August 11, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Metcalf
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>Ah, the dog days of summer in August.  It’s the time when studios start dumping movies.  Sure there can be a surprise in this month (see District 9 two years ago this weekend), but the lower box office volume in August simply works against most films succeeding.  A quick look at the numbers: a typical weekend in May or June totals $150 million for the top 12 films, while a typical weekend in July balloons to over $160 million.  But an average weekend in August musters only $110 million, and by September it is under $80 million.  With that background, four films open this weekend, and we expect none to come anywhere close to $100 million domestic box office and most to be closer to $50 million.   

Opening at more than 3,100 theaters, Final Destination 5 should average a somewhat above par $7,000 per theater (for $21.5 million for Friday-Sunday).  We don’t have a sense of critical reception yet, as there are too few reviews posted at RottenTomatoes.  But most horror movies, regardless of reviews, are doomed to steep declines each weekend.  This entry should have a low domestic multiple and end up around $50 million total in North America.

UPDATED  At about 2,600 theaters, 30 Minutes or Less should average $6,750 (for $17.5 million this weekend).  The R-rated caper comedy has received mixed reviews so far, 47% positive at RottenTomatoes from the early reviewers.  This comedy is probably headed for around $60 million domestically. 

Opening at 2,511 theaters, The Help should average $6,720 from Friday-Sunday (for a $17 million weekend).  The film already opened Wednesday, and we are estimating $10 million Wednesday-Thursday for a five-day opening of $27 million.  Critics have been broadly positive about The Help (73% positive at RottenTomatoes), as is our own Mitch Salem in his review.  As we have seen in the past, this critical buzz can mean small declines in coming weekends.  A conservative forecast also puts The Help as a $65 million movie in North America, although this number will be revised upward if the second weekend is especially impressive.     

Finally, opening at about 1,800 theaters, Glee: The 3D Concert Movie should average $4,500 per theater (for an $8 million opening weekend).  (The average wide-release film averages $4,900 per theater in its opening weekend).  Reviews have been positive so far at RottenTomatoes, but the small number of reviews so far prevents us from making a definitive call.  In all likelihood, fans of the Fox TV show will see the movie early in its run or wait for it on pay per view at home, meaning the concert film will not have legs at the box office.  Glee 3D is probably headed for a domestic total of $20 million, if that.

New Films                        Critics    Opening  Domestic
August 12-14                     Positive   Weekend   Total*
Final Destination 5      WB  R      n/a      $ 21.5    $ 50
30 Minutes or Less     Sony  R      47%      $ 17.5    $ 60
The Help             Dis/DW  PG13   73%      $ 17.0    $ 65
Glee: The 3D Concert    Fox  PG     n/a      $  8.0    $ 20

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.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes should remain #1 with a fairly average 51% decline (though that is a good number for a sci-fi movie), while The Change-Up should decline 47% from a much smaller base.  The Smurfs should decline a decent 40%, continuing its solid run.

Major Returning Films            Change     This    Domestic
August 12-14                    vs wknd 1  Weekend   Total*

Rise of Planet of Apes Fox        -51%      $27       $158

The Smurfs            Sony        -40%      $12.5     $127
Cowboys & Aliens       Uni        -52%      $ 7.5     $101
Crazy, Stupid, Love.    WB        -36%      $ 7.5     $ 76

The Change-Up          Uni        -47%      $ 7       $ 35

Captain America        Par        -46%      $ 7       $179

Harry Potter Deathly 2  WB        -42%      $ 7       $368

Box Office Volume

For the past four years, the top 12 films in the comparable weekend have averaged $121 million total, ranking 25th of 52 weeks.  Last year this weekend’s total was $132 million, and the year before was $125 million.  This Friday-Sunday is looking like another up weekend at $146 million, up about 10% from this weekend last year.  This would be the fifth up weekend in a row, although not as big an increase as we have seen the last several weeks.   

This Weekend Last Two Years


 The Expendables LG R Sylvester Stallone Jason Statham  
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $31  Actual: $35
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $107  Actual: $103
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $171
 Eat Pray Love SONY PG13 Julia Roberts Javier Bardem  
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $23  Actual: $23
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $78  Actual: $81
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $124
 Scott Pilgrim vs the World UNI PG13 Michael Cera Mary Elizabeth Winstead  
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $15  Actual: $11
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $38  Actual: $31
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $16
 District 9 SONY R    
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $29  Actual: $37
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $125  Actual: $116
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $89
 Time Traveler’s Wife WB PG13 Rachel McAdams Eric Bana  
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $18  Actual: $19
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $61  Actual: $63
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $37

 Ponyo DIS G    
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: n/a  Actual: $4
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $20  Actual: $15
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $186

 (500) Days of Summer FOX PG13 Zooey Deschanel Joseph Gordon-Levitt  
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: n/a  Actual: $3
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $34  Actual: $32
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $26
Come back throughout the weekend to see how the movies actually perform.  Saturday morning we will have an early look at how the weekend is shaping up as a whole (based on Friday’s early numbers), on Sunday we will have initial studio estimates (based on Friday and Saturday), and Monday we will have the final numbers for the entire weekend.

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.