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Does Dragon Know How to Win at the Box Office?

March 25th, 2010

After three weeks on top, there's really no doubt that Alice in Wonderland will surrender its crown to How to Train Your Dragon this weekend. The real question is whether or not the newcomer can earn more than Monsters vs. Aliens did last year.

How to Train Your Dragon is the latest 3D movie to hit theaters and so far 2010 has been dominated by such films. In fact, this will be the 13th weekend of 2010 and a 3D film has come out on top nine times. At some point 3D could flame out and crash, but I don't think that it will happen this weekend and How to Train Your Dragon could beat analysts expectations. Right now expectations range from around $35 million to close to $50 million; however, I think that's underestimating its potential for a number of reasons. For instance, the box office is up 9% from last year and a high tide raises all ships. Also, the film is earning the best reviews of any wide release of the year. In fact, it has to be considered an early contender for Best Animated Feature at the 2011 Oscars. Finally, the film has done well internationally during its first weekend of release. Unless something shocking happens, it should take first place over the weekend. The real question is how well it will do compared to Monsters vs. Aliens. That film made nearly $60 million during its opening weekend, and I think this film will beat it, albeit by a tiny margin. That said, it is important to note that I am a lot more bullish than most analysts and there is a case to be made that the direct competition from Alice in Wonderland and Diary of a Wimpy Kid will be too much for the film to handle.

The only other wide release of the week is Hot Tub Time Machine, which is a movie I think falls into the category of, "So stupid looking that you have to see it." Fortunately, the reviews are very solid. They are not up to the level of The Hangover, for instance, but at 64% positive, they are still strong enough that they can be considered a selling point. On the other hand, none of the cast are known for their box office prowess while MGM is on a losing streak a mile wide and twice as deep. (Their last hit was 1408, which also starred John Cusack.) There is a chance that the film will open with substantially less than $10 million over the weekend and finish with less than $25 million in total. On the other hand, there's also a chance it will open with more than $25 million and finish with closer to $100 million. The film will probably just fall short of $20 million over the weekend, but that's still far ahead of original expectations, which were a soft $25 million final cume.

Alice in Wonderland will take a serious hit at the box office this weekend as it is relinquishing its 3D screens to How to Train Your Dragon. I was expecting that this would help its midweek numbers, as people would go to see the movie in 3D before it was too late. However, this hasn't happened. I was expecting a running tally of over $280 million by now, but instead it is sitting at $275 million (after Thursday's numbers are reported). This decline also makes me think it will fall faster at the box office, off more than 50% to $16 million, but that still means it will top $300 million sometime next weekend.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid was surprisingly strong at the box office last weekend, but with direct competition this weekend, it could take a serious hit. Even with reasonably good reviews, a 50% drop-off could be in its future, which would leave the film with $11 million over the next three days. Even if it managed to avoid that fate, $13 million is likely as good as it will get. Splitting the difference gives us a weekend haul of $12 million and a total of $37 million.

On the other hand, The Bounty Hunter wasn't able to match expectations during its opening weekend, while its reviews were nothing short of terrible. A 50% drop-off is very likely and that would leave the film with just under $10 million over the weekend and $36 million in total.


Filed under: Hot Tub Time Machine, Alice in Wonderland, How to Train Your Dragon, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Bounty Hunter