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Box Office Going to the Dogs?

October 9th, 2008

The truth is that we have too many movies right now. It's hard enough for most films to thrive at the box office, and it is nearly impossible for them to do it when they have to deal with so much competition. This week we have four films opening wide, which is half as many new openers as last week. However, all four are opening in more in 2,000 theaters, which is twice as many as last week. Despite this onslaught of new films, we might have a holdover come out on top, as Beverly Hills Chihuahua has a decent shot at repeating at number one.

The widest release of the week is Body of Lies, a spy thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe. Given the cast, and its director, and one would not be out of line to think it could be an early Oscar contender. However, one look at its reviews ends that talk. It is not a bad movie, but with a Tomatometer score of 58% positive, it has fallen below the overall positive level. This film has the best shot at first place this weekend, and on the high end it could reach $30 million, or more. On the other hand, it could fail to reach $20 million. Sadly, the low end appears to be more likely and I'm going with a prediction of $23 million.

This gives Beverly Hills Chihuahua a shot at first place, if it can hold on as well as many kids movies do. Even with reviews that are barely above 40% positive, it could fall by a mere 30% this weekend. That would give the film just over $20 million this weekend, and a legitimate shot at first place. Just under $20 million and a solid second place finish is more likely, and that's the prediction I'm going with.

The best-reviewed wide release of the weekend is The Express, an inspirational sports story that is based on real life events. These films tend to be solid, but not spectacular performers both with critics and at the box office. So far this film is no different earning 63% positive reviews. However, I have this feeling in the back of my mind that this movie will be the number one film at the box office this weekend and earn $24 to $26 million. That said, this is by far the minority opinion, and most analysts expect the movie to pull in $13 million, and land in third place. I'm going with $13 million, but I'm leaving the higher prediction in this column, just in case.

Just behind is Quarantine, a horror remake of a foreign film, which is a genre even more common than inspirational sports stories that are based on real life events. On the plus side, October is a great month to open a horror film and there is no direct competition opening this weekend. On the down side, there are plenty of other choices in theaters right now, and this one is unlikely to be the best option no matter what your tastes are. I say unlikely, because there is only one review on Rotten Tomatoes, and while it is negative, it is too soon to say if its final score will be negative as well. The film should place fourth with roughly $12 million during its opening weekend, but there's a margin of error of roughly $4 million in that prediction, and I wouldn't be surprised if the movie made anywhere from $8 to $16 million. This could be enough for second place, if its competition struggles, or as low as seven, if the competition thrives.

Rounding out the top five should be Eagle Eye, which should take a bigger hit at the box office this weekend thanks to direct competition from Body of Lies. $10 million is still possible, but so is $8 million. Splitting the difference gives us $9 million over the weekend and $68 million after three.

The only other wide release of the week is City of Ember, which is aimed at roughly the same target audience as Beverly Hills Chihuahua, and it looks like it is going to lose that battle. On the one hand, City of Ember is earning better reviews, but they are still just below the overall positive level. Also, it is opening in barely more than 2,000 theaters, with an anemic ad campaign to go along with its thin theater count. I don't think it will open as poorly as The Seeker, and at best it could reach the top five with $10 million or so, but $6 million is just as likely. Split the difference and we get $8 million over the weekend, and no more than $25 million in total.


Filed under: Eagle Eye, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Body of Lies, Quarantine, The Express, City of Ember