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I Want to Believe in the New Releases

July 24th, 2008

Two new wide releases make their debut today, but neither of them have a legitimate shot at first place. In fact, it would take a shocking result for Step Brothers and X-Files: I Want to Believe to earn more combined than The Dark Knight will make during its second weekend of release. The real competition for The Dark Knight is The Simpsons movie, which opened this time last year.

The Dark Knight record-setting run continued this week as it became the fastest film to reach $200 million at just five days. That's 3 days faster than Revenge of the Sith, Dead Man's Chest, or Spiderman 2 managed. Now it is looking to earn the best sophomore weekend ever while shaving nearly a week off the record for fastest film to reach $300 million. The former record is held by Shrek 2 at $72.17 million. The latter record is held by Dead Man's Chest at 16 days. The latter is more likely to fall than the former, but neither are safe. In order to top Shrek 2, The Dark Knight would need to avoid falling 54.4%, which hardly prohibitive especially given the film's reviews and the buzz. However, the film also has to deal with the Fanboy Effect, which could cause it to drop 60%, or more. On the other end of the spectrum, a 50% drop-off is possible, which would give the film nearly $80 million over the next three days. Even the worst case scenario has it earning close to $300 million by the end of the weekend, while $75 million over the weekend and $310 million after 10 days is most likely, which would put it on pace to crush the record for fastest to $400 million.

Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly first teamed up together in Talladega Nights, which earned very positive reviews and topped almost all expectations. So it comes as no surprise that they would be looking for a reason to get these two back together and Step Brothers is the result. However, there's a lack of buzz this time around with many complaining that the movie lacks a certain freshness to it and this feeling was either alleviated or worsened by the trailer one saw. The green-band trailer made the movie feel hokey and the jokes seemed weak. The red-band trailer has a harder edge to it, and this has pleased fans more. However, even with reviews that are still at the overall positive level (albeit by a tiny margin) there's little chance that Step Brothers will match Talladega Nights at the box office. First of all, competition for the earlier film was practically non-existent while Step Brothers has to deal with The Dark Knight. Additionally, it is opening in nearly 1,000 fewer theaters. If it can match Talladega Nights's opening per theater average, then it would pull in close $40 million over the weekend. However, while possible, that is well above tracking. A per theater average of just under $10,000 and an opening total of $28 million is more likely, while on the lower end, the film could make in the low $20 million range.

It has been five years since the TV show ended, 10 years since the previous film was released, and 15 years since the show started. That's a long time for a franchise to stay fresh in the minds of its audience. Perhaps too long. The buzz for I Want To Believe is not strong and a lot of long time fans are taking a more "wait and see" approach. This means the film will have to rely even more on strong reviews and good word-of-mouth than it otherwise would, so its early reviews are particularly damaging. Granted, while the reviews are overall negative, they are not overwhelmingly negative. In fact, several critics that gave the film negative reviews also gave the film tepid praise and suggest it will at least please fans of the show, if not neophytes. So the real question becomes, how many fans of the show are left after 5 / 10 / 15 years? Tracking suggests some, but not as many as in 1998. Very few analysts think I Want To Believe will open with more than Fight the Future with some saying it won't make it to $20 million. That's a little too extreme for me, but an opening of $23 million is not. This is significantly less than I thought it would make earlier this month, but if the reported production budget is correct, it will be more than enough to show a profit, eventually.

Next up is Mamma Mia!, as the musical looks to keep pace with Hairspray. At the moment the two films are earning nearly identical box office numbers, box totals and dailies, despite Mamma Mia's much weaker reviews. These middling reviews will start to affect the film, but not by a huge amount, and I don't think it will fall too much off Hairspray's pace. Look for just under $16 million over the weekend, for a total of just over $60 million after 10 days.

There should be a battle for fifth place between Hancock and Journey to the Center of the Earth with both films heading towards $7 to $8 million. Journey to the Center of the Earth has a slight advantage thanks to less competition and its target demographic. However, they should finish within a razor thin margin for fifth place with Journey to the Center of the Earth earning just under $8 million while Hancock should earn just over $7 million.

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Filed under: The Dark Knight, Hancock, Mamma Mia!, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Step Brothers, The X-Files: I Want to Believe