Box Office Guru Preview: Sex in the Multiplex All Weekend Long
The Strangers also opens in wide release.Indiana Jones out of the number one spot at the North American box office as the much-hyped comedy Sex and the City makes its way into multiplexes on Friday backed by an army of fans. Lovers of horror will have the chance to see the Liv Tyler thriller The Strangers which will try to scare up some business of its own. The new releases kick off what could be a banner summer for R-rated fare. Overall, the marketplace stands a realistic chance of beating last year's performance.
Leaping from HBO to DVD to basic cable to syndication to the big screen is the heavily-promoted entry Sex and the City which stands as a major event film for female moviegoers. The New Line pic reunites Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, and Kristin Davis as four white women in New York looking for love in their busy lives. The cable series built up millions of fans over the years which has only increased in numbers in the four years since the series finale thanks to the various platforms where it still lives on. Women over 30 will make up the bulk of the audience but the film's must-see status will help bring in older teens and twentysomethings too. Jennifer Hudson was added to the cast to help boost appeal with African Americans and the under-30 set, but her limited role and weak acting will probably only go so far commercially.
There are a small handful of female-skewing comedies that Sex can be compared to. Last summer's R-rated hit Knocked Up bowed to $30.7M while the previous year's Jennifer Aniston-Vince Vaughn vehicle The Break-Up with its PG-13 debuted to $39.2M. Opening weekend averages were $10,690 and $12,772 respectively and both Universal releases used the weekend after Memorial Day as its launching pad. Women on opening weekend made up 57% of the Knocked Up crowd and 67% of the Break-Up audience. City could up the share to 80%. The timing helped those pics as the first wave of summer testosterone films had passed and underserved female audiences were eager to see a movie that spoke to them. Also a summer hit was New Line's R-rated Wedding Crashers in 2005 with a $33.9M launch. Though it was not met with as much pre-release anticipation as Sex, it did have significant male appeal.
It would be an understatement to say that Sex and the City lacks male appeal, but the format of the story will not lead to too many straight men being dragged in to buy extra tickets. This is a leave-your-husbands-behind type of picture. The marketing has been superb and the secrecy around the story has only fueled excitement with the target audience. Grosses this weekend will show the film industry how powerful chick flicks can be and international prospects are bright too given the widespread popularity of the brand. Wednesday's opening in the U.K. brought in a stellar $4M on a weekday. Reviews have been pretty good, but even negative notices from critics won't stop the flow of traffic.
Advance ticket sales have been brisk, especially in Manhattan. As of Thursday morning, 21 of Friday's 26 showtimes at the centrally-located Regal E-Walk were sold out. The multiple screens show how much demand is anticipated.
Males dominate the world of box office forecasting so don't be surprised if most underestimate the power of this film. And it's only appropriate for a movie about fortysomethings to reach the forties on opening weekend. If it really explodes, it may even reach Kim Cattrall's age. Debuting in 3,285 theaters, Sex and the City could premiere to around $43M this weekend.