Box Office Guru Preview: Vantage Point Aims For #1 Debut

Charlie Bartlett, Be Kind Rewind, Witless Prtoection also opening

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A terrorist attack is played out through multiple perspectives in the high-octane political thriller Vantage Point which leads the four-pack of new openers which also includes three small comedies. Sony will score its first number one hit since October with this star-driven actioner which boasts a cast that features Dennis Quaid, Forest Whitaker, Sigourney Weaver, Matthew Fox, and William Hurt. The PG-13 pic has the biggest marketing and distribution push of any new release this weekend so a comfortable lead over its competitors should be expected. None of the actors are guaranteed box office sensations, but together they equal one big bankable A-lister.

Adults will make up the primary age group and appeal seems strong to both males and females. The intriguing style of the film will make it stand out from the crowd, although fellow action options Jumper and Fool's Gold will provide some competition. Plus many adults will be preoccupied with their last chance to see the Oscar nominees before Sunday night's big show. The five Best Picture candidates banked $14M over Presidents' Day weekend. Vantage Point should play to the same folks that came out for other star-driven non-special effects action and suspense pics from this time of year like Sahara ($18.1M), The Interpreter ($22.8M) and Premonition ($17.6M). Attacking over 3,000 locations, Vantage Point could open to about $21M this weekend.


Vantage Point

Jack Black and Mos Def star in the video store comedy Be Kind Rewind playing two men who recreate top Hollywood movies after their tapes get damaged. The PG-13 film from New Line comes from acclaimed French director Michel Gondry who after Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep has built up his share of fans on this side of the Atlantic. A marketplace full of new comedies will split that crowd so Rewind will have to rely on fans of the director and stars to come out. Jumper and Vantage Point will also take mainstream moviegoers out of the picture. Breaking into roughly 800 theaters, Be Kind Rewind could bow to about $3M.


Mos Def and Jack Black in Driving Miss Daisy, er, Be Kind Rewind

Larry the Cable Guy returns for more blue collar humor in the Lionsgate comedy Witless Protection opening on Friday. The standup comedian plays a small town sheriff that kidnaps a woman in FBI custody for a road trip to solve a case. Rated PG-13, the pic has the goal of establishing the funnyman as a box office draw, but if the grosses of his last two films are any indication, this one will be gunned down quickly. Two years ago, Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector debuted to $6.9M while last year's Delta Farce slumped by half to a $3.4M bow. Diminishing returns could again be in order especially since Witless will not be released as wide. Opening in 1,333 locations, Witless Protection might collect about $3M this weekend.


Larry the Cable Guy and Jenny McCarthy in Witless Protection

After many delays, MGM releases the comedy Charlie Bartlett which stars that iron guy Robert Downey Jr., Hope Davis, and Anton Yelchin as the title character. The R-rated film tells of a private school kid who becomes an underground shrink and pill pusher in public school. Teens are a core component of the target audience, but the restrictive rating will keep many of them out. The marketing push has not been strong and a lack of starpower and excitement will keep the grosses low. Juno's brand of high school fun in its 12th weekend could see a bigger audience. Entering about 1,000 theaters, Charlie Bartlett may debut to around $2M.


Anton Yelchin and Robert Downey, Jr. in Charlie Bartlett

Fox's sci-fi actioner Jumper should take a big jump down this weekend. Word-of-mouth is not all that great and Vantage Point will steal away much of the action crowd. Look for a 50% drop to about $13.5M which would give the Hayden Christensen flick $57M in eleven days.

The Spiderwick Chronicles got off to a solid start last weekend as the only major offering for families and with no new kidpics entering the scene, a smaller decline is assured. Sophomore drops for Disney's own Presidents' Day weekend films from the past two years were 37% for Bridge to Terabithia and 21% for 2006's Eight Below. Spiderwick could fall in between with a 30% fall giving Paramount $13M for the frame and $44M after eleven days.

Following a potent debut, Step Up 2 The Streets will suffer a sizable drop. The dance sequel may lose 45% of its take and gross $10M pushing the eleven-day cume to $42M. Warner Bros. should see its comedy adventure Fool's Gold drop by 35% to around $8M. Total would climb to $54M.

LAST YEAR: Spending its second weekend on top, Sony's Ghost Rider starring Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage fell hard but still pulled in $20.1M to top the box office over Oscar weekend. Jim Carrey gave horror a chance with The Number 23 and debuted in second with a solid $14.6M bow. The New Line release eventually grossed $35.2M and was the first of many thrillers in 2007 that marked major Hollywood stars doing their first scary movies. Disney's Bridge to Terabithia slipped one spot to third with $14.2M in its sophomore frame. Fox's comedy Reno 911!: Miami debuted in fourth with $10.3M representing half of its eventual $20.3M final tally. Fellow comedy Norbit rounded out the top five with $9.8M in its third session. Opening at the lower rungs of the top ten were the Billy Bob Thornton drama The Astronaut Farmer with $4.5M and the slave trade drama Amazing Grace with $4.1M from a more limited release. Totals reached $11M for Warner Bros. and $21.3M for Goldwyn/Roadside Attractions.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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