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Will Fall Continue to Rise?

September 18th, 2008

Another week, another four wide releases... well, three and a half, as one of them is opening in fewer than 2,000 theaters, which is normally the level I consider truly wide versus semi-wide. It is unlikely that this week's crop of new releases will be as strong as last week's, and while the top of the chart won't live up to the level earned by last year's victor, Resident Evil: Extinction, the overall box office should still show some growth.

The film with the best shot at first place is Lakeview Terrace, the latest film starring Samuel L. Jackson. In this movie he plays a racist cop who targets a young couple who just moved into his neighborhood because the husband is white and the wife is black. This is a risky project, which explains why it is being released in September. That said, while reviews are poor, they are no worse than average for most September releases. Add in a strong advertising campaign and Lakeview Terrace could open with as much as $20 million. On the other hand, opening with under $15 million is also a possibility. I'm going with a prediction of $17 million, which should be enough for first place.

However, if Lakeview Terrace stumbles, My Best Friend's Girl could be there to snatch first place on the charts this weekend. The film stars Dane Cook, who has not been able to turn his stand-up fame into a lucrative box office career yet. (This might have something to do with the quality of films he makes, which is so low that almost no one is surprised this film has not been screened for critics.) But he has had a reasonable string of lower level hits with films like Good Luck Chuck, which reportedly cost $25 million to make, and earned $35 million at the box office. Hardly powerhouse numbers, but enough to make the studio happy while ensuring that Cook continues to get work. This time around there are a number of analysts who think he will have his best opening ever. Granted, that's just $13.65 million, but I, and others, are predicting $14 to $15 million, which would put it within reach of first place if it outperforms or Lakeview Terrace under-performs.

After a surprise win last weekend, Burn After Reading will hope its reviews and pedigree will help it maintain its momentum. Analyst opinions seem to be divided with some expecting a sub-40% drop-off while others see it collapsing more than 50%, which would give it anywhere from $9 million to $12 million. It appears that the high end it a little more likely than the low end, and I'm going with $11 million over the weekend and $36 million after ten days. That figure is almost as much as The Ladykillers made in total, and more than Intolerable Cruelty's final number. Burn After Reading would need a multiplier of 3.88 to catch No Country for Old Men. This will be incredibly difficult, but if it can top $12 million over the weekend by any significant margin, it won't be impossible.

Next up are a pair of films that opened wide last weekend. The Family that Preys and Righteous Kill finished two-three last weekend in a close race, and it looks to be even closer this weekend. The Family that Preys had the edge at the box office last weekend, and with the critics; however, Tyler Perry's films tend to start fast and crash even faster. In fact, Righteous Kill has already overtaken The Family that Preys on the daily charts. That said, Righteous Kill has to deal with direct competition in the form of Lakeview Terrace, while none of the four new releases will siphon off much of The Family that Preys's audience. Overall, I think Righteous Kill will come out on top, but both will earn between $8 and $9 million.

At the beginning of the month, I thought Igor would be a solid midlevel hit. Not a smash hit, but a film that would pull in $50 million or so. I also thought its reviews that would be close to the overall positive level. That hasn't happened. Add in an opening theater count of just 2,300, more or less, and an ad campaign that has been below lowered expectations, and this film will likely miss the top five with $7 million or so. However, it might surprise and has an outside shot at $10 million over the weekend. Regardless of which end it earns over the next three days, matching its original expectations is practically impossible at this point.

The final wide release the week is Ghost Town, which is not only the best-reviewed wide release of the week, it is also opening in the fewest theaters. Part of the reason for the narrow release schedule is Ricky Gervais, who is incredibly funny, but not well known here. He won't be able to pack them into theaters, but he's helped the film earn reviews that most September releases would kill for. Hell, most wide releases anytime of the year would love to earn reviews that are 81% positive. However, at the box office, the low number of theaters will play a larger factor and leave the film out of the top five with $5 million, more or less. That said, I expect word of mouth to be good, and the film should find a sizable audience on the home market.


Filed under: Burn After Reading, Righteous Kill, Lakeview Terrace, The Family That Preys, Igor, My Best Friend's Girl, Ghost Town