Box Office Guru Preview: "28 Weeks Later" and "Georgia Rule" To Battle For #2 Spot

In what must be a first at the box office, an aerobics queen takes on killer zombies in a vicious battle for the silver medal during what no doubt will be another mammoth weekend for "Spider-Man 3."

Fox unleashes its horror sequel "28 Weeks Later," Universal counters with its femme-driven star vehicle "Georgia Rule," Lionsgate tosses in the comedy "Delta Farce," and MGM releases yet another laugher with "The Ex." Meanwhile, back in New York City, the webslinger will attempt to swing to a massive quarter-billion-dollar cume by the end of its second weekend.

As the second of ten sequels hitting theaters over the May-June corridor, "28 Weeks Later" is the follow-up to the cult hit zombie chiller "28 Days Later" which lit up theaters four years ago. Danny Boyle shifts from the director's chair to the executive producer's office as Juan Carlos Fresnadillo takes the helm. "Days" was very well-received which explains why a sequel was greenlit. In the new installment, the killer virus infects people once again as London tries to repopulate and madness ensues. The built-in audience will help the R-rated "Weeks" right out of the gate.

Its predecessor bowed to $10.1M from only 1,260 theaters for a potent $7,986 average on its way to a solid $45.1M final. Through video and cable, it found an even larger fan base and many will give "Weeks" a try. However working against it is of course competition from "Spider-Man 3" which has a hold on fans of comics and sci-fi. Plus 2007 has seen 1,001 horror films flood theaters causing recent fright fatigue. Casual fans of scary movies may pass on "Weeks" if they're trying to stay away from blood and gore. Fox's marketing has been clever and effective and the target audience is excited. Plus reviews have been very positive which will help a bit too since most horror films nowadays are either not screened for critics in advance or earn poor marks. Attacking over 2,000 theaters, "28 Weeks Later" might scare up around $13M this weekend.


"28 Weeks Later"

For those looking to avoid zombies and super heroes in their weekend entertainment, Universal offers the dramedy "Georgia Rule" starring Jane Fonda, Lindsay Lohan, and Felicity Huffman. The R-rated story tells of a teenage girl dumped at her grandmother's house for the summer by her alcoholic mother which leads to the uncovering of family secrets. Just in time for Mother's Day weekend, "Georgia" will play almost exclusively to women as men will have to be dragged against their will. However, moviegoers from a broad age group should turn out since the cast boasts stars of different generations. The one troublespot could be the rating though. Lohan arguably still has pull with teenage girls who may be left out because of the MPAA's tag. But the film's two uses of the F word are essential to the story as are the adult themes so the R was unavoidable.

"Georgia Rule" should play to the same audience that the studio saw for previous chick flicks like Diane Keaton's "Because I Said So" ($13.1M opening, $5,195 average), Meryl Streep's "Prime" ($6.2M, $3,405), and Debra Messing's "The Wedding Date" ($11.1M, $6,566). Reaching the $23.1M debut of Fonda's last film "Monster-in-Law" is not likely however since it won't crossover into other demographic groups like the J. Lo pic did. The weekend's new releases will not provide too much competition which means that the universal appeal of the webslinger sequel will be the main enemy. Bad reviews will eat into sales from mature adults, but many from the "Desperate Housewives" crowd will still make a trip out to this chick flick. "Georgia Rule" enters 2,523 theaters on Friday and could walk away with about $13M.


"Georgia Rule"

Larry the Cable Guy stars in the new military comedy "Delta Farce" which also hits theaters on Friday. The PG-13 film from Lionsgate finds three hapless men being mistaken for Army recruits who are sent to Iraq but mistakenly dropped in Mexico. Not since "Best Defense" has a film of this type been such an unwelcome entry in the marketplace. Young males are the only group likely to show interest and with Spidey in only his second swing, few will find this new comedy worth paying top dollar for. Plus starpower is lacking and none of the cast members are known for anchoring box office hits. Larry's self-titled film last spring bowed to just $6.9M and this one will probably slump even lower. Opening in about 1,800 locations, "Delta Farce" will probably shoot up around $4M.


"Delta Farce"

Zach Braff and Amanda Peet play a thirtysomething New York couple with a new baby in the new romantic comedy "The Ex" marketed by The Weinstein Company and distributed by MGM. In the PG-13 pic, the likable duo moves to Ohio where Braff's character gets a job at her father's ad agency where he butts heads with his wife's former fling from high school. Jason Bateman, Charles Grodin, and Donal Logue co-star. "The Ex" will be targeting the date crowd and young women, but will have rough sailing. "Georgia Rule" will already be tapping into the female moviegoing base and Spidey is attracting his share of women and young adults too. The promotional push has not been too forceful either so the film may end up with just the die-hard "Scrubs" fans. Mixed reviews won't help either. Also, Braff and Peet are not box office anchors who sell lots of tickets. Sure "Garden State" was an indie hit with $26.8M in 2004, but that was a word-of-mouth platform release that made its money over time and not a commercial Hollywood comedy. Debuting in 1,009 theaters, "The Ex" might gross roughly $3M this weekend.


"The Ex"

None of these new films will come close to defeating the mighty "Spider-Man 3" which will enjoy its second comfortable box office win in a row. But a steep fall is likely. The first webslinger flick opened at the beginning of May five years ago and dropped by only 38% on the second weekend which was phenomenal. But like most sequels, especialy third-parters, "Spider-Man 3" attracted so much of its total audience upfront that rapid erosion is assured. The previous record-holder for the biggest opening weekend, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," fell by 54% in its second adventure last July while its summer counterpart "X-Men: The Last Stand" tumbled by a troubling 67% in its sophomore frame. Of course that was coming off of a Memorial Day holiday opening so the decline was larger than normal.

"Spider-Man 3" has already been taking a hit during the week dropping to $10.3M on Monday and $8M on Tuesday. Those numbers come close to what "The Matrix Reloaded" took in on the same days after its colossal opening weekend in mid-May 2003. That sci-fi pic crashed 60% in its second weekend despite its sophomore frame being helped by a holiday. Luckily for the Sandman flick the competition this weekend will not be too menacing. "Spider-Man 3" could still fall by more than 55% to about $65M this weekend which would boost the domestic haul to a mammoth $247M in only ten days.


LAST YEAR: Tom Cruise topped the charts with "Mission Impossible: III" which dropped 48% in its second weekend to $25M. Opening in second place was the pricey disaster film "Poseidon" which debuted to $22.2M for Warner Bros. on its way to a disappointing $60.7M domestically. Worldwide, the Kurt Russell starrer grossed $182M. Robin Williams placed third with "RV" which eased by less than 10% to $10M in its third weekend. Lindsay Lohan stumbled into fourth with her new comedy "Just My Luck" which opened to a weak $5.7M on its way to $17.3M for Fox. Rounding out the top five was the horror flick "An American Haunting" with $3.6M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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