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Will September End Famously?

September 24th, 2009

The three wide releases this week include two that have a shot at top spot, depending on who you ask, and another that will likely struggle for a spot in the top five. Overall the new releases are about as strong as this time last year, but holdovers should be the deciding factor in keeping 2009 ahead of last year's pace.

Surrogates isn't the widest release of the week, but it is the one with the largest marketing push behind it. In the film, Bruce Willis stars as a police detective living in a world where everyone interacts through surrogate robots they control with their minds. However, when someone figures out how to kill the person through the surrogate, he has to leave his house and venture into the real world. It's a high concept film, but one that is only generating mixed reviews. Then again, this time last year Eagle Eye opened with close to $30 million with worse reviews. Perhaps moviegoers are ready for this type of movie and it could crack $30 million at the box office. That's a bullish prediction, too bullish for me, but $23 million and first place is not. First place should please the studio, but with a reported $80 million price tag, it will take a long time before it shows a profit.

With no direct competition, and stunning reviews, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs has a chance at repeating on top of the charts, if the new releases struggle. Given its stability during the week, it should earn between $18 and $20 million over the weekend taking it close to $55 million after two. If it reaches the higher end of that range it will be on pace to reach $100 million at the box office, or at least come very close.

Next up is Fame, which is a remake of the film of the same name from 1980. That film earned excellent reviews, earned just over $20 million at the box office, and spawned a TV series. The remake could open with more than its predecessor made during its entire run (although almost 30 years of inflation makes that a fairly academic comparison). On the other hand, given its reviews, third place is more likely. The real wildcard here is the High School Musical crowd. If these people decide Fame is the heir to the crown, then it could make $30 million, or more. On the other hand, if they decide it's a cheap rip-off, then they could stay away and scuttle any chances this film has of even reaching $10 million. The lower end is more likely than the high end, but with a reported $18 million production budget, MGM should be happy regardless. Look for $17 million over the weekend.

The third wide release is Pandorum, which I had high hopes for at the beginning of the month. However, it opens on Friday and there are still no reviews. Even more troubling, I've seen no ads for the film on TV. Granted, I don't watch a lot of TV, but seeing absolutely no reviews for a wide release is still not normal. There is a chance the film will miss the Mendoza line and fail to reach the top five with just $4 to $5 million during its opening weekend. It could also surprise with $10 million. I think fourth place with just over $6 million is the most likely scenario, but there's a lot of unpredictability here.

The Informant! will be right behind with just under $6 million over the weekend for a total of $20 million after two. This is almost as much as it cost to make, while it is on pace to match original expectations, or at least come close enough to call it a victory.

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Filed under: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Informant!, Surrogates, Fame, Pandorum