April 28, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Metcalf
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Thanks to Universal’s Fast Five, the box office is headed for the third up weekend in a row.  Other openers to have minimal impact, however.

Another up weekend is in store, fueled by Fast Five, the fifth in the Fast and Furious franchise (see complete franchise track below).  The film should open at a similar level to the previous entry, and positive reviews (especially high for an action film) could signal decent word of mouth and good declines in upcoming weeks.  Opening at approximately 3,500 theaters, Fast Five should average around $21,000 — the best per-theater opening since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 in November of last year.  Universal should have a very good weekend and set itself up for a decent summer.

The other opening films should have minimal impact.  Prom from Disney will struggle to get to a $10 million (and a below average $3,700 per theater opening weekend).  This could be yet another black eye for the Rich Ross regime and the beleaguered Disney marketing group.  Similarly, Hoodwinked Too! will struggle with a below average $3,400 per theater opening weekend.  Let’s face it, the animated film just does not look like it is in the same league as animation from DreamWorks or even Universal/ Illumination and Fox (at least based on the television spots).  Finally, Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (a horror comedy from Freestyle releasing) is opening at only 1,000 theaters, with a very weak expected per screen average of $2,400.  But Fast Five is strong enough to carry the load and deliver the third strong weekend in a row.

New Films                        Critics    Opening  Domestic
April 29-May 1                   Positive   Weekend   Total*
Fast Five               Uni  PG13   81%      $74.5     $165
Prom                    Dis  PG     53%      $ 9.5     $ 27 
Hoodwinked Too!       Weins  PG     18%      $ 9       $ 20
Dylan Dog              Free  PG13   n/a      $ 2.5     $  5

Note: Although critic reviews are not related to the size of the opening weekend, they are significantly correlated with the size of the declines in the opening weeks of a movie.

* The Domestic Total is a very early ShowbuzzDaily projection of the total North American gross, based on the Weekend Forecasts.

Fast and Furious Film Track

The Fast and Furious film franchise has proven to be remarkably resilient.  The second film built on the first, and then the third one (Tokyo Drift) utterly collapsed.  This would normally mark the end of a franchise, but the fourth film went back to basics and delivered the highest grosses yet.  Universal also shrewdly moved the fourth film out of the crowded summer to April, a month this franchise can own going forward.  Also, note that Fast Five is the most positively reviewed film in the franchise by far.

Fast and Furious Films                              (millions)
                         Critics  Release  Opening   Domestic
                         Positive   Date   Weekend    Total

Fast and Furious           27%    4.03.09    $71       $155 
Fast Furious: Tokyo Drift  35%    6.16.06    $24       $ 62
2 Fast 2 Furious           36%    6.06.03    $50       $127
The Fast and the Furious   52%    6.22.01    $40       $144

Rio will have another good weekend, while Madea’s Big Happy Family should drop almost 55% (not unexpected because of the front-loaded nature of Tyler Perry’s movies and the soft weekday business discussed Wednesday).  In contrast, Water for Elephants and African Cats will have lower second weekend declines, as indicated by their relatively solid weekday business. 

Major Returning Films            Change     This    Domestic

                                vs wknd 1  Weekend   Total*

Rio                    Fox        -37%      $16.5     $152
Madea’s Big Happy Fam.  LG        -54%      $11.5     $ 58
Water for Elephants    Fox        -41%      $10       $ 46
Hop                    Uni        -49%      $ 6       $125
African Cats           Dis        -33%      $ 4       $ 19

Box Office Volume

For the past four years, the top 12 films in the comparable weekend have averaged $144 million total, ranking 16th of 52 weeks.  Last year this weekend’s total was $92 million, and May 1-3, 2009 was $150 million.  This weekend is looking like $150 million: the third up weekend in a row versus last year. 

This Weekend Last Two Years

 A Nightmare on Elm Street WB R Jackie Earle Haley Kellen Lutz  
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $36  Actual: $33
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $60  Actual: $63
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $53
 Furry Vengeance SUMMIT PG Brendan Fraser   
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $7  Actual: $7
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $17  Actual: $18
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $18
 X-Men Origins: Wolverine FOX PG13 Hugh Jackman   
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $90  Actual: $85
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $177  Actual: $180
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $193
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past WB PG13 Matthew McConaughey Jennifer Garner  
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $20  Actual: $15
 Domestic Gross — Estimate $53  Actual: $55
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $44

Come back throughout the weekend to see how the movies actually perform.  Saturday late morning we will have an early look at how the weekend is shaping up (based on Friday’s actual numbers), on Sunday we will have studio estimates (based on Friday and Saturday), and Monday we will have a complete wrap-up based on the actual full-weekend numbers. 

About the Author

Mitch Metcalf
MITCH METCALF has been tracking every US film release of over 500 screens (over 2300 movies and counting) since the storied weekend of May 20, 1994, when Maverick and Beverly Hills Cop 3 inspired countless aficionados to devote their lives to the art of cinema. Prior to that, he studied Politics and Economics at Princeton in order to prepare for his dream of working in television. He has been Head of West Coast Research at ABC, then moved to NBC in 2000 and became Head of Scheduling for 11 years.