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A Treasure-trove of Wide Releases

December 20th, 2007

The weekend before Christmas sees five films opening in wide release, by varying degrees. We have has a record-setting holdover and a surprisingly strong kids film to deal with, not to mention the three films opening on Christmas day. This will make for a very, very crowded marketplace and it is hard to imagine all films earning a place with moviegoers. However, figuring out which films will be squeezed out is very difficult.

The widest release of the week is National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets, which is making its debut in close to 4,000 theaters tomorrow. The original National Treasure opened in far fewer theaters back in 2004, but I have a feeling the sequel won't earn quite as much at the box office. Not only is National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets opening wider, it is also earning marginally better reviews. However, the first film feels like it was lightening in a bottle and it will be hard to recapture it. Currently the film is tracking in the mid-to-high $40 million range, but I think it will disappoint and earn just under $40 million during its opening weekend, which will give I Am Legend a shot at repeating as box office champion.

However, I Am Legend hasn't exactly been burning the box office over the weekdays, falling from $7.47 million on Monday to $6.02 million yesterday and is the only film in the top ten to lose strength as the week has gone on. This, and the direct competition from the above film, will take its toll during the its sophomore stint and make a 50% drop-off almost unavoidable. That would give the film about $38 million over the weekend and over $140 million in total. This does put it within striking distance of first place, and if it can repeat on top of the charts, it should have no trouble topping $200 million making it the first film in Will Smith's career to reach that point since Men in Black. Even a more extreme drop-off to $30 million would not make $200 million out of the question. If Book of Secrets earns more than a rounding error less than $40 million, I Am Legend should win the weekend. But every dollar that film makes above that will come at the expense of I Am Legend, giving this film a final prediction of $38 million.

The only other holdover that has a shot at reaching the top five is Alvin and the Chipmunks. Despite earning weak reviews, the lack of direct competition should help it hold on rather well during its second weekend of release with a 40% drop-off being within the realm of possibilities. If it does, it would pull in between $26 million and $27 million over the weekend; even if it drops 50%, that would still be more than $22 million over the weekend and around $77 million in total. Just under $25 million seems the most likely, which would give the film a clear shot at $100 million and would make a sequel almost guaranteed.

There are two opposing forces at worth with Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. On the one hand, this film was written and produced by Judd Apatow, who has an amazing streak when it comes to critical and box office successes. It seems like everything he touches turns into gold. On the other hand, it is a spoof and it has been a while since a straight up spoof has been a box office hit. In fact, many people are lumping this film in with Date Movie and Epic Movie. If the marketing can't dispel this misconception, this film will be in a lot of trouble at the box office. It shouldn't be difficult to come up an ad campaign as strong as the reviews and the two Golden Globe Nominations should help. Tracking has Walk Hard earning in the low teens, but I see it just topping $20 million during its opening -- after all, tracking has continuously underestimated Judd Apatow's box office numbers.

This time last year a film called The Good Shepherd opened in theaters. Before it debuted, many thought it would be an Oscar contender, but its reviews were weak and it got off to a slow start. This year, another politically-tinged film opens, but not only is Charlie Wilson's War earning better reviews, it also picked up five Golden Globe Nominations. Add in one of the most bankable stars, and this movie should be a sure-fire hit. However, it is tracking a lot lower than expected. In fact, some are predicting a sub-$10 million opening, which would be a first for Tom Hanks since That Thing You Do!. It does have a political undertone that deals at least partially with the current war on terror, which has been the kiss of death this year. If the film can open with $15 million or more, and continue to do well on the award front, then it should be able to reach $100 million in the end. It will be close, but I think it will make it.

Next up is Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. This is a hard film to predict with a lot of wildcards. It's an R-rated musical about a serial killer, and there's not a lot of crossover appeal there. There is a chance those who would otherwise love to see Johnny Depp slice throats will be turned off by the singing while those who love musicals might be turned off by the violence. On the other hand, if the Internet buzz is to be believed, there are a lot of people itching to make this the first musical they've ever seen. This film could surprise and finish in the top five, maybe even be in a fight for third place with $20 million or so, but the studio would be happy with anything more than $10 million. I think it could hit $10,000 per theaters, which would give it an opening of $12.5 million. Add in some award season buzz and word-of-mouth that matches its stellar reviews, and that might be enough to reach $100 million in total.

The final wide release of the week is P.S., I Love You. This is the only wide release this week that I think will really miss at the box office. The reviews are the weakest of the five wide releases, and so is the buzz. Furthermore, Hilary Swank does not have a strong record at the box office. Unless she's being beaten to death in the film, her films just don't seem to have any appeal. Meanwhile, Gerard Butler has only starred in one hit, which was 300 earlier in the year. I can't see this film topping $10 million over the weekend; in fact, it might not hit $5 million. Split the difference and we get a prediction of $7 million over the next three days.


Filed under: I am Legend, National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Charlie Wilson's War, P.S. I Love You, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story