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Will New Releases Feel the Love?

February 11th, 2010

Its Valentine's Day on Sunday and Presidents' Day on Monday, which means there are two reasons to be bullish when predicting the box office this weekend. On the other hand, none of the new releases are earning overall positive reviews, which is a bad sign. There is good news, as the same was true last year and two of the three new releases struggled at the box office. This leaves 2010 an opportunity to end the slump, which has reached four weeks, and prevent admissions from slipping further below last year's pace.

Most likely leading the way over the weekend will be Valentine's Day, an ensemble romance in the same vein as, and going after the same target demographic as, He's Just Not That Into You. This film has the same star power and is directed by Garry Marshall, who has made some of the best and biggest of the genre. Unfortunately, this film won't be remembered as one of the best; in fact, its Tomatometer Score is barely above double-digits. He's Just Not That Into You opened with $27.79 million last year, but it opened the weekend before Valentine's Day. Arguably, the film's best asset is its release date, which should help it open faster with a little over $30 million from Friday to Sunday and little under $40 million including Monday. But don't expect it to have the same legs.

The Wolfman is the biggest new movie of week, at least in terms of production budget. It reportedly cost $85 million to make, but a lot of that went to the visual effects, which were changed at the last minute. Apparently someone decided the wolfman needed to be more wolf-like, which is part of the reason the movie was pushed back for so long. Were these changes worth it? Maybe. The reviews are bad, but not because of the special effects. No, the critics are mostly complaining about the character development, or the lack of character development, to be more specific. That might not hurt the film too much over the opening weekend as fans of old-school werewolves will likely want to see it. It might earn first place, but consensus appears to have it placing second with $26 million over three days and $32 million over four. This is a good start and would give the film a shot at earning a profit during its home market run.

The next wide release of the week is Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, which is based on the first of a series of fantasy novels aimed at young adults. At this point the comparisons to Harry Potter are inevitable, which is not entirely bad news. After all, that franchise has pulled in more than $5 billion worldwide, so if this film proves half as popular as the average Potter movie, it will be a huge hit. On the other hand, the average Harry Potter movie has earned a Tomatometer score of more than 80% positive while The Lightning Thief has earned weaker reviews. It is the best-reviewed wide release of the week, but with just 54% positive reviews, it is not enough to earn an overall positive score. Many films have tried to tap into the success of Harry Potter and, like most of the others, a mid-level hit is as high as Percy Jackson can hope for. The release date is good, so that should help the film get off to s fast start. Look for $22 million over the three-day portion of the weekend and about $29 million over the four-day portion.

Weak reviews and direct competition could hurt Dear John at the box office. On the other hand, the combination of Valentine's Day and Presidents' Day could keep it from falling apart. Look for $24 million over the weekend and $61 million after two.

This could be Avatar's last weekend in the top five. Wow. The film is finally showing signs of weakness having lost the weekend crown to Dear John last weekend and losing several hundred more theaters this weekend to fall below the saturation level for the first time in its run. That said, adding $16 million / $22 million over the weekend will lift its running tally to $659 million.

One last note, last weekend, on its 44th day of release, Sherlock Holmes reached $200 million. It was the tenth film released in 2009 to reach that milestone, which is one below the record from 2007.


Filed under: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, The Wolfman, Valentine's Day, Avatar, Dear John, Sherlock Holmes