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Who Will Win at the Box Office

March 14th, 2008

2008 is in danger of slipping below 2007's pace this weekend, at least when it comes to ticket sales. Fortunately, this time last year, the three new releases were rather weak while this year, Horton Hears a Who is tracking to become the biggest opening of the year so far. Even so, it will be tough for 2008 to keep pace with 2007.

Horton Hears a Who is the first major digitally animated movie since Beowulf and the first one aimed at kids since Bee Movie. Those two films opened well, but not spectacularly, and were not major box office hits. Horton Hears a Who is opening at a weaker time of the year, but it does have better reviews and less competition. Most are predicting this will help the film earn in the $40 million to $50 million range, which is certainly possible. However, the lower end it more likely while it could fail to reach a per theater average of $10,000, which would give the movie an opening of $39 million or less. Anything less than that and the film will be in real trouble. I'm looking for $42 million over the weekend and it should become the first $100 million hit of the year.

Weak reviews are taking their toll as the midweek numbers have not been kind to 10,000 B.C. and the film is looking to suffer a big, big loss this weekend. Almost all analysts are expecting a 60% drop-off, or at least close to it. That would give the film a $14 million sophomore stint, which would still be enough for second place. However, anything significantly more than 50% will really hurt the film's chances at $100 million.

On the other hand, College Road Trip should stay strong thanks almost entirely to its target audience -- it is certainly not being helped out by its reviews. It does have to deal with competition from Horton Hears a Who, but dropping just 40% is still a reasonable target. That would give the film just over $8 million over the weekend, although just under $8 million is more likely. That would give the film $24 million during its run and keep it on track for $40 million.

The next wide release coming out this week is Never Back Down, which is opening in many more theaters than expected. In fact, it is opening in close to 3,000 theaters with an ad campaign to match. That said, the reviews are weak and the buzz is even weaker. Most people, even those in the target audience, are calling the film a mix between The O.C. and Karate Kid. Or perhaps Save the Last Dance and Fight Club. Or Rocky plus You Got Served. ... Originality is not the selling point here, the Mixed Martial Arts is. However, there are simply not enough fans of that sport to really build a movie around while the teenage melodrama will further turn off even those fans. It could surprise and place second with $15 million or so, but $5 million is also not out of the question. I'm going with fourth place and $7 million.

The final wide release of the week is Doomsday, the latest from writer / director Neil Marshall. He first gained notice here with Dog Soldiers, a low-budget werewolf movie that earned good reviews and a cult following. His next film, Descent, earned better reviews and also became a financial hit thanks in part to its low production budget. It is unlikely that Doomsday will earn the same level of reviews as either of those films, as it has not been screened for critics. Its box office chances are just as weak with an opening theater count just below 2,000 and a derivative trailer that makes the film seem like a mix of several other, better pictures. Compounding matters, members of its target audience will also be drawn to 10,000 B.C., which is in its second weekend of release. This adds up to an opening of just over $5 million, but that should still be enough for a safe fifth place finish.

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Filed under: Horton Hears a Who, College Road Trip, Never Back Down, Doomsday, 10,000 B.C.