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WALL-E About to Blast Off?

June 26th, 2008

June ends this weekend and so far there's only been one film not to match expectations, or at least come relatively close to doing so. That said, none of the films have had massive breakout success either. That should change this weekend as WALL-E is tracking well above initial expectations.

At the beginning of the month, I was not overly bullish on WALL-E's box office chances. The lead character, WALL-E the Robot, doesn't speak, at least not traditional words. The lack of dialogue would make the movie difficult to sell to kids, while adult aficionados will be more enthusiastic. However, the tracking for the movie is through the roof and there are many who think the movie will top the list and have the biggest opening for a Pixar movie ever. Given its quality, this wouldn't be a shock. The record is currently held by The Incredibles at $70.47 million, which is roughly where this film is tracking. In fact, WALL-E is tracking just a little higher at $71 to $72 million. On the other hand, catching Finding Nemo's final box office of $339.71 million will be a lot tougher. The competition is a lot stronger; in fact, the year Finding Nemo opened at the box office, no other digitally animated movie was released. (2003 is the last year where there was no competition in the digitally animated field.) That said, if the movie does open slightly better than expected at $75 million or more, it could easily reach $300 million or more at the box office and perhaps become the biggest hit of the summer. That might be a stretch, but an opening just north of $70 million is not.

James McAvoy has a bundle of talent, but he has yet to star in a movie that has the potential to make him a household name. That could change this weekend with Wanted opening in more than 3,000 theaters. The film is also the English-language debut for Russian director, Timur Bekmambetov, who previously directed the record-breaking Night Watch franchise. This film is being compared to those two, especially the frenetic, stylized action. It's a good time of the year to release an action movie like this, and with strong reviews it should be a powerhouse in the counter-programming arena. The film appears to be tracking for an opening weekend in the high $30 million to the low $40 million range. I think it is likely that on Sunday the studio will release an estimate giving the film just over $40 million over the weekend, but by Monday that will be down to just under $40 million. This is still a great start and will put in on track to reach more than $100 million in total.

With the two new releases opening tomorrow with a predicted combined box office of $110 million, one would think last week's crop of new releases would be crushed. However, there's not a lot of direct competition for Get Smart. That said, a 50% drop-off is still not out of the question, which would leave the film with just over $19 million over the weekend for a total of $76 million after two. If it can earn just over $21 million over the weekend, which is a distinct possibility, then it would be on pace to reach $100 million by the end of its third weekend of release. I'm going with a prediction of just under $21 million for the weekend, which would leave it on pace to hit about $115 million in total.

On the other hand, Kung Fu Panda does have to deal with direct competition and it could take a beating over the weekend. Normally kids movies have very soft declines, but with what could be the biggest and the best such release making its debut tomorrow, it is likely that Kung Fu Panda will fall nearly 50% to just over $11 million over the weekend. Even so, the film will still be on pace to hit $200 million by the end of its run.

The Incredible Hulk became the seventh film of the year to reach the $100 million mark, reaching that milestone during its 12th day of release. On the one hand, Hulk topped 9 digits in just 10 days. On the other hand, on its 13th day of release, the latest day we have box office numbers for, The Incredible Hulk earned $2.12 million compared to $1.65 million for Hulk. If it can crack $11 million over the weekend, which is possible, then it will surpass its predecessor's running tally at the same point in its run. If it can crack $10 million, which is very likely, then it will have to wait until some time after the weekend to reach that point, but it will happen.

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Filed under: WALL-E, Kung Fu Panda, The Incredible Hulk, Wanted, Get Smart