Thursday, May 27, 2010

Memorial Weekend Box Office Predictions (May 28 - 31)

MoviePredicted Gross (m)Change
1. Sex and the City 253.0/77.0$15,400 PTA
2. Shrek Forever After50.0-29.4%
3. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time36.5$10,400 PTA
4. Iron Man 219.0-27.9%
5. Robin Hood13.0-30.7%
6. Letters to Juliet7.0-22.3%
7. Just Wright2.7-37.1%
8. MacGruber2.5-38.2%
9. Date Night1.9-34.8%
10. How to Train Your Dragon1.6-15.8%

The first three weekends of May saw a roughly 5% increase in receipts over the same frame last year, but it has felt to be a hugely disappointing month due to both Iron Man 2 and Shrek grossing quite a bit lower than what was initially expected. Unfortunately, the feeling will not stop this holiday frame. In fact, 15% voted "No interest this weekend" at Box Office Mojo's poll regarding what the top choice to see is this weekend, and that matches the percentage from last week and is way higher than what any of the previous three Memorial weekends had. It means we are likely to not see a $200m total for the top 12 films combined over the four days.

The main culprit will be Prince of Persia. Trying as hard as they could, Disney has been unable to save it from being in a world of trouble. The film is not an easy sell to begin with. There are no real box office draws in the cast, as Jake Gyllenhaal hasn't really carried a film to a big opening by himself, and his female fans will have their must-see film of the weekend in Sex and the City 2. In addition, other than the first Tomb Raider, which benefited from the perfect casting of Angelina Jolie and the audience she brought in, no video game adaptation has opened above $24m in the last decade. Knowing that, Disney has tried to market Persia more as an action adventure film for the whole families to check out. The strategy is sound on paper, but it hasn't delivered the desired result. The trailers have not excited many people outside the fans of the original game, and more concrete signs are indicating the film's demise.

The first weakness appeared when the Major Theater Chain tracking came in way below ReelSource's, 50 vs. low-70's. That is a difference of ~30%, and the history has shown when the difference is bigger than 25% between the two, the end result will most likely go in the direction of MTC and then some more. Last week was the perfect example. MTC was 19% lower on Shrek Forever After (85 vs. mid-100's), and the actual was another 17% lower; with MacGruber, it was close to 50% below what RS had (8 vs. mid-teen), and the result came in 50% more lower. Of course this argument is more based on observed historical trend than any scientific data comparison, and there is no guarantee the trend will continue, but when the scenario has worked for a good size of sample set, it will be careless to not take it into account.

Secondly, the actual data does not favor Prince of Persia either. The advance sale figure is weak, as it represented only 1% of all sales by Tuesday night, and the table below shows some comparison of BOM poll numbers:

MovieOpening WeekendSometime in TheatersOn DVDOn TVNever# of Users
Prince of Persia31.2%27.9%20.3%4.7%15.9%1,498
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor29.4%26.5%21.3%6.7%16.2%2,751
National Treasure: Book of Secrets36.8%26.2%15.9%5.7%15.5%1,286
Max Payne30.6%21.1%23.5%4.7%20.1%1,540

I included Max Payne to show how the video-game adaptation genre could exhibit inflated online buzz. Unlike many other titles of the genre, Max Payne has a PG-13 rating and is not a horror film, making it somewhat closer to Prince of Persia, and its Opening Weekend percentage of 30% could only translate into a $17.6m start. Prince of Persia possesses other factors that make it closer to Mummy 3 and National Treasure 2, so it should open higher but not reach the opening figures those two achieved. Combining all of these, I expect to see a $10m Friday before making $35-38m overall for the long weekend.

Two years ago, Sex and the City set a new opening record for romantic comedy with the $57m start and went on to become the highest grossing R-rated film of the year ($152.6m).  Unlike Twilight, Sex and the City's viewer base has largely stayed the same.  The series is so well known to begin with, and the first film was satisfying to the fans while equally torturous to the guys who were dragged into seeing it, so it didn't help expand or contract its core base.  That means we could more or less expect similar attendance numbers.  Even with the early start, many midnight showings have sold out like last time, and Thursday will account for the biggest portion of the audience over the first 5 days, although Friday night will still be the women-night-out for many.  Saturday is unlikely to be as strong as what the first one had due to the extra day, and then it will play out like a normal film the rest of the Memorial holiday.  Look for a daily pattern of 24-16-14.5-12.5-10.

Shrek Forever After certainly had a massively disappointing opening, but with better word-of-mouth than Shrek the Third and much less direct competition this week, it should experience a significant better hold.  The dailies so far have been quite good, and it is on track to gross another $40m for the 3-day portion and $10m more on Monday.  The weakness of Prince of Persia should also help Iron Man 2 and Robin Hood to hold better than what Spider-Man 3 and Troy did on their respective Memorial weekends.

As for the rest of the top 10, the first natural reaction would be that the existing romantic comedies would get hit hard by Sex and the City 2.  However, when the first one opened, films such as Baby Mama and What Happens in Vegas held up just fine even though they were coming off an inflated holiday weekend.  The key reason is the R-rating for Sex and the City, which makes it much less of a direct competition and could even provide help through spillover and sneak-in business, so expect Letters to Juliet to continue its good pace with its positive word-of-mouth.  How to Train Your Dragon got hit the hardest last weekend when Shrek Forever After took away most of its 3D screens, but it will also recover the best this time, especially with Monday being so kind to family films.

1 comment:

  1. Gopher, the guy who's second to you in the derbyMay 27, 2010 at 1:45 PM

    Remember What Happens in Vegas back in 2008? When SATC opened it dropped only 28%, and that was the weekend after Memorial Day no less. SATC won't hurt the PG-rated Letters at all. I think Letters to Juliet is in for a fine hold this weekend and I'm glad to see you agreed with me (I placed it around 8m in the derby).

    We also have the top two roughly in the same place (54.8 and 51.1) and I have 41.4 for Persia so that's not far away either. : )