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Nine Aiming at Number One

August 14th, 2009

As summer slows down, the number of new releases speeds up. This week we have five films with a shot at reaching the top ten, but only three of those are opening truly wide, and only one is a saturation-level release. It's hard to say if this week is much stronger or weaker than last year, but it should be close.

District 9 is the only saturation-level release coming out this week, and it is earning some of the best reviews for a wide release all year. 94% positive is absolutely phenomenal. That said, there are some who think it won't crack $20 million at the box office. The marketing strategy has been too "viral" and not mainstream enough for some analysts to be really bullish about the movie, and there's some merit to this theory. Snakes on a Plane opened with similar buzz this time back in 2006, but it barely cracked $15 million. On the other end, Cloverfield had better buzz going in, it was the most anticipated film of the month, and it made $40 million during its opening. I'm hoping District 9 will reach the high end of expectations and crack $10,000 on the per theater chart. $10,000 per theater times 3,049 theaters equals $30.5 million. Also, with amazing reviews and the lack of a Fanboy audience to exploit opening weekend, it could have the legs to reach $100 million over all. I'm not saying it will get there, but it could have a legitimate shot.

The only other film to have a real shot at top spot is G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, and it only has a shot if District 9 stumbles. Given this film's reviews, and its Fanboy Effect, it would be a minor miracle if it avoided a 50% drop-off. A 60% drop-off is more likely, which would leave the film with just under $22 million over the next three days and just under $99 million in total. I think it will just have enough to avoid that fate and reach $101 in total, including $24 million over the weekend.

If G.I. Joe can't avoid a 60% drop-off, then The Time Traveler's Wife will have a shot at second place. This high concept romance is about a man, who has a genetic abnormality that causes him to time travel when under stress, and the woman he's in love with, who tries to build a life with him despite their unique situation. The film is based on a beloved book, but so far the critics have not been as kind to the film. This is a problem, as the target audience (more mature women) are more likely to read and trust the opinions of critics. Granted, those who loved the book might be willing to give it a try regardless, but they might be a lot more willing to wait for the DVD than see it in the theaters. That said, it is opening in just shy of 3,000 theaters, and there's a chance it could open with $25 million at the box office. There's also a chance it will open with less than $15 million. It appears the low end is more likely and my money's on a opening weekend of $18 million, but I'm hoping it will surprise.

Competing for essentially the same audience is Julie & Julia, which opened in second place with $20 million last weekend. This weekend it should place fourth with $12 million, which would give it about $43 million after 10 days of release, which is slightly more than it cost to make. I see strong home market numbers for the movie this fall.

And now things get really, really messy, as there are six films that could finish within a couple million of each other, and one of them will grab the final spot in the top five. This includes three new releases, Bandslam, The Goods, and Ponyo, as well as three holdovers, G-Force, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and The Ugly Truth.

Of all of these films, G-Force likely has the best shot at fifth place and should earn close to $6 million over the weekend for a total of $98 million after three.

Consensus seems to have The Goods coming in sixth place, also with $6 million, despite it opening in just 1,800 theaters and with reviews that can best be described as terrible. Add in a star that has almost no box office drawing power on his own, and the movie could miss the Mendoza line by earning less than $3.5 million in total. On the high end, it could make $9 million, but $6 million seems to be the consensus.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will likely add between $4 and $5 million over the weekend, which would give it $283 million in total while putting it on pace for $292 million.

On the one hand, Bandslam doesn't have a cast that has a high track record when it comes to box office drawing power, which is bad news. Vanessa Hudgens is the closest thing to a major star in the main cast while Aly Michalka also have some Disney clout. On the other hand, its reviews are excellent at 78% positive, which is good news. This is another movie that could reach the top five with $8 million or so, but it appears most analysts think it will miss the Mendoza Line and earn less than $4 million during its opening weekend. I really hope it finishes on the high end of the scale, but I think $4 million is more likely.

The Ugly Truth should earn between $3 and $4 million over the weekend to take its running total to $76 million.

The final film on this week's list is Ponyo, the latest anime release from Hayao Miyazaki. This film is opening in just under 1,000 theaters and with a little luck it could open with $5 million over the weekend and earn $20 million in total. On the other hand, it could open below the Mendoza Line. (I know, I'm saying that a lot this week, but that's what happens at the end of the summer.) On the one hand, this film is earning amazing reviews and if it doesn't earn an Oscar nomination I would be shocked. On the other hand, anime hasn't made a dent in the mainstream market yet. Look for $3 to $4 million over the weekend and $10 million in total.

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Filed under: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, G-Force, District 9, Julie & Julia, The Ugly Truth, The Time Traveler's Wife, The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, Gake no ue no Ponyo, Bandslam