Box Office Guru Preview: Brides and Clint Go To War

Bride Wars up against Gran Torino; The Unborn, Not Easily Broken also opening.

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Fathers and daughters will duke it out at the box office as two films appealing to opposite demographics open wide on Friday gunning for the number one spot. Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway could have the edge with their new comedy Bride Wars which will skew towards young females while Clint Eastwood's latest effort Gran Torino will target older men as it jumps from a hugely successful limited run into a nationwide opening. Adding to the mix will be the launches of the supernatural thriller The Unborn and the marital drama Not Easily Broken.

Wedding comedies always sell so Fox may just end up replacing itself in the number one spot with its new offering Bride Wars which follows the studio's two-week reign with Marley & Me. Hudson and Hathaway star as best friends whose dream weddings end up being scheduled on the same day due to a clerical error. Though it carries a PG rating, this is no kiddie flick. The audience will consist of teenage girls plus young and even older women. Three or four males are expected to show up too. Hudson makes her producing debut here and a top spot bow could mean that she knows how to put together a project that mainstream movie fans will pay to see.

Bride Wars has hit written all over it. The film packs plenty of starpower (Candice Bergen co-stars in her usual elder stateswoman role), the concept is compelling, the commercials are funny, the title is catchy, and the wedding comedy genre in general is bankable. Plus people enjoy an adversarial comedy when both warring characters are played by big stars. Expect every woman getting married this summer to show up for this one. Last year, female-skewing comedies included 27 Dresses which bowed to $23M, Baby Mama which opened to $17.4M, and Made of Honor which debuted with $14.8M. Bride Wars rolls into 3,224 theaters and should fall into the high end of that range with $21M this weekend.


Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway in Bride Wars

Expanding nationally from 84 to 2,808 theaters on Friday is Clint Eastwood's directorial and starring project Gran Torino which has posted red hot averages over the past four weeks. The Warner Bros. release debuted to a $45,287 average from just six venues and followed that up with muscular averages of $24,643, $27,652, and $34,957 in subsequent frames. It's been in the Top 20 every weekend. Rarely do films see their averages rise as they get older so support is truly strong for Torino despite the fact that the film has not been among the top three or five films with the most awards buzz this winter. One factor which always hurts male-skewing films in the first month of the year will be NFL playoff games on both Saturday and Sunday that will keep millions of men away from theaters.

The Oscar-winning filmmaker still sells at the box office and older adults have been the driving force. Warners used this very weekend a year ago to expand the Jack Nicholson-Morgan Freeman pic The Bucket List and was rewarded with a top spot debut with $19.4M from 2,911 sites and a sturdy $6,662 average. Gran Torino will play to much of the same audience in a similar number of theaters and could gross around $18M this weekend.


Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino

Could the writer of 2008's biggest blockbuster now be delivering the worst film of 2009? Horror fans will get to decide this over the weekend after they see The Unborn, a supernatural thriller from writer/director David S. Goyer and producer Michael Bay. The PG-13 tale of a young woman haunted by a creepy spirit will target teens and young adults looking for a scare. Declines in future weeks will be massive, but opening weekend sales look to be decent. Universal's marketing materials have been slick and scary which should effectively lure in teens in the short-term.

January has been a great month for horror film openings since the cheery Christmas season ends and darker material can work its way back into the multiplexes. Plus a large portion of college students are still on break and are eager to see something. Some of the more successful January fright flick bows in recent years include $24.1M for White Noise, $22M for Hide and Seek, $19.6M for Hostel, and $12.5M for One Missed Call. The Unborn has a friendly rating that will allow teenagers in and competition will not be much since no other horror pictures are in the top ten. Entering 2,356 theaters, The Unborn might debut with roughly $11M.


The Unborn

Morris Chestnut takes a page from Kate Hudson's book by starring in and producing (executive style) Not Easily Broken. Adapted from the popular book, the PG-13 film co-stars Taraji P. Henson and tells of a couple whose marriage is put to the test after a car crash leaves the wife seriously injured. African American women will make up the biggest segment of the audience and competition for that crowd is not very fierce right now. The faith-based elements in the story will probably lure the churchgoing audience too. But starpower is not high and the marketing push has only been focusing on the target audience so mass appeal is not likely. Plus Sony is not opening it very wide either. Debuting in roughly 600 locations, Not Easily Broken could take in about $3M this weekend.


Morris Chestnut and Taraji P. Henson in Not Easily Broken

Following two weeks of box office rule, Marley & Me is set to fall down a couple of notches this weekend. No new kidpics open, but Fox's new bridal flick will take away some Jennifer Aniston fans. A 40% decline could result giving the dog drama $14.5M for the weekend and a cume of $127M after 18 days. Rival PG-rated Christmas pic Bedtime Stories held up better in its second frame so a slightly smaller drop may occur. A 35% fall to $13M would push the total for the Adam Sandler title to $102M.

Brad Pitt's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has been a close second each day this week behind the wacky pooch. Competition will come from both Bride Wars for females and Gran Torino for older adults looking for serious awards fare. Button should drop by 35% to about $12M and raise its tally to $96M. Pitt's vampire buddy Tom Cruise looks to see a larger decline for Valkyrie which may slide by 45% to around $8M. MGM's cume would climb to $72M.

LAST YEAR: Geezer gold led the way as The Bucket List starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman expanded nationally and took the top spot with $19.4M on its way to $93.5M for Warner Bros. Second place went to the new Ice Cube pic First Sunday which bowed to $17.7M for Sony on its way to $37.9M. Holdovers rounded out the top five with Juno grossing $13.6M, three-time chart champ National Treasure: Book of Secrets taking in $11.3M, and Alvin and the Chipmunks dropping to fifth with $9.3M. The weekend's two other new releases failed to generate much heat. Universal's animated kidpic The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything debuted with just $4.3M while the actioner In the Name of the King tanked with a $3M launch which was good enough for 14th place for Freestyle. Final grosses reached $12.7M and $4.8M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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