Box Office Guru Preview: Jim Carrey Aims to Terrify Moviegoers

Following a busy holiday weekend when five new releases opened nationwide, the crowded marketplace will now face another four new films invading multiplexes everywhere.

Jim Carrey tries out the horror genre in "The Number 23," TV comedy comes to the big screen in "Reno 911!: Miami," Billy Bob Thornton longs to be in outer space in "The Astronaut Farmer," and more frights pop up in "The Abandoned." Overall ticket sales should simmer down after the record Presidents' Day holiday weekend led by "Ghost Rider" which will fight to keep its box office crown. Meanwhile, aging Oscar contenders will compete over last-minute biz ahead of Sunday's Academy Awards which will bring some drama of its own.

After tackling comedy, drama, super hero flicks, and kids movies, Jim Carrey explores his darker side in the new psychological thriller "The Number 23." The Riddler reteams with his "Batman Forever" director Joel Schumacher in this R-rated story about a man obsessed with a book that seems to reveal mysteries about his own past. Virginia Madsen co-stars. Older teens and young adults will make up the target audience here and many in the horror camps will come out of curiosity too. The title is strong and the marketing has been solid so "23" will be able to make a serious challenge for the top spot. Jim Carrey's starpower will be put to the test once again since this is not a "Bruce Almighty" or "Liar, Liar" situation. Actually, "23" might post one of the best openings of his career for a non-comedy. Maybe if it opens big, he'll be cast in one of the next twenty-three "Saw" films. Opening in over 2,500 locations this weekend, the new Carrey film may end up grossing $23M - $2M - $3M.


Jim Carrey goes whacko due to "The Number 23."

After making a mint on "Borat," Fox looks to another raunchy comedy for some income. "Reno 911!: Miami" finds the cast of the popular Comedy Central series hitting the road to Florida for a national convention. The R-rated pic will play almost exclusively to fans of the show which while successful, is not really a runaway smash so the potential could be limited. Trailers and commercials actually look funny so a slightly wider crowd may come in. Though "23" could not be more different of a film, it will still offer plenty of competition for older teens and young adults. Moviegoers paying top dollar for a ticket are more likely to try out a Jim Carrey film, even if he's testing out a new genre. By not screening for critics and releasing the film in the most theaters of any new release this weekend, Fox is basically hoping that those who have seen the show will come out and give this one a try. Steep declines in subsequent weeks are assured. But for the opening frame, a debut in 2,702 venues could lead to a weekend tally of around $14M for "Reno 911!: Miami."


Our favorite careening cops are ready to take on Miami.

Billy Bob Thornton plays an ex-astronaut who tends to his farm in the aptly-titled "The Astronaut Farmer" from Warner Bros. The PG-rated film co-stars Virginia Madsen who pulls double duty this weekend playing the wife to both a bad santa and a grinch. The former Mr. Jolie sells more tickets when he's not the anchor of a film, so it could be a rough ride this weekend. Appeal to teens and young adults seems weak as the turnout could come from older adults who may also bring with them younger children thanks to the rating. With the violence of "Ghost Rider" and the debut of a trio of R-rated pics, there could be an opportunity with the family crowd. That is, if they already have seen "Bridge to Terabithia." The marketing push has not been too loud so don't expect a high altitude here. "The Astronaut Farmer" opens in over 2,000 theaters on Friday and may find itself with about $8M.


Billy Bob has the right stuff in "The Astronaut Farmer."

Hitting theaters on a pitstop to what could be solid DVD revenue, the horror film "The Abandoned" enters the marketplace as the weekend's other new scary movie. The R-rated film tells the story of an American woman who finds terror in Russia when she sets out to find her birth parents. Obviously, opening against Jim Carrey's new spookfest will hurt the grosses for "The Abandoned." If it were a PG-13 film aimed at teenage girls, it could have been another story, but those over the age of 17 who want a fright will be thinking "23." Lionsgate is only launching "The Abandoned" in about 1,250 locations so a mild $3M gross could result.


No reviews, and no other photos for "The Abandoned."

Last weekend, Nicolas Cage enjoyed a record-breaking Presidents' Day opening with "Ghost Rider" which grabbed $45.4M over the three-day portion of its holiday bow. The Marvel super hero flick opened much like 2003's "Daredevil" which launched on the same frame and suffered a 55% drop on the sophomore session. "Ghost Rider" should see similar results as it also attracted much of its fan base last weekend and is facing the same level of competition that the Ben Affleck actioner saw in its second attack. Look for "Ghost Rider" to burn up another $20M which would lift its ten-day tally to $79M.

Disney's "Bridge to Terabithia" should enjoy a better hold since there is little new competition for its family audience. A 30% decline would give the PG-rated fantasy around $16M for the weekend and a solid $48M after ten days. Aside from crossing his fingers for an Oscar, Eddie Murphy will see another sizable drop in sales for his comedy "Norbit." A 45% fall would give the Paramount release a $9M frame bumping the cume to $74M.


LAST YEAR: Tyler Perry's comedy "Madea's Family Reunion" opened atop the charts with a powerful $30M debut for Lionsgate. The hit flick found its way to $63.3M. Holdovers rounded out the top five with Disney's "Eight Below" dropping a spot to second with $15.9M in its sophomore frame. The Steve Martin remake "The Pink Panther" took in $11.1M and was followed by "Date Movie"'s $9.1M and the $7.2M of "Curious George." Opening to poor results were the animated film "Doogal" with $3.6M and New Line's "Running Scared" with $3.4M. Final grosses reached only $7.6M and $6.9M, respectively.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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