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Maximum Box Office or Payneful Weekend?

October 16th, 2008

Another week, another four movies opening wide. At least the four films are widely different (violent action film, teenage sex comedy, political drama, and female-centric movie) and they shouldn't steal too many moviegoers from each other. On the other hand, none are doing particularly well with the critics, nor are they tracking well at the box office. Back to the original hand, five of seven wide releases from last year bombed, so this year has a shot at pulling ahead for the first time in a while.

Max Payne is the widest release of the week, but not the best reviewed. In fact, it only recently earned its first positive review over on Rotten Tomatoes. Granted, movies based on video games are not known for their high quality (my favorite is Silent Hill, although I have a soft spot for Mortal Kombat) but being stuck in single-digits is still bad, no matter how low the expectations. As for its box office chances, weaker competition from last week should help the movie over the $20 million mark, maybe even $25 million. Regardless, this is higher than original expectations and should be enough to show a sizable profit after its initial push into the home market.

There seems to be a consensus that W. will be the runner-up at this week's box office with anywhere from $10 to $15 million at the box office. I'm not entirely convinced of that. First of all, it is a political movie, which has been a death sentence at the box office lately. Secondly, while the film is earning the best reviews of the weekend, it is still failing to earn overall positive reviews and its older, more mature target audience is more likely to read and trust reviews. Finally, it is barely debuting wide, opening in just 2,030 theaters on Friday. I think just over $10 million might be the best the film can hope for, while missing the top five with $6 million is also a possibility. Personally, I think the latter is more likely, but after completely flubbing The Express last week, it is safer to go with second place and $12 million.

This leaves Beverly Hills Chihuahua in third place with about $11 million. However, that's close enough to W. that I wouldn't be surprised if it landed in second place instead. If it does manage to earn $11 million over the weekend, that would push its running tally to close to $69 million after three. This leaves its tracking number at $90 million, maybe more if it can hold on till November, or less if High School Musical 3 crushes it next week.

I see Body of Lies coming in third with a solid, but not spectacular $7 million, which would give it about $25 million in total. This is well below original expectations, making it one of the biggest disappointments of the month so far.

Two new releases should be battling it out for the final spot in the top five: The Secret Life of Bees and Sex Drive. Both films are earning mixed reviews, but for the latter this is better than expected but for the former it is a troubling sign. The Secret Life of Bees is aimed at older, more mature women, who are a lot more likely to read and trust reviews. Barely more than 50% positive means they will likely wait to see if one of their friends liked it before checking it out. On the other, getting close to 50% positive is a minor miracle for Sex Drive, but given its target audience, I don't think it will matter much. Sex Drive also has an advantage in terms of theater counts, 2,421 to 1,591, while neither film has had a really powerful ad campaign. Best case scenario has one of them pulling in over $10 million and perhaps scoring second place. Worst case scenario has both of them failing to reach $6 million giving Quarantine a shot at the top five. I'm going with The Secret Life of Bees in fifth with just under $7 million and Sex Drive in seventh with just over $6 million, and Quarantine somewhere in-between.


Filed under: Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Max Payne, Body of Lies, The Secret Life of Bees, Quarantine, W., Sex Drive