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Harold and Kumar and Baby Make Three

April 24th, 2008

Two comedies with vastly different target audiences are opening this weekend, as is a thriller with perhaps no target audience. None of the new releases look likely to light up the box office charts, especially with the looming release of Iron Man less than a week away. That said, limited expenses and lowered expectations should keep the studios happy, for the most part.

Baby Mama stars Tina Fey and fellow SNL-alum, Amy Poehler. Fey plays a professional woman desperate for a child who learns she can't have one. She then hires Amy Poehler as a surrogate... I did mention she was desperate, right? So far the film's reviews are only average with most critics saying that the two leading ladies have the chemistry to elevate the material, but that the material is too light and predictable to be fully satisfying. That said, light entertainment is still entertaining and Baby Mama has the inside track on first place this weekend. The film is currently tracking in the mid-teen range with most analysts predicting between $13 and $16 million. I'm going on the high end. In fact, I'm going above the high end. Look for just under $17 million over the weekend and roughly $45 million in total. This should be enough to make the studio happy, especially given the film's release date.

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay is the sequel to the 2004 stoner comedy, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. That film opened to better than expected reviews but still bombed at the box office. That said, it made a fortune on the home market, which eventually convincing the studio to make a sequel. However, it has a lot of obstacles in its path to box office glory. First of all, it's a stoner comedy, and almost no such film has done well at the box office in a long, long time. There are two key reasons why this is true: 1.) You can't smoke pot in a movie theater. ... Err, I guess there's really just one reason. I was assuming this film would open in well below 2,000 theaters since the first one opened with such a low per theater average. That, and the Unrated DVD that's in the film's future, would stop a lot of theater owners from booking the movie. However, it is debuting in 2,500 theaters, and that should help it at the box office. On the other hand, the reviews are weaker than expected and have fallen below 50% positive. There's a chance it won't be able to build on the original's per theater average, leaving it with $7 million or so, but that would still be enough to reach the top five. Best case scenario has it earning almost as much as the original did in total giving it a shot at first place. Split the difference between those two wide extremes and you get second place and $13 million.

Over the weekend, Forgetting Sarah Marshall opened in second place, but by Tuesday it had taken top spot on the daily charts. Not only that, but each day it has outperformed The Forbidden Kingdom and is starting to build a sizable lead. Granted, Baby Mama targets some of the same demographic, as does Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay to some extent. Additionally, some of The Forbidden Kingdom's troubles during the week are due to its younger target demographic, who are still in school. That said, it has a strong shot at third place with just over $11 million over the weekend. Even just under $11 million should be enough to overtake Kingdom over the weekend.

Speaking of The Forbidden Kingdom, it is tracking at a 50% drop-off for a number of reasons, namely its two stars. Films starring either Jet Li or Jackie Chan tend to follow the same pattern of big openings and fast declines. It seems likely that a film with both actors would do the same, perhaps even more extreme. A drop-off of just more than 50% would leave the film with just over $10 million this weekend, which is the most likely scenario. It could completely collapse this weekend and fall more than 60%, but I don't think it will and if it can avoid that fate, then the studio should be happy with its performance so far.

The final film in the top five should be Deception, a film opening in barely more than 2,000 theaters with an ad campaign of an opening half as wide. Combine that with some of the worst reviews of the year, and there's little hope this film will be a box office hit. In fact, there is chance that it might not reach the top five this weekend. In order to do so, it only needs to make close to $5 million, which seems likely. But if it misses the Mendoza line, it would pull in $4 million, or less, and then Prom Night should be able to survive in the top five for one more week.


Filed under: Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Baby Mama, The Forbidden Kingdom, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, Deception