Box Office Guru Wrapup: Caspian More Prince Than King

Prince Caspian fails to live up to predecessor.

Could moviegoers be holding their dollars for Indy? Disney's heavily-hyped fantasy sequel The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian seized control of the box office throne, but attracted far less business than expected and even fell short of matching its predecessor's bow. Iron Man continued to show off its super strength and finished in second place shattering the $200M barrier in the process. Overall, the box office slumped to the worst performance in seven years for the usually-potent weekend before the Memorial Day holiday frame.

Landing in first place was Prince Caspian with an estimated $56.6M from 3,929 locations for a strong $14,399 average. Though good enough for first place, the PG-rated adventure tale posted a debut that was 14% weaker than the $65.6M opening of the first installment in the franchise, The Lion, The Witch, and Wardrobe, which launched in December 2005. Factor in today's higher multiplex prices and the new Narnia sold about 20% fewer tickets despite playing in 313 more theaters.

With a massive Disney marketing push and no other new releases this weekend to steal away business, Prince was expected to flex much more muscle. Reviews were generally good and the built-in audience was huge considering Lion went on to gross $291.7M from North America and nearly $750M worldwide. Studio research showed that audiences were split evenly between males and females while 52% were age 25 or older, so it did play to a broad crowd. Caspian began its journey on Friday with $19.3M, inched up 5% on Saturday to $20.3M, and was projected to slide by a slender 16% on Sunday to $17M. Final numbers will be released on Monday once Sunday sales are fully tabulated.

Most industry forecasts before the film's release saw the opening landing in the $75-85M range given the strength of the initial Narnia. But the massive audiences that turned out for the first film may have been driven more by The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe than by The Chronicles of Narnia. Moviegoers may have been more excited by that particular story than by the franchise in general making Prince Caspian an installment that generated less enthusiasm. Lion had Biblical parallels that were key in bringing out Christian moviegoers. Caspian did not seem to retain a large share of that crowd hence the smaller numbers.

Disney is moving ahead with its next Narnia tale The Voyage of the Dawn Treader which currently is slated for release on May 7, 2010. But with Marvel Studios recently planting its flag one weekend earlier on April 30 for Iron Man 2, it would not be surprising if Dawn Treader's date were to change as the sophomore frame of the super hero sequel will undoubtedly be gargantuan and a tough act to fight.

In its third weekend, Iron Man remained a formidable contender and grossed an estimated $31.2M slipping only 39%. That makes for a fantastic hold for a super hero film facing a new effects-driven action sequel. After 17 days, the Paramount juggernaut has boosted its tally to an amazing $222.5M. Iron Man beat out the third-weekend declines of most other summer super hero movies that were non-sequels or reboots such as Batman Begins (43%), Superman Returns (44%), Fantastic Four (45%), X-Men (46%), and The Hulk (56%). The metal man even came close to the incredible 37% decline that the first Spider-Man enjoyed in its third frame in May 2002. Iron Man also delivered the best third-weekend gross of any film since Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest's $35.2M in July 2006.

Looking at other tentpole pics opening on the first weekend of May, the granddaddy of them all is Spider-Man which grossed $285.6M in its first 17 days representing 71% of its final tally of $403.7M. 2003's X2: X-Men United and 2001's The Mummy Returns captured 81% and 72% of the overall totals respectively in the first 17 days. Iron Man is not depreciating as quickly as the X-Men sequel did five years ago so its trajectory should be more in line with those of the first webslinger pic and the Brendan Fraser sequel. On that course, Iron Man has a legitimate shot at reaching the $300M mark.

Roughly 30 million moviegoers have now seen Iron Man which bodes well for Paramount's other big summer offering Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull which had its trailer attached to the comic book behemoth. That film opens this Wednesday night at 12:01 a.m. ahead of the long Memorial Day holiday weekend and is arguably the year's most anticipated film. Paramount could conceivably become the first studio in history to generate two $300M+ summer blockbusters two years in a row.

Dropping a spot to third place was the Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher comedy What Happens in Vegas with an estimated $13.9M in its second weekend. The Fox hit is the top choice for moviegoers not interested in action and special effects. It enjoyed a strong hold and dipped only 31%. Cume sits at a solid $40.3M in ten days. With its sturdy legs and a major holiday frame coming up, the $35M-budgeted film could go on to reach $75-80M domestically. Vegas will become Diaz's top-grossing live-action comedy since 1998's surprise hit There's Something About Mary.

Tumbling 59% in its second weekend was the summer box office's first major casualty Speed Racer which collected just $7.6M, according to estimates. The Warner Bros. release has banked a mere $29.8M in ten days and is decelerating at the turnstiles. With a reported budget in between $120M and $160M, the colorful Wachowski Brothers flick looks to limp to a $40-45M finish from North America. Overseas audiences are not feeling the excitement either so it will be difficult to salvage the enormous costs. Internationally the Mach 5 took in a measly $7M from 39 countries this weekend for a puny $24.4M cume.

The spring comedy quartet followed. Baby Mama eased by a mere 26% to an estimated $4.6M giving Universal a sturdy $47.3M. Sony's Made of Honor fell 45% to an estimated $4.5M boosting its total to $33.7M.

Universal's R-rated offering Forgetting Sarah Marshall slipped by only 34% and took in an estimated $2.5M for a $55.1M total. New Line's stoner sequel Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay grossed an estimated $1.8M, down 42%, for a $33.9M sum.

Lionsgate captured an estimated $1M for its Jackie Chan and Jet Li actioner The Forbidden Kingdom which dropped 54%. Cume is $50.3M. Indie sensation The Visitor has been slowly building its audience over the last five weeks and was rewarded with a spot in the top ten. The Overture release played in only 224 sites in its sixth frame and grossed an estimated $687,000 for a respectable $3,067 average. In roughly the same number of theaters as last weekend, Visitor dipped by a scant 6% and its total is now $3.4M and counting.

Opening with impressive results in limited release was Miramax's award-winning Norwegian film Reprise which took in an estimated $47,100 from only three houses for a potent $15,700 average. Overwhelmingly praised by critics, the R-rated film expands to more markets over the holiday weekend.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $124.4M which was down 27% from last year when Shrek the Third opened in the top spot with $121.6M; and down 19% from 2006 when The Da Vinci Cod debuted at number one with $77.1M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,


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