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Trio Try to Top Feet

November 30th, 2006

The first weekend of December rarely brings us a big blockbuster, and this year is no different. Three films open wide, or in varying degrees of wideness, but none look to have the chops to take first place.

During the midweek, Happy Feet became the 15th film of 2006 to reach $100 million, and it is far from over. This weekend it is very likely that the film will finish on top of the box office charts making it the first film since Dead Man's Chest to win three weekends in a row. In addition, it will also see its ranking on the yearly chart climb several places, depending on how well it holds up, even topping The Break-Up for 12th place. That will be a close race with Happy Feet likely pulling in roughly $18 million over the next three days. If it does earn substantially less, then it will have to wait until Monday to reach 12th place, but even then the studio should still be very pleased.

The only new film with a shot at top spot is The Nativity Story, which is opening in 3,183 theaters, which is significantly more than expected. On the other hand, its reviews are terrible with barely one in four critics giving the film a positive review. The term, "boring" is thrown around in many of the reviews, but it is boring in a very faithful kind of way. It's like the producers were so concerned that the film might offend its target audience that they sucked whatever life the story had, and killed the crossover appeal in the process. The lack of controversy means the film has far less awareness that The Passion of the Christ, and therefore lower box office potential. It should perform relatively well this week coming within spitting distance of first place, but its $17 million opening won't convince many studios that the Bible Epic is back in vogue.

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Sometime tonight Casino Royale will become the 16th film of 2006 to reach $100 million at the box office, but that is just one of several milestones within reach for the film. For instance, it should also climb into the top 50 Non-Number 1 films. It will also top Die Another Day's third weekend and start closing in on that film's nearly $161 million final box office. Best case scenario has the film earning just over $17 million and battling for first place. Worst case scenario is just under $14 million and having to wait another week to overtake Borat at the box office. Split the difference for a weekend total of $15.5 million and a running tally of $116 million.

Deja Vu hopes repeat viewings will help it survive the post-holiday slump, but even though it is earning better reviews than any of the new films, this seems unlikely. In fact, a 50% drop-off is to $10 million is all but guaranteed this weekend and that will give the film a 12-day total of roughly $43 million. This is a little on the low side of expectations, but strong enough that the film could still earn a profit during its initial push into the home market.

The next wide release of the weekend is National Lampoon's Van Wilder Duex: The Rise of Taj, which could become the only movie whose name is longer than its theatrical run. The movie is not being screened for critics, the original was a box office dud (to be fair it did find a substantial audience once it hit the home market), and this film doesn't even have the two main leads. Best case scenario has the film pulling in just under $10 million over the weekend and finishing with just over the $21 million the original finished with. Worst case has it missing the top five with under $5 million and disappearing completely in two weeks. Unfortunately, the latter seems a little more likely with $6 million being my prediction. On the other hand, the Unrated DVD should still prove popular regardless of its theatrical performance.

The final wide release this week is Turistas, but with a theater count of less than 1,600, it's not what most people think of as wide. More like wide-ish. On the positive side, the film is earning the best reviews of any wide release this week. However, at just 38% positive, they are not something you could base an ad campaign around ("We suck moderately less than the competition!") There is a chance this film will surprise and score a position in the top five, but even best case has it taking in less than $10 million with half that, $5 million, being the figure most analysts are throwing around.

Finally, we have previews for two films on Saturday, The Blood Diamond and The Holiday. Check your local listings for more details.

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Filed under: Happy Feet, Casino Royale, Déjà Vu, The Holiday, Blood Diamond, The Nativity Story, Turistas, Van Wilder Deux: The Rise of Taj