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Departed and Chainsaw Face-off in Theatres

October 6th, 2006

Martin Scorsese begins his latest campaign to win that elusive Oscar as The Departed looks to take first place over the weekend. The other new releases this weekend are unlikely to win any awards, but with total production budgets just a fraction of The Departed's, they could be more profitable.

This week the producers of The Departed stated that they were looking for an opening box office of between $30 million and $40 million. It's rare for those involved in the movie to state what box office they are expecting publicly, and for good reason. Current tracking has the film opening in the low to mid 20s and if this is right, then talk of $30 to $40 million will make that number look weaker by comparison. In fact, if the movie beats expectations and does earn $30 million it will be seen as only managing the low end of expectations. On the other hand, if the film earned $25 million, the producers could have said, "The Departed beat the street and with unbelievable word of mouth we'll see the movie remain strong for the weeks to come." It's a matter of public perception. If the film struggles it might develop an air of failure, which could hurt its long-term potential.

Given the film's reviews and more mature target demographic it should still have better than average legs and that could turn its $23 million opening weekend into a $70 million total run. Is that enough to show a profit? Not with a $90 million production budget, at least not in the short term. Should it prove to be a major player during award season it could do well enough on the home market to cover all expenses.

Agree? Disagree? Put your prognosticating to the test and enter our Contestants Can Also Win These Departing Gifts contest today.

The other wide release with a shot at top spot is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. Just last weekend I figured the film would open with close to $30 million before quickly falling at the box office. However, the buzz, which I assumed would continue to build, seems to have evaporated by this weekend. Part of the problem are the reviews, which have been overwhelmingly negative. The film has been called dull, lacking in scares, and some of even go so far as to say it makes the other films less scary as a result. Another problem hurting this film is the glut of horror films coming out this month, which include the latest installments of two franchises. I've seen more ads for Grudge 2 than I have for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. Not a good sign. This drops its opening weekend potential from $30 million to $20 million while in the long term $50 million appears to be the cap. Still, this is a great run considering its production budget, but I don't think a third film will be given a theatrical release, if it's made at all.

The first of the holdovers will be Open Season. The only question is how much of its $23.6 million opening weekend will it hold onto? Reviews, which have hovered around 50% positive, will neither help nor hurt the film, but the lack of direct competition will help. Tracking has the film retaining 60%, or more, of its opening weekend. That would give the film more than $14 million this weekend, while most analysts see just over $15 million is in its future. I think that's a little optimistic and a three-day total of between $13 million and $14 million is more likely.

Fourth place will be a close battle between The Guardian and Employee of the Month. In fact, I'm predicting that the latter film will take the lead on Friday but the former will show better strength over the weekend. The Guardian will likely retain most of its opening weekend box office and should earn just over $10 million over the next three days.

Employee of the Month is the first lead roll for Stand-up comedian, Dane Cook. Cook, whose latest comedy album was a massive seller, hopes to attract his fans into the theatres. And while some might come, it is unlikely that this film will win many new fans. Reviews have been weak all along with many complaints centering on Dane Cook and his co-star Jessica Simpson. Specifically, their near total lack of chemistry. This will likely keep the film in fifth place, but it will be within striking distance of number four with just under $10 million. However, with a production of just $12 million, the studio should be relatively happy with that beginning.

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Filed under: The Departed, Open Season, The Guardian, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, Employee of the Month