March 1, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Metcalf
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>The ninth weekend of the year should generate about $125 million for the top 12 films, a fairly typical weekend for the first weekend in March — up 2% from last year’s comparable weekend and down a negligible 1% from the four-year average for this weekend.  Universal should stand tall with a $44 million opening for The Lorax, while Project X should place second with a slightly above average $18.5 million opening.   

Opening at over 3,600 theaters, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax from Universal should average an excellent $12,300 per theater (for $44.0 million Friday-Sunday), which would be the best opening for a film since the weekend of November 18 when Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 opened with over $138 million in its first weekend.  [The average wide-release film the past two years has had an opening three-day weekend of $5,525 per theater.]  Very few reviews from critics are in so far at RottenTomatoes, but the film is over 75% positive with the small sample size.  Marketing for the film has been strong and omnipresent (Universal is acting like a major studio this weekend, as opposed to its imitation of a mini-studio last week with Wanderlust opening with $6.5 million at a mere 2,002 theaters).  The studio has pulled out all the stops with dozens of advertiser tie-ins, brilliantly skewered by The Colbert Report (at minute 5:40).  The Lorax is on track for a preliminary $156 million domestically.            

Opening in around 3,000 theaters, Project X from Warner Brothers should average an okay $6,200 per theater ($18.5 million Friday-Sunday).  Also a limited sample size for this comedy produced by Todd Phillips (The Hangover), but the few reviews are trending slightly negative.  Project X is headed for a total domestic gross of $64 million. 

New Films                        Critics    Opening  Domestic
March 2-4                        Positive   Weekend   Total*

The Lorax                Uni  PG    n/a      $44.0     $156
Project X                WB   R     n/a      $18.5     $ 64

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.

Fairly typical declines are in store for most holdover films, with Act of Valor the lone returning film headed for over $10 million this weekend.  Best Picture The Artist doubles its theater count from 966 to about 2,000, but the per theater average should drop from about $3,000 to about $2,100 as the film moves into parts of the country that should be less receptive to the silent tribute to the early days of Hollywood.  Still, it should have a hefty 45% increase from last weekend’s tally.  

Major Returning Films            Change     This    Domestic
March 2-4                       vs wknd 1  Weekend   Total*
Act of Valor             Rel      -47%      $13.0     $ 68
Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds LG       -51%      $ 7.5     $ 40
Journey 2                 WB      -47%      $ 7.2     $120 
Safe House               Uni      -41%      $ 6.5     $133
The Vow                 Sony      -48%      $ 5.2     $133
This Means War           Fox      -44%      $ 4.8     $ 51
Ghost Rider Spirit of V Sony      -49%      $ 4.6     $ 55
The Artist              Wein      +45%      $ 4.2     $ 45

Box Office Volume

For the past four years, the top 12 films in this comparable weekend have averaged $125 million total, ranking 25th of 52 weeks.  Last year this weekend’s total was $121 million (paced by Johnny Depp voicing the Best Animated film Rango), and the same weekend in 2010 was $186 million (paced by Johnny Depp in the huge Alice in Wonderland).  This Friday-Sunday is looking like a solid $123 million, up a scant 2% from this weekend last year and down 1% from an “average” comparable weekend over the past four years.          

This Weekend Last Two Years

 Rango PAR PG   
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $42  Actual: $38
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $126  Actual: $123
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $119
 Adjustment Bureau UNI PG13 Matt Damon Emily Blunt 
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $20  Actual: $21
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $69  Actual: $62
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $65
 Beastly CBS PG13 Alex Pettyfer Vanessa Hudgens 
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $7  Actual: $10
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $25  Actual: $28
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $1
 Take Me Home Tonight REL R Topher Grace Anna Faris 
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $6  Actual: $3
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $6  Actual: $7
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $0
 Alice in Wonderland DIS PG Johnny Depp Helena Bonham Carter 
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $69  Actual: $116
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $359  Actual: $334
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $690
 Brooklyn‘s Finest OVERTURE R Don Cheadle Richard Gere 
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $9  Actual: $13
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $29  Actual: $27
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $9

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.