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Tight Competition Likely to Squeeze out Most Films

October 3rd, 2008

If you thought last weekend was too busy, this weekend is worse with eight films opening or expanding wide, or at least wide-ish. However, only one film is opening at saturation level (3,000 or more theaters) and one other is opening truly wide (2,000 or more theaters). After those two films, the rest of the new releases will be forced to fight over the table scraps.

Disney starts off October with the release of Beverly Hills Chihuahua, which is a movie that is that is clearly aimed at kids, and not critics. Granted, earning 50% positive reviews is better than many other October family releases like Shark Tale earned, for instance. As for the film's box office chances, it has a shot at pulling in a per theater average of $10,000, which would give the film an opening weekend of $32 million. However, while it has a shot at this level, just under $30 million seems more likely, giving the film a prediction of $28 million. However, as a kids movie, it should have strong enough legs to reach $80 million or $90 million, and if it beats expectations, it could reach $100 million.

Despite the number of new releases, there is not much new that is direct competition to Eagle Eye, which should help it hold on this weekend. What won't help it is the film's reviews, which are a mere 27% positive. That's not tragic, but it is certainly low enough to think the word-of-mouth will be bad. This is backed up by its midweek numbers, as they have been weak so far. A 50% drop-off is not out of the question and that would leave the film with just under $15 million for the weekend. However, just under $16 million is probably the most likely scenario.

Next up is Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, the teenage RomCom starring future superstars, Michael Cera and Kat Dennings. Given the film's genre, its reviews are excellent and are close to the best this week has to offer. It is also opening is more theaters than all but one of the other new releases, and has at least a reasonable shot at second place on the charts, if Eagle Eye stumbles. Third place with $14 million is more likely, but that is more than the film cost to make by such a margin that the studio will likely cover the production budget in just three days. Before its run is over, it could earn back its combined production and distribution costs, which is something only one in ten films manage to do.

On the one hand, Nights in Rodanthe is aimed at a more mature target demographic, and these films tend to have better legs than average. On the other hand, its reviews are terrible, and it is aimed at a target demographic that tends to read and trust reviews. The film appears to be tracking at about $8 million, which would give it roughly $26 million after 10 days, which would put it on pace to earn a profit, eventually.

Now we have to deal with the rest of this week's releases and play, "Which also-ran will suck the least at the box office?" Only one of them will reach the top five, and at least one of them will fail to reach the top ten. The contestants are...

Blindness, which is earning mixed reviews, has some star power, and is opening in 1,690 theaters on Friday. It has the best shot at finishing in fifth place by earning about $6 million over the weekend, but it will quickly fade from there.

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People is earning slightly worse reviews, opening in slightly more theaters, and with a cast that is neither worse nor better at packing in theaters. It too could earn $6 million and land in fifth place, but sixth place with $5 million is just a tiny bit more likely.

An American Carol combines bad political satire and inept parody into a final product that is so bad that at least one review I read referred to it as the rightwing counterpart to Postal. So far there are no reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, but I don't think its target audience will care. I don't think its target audience will be enough to push it into to the top five either, but it could come close with $4 million.

Over on the left we have Religulous, which is a documentary about religion hosted by Bill Maher. (After Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death he was legally barred from making another fictional movie ever again.) This isn't the best movie coming out this weekend, but it is close, earning 66% positive reviews. However, that's not enough to encourage a wide audience to see the film and it will likely be limited to preaching to the choir, which should bring in just over $3 million.

Appaloosa expands into just over 1,000 theaters and should find itself occupying a lower spot in the top ten with just under $3 million. Any plans for further expansion will end soon after that.

Finally we have the best-reviewed release of the week, which I had some hopes for earlier in the week. However, it appears Flash of Genius is sunk as the studio could only book it in just over 1,000 theaters, and not the 2,000 theaters I was expecting. Any predictions regarding the film's box office chances also have to be cut in half, and even that might be optimistic. Look for just over $2 million over the weekend, which won't be enough for tenth place.

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Filed under: Eagle Eye, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Nights in Rodanthe, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Religulous, Flash of Genius, Blindness, How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, Appaloosa, An American Carol