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Holiday Escape

November 2nd, 2006

It's the first week of the winter / holiday season and this weekend alone we have two films coming out that are aimed at the family market. While the time of the year is great for these films, the direct competition will keep both from becoming more than mid-level hits. On the other hand, neither look likely to bomb either.

Christmas starts early this year, although not as early as years past. So far reviews for Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause are mostly non-existent, but those reviews that are there are all negative. While most people expected the film to earn weak reviews, its performance so far is even weaker than expected. Should it climb up to the 40% positive range, or better, it should still earn as much as originally expected. On the other hand, if it can't crack 20%, it might not top $20 million during its opening weekend. $25 million seems the most likely, with legs that are helped by holidays but hurt by word-of-mouth.

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In direct competition is Flushed Away, the latest from the studio that brought us Wallace & Gromit. This digitally animated film uses a new technique that is meant to emulate the style of claymation complete with thumbprints. Personally, I really like the style, and if the early reviews are any indication, so do most critics. On the other hand, the film's tracking is really low. Granted, Wallace & Gromit only made $16 million during its opening weekend, but Flushed Away is a digitally animated film and they have a much wider appeal than claymation. This should help the film earn $22 million over the weekend and nearly $80 million overall.

Falling from first to third will be Saw III. The reasons for this are simple, it's a horror film, it's a sequel, it earned terrible reviews. A 50% drop-off is all buy guaranteed while 60% would not be shocking. That would give the film between $13.5 million and $17 million. Average that our and you get $15 million, which is still more than it cost to make.

Battling for fourth place will be The Departed and The Prestige, each of which will earn roughly $6 million. The Departed has the serious edge here and should cross $100 million at the box office over the weekend.

The final new wide release of weekend is Borat, but to call 837 "wide" stretches the definition beyond all usefulness. Tracking seems to be very high, with most analysts seeing the film top $10,000 for its per theater average and some going as far as $13 million for its opening weekend. I don't see that happening. In fact, I don't see it coming close. The previous film Sacha Baron Cohen headlined was Ali G Indahouse, which was dumped direct-to-DVD. Granted, Borat is earning much better reviews, but that hasn't been a guarantee of a strong box office this year. Also, the studio seems to be relying heavily on the Internet and media reports to advertise, which is not the best way to advertise a film to a wide audience. I see the film earning $5 million over the weekend and next week's planned expansion in serious doubt.

One last note. Superman Returns crossed the $200 million mark over the last weekend. This doesn't mean much in terms of profitability, but it could help the proposed sequel actually be made.


Filed under: The Departed, Borat, The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, Saw III, Flushed Away, The Prestige