Box Office Guru Preview: Montana Hopes to Win Super Bowl Trophy

The Eye, Strange Wilderness, Over Her Dead Body also vie for weekend crown.

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While Brady and Manning duke it out in Phoenix, the $15 movie ticket aims to conquer the multiplexes over Super Bowl weekend. That's the admission price that theaters are charging moviegoers that line up for Disney's Hannah Montana concert film which opens Friday on a wave of fan frenzy that has given the hot pic event-film status with young girls everywhere. But other ladies that got their big break from a television series will enter the weekend race at the North American box office too. Jessica Alba stars in the supernatural thriller The Eye while Eva Longoria Parker headlines the comedy Over Her Dead Body. Guys will be tossed their own entry in the form of the nature comedy Strange Wilderness. Disney and Lionsgate will be the studios competing for the box office trophy as Sony's seven-year streak of ruling Super Bowl weekend will come to an end.

Tween girls who couldn't get their parents to shell out a grand for a scalped ticket for Hannah Montana's live concerts can now cough up a Hamilton and a Lincoln and see the big show at their local multiplex. Disney goes 3D for its special one-week-only engagement of Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert which aims to capitalize on the immense fan base for the Disney Channel superstar. The G-rated musicfest will play mostly to girls but should lure in nearly 100% of its target demographic with what has become a major event film for lovers of all things Hannah. With a trim 74-minute running time, theaters will be able to squeeze in six showtimes per day to maximize their revenue. School teachers nationwide may have to brace for record high absenteeism on Friday.

The Hannah Montana phenomenon has become a cash cow for the studio. Thanks to last year's live concerts which sold out within minutes, fans have wasted no time in pre-buying their movie tickets for Best which has been a top seller all through December and January. reported on Wednesday that the film accounted for a whopping 91% of all tickets purchased with over 1,000 showtimes already sold out coast to coast. Rival stated that Best has already joined its all-time top ten list of pre-sales ranking alongside tentpole sequels from franchises such as Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. Helping Montana-mania at the box office will be those increased $15 ticket prices which will allow the overall grosses to swell.

Best of Both Worlds could very well be one of those box office surprises that exceeds all expectations thanks to intense demand plus brilliant marketing and distribution. This could be a Borat-type weekend when the film with the fewest theaters actually beats out all of its competitors for the top spot. In fact the numbers could climb really high if parents join their daughters for the show, or if repeat business kicks in with fans seeing the film multiple times since it will only be on the big screen for seven days. The Super Bowl should not be much of a distraction since young females are typically the quadrant least interested in the big game. Hitting the stage in 683 movie theaters with digital 3D facilities, Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert could open to about $17M this weekend.

That Hannah Montana movie.

Jessica Alba won't be singing on any stage but the pregnant actress will hit the big screen for the fourth time in eight months with Lionsgate's new supernatural thriller The Eye. A Hollywood remake of the hit Hong Kong horror flick about a blind woman who sees frightening visions after an eye transplant, the PG-13 film should play to genre fans everywhere over a weekend that welcomes scary movies. Openings for recent fright flicks over Super Bowl weekend include $14.7M for last year's The Messengers, $21.6M for 2006's When A Stranger Calls, and $19M for Boogeyman in 2005. All were Sony releases. All opened at number one. That studio's Screen Gems unit and Lionsgate are the two industry leaders when it comes to mining riches from horror films.

Although there are no other major horror flicks out there, The Eye will still face formidable competition. Hannah Montana is a very different type of film, but it will take some teen girls out of the picture. Young males also have plenty of other choices out there. But Alba is a decent box office draw despite the weak launch of her last thriller Awake which debuted to only $5.9M. The Eye is in a much better position to find success, though. A scary trailer, a creepy one-sheet, a commercially-friendly rating, and a popular star in the lead all will contribute to a solid debut. The Eye opens in 2,436 locations on Friday and could scare up roughly $14M over three days.

Jessica Alba and friend in The Eye.

Eva Longoria Parker headlines her first feature film with Over Her Dead Body which will target women too old to enjoy a Miley Cyrus concert. The PG-13 pic finds the Desperate Housewives actress playing a ghost who haunts a psychic that is falling for her ex-fiance. Paul Rudd and Jason Biggs co-star in the New Line release. Body should skew heavily female and Parker has the potential to one day become a box office draw. But this may not be the vehicle to spark that change. The concept is not very intriguing and mixed reviews will probably keep it from finding a large paying audience. Plus fellow ABC heavyweight Katherine Heigl already has a lock on women with 27 Dresses which has been well received. Opening in 1,977 theaters, Over Her Dead Body could debut to around $6M.

Eva Longoria Parker, Paul Rudd and Lake Bell in Over Her Dead Body.

Paramount targets young men with its new comedy Strange Wilderness which stars Steve Zahn, Justin Long, and Superbad's Jonah Hill. The R-rated film will face many tough challenges in the marketplace such as competition from the Super Bowl and the restrictive rating that will affect much of the core audience's ability to buy tickets. Zahn is no marquee name and is not a reliable anchor for a mainstream comedy. And despite hefty declines, films like Meet the Spartans, Rambo, and Cloverfield will steal away over $20M in combined business from the exact audience Wilderness is trying to reach. Overall interest is not very high so a launch in 1,208 theaters should lead to an opening weekend of around $3M for Strange Wilderness.

Steve Zahn and friend in Strange Wilderness.

Last weekend's front-loaded boy flicks will get shoved aside this time by the girls. After opening at number one, the spoof comedy Meet the Spartans should see a hefty drop thanks to football fever, competition from new releases, and an upfront bow that attracted most fans last weekend. A year ago, Epic Movie fell by 55% in its sophomore session and a similar decline is in store for Spartans. Look for a $8M frame and a ten-day cume of $29M for Fox.

Sylvester Stallone settled for the vice president's job on last weekend's chart with Rambo and with most fans charging theaters in the beginning, not much of an audience will be left. Plus the Lionsgate film lacks the positive vibe that the actor/filmmaker saw with Rocky Balboa last winter. A 55% fall would give Rambo roughly $8M and a sum of $31M after ten days.

Fox could enjoy a solid third frame with its chick flick 27 Dresses which has been holding up well since its strong opening. A 40% decline to $8.5M would give the Heigl hit $57M after 17 days. Diane Lane also could see a reasonably good hold for her crime thriller Untraceable which may drop 40% to $7M for a ten-day tally of $20M. The monster flick Cloverfield fell hard in its second weekend and another sizable drop of 55% could give Paramount $5.5M and a 17-day total of $73M.

LAST YEAR: Super Bowl weekend saw teen girls edge past their moms at the box office as the thriller The Messengers bowed at number one with $14.7M beating out the $13.1M debut of the Diane Keaton pic Because I Said So. Final grosses reached $35.4M for the Sony spookfest and $42.7M for Universal's star-driven comedy. Holdovers rounded out the top five. Epic Movie dropped from the top spot to third with $8.4M, the hit comedy Night at the Museum followed in fourth with $6.4M, and Smokin' Aces placed fifth with $6.1M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,