Thursday, October 15, 2009

Weekend Box Office Predictions (Oct 16 - 18)

MoviePredicted Gross (m)Change
1. Where the Wild Things Are33.6$9,000 average
2. Paranormal Activity19.6$26,000 average
3. Couples Retreat16.5-52%
4. Law Abiding Citizen13.0$4,500 average
5. Zombieland8.4-43%
6. The Stepfather7.1$2,600 average
7. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs6.8-41%
8. Toy Story / Toy Story 23.7-52%
9. Surrogates2.3-46%
10. Whip It1.6-43%


1. Based on the popular picture book and having Spike Jonze as the director, Where the Wild Things Are is generating significantly more buzz online than a typical family film. How much additional cash it could translate into remains to be seen, but there is no denying that the 4,300 tweets a day and 36% Opening Weekend interest at Box Office Mojo are impressive. The mixed reviews could affect its long-term prospect but not the opening. An excellent weekend over $30m looks very much likely. The only concern is such strong early buzz normally means a frontloaded Friday and a weak internal multiplier comparing to its peers.

2. The sensation of the month is trying to turn itself into the sensation of the year. The expectation for Paranormal Activity was already high last weekend given its otherworldly performance while having only post-10pm showings in its first two weeks of limited release, and it blew every single prediction away by making close to $50K a theater over the three days. It is hard to say whether it or The Blair Witch Project had more jaw-dropping performance, and I'd argue it is unfair to compare the two, but in this day and age of Internet ubiquity, consumers are much more fickle and having shorter attention span, so seeing such a grass-root phenomenon is a privilege. The Blair Witch Project dropped 58.4% in per-theater-average when expanding from 31 to 1101 theaters; with a smaller expansion percentage wise, Paranormal Activity should see a better hold, in the 45% range. That will lead to a weekend close to $20m and set up a show down with Saw VI next week.

3. The other two new wide releases of the week look a lot more generic when comparing to the above two. Law Abiding Citizen is basically indistinguishable from past October R-rated thrillers, and as we saw with Body of Lies and We Own the Night, the opening range for such a film is limited. The Stepfather will have the unfortunate honor of competing with Paranormal Activity and should be looking at a sub-$3,000 average.

5. After surprising many of us with its $34.3m start, Couples Retreat is in a great position to join the $100m club. However, mediocre word-of-mouth, serious competition for the male audience, and no holiday help until Thanksgiving could still prevent it from reaching the mark. A sub-50% drop will be a good start, but such prospect is murky at best with four new wide releases cannibalizing the screens. On the other hand, strong WOM propelled Zombieland to dropped just 40% on its sophomore weekend, excellent for the genre. It will face more direct competition this week around with Paranormal Activity and, to a smaller degree, The Stepfather, but the former will be in fewer than 800 theaters while the latter is looking at a single-digit opening, so look for it to continue the good ride and become the biggest zombie film of all time by Sunday.

6. Two other films in the top 10 remain worth paying attention to. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs saw a lot of its 3D screens taken away when Toy Story was re-released, but was able to limit its decline to 37%. It will not survive as well this weekend with the loss of IMAX theaters to Where the Wild Things Are, an film with $30m+ opening potential. Nonetheless, it won't lose close to half of its audience given the superb midweek numbers. Not expectedly, Disney decided to extend Toy Story's run after two weeks of positive returns. However, since they had been advertising it as an exclusive two-week engagement until now, it pushed more demand to those first 14 days, and the lack of awareness could lead to small Thursday-to-Friday increase. Disney went through similar experiment with Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus Concert Tour, except that was originally for one week only, and it received no Thurs-to-Friday jump at all as a result. Toy Story increased 222% last Friday; look for the number to get cut in half this time around.

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