Box Office Guru Preview: Aliens and Debaters Join End-of-Year Lineup
Crowded market tops off the year.
Three and a half years after the first monster battle grossed $80.3M, Fox brings back the sci-fi action with Alien vs Predator: Requiem. Some changes have been made with this release, though. Upping the violence, the PG-13 rating of the first has been replaced by an R. The summer launch has been changed to a Christmas Day opening and the sequel blasted off in 832 fewer theaters. Requiem tapped into its built-in audience of genre fans by generating a strong $9.5M gross and $3,707 average in its first day of release on Tuesday. It should be a downhill road from there as most fans will want to see the flick sooner rather than later. The studio is targeting the marketing at its core audience of older teen and young adult males. Crossover appeal to new fans is unlikely. With most other films playing to younger kids or to more mature adults, AVPR does have an opportunity to score some bucks, though it will be a short-lived run. Playing in 2,563 locations, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem could go on to gross $13M over the Friday-to-Sunday period.
Those who want their battles done verbally in a language indigenous to Earth will get to see Denzel Washington's latest film The Great Debaters in which the star acts and directs. Produced by The Weinstein Company and distributed by MGM, the PG-13 film about a 1930s college debate team in the segregated South bowed on Tuesday with a solid $3.6M from only 1,164 locations for a sturdy $3,096 per theater. Add in Oscar winner Forest Whitaker and producer Oprah Winfrey and Debaters boasts a good amount of starpower to help market the period film. African American audiences are the driving factor here as evidenced by studio research that shows 60% of the opening day crowd coming from this powerful group. The marketplace can certainly use a pic like Debaters right now as most of the films in the top ten boast all-white casts.
Washington has been doing his fair share of press to promote Debaters including a one-hour plug on Oprah's chatfest. Reviews have been good and the film even nabbed a Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture - Drama. Denzel's second-ever directorial effort should hold up well as it rides into the weekend period when more of its target audience will be available. Plus this is a great time of year for feel-good and uplifting films. And the true civil rights story should remain relevant through the Martin Luther King holiday frame in mid-January. The moderate release, however, will hold back potential but keep the average strong. For this weekend, The Great Debaters might collect about $9M over three days.
Adding to the Christmas week feast is Sony with its Loch Ness Monster fantasy The Water Horse which will aim for family audiences. The PG-rated film falls into the boy-and-his-pet genre and is being marketed as a spectacle from the creators of The Chronicles of Narnia (Walden Media). Grosses are already in a much smaller league as the film's Christmas Day opening resulted in a lukewarm $2.4M bow from 2,772 theaters for a mild $861 average. The marketplace has had a shortage of family films this month, but Water Horse just isn't strong enough of a title to take advantage of these conditions. Most parents will be taking their kids to see the PG flicks National Treasure and Alvin and the Chipmunks so the seas will be rough. Water also has no starpower and is based on subject matter that American children have never been too excited about. A three-day weekend take of roughly $8M may result.
Three big films dominated last weekend's box office and are likely to post another session of solid sales. The New Year's frame can often see grosses go up versus the prior weekend while for some films the declines can be smaller than normal. National Treasure: Book of Secrets will attempt to close out the year on top which is appropriate given how sequels propelled the marketplace to some major records this year. Midweek numbers have been exceptionally strong with Monday delivering a cool $7M while Tuesday's Christmas Day business brought in an additional $13.7M for a five-day holiday launch of $65.4M for Disney. A 20% slide may result giving the Nicolas Cage adventure about $36M for the weekend and a stunning $124M in ten days.
Will Smith's I Am Legend has been powering its way up the actor's all-time chart of blockbusters and smashed the $150M mark on Tuesday in only its 12th day in theaters. Christmas Eve saw $4.4M worth of stubs while the yuletide holiday more than doubled that sum with a powerful $9.8M. The Warner Bros. smash may fall by 15% this weekend and take in about $28M which would boost the total to a staggering $196M in 17 days. That could put Legend on course to join the $200M club on the first day of the new year.
Alvin and the Chipmunks has been a surprise smash for Fox and the holiday break has been very kind to the family comedy. The kidpic grossed $4.4M on Monday plus $6M on Tuesday. The Water Horse should be the only new competitor and that film is not likely to put too much of a dent into business. A slim 10% dip could be in order for this weekend. That would give Alvin roughly $25M for the frame and lift the 17-day cume to a spectacular $133M.
LAST YEAR: The final weekend of the year saw mostly the same faces from Christmas fill up the charts. Night at the Museum was tops again with $48.2M over four days pushing the 11-day cume to a stunning $127.3M which would represent about half of its eventual total. Will Smith's The Pursuit of Happyness remained in second with $25.5M over four days. The musical Dreamgirls jumped up to third with $18.4M in its first full weekend of wide release and was followed by the kidpic Charlotte's Web and CIA drama The Good Shepherd with $14.9M and $14.2M, respectively.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com