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Will Carol Hit a High Note at the Box Office?

November 5th, 2009

The holiday season unofficial starts this weekend with the first Christmas release of the year. Disney's A Christmas Carol is clearly the favorite to top the chart, but it is the only big release coming out this week, and it is unlikely to match last year's winner, Madagascar 2. This means 2009 will have a tough time keeping up with last year's pace.

Christmas Carol is the third Robert Zemeckis movie in a row that uses his motion capture animation technique. These movies are incredibly expensive to make, and so far their performance with critics and at the box office can best be described as mixed. It appears this film will be no different. So far the reviews are exactly 50% positive, which is the textbook definition of mixed. Additionally, while almost everyone expects the film to finish first at the box office, not many are expecting it to be a monster hit, either compared to other films that opened in first place during this time of year, or compared to its production budget. If it can top $40 million during its opening weekend, then Disney can be somewhat satisfied that it could eventually show a profit. Anything less than that and it will be a phyrric victory. The consensus among analysts seems to be that film will get there, but it will be close. Look for $42 million over the weekend, but it should at least show strong legs throughout the holiday season.

There could be a real logjam for second place between three new releases, The Fourth Kind, The Box, and Men Who Stare At Goats, and two holdovers, This Is It and Paranormal Activity. Each of these films has a real chance at taking second place, but each also has factor(s) that are really working against them and one of them will be squeezed out of the top five.

Men Who Stare At Goats is the best reviewed wide release of the week, which should help it at the box office. However, it is still not quite earning overall positive reviews. It does have an impressive cast with several big names in the leads, but it is such a strange story that I'm not sure it can find mainstream success. It is opening wider than I was expecting, but Overture has not had a lot of success opening films wide. On the high end, the film could score $15 million, or it could struggle to reach $10 million, which means it could place second to sixth on the weekend chart. I'm going with second place with just over $12 million.

On the one hand, This Is It earned very impressive reviews when it opened last Wednesday. Both the reviews and the Wednesday opening should help it avoid a massive collapse this coming weekend. On the other hand, a lot of people overestimated the film's box office potential before it opened, and it could be crushed by the Fanboy Effect. A 50% drop-off is a good starting point for this weekend's prediction, which would give it just under $12 million over the weekend. On the other hand, it could fall more than 60%, which would give it less than $10 million over the weekend, and that might be low enough to miss the top five during its second weekend of release. Look for $11 million over the weekend and $54 million after two.

Quite a few analysts are predicting The Fourth Kind will take second place with as much as $15 million over the weekend. However, I think that is unlikely. First of all, it's the kind of film that one would think would do well on Halloween, so opening the weekend after is a really, really bad sign. Its reviews and almost as bad. Additionally, Milla Jovovich doesn't exactly have a major track record when it comes to box office success. Given these facts, it could very well open in sixth place with just under $10 million, but fourth place with just over $10 million is my prediction.

Paranormal Activity has had an awesome run so far thanks to amazing word-of-mouth and strong legs. I think that will change this weekend. It's a supernatural thriller that built a following throughout the month of October, but the weekend after Halloween should see a rather steep drop-off, at least compared to the previous weeks. A 40% drop-off would leave the film with just under $10 million meaning it will have to wait a little while longer to reach the $100 million milestone.

Finally we get to The Box, which most analysts seem to think will miss the top five during its opening weekend. The film is earning mixed reviews but has almost no buzz surrounding it. I wasn't expecting a lot from this film, maybe $11 to $12 million opening and $30 million in total. Now I think $8 million to $9 million during its opening weekend is more likely, while it could struggle to reach $20 million in total.


Filed under: The Men Who Stare at Goats, Paranormal Activity, Michael Jackson's This Is It, The Fourth Kind, The Box, Disney's A Christmas Carol