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Heartbreak at the Box Office

October 4th, 2007

September may be over, but the box office isn't exactly heating up. There are three wide releases this week (or two, depending on your definition of wide), but only one has a shot at any real box office success. And even that is rather subdued given the film's pedigree. I don't expect things to be significantly different next weekend, or the weekend after that. In fact, the next true hit doesn't come till November.

The widest release of the week is The Heartbreak Kid, which is a reunion between Ben Stiller and the Farrelly Brothers. The last time these three worked together was on There's Something About Mary, which launched Ben Stiller into superstardom and remains the Farrelly Brothers' biggest hit. However, there are very few people who expect this film to perform as well as that one did for many reasons. For instance, the Farrellys have never come close to replicating that film's success; in fact, their last four films combined have made less that that film did. Also, the reviews are not even close to the 80% positive Tomatometer score Mary earned. I think since audiences have seen gross-out, R-rated humor that manages character development as well, it will be a lot harder to sell these other films. That said, it still has a clear shot at first place with at least $20 million while $30 million isn't out of the question. In fact, the high end is more likely, giving us a prediction of $27.5 million.

Despite nearly direct competition and awful reviews, The Game Plan should hold on well enough to capture second place with relative ease. Part of the reason for this is the general strength in family friendly films when it comes to legs; families are more likely to become repeat customers and that's the key to their success. This week, The Game Plan should fall no more than 40% and that would give it close to $14 million while $15 million isn't out of the question. I think the lower end is slightly more likely with a prediction of $14 million.

Next up is Seeker: The Dark is Rising, which is opening in more than 3,100 theaters. At the beginning of the month, I was expecting Seeker to perform in a similar fashion to Eragon. Granted, that movie had a better release date, but poor reviews and more competition should have balanced things out. However, it appears Fox is forgetting one key ingredient for any film's success: advertising. It's Thursday and I have yet to see a single ad on TV. (It is important to note that I don't watch TV programs aimed at Seeker's target audience, so this will have some effect. However, for a movie opening in more than 3,000 theaters, I should have seen some ads while flipping through the channels.) This has led to a massive drop in expectations with many predicting it will miss the $10 million mark. If it does, it would become one of the smallest openings for a film debuting in 3,000 or more theaters (the current record holder is Hoot), and give it the second highest theater count for a film that opened with less than $10 million, (the only film with a wider opening was Cheaper By the Dozen 2, but that film went on to earn $82.57 million and become a reasonable hit). Even if it avoids that fate, a per theater average of $4,000 appears to be the best the film can hope for, and that would give it a top figure of $12.5 million, but $11 million is more likely. And with reviews that are poor, it won't have the legs I was expecting either.

The Kingdom is performing very well during the midweek and this bodes well for its weekend numbers. However, after a less than impressive opening and reviews that are merely 50/50, it's hard to be overly optimistic. The film should earn $10 million over the weekend, or at least come close, which would push its running tally to $32 million after 10 days. Given its estimated production budget of $80 million, that's not enough. Not even close to being enough.

The final wide release of the week is Feel the Noise, although calling 1,015 theaters a wide release is a bit misleading. The film is aimed at the Hispanic marketplace, but the reviews are best described as nearly non-existent while the marketing campaign is the same. Even so, the film should grab a place in the top five, but it will only take about $4 million to accomplish that, which is all I expect the film to make.

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Filed under: The Game Plan, The Kingdom, The Heartbreak Kid, The Seeker: The Dark is Rising, Feel the Noise