Thursday, October 29, 2009

Weekend Box Office Predictions (Oct 30 - Nov 1)

MoviePredicted Gross (m)Change
1. This Is It19.5$5,600 average
2. Paranormal Activity15.0-29%
3. Law Abiding Citizen7.1-43%
4. Where the Wild Things Are6.5-54%
5. Couples Retreat5.9-44%
6. Saw VI4.4-69%
7. Astro Boy3.7-45%
8. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs3.3-37%
9. The Stepfather3.0-52%
10. Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant2.9-54%

1. For the first time this decade, Halloween is falling on a Saturday, and that is scary news to studios. The last couple of times when the scenario occurred (in 1998 and 1992), the box office shrunk 27% and 24% respectively from the previous session and was one of the lowest grossing weekends of that year, as people organized plenty of other activities for the holiday. However, the buzz was high on Michael Jackson's This Is It. It appeared the film was very much capable of breaking the spell and making at least $50m in its first five days. In fact, the average prediction was around $70m, driven by early reports on advance ticket sales as well as available tracking numbers. Then Wednesday came around and stunned almost everyone, when we saw This Is It grossed "just" $7.4m, including $2.2m from late Tuesday night, although it still set the record for the biggest October Wednesday ever. While a $50m opening week is no longer possible, the question of where it will go from here remains. The movie carries a naturally high degree of frontloadedness, and a good percentage of the public will not see such a film no matter what; however, it indeed has excellent word-of-mouth, not just from MJ's fans, but even from critics, and Thursday report did indicate a better-than-average stabilization. Look for a 30% drop from Wednesday without midnight and then a 150% Friday increase before finishing with around $20m for the weekend.

2. Whether it is because of This Is It or Halloween's effect, no other studio elected to open a competing film for the frame. That does not necessarily mean good holds for the holdovers. In 1998 and 1992, the top 5 holdovers dropped, on average, 7 percentage points more from the weekend before to the Halloween weekend, even though each had only one new wide release as well, and it accounted for less than 20% of the box office total for the top 12 films. Expect similar patterns to emerge this time around, except for Paranormal Activity since its theater count has not stabilized yet. With another expansion of 457 theaters and the fact that horror films will be hurt the least on Saturday, it could limit its decline to 30%. On the other hand, Halloween will not save Saw VI. Last year, the Friday holiday did not prevent Saw V from having the steepest sophomore drop of the series. With an even smaller internal multiplier for the opening weekend, Saw VI is looking to rewrite that mark again. Overall, the box office should be depressed by close to 30%, leading to the worst weekend of the year.

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