February 16, 2012


>The seventh weekend of the year should generate about $142 million for the top 12 films — up 9% from last year’s comparable weekend and up over 20% from the four-year average for this weekend.  Nicolas Cage should lead a crowded field, although the second Ghost Rider should be down significantly from 2007’s original.  The Vow will battle Ghost Rider at the top of the chart, while This Means War will most likely be left at the altar. 

Opening at over 3,000 theaters, Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance from Sony should average a solid $9,000 per theater (for $27.0 million Friday-Sunday).  [The average wide-release film the past two years has had an opening three-day weekend of $5,525 per theater.]  Remember, we concentrate on three-day weekend openings and not the more publicity-friendly four-day tallies on weekends like President’s Day.  This allows for more realistic performance comparisons across different weekends.  No reviews are posted on RottenTomatoes for Spirit of Vengeance, as Sony is hiding this Nicolas Cage tour de force until the curtain goes up Friday.  The second Ghost Rider is on track for a preliminary $73 million domestically.  The original Ghost Rider opened February 16, 2007, with $45.4 million its first three days, on its way to $115.8 million in North America and $112.9 million overseas.          

Opening in over 2,600 theaters, the late-to-the-romantic-movie party This Means War from 20th Century Fox (starring Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine and Tom Hardy) should average a just okay $6,400 per theater ($16.5 million Friday-Sunday).  Critics have not been kind so far: 28% positive reviews.  This Means War is headed for a total domestic gross of $46 million, a notch below Witherspoon’s last outing in Water for Elephants ($58.7 million) and better than her previous film, How Do You Know ($30.2 million). 

In around 1,300 theaters, Disney is releasing The Secret World of Arrietty, which should average a meager $3,300 per theater ($4.2 million from Friday-Sunday).  Arrietty is on track for a final tally of maybe $20 million domestic.  Critics are going crazy for this import from Japan (95% positive), and international audiences have already forked over $126 million.  But the distinctly non-Pixar, 2D anime style will not break out beyond a niche audience here.

New Films                        Critics    Opening  Domestic
February 17-19                   Positive   Weekend   Total*

Ghost Rider Spirit of V Sony  PG13  n/a      $27.0     $ 73
This Means War           Fox  PG13  28%      $16.5     $ 46
Secret World Arrietty    Dis  G     95%      $ 4.2     $ 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.

I am probably low on The Vow, with $22.5 million Friday-Sunday and down 45% from its terrific opening.  It pains me to project Nicolas Cage winning the weekend, but I’ll stick with the statistical model that has served me well.  But if Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams set some kind of record on Wednesday-Thursday, February 15-16, as they did on Valentine’s Day itself, we might revise the forecast.   In the end, I believe the $11.6 million figure for The Vow Tuesday was more of an aberration.  Call me a cynic.  

Major Returning Films            Change     This    Domestic
February 17-19                  vs wknd 1  Weekend   Total*

The Vow                 Sony      -45%      $22.5     $125
Safe House               Uni      -47%      $21.0     $117
Journey 2                 WB      -26%      $20.0     $ 85 
Phantom Menace in 3D     Fox      -55%      $10.0     $ 57
Chronicle                Fox      -44%      $ 6.8     $ 70
The Woman in Black       CBS      -49%      $ 5.2     $ 57
The Grey                 Open     -39%      $ 3.1     $ 56
Big Miracle              Uni      -35%      $ 2.6     $ 24

Box Office Volume

For the past four years, the top 12 films in the comparable weekend have averaged $115 million total, ranking 29th of 52 weeks.  Last year this weekend’s total was $130 million, and the same weekend in 2010 was $122 million.  This Friday-Sunday is looking like a very good $142 million, up 9% from this weekend last year (a rare decent weekend in 2011) and up 23% from an “average” comparable weekend over the past four years.          

This Weekend Last Two Years

 I Am Number Four DIS PG13 Alex Pettyfer Timothy Olyphant 
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $31  Actual: $19
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $63  Actual: $55
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $89
 Unknown WB PG13 Liam Neeson Diane Kruger 
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $25  Actual: $22
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $76  Actual: $64
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $67
 Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son FOX PG13 Martin Lawrence Brandon T Jackson 
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $19  Actual: $16
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $41  Actual: $38
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $45
 Shutter Island PAR R Leonardo DiCaprio  
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $30  Actual: $41
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $132  Actual: $128
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $167

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, on Sunday we will have initial studio estimates (based on Friday and Saturday actuals), and Monday we will have the final 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.