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Who Knows Who Will Win at the Box Office?

March 19th, 2009

There could be quite a race for top spot on top of the weekend box office with all three wide releases with a shot at coming out on top. Knowing, I Love You, Man, and Duplicity all have their strengths, and weaknesses, and this has led to analysts being divided on which movie will win. They are less divided on the chances they will keep up with last year's number one film, and it appears it will be another losing weekend for 2009. However, that should change next weekend.

Knowing likely has the edge at the box office, mainly thanks to its theater count. ... Perhaps only due to its theater count. It is the only film opening at saturation level; in fact, it is opening in 3,332 theaters, which is about 300 theaters wider than expected. On the other hand, its reviews have been floating around the 20% positive mark. Normally anything less than 40% positive will hurt a film's box office performance. When a film's Tomatometer score is below 20% positive, then even those with added incentive to see the movie (fans of the director Alex Proyas or fans of actor Nicolas Cage) might choose to stay away instead. Speaking of Nicolas Cage, his presence in the movie complicates matters, as for the past several years, he has starred in some of the biggest hits of his career, but also some of the biggest bombs as well. Feast or famine, with almost nothing in between. This film could be the former and open with more than $30 million while reaching $100 million in total, but I wouldn't bet on it. It could also bomb and barely reach $10 million over the weekend for fourth place. However, first place with $20 million is much more likely. With a reported production budget of $50 million, that would be enough to make the studio happy, but not ecstatic.

I Love You, Man is the latest film in the vein of a Judd Apatow comedy, which focuses on men trying to mature long after they should have become adults. While Judd Apatow arguably started this current wave of films with 40-Year Old Virgin, the better than expected success of Role Models shows he's not the only one who can score in the sub-genre. In fact, Role Models is an excellent guide for this movie, especially since they have nearly identical Tomatometer scores. I Love You, Man should finish with a very similar opening weekend of $18 million, which would leave the film within striking distance of first place if it outperforms expectations by a small degree, or Knowing struggles by even a little bit.

The third wide release of the week, Duplicity, has the benefit of major star power with leads Julia Roberts and Clive Owen, as well as supporting cast like Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson. Additionally, its reviews are currently 65% positive, which is high enough to be considered a selling point to most. Finally, I think the ad campaign has really sold the film, but I am a sucker for this type of movie. On the down side, the film's theater count is just 2,575, which is the lowest of the three films opening this weekend. It does have a shot at first place with close to $20 million, but $16 million over the weekend is much more likely. That's a solid opening, but not much more than that.

The first holdover is Race to Witch Mountain, which should come a close fourth with $15 million over the weekend for a total of $46 million after two. This should put the film on pace to earn $80 to $90 million domestically, and while it won't match that internationally (kids movies rarely do) its performance on the home market should be enough to lift the film into profitability.

Watchmen should place fifth with just over $8 million over the next three days to give it just under $100 million in total. With a little luck, it could reach $200 million worldwide, which would be enough to ensure a profit, eventually. To be fair, the Fanboy Effect does predict massive home market sales, while it should be the biggest hit on High Definition this year, perhaps even hitting 1 million Blu-ray units.


Filed under: Watchmen, Knowing, I Love You, Man, Race to Witch Mountain, Duplicity