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Can Quartet Conquer the Box Office Blues?

October 28th, 2005

Another week, another four movies opening wide.

Only one of those films is earning positive reviews, and with the overall weakness in the market, none of the four films' openings is likely to be able to top last year's number one film. However, hopefully the overall box office numbers will be strong enough to avoid a year-to-year decline. Okay. I admit, that's a nearly exact copy of last week's intro, but it's almost as applicable here. The only difference is last year Halloween fell on the Sunday, and Halloween is deadly to the box office, except for horror films. So without that drag, the overall box office shouldn't be as bad as last weekend was on the year-to-year comparison.

It's been a rough year for sequels, with the year-to-date earnings for such films just $1.1 billion, the lowest such total since 2000. This week we have two sequels being released wide, but both could struggle somewhat at the box office. Saw II is earning better reviews, but its Tomatometer reading is at 46% positive and falling. This is almost exactly the same score the first movie earned. Assuming sequelitis sets in as normal, it should open better with $23 million, but have shorter legs and finish with under $55 million in total.

I've mentioned it before, but when it comes to sequels there seems to be a magic number for the time between films that corresponds with the best box office potential, and that number seems to be 2 years. If the film comes out too much later than that people will have forgotten about the franchise and what made it successful in the first place. If it comes out too soon, most people will suffer from franchise overload. While the previous film is an example of the latter, The Legend of Zorro is an example of the former. Its reviews won't help the situation either, but it might still be able to hit $20 million over the next three days. I think a box office somewhere in the high teens is more likely, putting my prediction at $17 million.

A huge drop-off is likely inevitable for Doom, which opened last weekend to a disappointing $15.5 million. A 60% collapse wouldn't be too shocking, and that would leave the film with just over $6 million, but I think it will perform marginally better and finish the weekend with just over $7 million. That's still not enough for the film to show a profit any time soon.

Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story is seeing its theatre count increase by nearly 500 and that should allow it to spend one more weekend in the top five. This weekend, the film should add just under $7 million, bringing its 10-day total to $18 million, which is a disappointment any way you look at it.

Rounding out the top five should be The Weather Man with about $6 million. The film is earning the best reviews of any wide release this weekend, but it is also only playing in 1,510 theatres and the ad campaign hasn't been nearly visible enough to compensate.

Lastly we have Prime, which combines the weak reviews of The Legend of Zorro with the low theatre count of The Weather Man. That adds up to $5 million over the weekend and a low placing in the top ten.

One more note, Zathura has a sneak peak this Saturday in just over 500 theatres. Check you local listings for more details.

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Filed under: Saw II, The Legend of Zorro, Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story, Doom, Zathura, Prime, The Weather Man