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Incredible Happening or Hulking Mess?

June 12th, 2008

There was a chance The Incredible Hulk and The Happening would open with nearly identical weekends of around $50 million each. However, the box office potential of the two films has diverged lately with The Incredible Hulk going up a little and The Happening going way down. Combined, they should still top last year's group of new releases, and perhaps even help close the gap on the year-to-date race.

Hulk's 2003 run has been discussed a lot, and with good reason. It opened with more than $60 million during its first three days, which at the time was one of the 20 biggest opening weekends of all time. However, the film completely collapsed, falling a record-breaking 69.66% in its second weekend and finishing with just $132 million in total. There were plenty of factors that were given credit for this, including The Hulk Effect. What wasn't routinely discussed was the possibility of another movie. However, five years later that's exactly what we have, although it's more of a reboot of the franchise than a sequel. The Incredible Hulk opens this weekend with mixed box office potential. Nearly all experts are predicting the film will open in first place, but most are expecting an opening in the mid $50 million range. This is a little below last year's number one film and significantly below the original's opening. That said, its reviews have been strong and in the long run it should earn more at the box office. I'm going to be a little more bullish than most and predict $58 million over the weekend and just over $150 million in total. If it can match that internationally, it should be able to show a profit sometime during its initial push into the home market. I'm not sure if that will be enough to extend the franchise, or if the Hulk will be relegated to super hero B-League, like The Avengers.

With very strong reviews, no direct competition, and a young target demographic, Kung Fu Panda should hold on well this weekend. A 40% drop-off would give the film just over $36 million over the weekend, which would boost its total to $110 million after 10 days. Even a 50% drop-off would give it $30 million over the weekend and more than $100 million in total and the higher end is certainly more likely. In fact, it could come close to $40 million over the weekend and it wouldn't be too big of a surprise.

The second wide release of the week is The Happening. Originally this film was not going to be screened for critics, which was probably a smart plan given the film's critical reception thus far. The general consensus among the critics is the film starts out well, but ends poorly. Very poorly. It is earning the worst reviews of M. Night Shyamalan's career. That said, it is still tracking above Lady in the Water and could score $30 million with a little luck (or a lot of luck). On the opposite end, it could fail to cross $20 million over the next three days. The high end is a little more likely than the low end and I'm going with a prediction of $27 million. On the other hand, there's little hope the film will have much in the way of legs and original expectations are likely just out of reach.

Next up is You Don't Mess With the Zohan. Adam Sandler comedies tend to have strong legs and rarely fall more than 50% during their second weekend of release. Even the weak midweek numbers that this one is pulling in are not a concern as this is not uncommon for his films. A 45% drop-off, which is the most likely result, would give the film a sophomore stint of just over $21 million. That would give it a total of close to $75 million and put it on pace to reach $100 million a week or two later, which is roughly the same pace I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry managed last year. Even with a production budget that is higher than a comedy should have, it should still show a profit early in the film's home market run.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull continues its quest for $300 million and should add roughly $11 million this weekend. However, that might not be enough to maintain its pace for $300 million and Iron Man may come out on top for the month of May.

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Filed under: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Kung Fu Panda, The Incredible Hulk, You Don't Mess With the Zohan, The Happening