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Claus is Box Office Coal

November 12th, 2007

There was little to cheer over the weekend, as all four of the new releases missed expectations, some by substantial margins. This left the overall box office struggling with $113 million over the weekend, down 16% from last weekend and 11% from the same weekend last year. This means the streak of year-to-year growth ends at one. On the other hand, had the four wide releases mere met expectations, the overall box office would have been within a rounding error of last year.

Bee Movie benefited from weaker competition as it grabbed first place with $25.57 million, which matches Thursday's prediction nearly perfectly. It also makes $100 million a sure bet, even if the next family film earns better reviews than this one did and steals away most of its target audience. In fact, it should have little trouble topping its original expectations. However, some sources have the film's production budget at $150 million, which is twice my estimate, and that makes earning a profit a lot more difficult.

American Gangster landed in second place with $24.03 million, within a rounding error of Thursday's prediction. However, despite being overtaken by Bee Movie over the weekend, its weekday numbers are stronger, as is its running tally, $80.39 million to $71.78 million. At this pace, $125 million is the new goal and how far it gets past that depends on how well the competition does and how many theaters it can hold on to as the holiday season heats up. On the other hand, there has been some talk about Oscar buzz, but I don't think that it very likely. Denzel Washington has The Great Debaters coming up, and it is that film that should earn the Oscar buzz, killing any chances this film has in the process.

Conversely, Fred Claus has nearly no chance at making $100 million after this weekend's performance. The film debuted in third place with $18.52 million, which is nearly $10 million less than predicted. This is rather close to what The Santa Clause opened with in 1994, and that film made close to $150 million. Then again, it is also close to what The Santa Clause 3 made last year and that film earned just $85 million. Given this film's reviews, the latter number is more likely, even without having to deal with sequelitis. That would give it very close to original expectations and give it a solid shot at profitability by its initial push into the home market.

The next wide release, Lions for Lambs was nearly as big a disappointment, at least percentwise, as it opened in fourth place with just $6.70 million. This was the weakest opening for a wide release for Tom Cruise since The Color of Money. Add in terrible reviews and a low per theater average, and this film could fail to reach $20 million for the first time since Cruise appeared in Legend. Even with a production budget of only $35 million, this one won't make a profit anytime soon.

The battle for fifth place finished as expected with Dan in Real Life overtaking Saw IV. However, Dan in Real Life was marginally stronger than expected, taking in $6.00 million compared to Saw IV's $4.95 million.

P2 was within a rounding error of Thursday's prediction, but sadly it was on the wrong side. The film pulled in just $2.08 million over the weekend to give it a sub-$1,000 per theater average. To put this into perspective, it likely cost the distributor $2.5 million to $3.5 million to make and ship the physical prints to the theaters. And with reviews that fell dramatically over the weekend, there's no way this movie will show a profit any time soon. In fact, it could be out of theaters before the first weekend in December.

Finally we get to the sophomore class, which only has the one member, The Martian Child. After a slow start, the film fell 45% to $1.84 million over the weekend and a total of $6.11 million. There's really no way to put a positive spin on this performance.


Filed under: Bee Movie, Fred Claus, Saw IV, Dan in Real Life, Lions for Lambs, Martian Child, P2, American Gangster