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2007's Winning Streak is in Danger of Going Extinct

September 20th, 2007

September marches on but there are signs of weakness that we haven't really seen since before summer started. The recent winning streak on a year-to-year comparison is likely over as the margin of victory was just 1% last weekend and this week's batch of new releases are much weaker than last year's were. However, it should be noted that 2007 is already a success on many levels and it would take a real collapse during the fall for studios to become worried.

The only film with a real shot at first place is Resident Evil: Extinction; in fact, it might be the only film to top $10 million over the weekend. Because of this, the real competition isn't the new releases or the holdovers, but Jackass: Number Two, which is the film that opened first this time last year. Resident Evil opened with $17.7 million in 2002 while two years later Apocalypse managed $23.0 million during its first three days. However, reviews went from bad to worse and early reviews this time around don't exactly show promise. With little to suggest the quality of the franchise will recover, only ticket price inflation will prevent Resident Evil: Extinction from slipping at the box office as well. In the three years since Apocalypse, ticket prices have gone up close to 10%, so $25 million is possible. However, tracking has the film just missing that mark, finishing with just under $24 million. This will likely be twice as much as any other film makes this weekend, but $5 million less than Jackass: Number Two debuted with last year.

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The only other potential hit is Good Luck Chuck, and that requires some fiddling with the definition of the term, "hit." So far this year there have been a few R-rated comedies that have done big business, but the latest example bombed massively. Unfortunately, Good Luck Chuck has a lot more in common with The Brothers Solomon than either Knocked Up or Superbad. Not only are they both September releases, but they are earning very similar reviews. In addition, neither star is a big box office draw. Granted, Jessica Alba has had a few big hits, but she was always either part of an ensemble or playing second fiddle to the special effects. When it comes to film's where she was the lead, her biggest hit so far as been Honey. As for Dane Cook, he's only been a headliner once in Employee of the Month, which earned similar reviews and despite having a better release date, opened with just $11.4 million. Currently, Good Luck Chuck is tracking to finish above that amount with roughly $13 million, but I see it missing out and earning just under $11 million, and if it missed $10 million, I wouldn't be surprised.

The first of the holdovers is The Brave One, which will fall from first to third during its sophomore stint. The midweek numbers have been good so far, leading some to believe it might fall just 40% for a $8 million weekend. Even more conservative analysts think a 50% drop-off is likely, which would give the film a low-end estimate of $7 million. Split the difference and you get a prediction of $7.5 million.

After leading the way on the Per Theater Chart last weekend, Eastern Promises expands into more than 1,400 theaters this weekend. This is a massive expansion and one that might be coming a little too early and perhaps the distributor should have gone with a graduated expansion schedule. Then again, it's easy to wait too long and miss your opportunity with mainstream audiences and there's no way to predict ahead of time which route is best for any one particular film. Great reviews and the one-two punch of David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen could help the film surprise and grab as high as second place with $10 million or so, but fourth with $7 million is more likely. That would give it a per theater average of $5,000, which is enough to please theater owners, but not enough for further expansion.

The final wide release of the week is Sydney White, the latest from Amanda Bynes. So far her films have been very reliable at the box office with her three staring roles all opening with roughly $11 million (not counting her voice work in Robots or the ensemble work in Hairspray). In addition, the reviews have been similar as well with this film earning 40% - 50% positive reviews. It's not high art, but it is also clearly the best movie of the weekend. Sydney White had the potential to be her biggest hit as the lead thanks to the publicity of Hairspray; however, a weak release date and a sub-2,000 theater count killed that. It could surprise and earn $8 million or more, or it could fail to reach the top five with $4 million or so. I'm hoping the high end is more likely, but so far other films aimed at the same target audience, like Nancy Drew, have failed to connect. That film earned slightly better reviews, had a better release date, and a wider release, yet only opened with $6.8 million. The only thing going in Sydney White's favor is less competition. Even then, $6 million and fifth place is likely as good as it gets.

Finally, The Transformers opens this Friday, this time in IMAX. Since the film is all but out of regular theaters, this should be a great opportunity to judge just how much IMAX editions bring in and if they are cost effective. Of course, the delay between the regular release and the IMAX edition, as well as the much weaker release date will be mitigating factors that have to be taken into account.

One last note, on Saturday The Game Plan has a sneak peak in 800 theaters. Check your local listings for details.


Filed under: Transformers, The Game Plan, Resident Evil: Extinction, The Brave One, Good Luck Chuck, Eastern Promises, Sydney White