Box Office Guru Preview: Zac Back Again in 17 Again

Also: State of Play, Crank: High Voltage opening this weekend.

Teen prince Zac Efron aims to score his second number one opener in six months, but this time without the help of an established franchise, with the new comedy 17 Again. Boldly entering racy PG-13 territory, the Disney-bred superstar plays a thirtysomething man who is transformed into the body of a teenager. Matthew Perry plays the bigger version of the character. The New Line film is being released by Warner Bros. which will target teens and young adults but is also hoping to court the younger tween fans of the young actor despite the rating.

17 Again is essentially for Efron what Mean Girls was for Lindsay Lohan five years ago - a more mature PG-13 vehicle for a Mouse House star trying to branch out into older storylines without abandoning the young base. The Tina Fey-penned pic, Lohan's last hit film, bowed to a surprisingly strong $24.4M in late April of 2004 on its way to a stellar $86M. Opening a film headlined by a High School Musical star just one week after the release of a Hannah Montana film is risky business. But 17 hopes to steal away much of that audience anyway. Debuting in 3,255 theaters, 17 Again could capture around $19M this weekend.


Zac Efron in 17 Again

Action fans love them some Jason Statham and the actor returns on Friday in the adrenaline-pumping sequel Crank High Voltage. The R-rated followup to 2006's Crank finds the rugged hitman on a high-octane chase through Los Angeles in pursuit of a mobster who has stolen his nearly indestructible heart. Certainly the audience is finite here and will not extend past Statham's fan base of young men. Given the modest success of the first flick (Crank bowed to $10.5M and a $4,158 average in 2006), there is a built-in audience that caught the predecessor in theaters, on DVD, or on cable.

Lionsgate has marketed the new installment effectively generating interest with the target crowd. Fast & Furious will provide some direct competition even though it enters its third lap, but the rest of the current slate of films will not distract the audience. Statham crashed into multiplexes three times last year with The Bank Job ($5.9M in 1,603 theaters), Death Race ($12.6M in 2,532 locations), and Transporter 3 ($12.1M after a Wednesday launch in 2,626 sites). Casual fans may not want him again so soon. Bursting into 2,223 locations, Crank High Voltage could debut with about $12M this weekend.


Jason Statham in Crank: High Voltage

Russell Crowe heads up the cast of the new political thriller State of Play starring alongside fellow Oscar winner Helen Mirren, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, and Robin Wright Penn. The PG-13 murder mystery involving politics and the media will play to a mature adult audience at a time when very few viable options are out there for that demo. Teen rockers, souped-up race cars, and cartoon monsters have been ruling the multiplexes for weeks. Even the two other new releases this weekend skew under-30. Reviews have been strong which will be essential as the Universal title will live or die by the opinions of critics.

Crowe may have been a box office draw at one time, but today his name means little. Moviegoers want to know what else the film has to offer and won't buy a ticket just for him. Overall, the cast is somewhat valuable at the turnstiles, but there are no names here that carry a lot of box office weight. Look for a moderate bow followed by decent legs. Entering 2,803 theaters, State of Play may collect around $11M this weekend.


Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck in State of Play

Following its sensational debut last weekend, Hannah Montana The Movie is set for a huge fall in its sophomore frame. Most of the audience rushed out upfront to see the teen sensation, plus the Good Friday holiday supersized the opening day tally so this Friday will be puny by comparison. In fact on a daily basis, Hannah only won the number one spot on Friday with Fast & Furious topping the chart on both Saturday and Sunday. Ms. Cyrus will also see Mr. Efron steal away younger teens so the extra competition will be a factor too. Sophomore drops last year for Hannah and High School Musical 3 were 67% and 64%, respectively, so expect a similar fate. A steep tumble of at least 60% should result giving the Disney hit about $13M boosting the ten-day cume to $57M.

By Friday, DreamWorks will see its animated smash Monsters vs. Aliens become the first movie of the year to break the $150M barrier. With no new G or PG pics entering the marketplace, a 35% drop may result giving the Paramount release roughly $14M for the frame and a $164M cume overall.

Fast & Furious already had its fierce second weekend slide so the racing sequel could stabilize a bit this weekend. Universal looks to experience a 55% decline which would put the Vin-Paul flick at around $12M pushing the 17-day tally to a turbo-charged $137M. Seth Rogen's Observe and Report got off to a lukewarm start last weekend and there is little buzz propelling the film forward. Look for a 45% drop to about $6M for a ten-day total of $21M.

LAST YEAR: Jackie Chan and Jet Li came to together at last and audiences came out pushing The Forbidden Kingdom to a top spot debut with $21.4M. The Lionsgate release finished off with a $52.1M total. Also debuting with strength was the comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall which bowed to $17.7M for Universal on its way to a higher $62.9M. Sony's horror hit Prom Night crumbled 58% in its sophomore session dropping from first to third with $8.7M. Al Pacino's crime drama 88 Minutes earned some of the year's worst reviews and crashed into fourth with a poor $7M opening. Sony's final gross was a mere $17.2M. Rounding out the top five was Fox's Nim's Island with $5.7M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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