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Will Long Nights Mean Bigger Box Office Numbers?

October 18th, 2007

I miss September. Sure, the box office was weak, but everyone expected it to be weak so it wasn't depressing like it is now. The overall box office has been in a slump the past few weeks, and so has my prediction record. To make matters worse, there are six films opening wide, or semi-wide, which complicates matters when you are trying to predict opening weekends. This level of competition will also hurt the individual films and it is very likely that at least four of them will fail to live up to potential. Which four those are is the question.

It is almost unanimous that 30 Days of Night will top the charts. It's an R-rated horror film opening close to Halloween, and that should bring in the crowds. On the other hand, reviews are weak and are currently only 44% positive; granted, it only has 32 reviews so far and it is within reach of 50%. Additionally, it is not like there have been a lot of R-rated horror films that have done well this year. In fact, Halloween is the best of that list and it only managed $57 million during its run and the second best film was 28 Weeks Later, which barely earned more than half of that. Good news, the target audience isn't known to be swayed by reviews, as Halloween only earned 24% positive reviews, and they should be hungry for a film like this. The only concern is that people will wait until next week to catch Saw IV. Look for $20 million over the weekend and a clear first place finish.

While there are many new releases coming out this week, Why Did I Get Married has a strong shot at second place. Despite Tyler Perry's track record for sophomore weekend slumps, the film is track for a 50% drop-off, maybe a little more and maybe a little less. If the film can match expectations and earn just over $10 million, it will be the best drop-off for one of his films since Diary of a Mad Black Woman. On the other hand, if it doesn't match expectations, it could have trouble making the top five.

It was expected that The Comebacks would be the widest release of the week, but there was little chance it will finish in first place. First of all, it is a spoof, or at least a pseudo-spoof. It is in the same vein as the Scary Movie franchise or the Epic Movie type films. Those are not truly spoofs but merely an excuse to throw as many pop-culture references at the screens as they can fit in 90 minutes and hope the crowd laughs. Recently, they haven't. There's a subtle art form in the way the best spoofs deconstruct the clichés, which is exactly what Airplane, Blazing Saddles, and the more recent Austin Powers films did. But this film looks anything but subtle and it appears moviegoers are getting as tired of these films as critics are. Speaking of which, the film was not screened for critics, but that's no real surprise. That said it is within 50 theaters of being the widest release of the weekend and it does have an aggressive ad campaign and to could come perilously close to $10 million during its opening. Even with bad legs and no international appeal, the film should still do well enough to earn a profit sometime after the Unrated DVD is released.

Another film looking to grab $10 million is Rendition. The film, which is opening in just over 2,250 theaters, has earned mixed reviews so far. However, its target demographic is much more likely to read and trust reviews than the target demographic for either 30 Days of Night or The Comebacks. Looking at this film, I'm reminded of Breach, at least in terms of box office potential. That film opened with much better reviews, but with a weaker release date, a smaller theater count, and stronger competition, but still grabbed $10.50 million during its opening. Rendition could show the same strength and challenge for second place, but it is tracking at a more subdued fourth place with $9 million over the weekend.

Gone, Baby, Gone could be Ben Affleck's ticket back to the Oscars. He won his first, and so far only, Oscar for his writing credit on Good Will Hunting. Gone, Baby, Gone marks Ben Affleck's directorial debut and so far it is earning the kind of reviews that many seasoned directors would kill for. However, they are not quite as good as Good Will Hunting. Also, the film is only opening in just over 1,700 theater, which is not a strong showing, and the ad campaign is on par with films that open in far fewer theaters. I've got a Hollywoodland vibe coming from this movie, which is another Ben Affleck movie that earned better than expected reviews before dying at the box office. Gone, Baby, Gone should do better, but it might not be by much. Look for a fifth place finish with just over $7 million over the weekend, but if it stumbles even a little, The Game Plan will be ready to intercept fifth place, also with just over $7 million.

Next up is Things We Lost in the Fire, another film that on paper was an Oscar contender. This film stars Oscar winner Halle Berry and Oscar winner Benicio Del Toro but so far the reviews just are not up to the level of an Oscar winner. They are better than Rendition has earned, but well behind Gone, Baby, Gone's 89% positive level. Additionally, the film is only opening in 1,142 theaters and there are several films with more or less the same target audience. Best case scenario has the film having a tough time reaching the top five while there is a chance it will miss the top ten. I don't think it will do that badly, but $4 million isn't a strong start.

Also opening this weekend is the re-release for Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas 3D. Last year the film debuted with $3.28 million and placed 12th in the process. If it can do just a little bit more business this time around, it should reach the top ten. Going in its favor is the increased theater count (it is more than triple last year's 564 theaters). Going against it is the fact that this is the second re-release. I think it will match its opening in terms of box office, but just miss its previously ranking.

The final wide release is Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour. However, calling a film opening in just 1,115 theaters a wide releases doesn't seem accurate. Then again, given the minimal amount of buzz surrounding this film, the fact that is it opening in more than 1,000 theaters is amazing. First time actress as the lead, first time director, a writer with only a couple of previous credits, a lot of people with the last name Comrie. Not that there's anything wrong with the name Comrie (for instance, Mike is having a strong start to the NHL season), but with the writer, director, and three cast members from the same family, it seems like a family movie that got out of hand and somehow is earning a nationwide release. It would be different if they had a lot of credits previously, but that is not the case. Perhaps this is nothing, perhaps the reviews will be great and the movie will be a hit. But I see no evidence to suggest that will happen. Look for an opening of $1 million, or less, and a quick exit from theaters.

One last note, Dan in Real Life is having a sneak peak this Saturday in just under 400 theaters. This is smaller that many sneak peaks are, but check your local listings to see if there is a theater near you hosting the movie.

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Filed under: The Game Plan, Why Did I Get Married?, Dan in Real Life, Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas 3D, Gone, Baby, Gone, The Comebacks, Rendition, Things We Lost in the Fire, Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour, 30 Days of Night