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Lightning McQueen vs. The Fast and the Furious

June 15th, 2006

There are enough new movies opening this weekend to cause a traffic jam, and none of them jump out as obvious box office smashes. Then again, they all have a legitimate shot at $20 million, and along with last week's winner, Cars we could see 5 films top $20 million over the weekend. The last time that happened was the weekend of June 11th, 2004 when the original Garfield opened.

It seems few people are willing to bet against Cars' sophomore stint this weekend and odds are it will repeat as champion despite the presence of four new wide releases. This is partially due to its reviews, partially due to Pixar's reputation, but mostly due to the stunning lack of quality among the other films. While the film has had the weakest reviews of any Pixar film to date, this will hurt it mostly with the adult crowd: those without kids who still enjoy digital animation. Since the opening weekend was mainly families, it shouldn't be hit by the Fanboy Effect and even with two more family films opening tomorrow, it should retain most of its box office. Assuming a drop-off of just over 40%, the film will dip to $35 million over the weekend. However, I'm a little more bullish and I think it will earn $37 million.

The next four films in the chart should all be new releases, but it's anyone's guess which one will top that list. The two most likely films to do this are The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and Nacho Libre, both of which should top $30 million.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift sees the return of... well... nobody really. None of the stars, the directors, or writers of the previous two installments are back, meaning this movie is a sequel in name only. Fortunately for the studio, with film's like this, it is the cars that are the real stars. Unfortunately for the studio, the buzz on this movie is a lot weaker than for the other films. So much so that it will show a serious drop-off in opening weekend box office, missing 2 Fast 2 Furious' mark by more than $15 million at $35 million while weak reviews will keep the total under $80 million.

Agree? Disagree? Put your prognosticating to the test and enter our World's Fastest Contest today.

Coming off the massive hit, King Kong, Jack Black is looking to have his best opening for a film where he's the number one draw. Yes, King Kong opened with more than $50 million and both Shark Tale and Ice Age opened with more than $40 million. However, in all three movies Jack Black wasn't the real star as he was overshadowed by the digital animation. One big concern for his older fans is the film seems to be aiming at a younger target demographic as evident with Nickelodeon's involvement. While he can certainly bring in younger kids and adults alike (School of Rock is a perfect example of this), appearances have this film aiming a little too low and this might limit the film's appeal to the twenty-something crowd. It is too early to tell whether this trade off is worth it, and the buzz for the film is strong, even if the reviews are not, and it should just crack $30 million.

Next up is Garfield's A Tail of Two Kitties, which is tracking in the high teens and that is what most analysts are predicting. That seems like a safe bet, especially in light of the reviews. However, this was also true of the original and despite that film earning a Tomatometer reading of just 13% positive, it opened with nearly $22 million and went on to make $75 domestically and nearly $200 million worldwide. I expect this film to open with the same box office, but its legs won't be as long leaving it with $65 million overall.

The final new wide release this week is The Lake House, which is the only film aimed at a mature audience. This will hurt the film's opening weekend box office in two ways. Firstly, older demographics are less likely to rush out to see a movie during the opening weekend. Secondly, older demographics are more likely to read reviews and take the reviewers' advice. With a Tomatometer reading of just 28% positive, this is really bad news. There are some things going for the film, including the first re-teaming of Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves since Speed. However, despite it being more than a decade since that film opened, this one might not earn as much during its opening weekend. The film is tracking in the mid to high teens, but it could earning anywhere from $13 million to $21 million with $16 million being the safest bet.

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Filed under: Cars, Nacho Libre, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, The Lake House, Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties