend, before being crushed by Monsters vs. Aliens. Depending on the film's production budget, which has been rumored at between $50 million and $70 million, it could make enough to show a significant profit during its initial push onto the home market.

Watchmen plummeted as I expected, down 68% to $17.82 million over the weekend and $85.75 million after two. It should reach $100 million, but it might take more than a week to get there, depending on how many theater owners decide to dump it after just two weeks. With a per theater average of nearly $5,000, and weak openings this coming weekend, I don't expect many will. That said, reported costs for this film are in the $130 to $200 million range (depending on if you include worldwide P&A or not) and with weakness internationally, it is going to take a strong home market run to recover that cost.

The Last House of the Left missed expectations with $14.12 million over the weekend, but that's close enough to call it a victory. Given its reviews, its genre, its internal multiplier of 2.51, etc. I don't expect the movie to last a long time in theaters, but I don't expect it cost too much to make, so profitability is very likely.

Taken beat expectations, again, pulling in $6.57 million over three days for a total of $126.75 million after 45. Its worldwide total is nearing $200 million, and when it gets there it will be the first film of 2009 to do so (although it did open internationally in 2008).

Madea Goes to Jail added $5.11 million over the weekend for a total of $83.19 million after four. The film will finish in the mid-$90 million range, but unless the studio gives it a push over the top, it won't reach $100 million.

The only other wide release of the week is Miss March, which bombed more than expected. The film earned just $2.41 million in 1,742 theaters for an average of $1,383, which is way below the Mendoza line. Add in reviews that are among the worst of the year (yet still better than I was expecting) and there's little hope that this film will remain in theaters long. On the other hand, it probably didn't cost a lot to make, and an Unrated DVD could help it break even. ... Eventually.

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