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Will 2012 be a Disaster?

November 12th, 2009

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Just the one truly wide release this week, but we also have a semi-wide release that could sneak its way into the top ten, as well as a limited release that is expanding. That wide release, 2012, is a disaster flick, which might be the best word to describe the overall box office, at least compared to last year. Very few people think 2012 will top the $67.5 million opening of Quantum of Solace, which debuted this weekend last year. In fact, if it misses that mark by a mere $10 million, I think a lot of people will be pleasantly surprised, while if it is short by $20 million or more, not too many people will be shocked. Additionally, the holdovers are going to get crushed in this comparison as well, so there is almost no chance that 2009 will come out ahead. It's a matter of minimizing the damage.

2012 is the latest film from Roland Emmerich, who seems to specialize in these big end of the world / disaster movies. He does have a pretty good track record with these films, at least in terms of raw dollars. His films tend to be very expensive to make, so even a movie that makes more than $200 million worldwide, like The Patriot, is not necessarily a financial success. 2012 may have cost as much as $260 million to make, advertise, and ship to theaters. If this is true, it will need to open with more than $70 million to have a real shot at profitability any time soon. That is very likely out of the question; in fact, $60 million is likely out of the question, while $50 million is a more reasonable goal. Assuming its reviews don't fall too much off their current score of 33% positive, the film should grab about $54 million over the weekend on its way to $150 million, thanks in part to the upcoming holidays.

Disney's A Christmas Carol disappointed during its opening last weekend, but the studio hopes it will show surprising legs going forward. On the one hand, The Polar Express opened with $30.63 million over five days, but it held on long enough to reach more than $160 million during its initial run at the box office. And that film's reviews are not significantly better than Christmas Carol's reviews. And with Christmas coming up, maybe lightning will strike twice. Christmas Carol will need to earn at least $20 million this coming weekend to hope to duplicate The Polar Express's run; however, that doesn't take into account the direct competition this film will face. The biggest family film of 2004 to open after The Polar Express was Lemony Snicket. This year, A Christmas Carol will have to deal with The Princess and the Frog, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, which combined should take in about half a billion dollars. With the more direct competition this film will face in the coming weeks, I think $22 to $24 million over this weekend might be necessary, otherwise theater owners might be more willing to pull it from their theaters before Christmas rolls around. Simply put, I don't think it will manage even $20 million. Even a 40% drop-off to $18 million isn't a sure thing, but we're going with a final prediction of $19 million over the weekend and more than $60 million after two.

This Is It, The Men Who Stare At Goats, and The Fourth Kind should battle for third place each coming in within a rounding error of $7 million.

This Is It matched its costs earlier this week, and even with P&A and the exhibitors' share to take care of, it has likely already reached profitability at the worldwide box office. Earning another $7.5 million over the weekend will lift its running tally to close to $70 million, while at this pace it should end its run north of $80 million.

The Men Who Stare At Goats won't make as much at the box office, but it also cost far less to make, so it is also well on its way to profitability. If it can add $7 million over the weekend it will have a total of $24 million, which matches its production budget. With respectable reviews it should earn a profit early in its home market run, assuming it can earn as much internationally as it does domestically.

The Fourth Kind did well during its opening weekend, but with its reviews, it might not be able to hold on very well this weekend. A 50% drop off seems likely, which would leave it with just over $6 million over the next three days and $22 million after ten. This is not a bad result, assuming the film's production budget is as modest as we expect.

The last new release with a shot at the top ten is Pirate Radio, which is opening in 882 theaters. Directed by Richard Curtis, this historical comedy is earning solid reviews for its humor, and especially for its music. On the other hand, some critics are complaining about the episodic nature of the movie, which is not that surprising since it was also written by Richard Curtis, who helped create some amazing TV shows like Mr. Bean and Blackadder. Given its small theater count, and the lack of an explosive marketing push that goes along with that, there's little chance Pirate Radio will reach the top five during its opening weekend. In fact, it is likely to earn between $3 million and $4 million, which means it could miss the top ten.

Also of note this week is the expansion of Precious. The film is by no means expanding wide, but it is opening in more than 100 additional theaters this weekend, which does give it a solid shot at the top ten. In fact, it will likely earn more than Pirate Radio does over the weekend and has a slightly better chance at reaching the top five should The Fourth Kind collapse this weekend. Look for between $4 million and $5 million over the weekend, which should be more than enough to land in the top ten.


Filed under: The Men Who Stare at Goats, Michael Jackson's This Is It, Precious (Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire), The Fourth Kind, Disney’s A Christmas Carol, The Boat That Rocked, 2012