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It's Finally Here!

August 17th, 2006

It has arrived. The most hyped movie since... well, since a long, long time. What makes Snakes on a Plane so intriguing to box office analysts is its seemingly endless hype and what should be a very limited box office potential. Depending on how well it does, we could see the emergence of a new marketing stream, or we could see Schadenfreude literally burst from every theatre playing the film.

This is one of the most bizarre movies when it comes to hype, as the studio had to do very little work to promote the movie. It really stopped being just a movie a long time ago and became an Internet phenomenon like those dancing hamsters, that kid and his lightsaber, etc. This much hype will result in two things: one, a very front-loaded box office run, and two, a lot of disappointed people. There's almost no way the movie can live up to the hype, either with the critics or at the box office. The first one is pretty much a given after it was announced that the film would not be screened for critics. The studio says they choose to do this because the film wasn't for critics but was, "for the fans." 90% of movies that open wide are for the fans and not made to earn critical praise, yet most of them get screened for critics. And the ones that are not screened for critics generally turn out to be quite terrible.

As for the film's box office chances, expectations are all over the place for Snakes on a Plane. On the low end I've seen predictions having the film fail to reach $10 million over the weekend. On the high end, some have predicted it will break Rush Hour 2's record for largest August opening. And quite frankly, I wouldn't be surprised at either of those results. With such a wide range of possibilities, it makes predicting that much more difficult. I am very confident, however, that the film will have a tiny internal multiplier and might earn more on Friday than it earns over the rest of the weekend. Also, it could earn more during the first three days than it does during the rest of its run, giving it a overall multiplier of less than 2 as well.

In the end I'm predicting $10 to $15 million on Friday, $25 million over the weekend, and $50 million in total while the Unrated DVD will sell millions of copies.

Agree? Disagree? Just need to rant? Don't forget to enter our Snakes via Airmail Contest today.

Coming in a distant second will be Accepted, which had its release date moved at the beginning of the month from the 11th to the 18th. This could turn out to be the worst scheduling decision of the summer as its target audience is also the target audience of Snakes on a Plane. Accepted should have a more balanced demographic when it comes to gender, perhaps even leaning quite a bit to females as all the males will be going to Snakes, at least on Friday. The film is earning better reviews, or at least some reviews, and should show stronger legs but its start will be much weaker at just $13 million over the weekend and ending with $35 to $40 million.

By the end of business today, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby will become the 12th film of the year to cross the $100 million milestone. And while it could see a huge week-to-week drop-off on Friday, it should recover over the weekend to earn respectable numbers and in the end add $12 million to its coffers. That would give the film a $7 million lead on Click, but its pace is slowing with just two more weeks of summer holidays left to go.

After the weekend, I assumed World Trade Center would overtake Step Up midweek. The reason for this was twofold. One, vastly different reviews, and two, vastly different target demographics. However, World Trade Center has not been as strong as I had expected and while Step Up will collapse this weekend, it should be a close race for fourth place with each movie making between $10 million and $11 million. World Trade Center seems to have a slight advantage due to its older, less fickle demographic, but it is a very slight advantage and well within the margin of error.

The final new release of the week is Material Girls, the first new release from the newly relaunched MGM brand. It seems they have learned nothing about marketing since being bought out by Sony as the film is being dumped on the market in just 1,500 theatres with almost no publicity and no advanced screenings. The film will miss the top five by a mile and might not even reach the top ten. Look for $3 million this weekend and under $10 million during its run.

One last note, Little Miss Sunshine is expanding into more than 500 additional theatres and should spend its first weekend in the top ten. Best case scenario has the film maintaining its $10,000 per theatre average with $7 million over the weekend, but even $4 million would be an impressive weekend haul. Most likely scenario is $5 million over the weekend for a $12 million running tally and that's more than the film cost to make ($8 million), and more than the studio paid for the distribution rights ($10.5 million).