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Can Nemo Find Box Office Success?

May 30th, 2003

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The weekend after Memorial Day sees three new movies open wide, each with widely difference target audiences and wildly different expectations.

Almost guaranteed to open first is Finding Nemo, the fifth film from Pixar studios. The real question with Finding Nemo is whether it will break records for the studio. It needs more than $62.5 million to better Monsters Inc. opening, which will be difficult - especially considering the post-Memorial Day dip that is historically experienced at the box office. However, Finding Nemo does have a higher theater count (3,374 to 3,237) and unbelievably high reviews going for it. Currently there is only one reviewer on Rotten Tomatoes that is not giving it a positive review. That puts it above both Monsters Inc. and A Bug’s Life, but amazing below both Toy Story 1 and 2, both of which received 100% positive reviews.

Coming in second, and crashing back down to Earth will be Bruce Almighty. The huge first weekend take and a post holiday weekend means this film will drop more than 50%. However, since the film outperformed expectations by such a large margin the first week, a 50% drop will still leave a second weekend box office greater than what the studio were hoping for before it opened.

There will be a close battle for third place between Matrix Reloaded and The Italian Job. The Matrix Reloaded is again tracking well below last week’s performance, which should result in another big drop. However, The Italian Job is only opening in 2,633 theatres, which is a little low. Surprisingly, The Italian Job is currently receiving nearly identical reviews as the Matrix. So look for the two movies to get nearly identical box office takes this week, around $18 million with a slight edge to the newcomer.

Fifth place will also go down to the wire as Daddy Day Care and X-Men 2 fight to stay in the top 5 one more week. Both are shedding theaters, but X-Men 2 is doing it faster. On the other hand, Finding Nemo will surely draw more of Daddy Day Care’s target audience away than from the X-Men. Still, Daddy Day Care has the lead last weekend, and while it will shrink, it should still win this weekend $8 million to $7 million.

Opening in only 1,615 theaters is the horror movie Wrong Turn, which has a plot reminiscent of The Lurking Fear by H.P. Lovecraft. The real surprise with the reviews is not that they’re as poor as they are, but that there are so few of them. As of noon Friday, there were only 6 reviews posted. But the target audience for these films generally doesn’t care about reviews or the lack thereof, so that shouldn’t affect the box office. And with a budget a mere fraction of the other films debuting this week, the studio should still be happy with $6 million and a seventh place finish.

In eighth place will be The In-Laws, which unperformed when in debuted last week and will do the same this week with a little more than $4 million. There are two bright spots for the studio, the movie did have a lower budget than most and it should find a larger audience in the home market.

In ninth place will be Down With Love, which unperformed when in debuted two weeks ago and will do the same this week with a little less than $3 million. Ok, enough of the cut and paste predictions, but the performance of the two previous movies has been very similar. Low expectations, even lower box offices and a quick descent down the charts.

Rounding out the top ten is The Lizzie McGuire Movie, which is shedding theaters faster than its box office pull would suggest it should. Failure to support this film in the long run could cost Disney several million dollars off the final box office figure. Even with the lost theaters it should earn a little more than $2 million and cross the $40 million mark for its total box office. The studio’s share of that figure should cover production and advertising costs.

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Filed under: The Matrix Reloaded, X2, The Italian Job, Daddy Day Care, The Lizzie McGuire Movie, The In-Laws, Down with Love, Wrong Turn