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That 70s Showdown

January 23rd, 2004

Two movies staring That '70s Show alumnus open this weekend, and while neither of them will be recognized with any major awards, they probably won't light up the box office either. In fact, next weekend isn't looking that spectacular either. The box office should pick up again in February.

Last week's $27.7 million opening for Along Came Polly was not only a record for January, (not counting Star Wars' 1997 re-release) it sets up this weekend as the first big test for 2004. Last year we saw plenty of movies open well, only to fizzle out their second weekend. Any loss below 40% will be seen as a major victory, and while that is unlikely, Polly should come close. While word of mouth isn't great, or even good, there's little in the way of competition. Look for $16 million this weekend pushing its total past the $50 million predicted for its entire run. On the other hand, a drop of 50% or more would be a very bad omen.

Running neck and neck will be The Butterfly Effect and Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!. Neither movie has an abundance of name recognition, but Ashton Kutcher gives The Butterfly Effect the advantage there. Critically it is another story with Win a Date With Tad Hamilton in the lead 54% to just 33%. But recent history suggests that will hurt Tad Hamilton more than it will help it. In the end, The Butterfly Effect will take second place for the weekend $15 million to $14 million, but Tad Hamilton will earn more at the box office during its full run.

The paradox of Award Season is the more nominations a film has, the better it is for the box office in the long run. But, it hurts the film more during the weekend of the actual broadcast, as people interested in the film stay home to see if it wins any awards. This will lead to a three way race for fourth place this weekend between, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Big Fish and Cheaper by the Dozen. The first two movies each have four nominations for Sunday's Golden Globe Awards, while the last is fortunately unencumbered by award pressures. All three movies should earn between $7 million and $6 million should finish in this order: Return of the King, Big Fish and Cheaper by the Dozen.

On a side note, Big Fish will almost need to sweep the Golden Globes and clean up on Tuesday with a Best Picture Oscar Nomination to have a legitimate shot at $100 million. Another movie in a similar predicament is Cold Mountain, and since they are competing in two categories, one will fail in that goal.

Also looking to capitalize on major awards / nominations is Mystic River. It is expanding into more than 1,000 theatres this weekend, not so much for the Golden Globes on Sunday, but for Oscar nominations on Tuesday and next weekend's box office. It does have a shot at a lower position in the top ten this week.

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Filed under: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Cheaper by the Dozen, Cold Mountain, Mystic River, Big Fish, The Butterfly Effect, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!, Along Came Polly