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Trio Tries to Jump Start Holiday Season

December 15th, 2006

Three new releases hope to put a bit of cheer into the box office, a box office that has been far from impressive the last couple weeks. Not since Happy Feet and Casino Royale opened has any film really been able to set the box office on fire. Or even just beat expectations by a significant margin. This week should have given us the first $40 million film of the month, but the tracking numbers are just not there.

On paper, Eragon looks like a sure hit. Based on first in a series of novels, the Sword and Sorcery epic should film the same niche as Lord of the Rings, Potter, and Narnia. At least that's probably what the studio executives were thinking when they gave the film a nearly $100 million budget. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way the movie stumbled, to be generous. Most complaints focus on the derivative and repetitive nature of the film. Technically brilliant at times, the movie nonetheless doesn't have the complexity of the other franchises mentioned above. The lack of details prevents the moviegoer from being fully drawn in by the movie and that in turn causes it to be a rather empty experience. On the other hand, the ad campaign has been more aggressive than the other two new releases this week and it has the best shot at taking top spot with $25 million or so.

Second place should go to the second wide release of the week. Earlier in the week it looked like Charlotte's Web would become the best-reviewed wide release of the year, and while the praise has cooled off somewhat, 89% positive is still an amazing score. On the other hand, it is a G-rated movie and those are not the easiest sell. Sure, families with younger kids will want to go to the movie, but teens, and even 'tweens, might find it a little to young for them. (Or at the very least, they might say they don't want to see the movie as to not appear too young.) Also, with school holidays starting next weekend, many families might decide to wait until after their kids are out of school before seeing the movie. This will hurt the film's opening weekend, leaving it with about $23 million, but will increase it legs and put it in good position to become the biggest hit of the month. (One last note, kids movies are notoriously hard to track, so this one could be the breakout hit of the week and score $30 million or more.)

The third and final wide release of the week is Pursuit of Happyness. Will Smith is best known for his action and comedic roles, but he got his first starring role in the drama Six Degrees of Separation. This film is only able to earn average reviews - nothing award-worthy, but nothing that will hurt ticket sales either. On the other hand, watching a biography about a man practically nobody has heard of might not interest a lot of people either. Best case scenario, the film could reach $20 million or more. But it is more likely that it will have to settle for $18 million.

There is a tight race among three holdovers for fourth place between The Holiday, Happy Feet, and Apocalypto. Each film has its strengths and weaknesses, and each should earn between $7 million and $8 million over the weekend. For instance, Apocalypto has had the worst drop-offs in the top ten all week, but it also started with the best number and maintains a small lead. Happy Feet is a kids movie and has shown to have the strong legs that those films usually have, but it is also going up against direct competition this week. The Holiday has been behind from the start, but it has closed the gap over the week and should be affected the least by the new releases. So look for the three to finish with The Holiday in fourth, Happy Feet in fifth, and Apocalypto in sixth.

One last note, We Are... Marshall has sneak peaks this Saturday in 1000 theatres. Check your local listings for details.

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Filed under: Happy Feet, The Pursuit of Happyness, Charlotte's Web, Eragon, The Holiday, We Are Marshall, Apocalypto