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Laborious Weekend for New Releases

August 28th, 2008

Labor Day long weekend is the final weekend of summer, but far from ending on a high note, it is arguably the slowest long weekend of the year. And this year it looks to be no different, at least in terms of box office numbers. In terms of new releases, well, that's a another story with four movies opening wide, and another expanding wide. It is very unlikely that they will all succeed; in fact, it is more likely that they will all bomb. This makes it very difficult to predict which new release will come out on top, if any do.

Analysts seem to be evenly split on which film will top the charts this weekend with Babylon A.D., Disaster Movie, and Tropic Thunder all earning votes of confidence. Tropic Thunder does have a shot at first place, but if it does come out on top, the overall box office numbers will be in a world of hurt.

Babylon A.D. has a few advantages, including the widest release at 3,390 and it also has the biggest star in Vin Diesel. However, he hasn't had an action hit since 2002's xXx, a $100 million hit since 2005's The Pacifier, and any theatrical release at all since 2006's Find Me Guilty. Additionally, the movie has been described as "Shit" by the director (you know you are in trouble when that happens). And so far all of the critics agree, as it is earning zero positive reviews. There's a wide range of possibilities here and on the high end the movie could make just over $20 million (including Monday), while capturing first place. On the other hand, it could make under $8 million and finish out of the top five. If I were a betting man, and I'm not, I would go with first place and $17 million.

Disaster Movie is the latest from the people who brought us Meet the Spartans, who apparently are on a crusade to redefine the word "spoof." It is also clear they don't know what the word "disaster" means, either. However, while these movies are a curse to critics (Meet the Spartans earned just one positive review and Disaster Movie could earn worse), they are consistent performers at the box office, constantly topping their production budgets and earning a steady profit for the studio. While eventually this genre of pseudo-spoof will collapse, I don't see why it would be this time around. Given that, look for $16 million over the 4-day weekend and another such film to be given the greenlight by the end of the weekend, especially if Babylon A.D. stumbles and Disaster Movie takes top spot.

Tropic Thunder should be right behind with $15 million over the weekend, which would give the film a total of roughly $88 million after 20 days of release. At this pace, it should reach $100 million, and it might be as little as two weeks away from that, but regardless of when it gets there, it should get there.

Next up should be House Bunny and The Dark Knight with the pair earning just over $10 million and just under $10 million respectively. For the former, this would be a solid sophomore stint and would give Anna Faris her first hit as a lead. For the latter, it would give the film just over $500 million, which should overshadow all other box office news over the weekend.

The next wide release of the week is College, which is aimed at kids heading back to high school on Tuesday. Of course, it is rated-R, which is a bit of a problem. Other problems for the film include its opening theater count of just 2,100 and zero reviews. Good news, it didn't cost a lot to make and if it can open with $5 million over the weekend, it should have no trouble showing a profit sometime during its home market run. It might not pull in $5 million, but it should be close.

Next up is Traitor, which failed to match lowered expectations yesterday. With reviews that are at exactly 50% positive, there's little reason to think it will bounce back, especially with a target demographic that is a little more demanding. Instead of making $5 million over the 3-day weekend, it might not make $5 million from Wednesday to Monday. I'm predicting it will finish virtually tied with is College, and will switch places with that film at least once as the weekend progresses, but the other film has a slight edge.

The final wide release is actually an expansion as Hamlet 2 expanded into 1,500 theaters on Wednesday. However, its expansion went poorly. In fact, its per theater number was weaker than The Rocker's was over opening night. It will likely not make $1 million over the weekend, although it should cross $1 million during that time, and it should make it to $2 million, perhaps even $3 million, but there's little chance that this will become a sleeper hit.

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Filed under: The Dark Knight, Tropic Thunder, The House Bunny, Traitor, Babylon A.D., Disaster Movie, Hamlet 2, College