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Race to the Top

August 22nd, 2008

Four films are opening in wide release this week, none of which can be called marquee releases. However, most of them should be able to cut out a slice of the shrinking summer box office pie. Most of them. A couple even have a shot at first place.

The film with the best shot at first place is Death Race 3000. The remake of Death Race 2000 is led by Jason Statham, who has had a number of late summer / early fall hits, including the similarly automobile-themed The Transporter, Transporter 2, Crank, etc. While his movies are rarely massive hits, either at the box office or with critics, they tend to do well enough to make the studio happy. However, I am concerned he is typecasting himself and unless he breaks out of this mold, his career may never reach the level it should. As for this film, Death Race 3000 is earning reviews that are neither good, nor particularly bad; they are exactly what one would expect given the release date and the type of film. They should not help, nor hurt, the film at the box office. Given that, it should earn $16 million over the next three days, about $40 million theatrically, and a whole lot more on the home market.

The other wide release with a real shot at first place is House Bunny, which is the best-reviewed wide release of the week. Granted, its Tomatometer score is just 45% positive at the moment, but that is better than expected given the time of year. The film stars Anna Faris as a former Playboy Bunny who is kicked out of the mansion because she's in her mid-20s and is therefore just too old. In need of work, she becomes the housemother of the Zeta Alpha Zeta sorority, which include Natalie, Mona, Joanne, and others. Like I said, the reviews are better than expected, and the film should outperform original expectations as well. I don't expect it will be a monster hit, but $14 million over the weekend and a final box office total of between $40 to $45 million is within range, which should be enough to make the studio happy.

Tropic Thunder's weekday numbers have been reasonable, at least compared to most of the rest of the top ten, which should continue this weekend. A 50% drop-off might not seem like a great sophomore hold, but that would be better than most wide releases have managed this year. Additionally, the $12 to $13 million the film should add over the next three days would push its total to just over $60 million after 12 days, which would put in on pace to match its production budget.

The Dark Knight has been in release for more than a month now, and it is still tracking to outperform two of the four wide releases. At the moment, it appears that the film will earning $10 million over the weekend, maybe a little more, maybe a little less. If it can pull in that amount, it could reach $500 million by the end of the following weekend. And if it can do that, re-releasing it in time for the Oscars might not be a bad idea.

The Longshots is turning into just that. The film is opening in barely more than 2,000 theaters, and with reviews that are quite poor. Additionally, the film is an inspirational sports story that is based on real life events, and the trailer does almost nothing to separate this movie from the others in its genre. It does have Keke Palmer to give it a bit of girl power, but I don't think that will be enough to make it a big hit. In fact, it might not be enough to help it open in the top five. It only needs about $6 to $7 million to reach the top five, which is doable, but not guaranteed. If the film falters, Star Wars: The Clone Wars will be there to overtake it.

The final wide release of the week, in fact the widest new release of the week is The Rocker, which opened on Wednesday, not that you could tell by the box office numbers as the film barely made the top 10. I'm trying to come up with a positive spin for this opening, and the best I came up with was, 'At least the poor reviews won't hurt the film's word-of-mouth, since practically no one saw it yet.' Seriously, there's very little positive news here and the best the movie can hope for is that not enough people knew it was opening yesterday. Even if that's true, however, it might not bounce back significantly and earning even $3 million over the weekend could be out of the question, as will reaching the top ten.

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Filed under: The Dark Knight, Tropic Thunder, The House Bunny, Death Race, The Longshots, The Rocker