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Weekend Showcase Emphasizes Quantity over Quality

September 25th, 2008

There are seven films opening in more than 250 theaters this weekend, but this is clearly a case of quantity over quality. Only two are opening in more than 2,000 and none of the seven are earning overall positive reviews. (Most of these films don't have a real shot at a top five placing, so we will deal with many of them in our round-up of limited releases.) There's no real question on which film will top the charts this week, as Eagle Eye is practically a lock for that position. But there are questions about whether it can top last year's winner, or whether 2008 can play catch up over last year.

Shia LaBeouf is quickly becoming one of the biggest box office players of this decade with back-to-back $300 million hits. No one expects Eagle Eye to match that mark. In fact, it seems unlikely that this film will earn as much in total as Kingdom of the Crystal Skull earned during its opening weekend, and even the $70 million Transformers opened with may be out of reach after all is said and done. On the plus side, besides starring Shia LaBeouf, the film was produced by Steven Spielberg and it has a slick and aggressive ad campaign. However, the slickness of the ads is just a veneer covering the substance of the film, and there's little hope the word-of-mouth will be positive. That said, on the high end, Eagle Eye could earn close to $40 million over the weekend, maybe even more, which would be significantly better than original expectations. I think that's a little too optimistic, but it should come close to $30 million. Look for $28 million over the weekend and just over $70 million in total.

The only other new release with significant box office potential is Nights in Rodanthe, which is based on a novel by the same author who wrote The Notebook. Add in Richard Gere and Diane Lane, and the studio probably thought they had a sure hit on their hands. That won't be the case. First of all, the reviews are weak, which is doubly bad as the target audience tends to read and trust reviews more than teenage boys, who are the target audience of Eagle Eye. That said, it is tracking better than originally anticipated, and it could reach the high teens during its opening. $14 million is more likely, but that will leave it with about $40 million in total.

The best of the holdovers will be Lakeview Terrace, but not because of its strength, but because of the lack of competition. Its reviews are weak and midweek numbers have been equally bad, and adding the direct competition and a 50% drop-off seems guaranteed. That would give the film $7.5 million over the weekend and $26 million after 10 days.

On the other hand, Burn After Reading could have the best hold in the top ten this week (depending on how well Igor keeps its younger audience). With some of the best reviews we've seen this month, it should drop just a little more than 40%, which would give the film $6.5 million for the weekend, and close to $46 million after three.

It appears that The Miracle at St. Anna won't be opening truly wide after all. In fact, it is not even close with an opening theater count of just 1,185. Even worse, the reviews have been terrible and are among the worst of Spike Lee's career. That said, thanks to a very weak group of releases last week, the competition for the final spot in the top five is light and earning just $5 million should be enough to get there. However, if it slips up, Igor will be there to capture fifth place.

The only other new release with a shot at the top ten is Fireproof, which is opening in nearly 800 theaters this Friday. The film is aimed at churchgoers (it's made by the same people who made Facing The Giants) and there is absolutely no concern for crossover appeal. Facing The Giants earned more than $10 million at the box office, but only 9% positive reviews over on Rotten Tomatoes. So far Fireproof has not been reviewed, but fortunately for this movie, reviews matter very little. $4 million is likely as high as it will go, while, barring a complete collapse, it should earn at least $2 million. Split the difference gives us a prediction of $3 million over the weekend, which may or may not be enough to reach the top ten.

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Filed under: Eagle Eye, Nights in Rodanthe, Lakeview Terrace, Fireproof, Igor, Miracle at St. Anna, Chu Chu and the Philly Flash