September 23, 2011



This weekend is looking unusually strong for late September: the top 12 films should gross over $100 million, about 14% above a normal weekend this time of year.  The strong 3D reissue of The Lion King should remain at #1 with close to $20 million and a very family-friendly, small second weekend decline.  Challenging Lion King for the top spot will be Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in Moneyball, based on Michael Lewis’ terrific book about the unorthodox methods the cash-strapped Oakland A’s used in the 1980s and ’90s to be competitive in baseball.  Not far behind, the family film Dolphin Tale should boost business this weekend.  Two action thrillers round out the new offerings, but don’t expect them to be in the mix at the top of the weekend chart.  
Opening at more than 2,900 theaters in North America by Sony, Moneyball should average a solid though not especially strong $6,300 per theater (for $18 million for Friday-Sunday).  (All films the last two years have averaged $5,525 per theater in their opening weekend.)  Moneyball has received strong reviews, with 92% positive at RottenTomatoes.  This film should be on track for around $65 million in North America when it leaves theaters, although there is some upside in that number if word spreads among baseball fans.  Read Mitch Salem’s review of Moneyball.

At about 3,200 theaters, Dolphin Tale from Warner Brothers should average $4,600 per theater (for $15 million this weekend).  Another film with strong reviews so far, Dolphin Tale is 94% positive at RottenTomatoes (especially surprising for a family film).  This movie is probably headed for around $75 million domestically. 

Opening at 3,000 theaters from Lionsgate, Abduction should average a weak $4,300 from Friday-Sunday (for a $13 million opening weekend).  Early reviews are devastating (Twilight‘s Taylor Lautner taking the majority of the criticism), with 0% positive from a small initial sample size.  Abduction is on track for maybe $25 million in North America.     

Finally, opening at 2,700 theaters from Open Road, Killer Elite should average a soft $3,700 from Friday-Sunday (for an $10 million opening weekend).  Early reviews are mixed to negative, with 42% positive.  The Jason Statham-Clive Owen-Robert De Niro film is on track for $25 million or so in North America.     

New Films                        Critics    Opening  Domestic
September 23-25                  Positive   Weekend   Total*

Moneyball              Sony  PG13   92%      $ 18.0    $ 65 
Dolphin Tale             WB  PG     94%      $ 15.0    $ 75
Abduction                LG  PG13    0%      $ 13.0    $ 25 
Killer Elite       OpenRoad  R      42%      $ 10.0    $ 25

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.

The Lion King in 3D should decline a very good 35%, while Contagion continues its solid run with a 40% decline.

Major Returning Films            Change     This    Domestic
September 23-25                 vs wknd 1  Weekend   Total*

Lion King 3D           Dis        -35%      $19.5     $120
Contagion               WB        -40%      $ 9.0     $ 85
Drive              FilmDis        -43%      $ 6.5     $ 45
The Help            Dis/DW        -28%      $ 5.0     $171
Straw Dogs            Sony        -54%      $ 2.5     $ 15 
I Don’t Know How She  Wein        -49%      $ 2.0     $  9

Box Office Volume

For the past four years, the top 12 films in the comparable weekend have averaged $84 million total, ranking 47th of 52 weeks.  Last year this weekend’s total was $91 million and the same weekend in 2009 was $83 million.  This Friday-Sunday is looking like a strong $104 million, up about 14% from this weekend last year.       

This Weekend Last Two Years

 Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps FOX PG13 Michael Douglas Shia LeBeouf 
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $25  Actual: $19
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $61  Actual: $52
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $81
 Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole WB PG   
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $20  Actual: $16
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $56  Actual: $56
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $84
 You Again DIS PG Kristen Bell Jaime Lee Curtis 
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $11  Actual: $8
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $26  Actual: $26
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $6
 Surrogates DIS PG13 Bruce Willis  
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $18  Actual: $15
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $41  Actual: $39
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $79
 Fame MGM PG   
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $14  Actual: $10
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $24  Actual: $22
 International — Estimate: n/a  Actual: $55
 Pandorum OVERTURE R Dennis Quaid Ben Foster 
 Opening Weekend — Forecast: $6  Actual: $4
 Domestic Gross — Estimate: $11  Actual: $10
 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 as a whole (based on Friday’s early numbers), 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.