Box Office Guru Preview: Underworld Battles Oscar All-Stars

Inkheart also opens this weekend; Revolutionary Road, Slumdog Millionaire, Frost/Nixon expanding.

Only two new releases hit the North American box office, but in the wake of Academy Award nominations, a handful of contenders take the opportunity to expand nationwide hoping Oscar nods can translate into extra cash. Sony unleashes its franchise thriller Underworld: Rise of the Lycans while Warner Bros. counters with Brendan Fraser's fantasy actioner Inkheart. Meanwhile, films like Slumdog Millionaire, Frost/Nixon, The Dark Knight, and Revolutionary Road all add theaters making for a crowded marquee.

Werewolves get their turn to wreak havoc on the box office with the arrival of the prequel Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. The R-rated pic follows Kate Beckinsale's two vampire flicks which grossed a combined $114M domestically. The actress does not star in Lycans which features Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy, and Rhona Mitra. Since this third helping lacks the muscle of its predecessors, don't expect the opening weekend to reach the heights of 2003's Underworld or the 2006 sequel Underworld: Evolution which debuted to $21.8M and $26.9M, respectively.

Some fans of the franchise may look at this as a straight-to-DVD followup that got lucky enough to win a trip to the multiplexes. Those folks will sit this one out. But moviegoers up for some action, violence, and beastly fun will come out and give this a try. The brand has been a strong one so some pull is still there. My Bloody Valentine 3D will provide some competition, but Lycans will carve out its own crowd before large declines set in next week. Attacking over 2,800 theaters, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans could collect about $18M this weekend.


Rhona Mitra and Bill Nighy in Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

Following up on his pair of $100M+ grossers from last summer, Brendan Fraser returns to cinemas with yet another effects-filled actioner with >Inkheart. The New Line production is being released by Warner Bros. and carries a family-friendly PG rating which will help it to attract kids. Fraser plays a man who can bring characters from fables to life so the studio has tried hard to make it differ from Adam Sandler's recent Bedtime Stories by focusing more on starpower and the fantasy visuals instead of plot. Fantasy pics aimed at kids have had their ups and downs at the box office this time of year. Paramount bowed its The Spiderwick Chronicles to $19M a year ago while Disney's Bridge to Terabithia debuted to $22.6M two years ago in February.

Inkheart has a bigger star with a good track record in this field. However, the film's look blends in with so many other adventure flicks and fans just had a double dose of the guy in Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor so another one so soon may not be in so much demand. Having already grossed over $17M overseas from openings in Germany, the United Kingdom, and a handful of other territories, the film now hits the red hot North American box office where just about every pic has been met with a solid debut. Landing in 2,655 theaters, Inkheart may take in roughly $12M this weekend.


Brendan Fraser and co. in Inkheart

With ten Oscar nominations, Fox Searchlight's Slumdog Millionaire will expand nationally on Friday going from 582 to about 1,300 locations. The Danny Boyle film's averages have stayed strong during its entire run and now the added exposure from the Academy will open the door to a wider audience interested in seeing what the buzz is all about. A three-day take in the vicinity of $8M may result pushing Slumdog to $60M.


Slumdog Millionaire

Paramount Vantage will expand its Leonardo DiCaprio-Kate Winslet marital drama Revolutionary Road on Friday from limited release to 1,058 theaters nationwide. So far it has performed well in limited release holding its own week after week with averages of $10,427 from 171 last weekend and $10,558 from 135 the frame before. Those are solid, but not spectacular numbers. Revolutionary Road hasn't generated the kind of must-see buzz one would expect from a reteaming of the stars of the top-grossing blockbuster of all-time. The fact that it's not an uplifting feel-good film - what moviegoers are really in the mood for - could be playing a part. Plus with no picture or lead acting nods from the Academy, the road ahead won't be as bright as it could have been.

Still, its three Oscar nominations and Golden Globe win for Winslet are weapons in the marketing campaign so Vantage will be able to squeeze some mileage out of them. The pic will skew female but could reach a broad range of adults so this weekend's new releases, and even last week's openers, should not steal away much of its audience. The one it should worry about is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button which could get rejuvenated thanks to its 13 Oscar nods and similar demographic reach. For this weekend, a take of about $5M could result for Revolutionary Road which won't necessarily guarantee an invite into the top ten.


Revolutionary Road

Comments

jokerboy1991

jack giroux

Gotta go out of town this weekend so no movies for me, DAMMIT I GOTTA SEE LYCANS!!! Jk those movies suck. Not much comes out til Coraline. BRING ON WATCHMEN!

Jan 22 - 04:31 PM

vitajex

Mike M

Underworld will pull under 25M this weekend and end with between 40-55M for the run.

Revolutionary Road is going DOWN after getting only a Supp Actor nom. That film will quickly be forgotten and be sold in the $5 bin at Wal-mart in a year.

Button will stay strong and will definitely end over $100M.

When the hell is Brendan Fraser going to do something different? Even 'The Rock' tries to branch out and do new stuff. Fraser hasn't done a none-action movie since Gods and Monsters. And he's funny too! Do some more comedies, for cripes' sake!

Jan 22 - 04:36 PM

A Delicious Pudding

David McMichael

Since Gods and Monsters? Hmm... I feel like there might have been something... um.... oh. Right. Crash.

Jan 22 - 09:38 PM

nate2709

Nate 2709

oooooooooooooh, Inkheart or another terrible Underworld flick (without Beckinsale this time), I guess I'll be doing a lot of reading this weekend.

Jan 22 - 10:09 PM

inactive user

Jared King

A Delicious Pudding beat me to the point. And that's his name, if you don't know that my comment seems crazy!

Anyway, "Inkheart" I predict will be number one. R ratings hurt movies. So does not be screened in advance. Not that reviews will stop fans. And "Watchmen" will make plenty of cash, but "Underworld" dosen't have a following the size of "Watchmen."

vitajex, are you being a little harsh "RR"?

Jan 23 - 12:10 AM

Funkmaster Flex

Phillip Martin

I'm all for actors branching out, but I'm not sure Dwayne Johnson is the best role model (I'm thinking of The Gameplan right now...). I haven't been to the theater since Quantum of Solace, and I've really got the itch to go this weekend. I usually go to see action movies since it doesn't matter to me if I see a drama on a 42" screen or a 100' screen to me. Lycans will probably get my vote this weekend. It's got its issues as all popcorn flicks do, but it has style. Since I don't feel like seeing a whole lot of substance (period piece best picture nominations I'm looking at you), I think I'll tune out and enjoy Rhona Mitra in leather and Bill Nighy in a skirt (felt odd typing that sentance).

Jan 23 - 08:33 AM

inactive user

Jared King

I haven't been to theatres since "The Dark Knight". It's been hard.

Jan 23 - 02:07 PM

Gimy

Gimy Moo

i was on the fence with Underworld until i kept seeing trailers without mitra. eh, snooze. i'll rent it for sure but the trailers weren't all that entertaining. just looks like a dead franchise trying to make a quick buck. no beckinsale and the lead chic who's hot isn't even featured? uh...ok...

Jan 23 - 09:16 AM

Funkmaster Flex

Phillip Martin

I figure the worst that can happen is that it'll make me so mad that I won't see another movie in the theater until Watchmen.

Jan 23 - 10:01 AM

inactive user

Jared King

I haven't been to theatres since "The Dark Knight". It's been hard.

Jan 23 - 02:07 PM

Unbreakable Samurai

Unbreakable Samurai

I actually have to many choices myself, I'm all kinds of happy with all the award movies finally coming to my city. And Inkheart looks like it could actually be alright.

Jan 23 - 09:07 PM

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