Thursday, July 15, 2010

Weekend Box Office Predictions (Jul 15 - 17)

MoviePredicted Gross (m)Change
1. Inception55.0$14,500 PTA
2. Despicable Me33.0-41.5%
3. The Sorcerer's Apprentice18.0 / 25.0 (5-day)$5,320 PTA
4. Toy Story 315.5-26.2%
5. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse15.0-52.7%
6. Predators9.5-61.6%
7. Grown Ups9.0-43.1%
8. The Last Airbender7.5-54.9%
9. Knight & Day5.0-35.2%
10. The Karate Kid3.2-40.4%

I have to admit I cannot remember the last time I have so many different feelings regarding a film's opening weekend.  It is also one of the rare times where my heart is pulling hard one way, but my mind keeps saying the opposite.  With Inception, the only thing I am certain of is its legs, which will be truly outstanding.  Even with Nolan's rabid fanbase and the sci-fi genre, I do not see a multiplier lower than 4.0, and a 5 is achievable with its appeal to adults and guaranteed multiple viewings by many.  The uncertainty lies in how it will start.  Prior to this week, I believed the film could open to $70m+ with the buzz I'm feeling around me (all summer my colleagues singled out this to be the one movie they are looking forward to see) and my own anticipation, but then the tracking brought the first bad news: Major Theater Chain showed only $48m, 20% lower than Reel Source's $60m.  The buzz online remains deafening, as shown by the # of tweets and Box Office Mojo polls, but the awareness among general public feels rather subdued.  This divide also gives me pause.  The latest long TV spots where they explained the roles of each character are not exactly engaging, and I would have simply stuck with the more mysterious and awe-inspiring teasers/trailers they had previously shown in theaters.  So far the online sales are robust, but not at a level suggesting a mega-opening.  I am still hoping for a $65m+ start, but something lower looks more realistic at this point.  On the other hand, Minority Report's opening would adjust to around $52m today, and I cannot see why Inception would gather fewer admissions, so anything lower would certainly make me personally disappointed.

The early reports on Wednesday showed The Sorcerer's Apprentice was heading toward a $4m opening day, essentially where I expected the number to land before the release. If we use Knight & Day's Wednesday-to-weekend multiplier, it will translate to $21.1m for the weekend, while following Herbie Fully Loaded's dailies would put it at $18.8m. Being more of a family film and deeper into the summer, The Sorcerer's Apprentice should have a multiplier closer to the latter. Either way, it should not deviate much from that range unless the actual Wednesday figure turns out to be quite different. (Thursday morning update: it turned out to be a $3.7m Wednesday, putting the weekend at $17-20m.)

Last Sunday was deflated some by the World Cup Final, as all top 10 films dropped more than 30% from Saturday (four of which declined over 39%), very unusual for a July frame. Look for holdovers to have better Sunday this time around to help their weekend holds. Despicable Me will also have the advantages of great word-of-mouth (A+ CinemaScore from the core audience and A grade from others) and 3D screens. A few owners may even decide to drop The Last Airbender from 3D now its 2-week engagement requirement is up and replace it with Despicable Me instead. G-Force last year dropped 44.8% on its sophomore frame with much more mediocre reactions, so there is no reason why Despicable Me could not hold more strongly at around 40%.

There is one film in the top 10 that will benefit the most from The Sorcerer's Apprentice's release: Toy Story 3. Both are from Disney, which, as the history has shown, likes to use double-feature or whatever other means they have in disposal to help out their current releases when another of their films opens. I see a 30% drop at worst, and Shrek 2 is definitely not safe yet.

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