April 21, 2011

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE PREDICTIONS: Strong Possibility of Another Up Weekend

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Written by: Mitch Metcalf


Another up weekend at the box office is on store, led by an eclectic assortment of films. 
It should be an up weekend, led by Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family and a forecast $31 million opening.  Playing at over 2,100 theaters, Madea should average over $14,000 per theater, a very good number.  Water for Elephants should open with about $16 million.  Playing in more theaters (around 2,700), Water will have a more down-to-earth $6,000 per theater average (above the $4,900 opening weekend norm but not extraordinary).  Finally, it’s Earth Day, so Disney releases a nature documentary.  African Cats should open with around $7 million (around $6,000 per theater at 1,200 theaters).  This is the third in a series of Earth Day films (the series started two years ago with Earth and continued last year with Oceans).  See the performance of Earth and Oceans below in the “Same Weekend Last Two Years” section.  African Cats has been well reviewed — in fact it is the only film of the three openers that has been reviewed at all.  Tyler Perry generally does not screen his films for reviewers, and the lack of press screenings for Water for Elephants does not inspire confidence for long-term playability. 

New Films                        Critics   Opening   Domestic
April 22-24                      Positive  Weekend    Total*
Madea’s Big Happy Family LG  PG13   n/a      $31       $ 67
Water for Elephants     Fox  PG13   n/a      $16       $ 38
African Cats            Dis  G      70%      $ 7       $ 21

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 North American gross, based on the Weekend Forecasts.

Tyler Perry Film Track

Tyler Perry films has a faithful audience that shows up the first weekend.  His movies generally open with $20 million or more, with Madea films usually doing better than the others.  His best opening was $41 million for Madea Goes to Jail.  But Perry’s audience is highly concentrated in the first week or two.  The final grosses for Tyler Perry movies are usually about two times the opening weekend number, far lower than the average 2.5 or 3.0 opening weekend multiple.  His fan base is highly motivated but limited in scope.

Tyler Perry Films                             (millions)
(all titles preceded            Release    Opening   Domestic
 by “Tyler Perry’s”)             Date      Weekend    Total

Why Did I Get Married Too?       4.2.2010    $29       $60
I Can Do Bad All By Myself      9.11.2009    $23       $52
Madea Goes to Jail              2.20.2009    $41       $90
The Family That Preys           9.12.2008    $17       $37
Meet the Browns                 3.21.2008    $20       $42
Why Did I Get Married?         10.12.2007    $21       $55
Daddy’s Little Girls            2.14.2007    $11       $33
Madea’s Family Reunion          2.24.2006    $30       $63
Diary of a Mad Black Woman      2.25.2005    $22       $51

Rio will have a very good second weekend and a relatively small decline versus the opening weekend number.  If Madea stumbles, Rio could sneak into first place.  Assisted by Easter weekend, Hop should have a very low weekend decline and come close to staying in double digits this weekend (in millions of dollars). 

Major Returning Films            Change     This    Domestic

                                vs wknd 1  Weekend  Ultimate

Rio                    Fox        -33%      $26       $141
Hop                    Uni        -16%      $ 9       $108
Scre4m               Weins        -55%      $ 8.5     $ 51

Box Office Volume

For the past four years, the top 12 films in the comparable weekend have averaged $84 million total, ranking 48th of 52 weeks.  Last year this weekend’s total was $90 million, and April 24-26, 2009 was $104 million.  This weekend is looking like $120 million: the second up weekend in a row (but only the third up weekend so far this year).  

This Weekend Last Two Years

This weekend has been very soft the past few years because of a lack of strong openers.  As you can see below, the list is dominated by many films with $10-15 million opening weekends and $35-40 million domestic grosses.  It is also interesting that very few films this time of year the past couple of seasons had any international appeal — with the notable exception of the Disney Earth series (check out their solid international grosses below) and the CBS Films/ Jennifer Lopez effort Back-Up Plan.  Although not a boffo performance, this was the first in a series of moves that successfully established Lopez in the popular culture again. 


The Back-Up Plan (CBS) PG13 Jennifer Lopez 
Opening Weekend Forecast $13; Actual: $12
Domestic Final Estimate: $37; Actual: $37
International: $40

The Losers (WB) R Zoe Saldana Jeffrey Dean MorganOpening Weekend Forecast $13; Actual: $9
Domestic Final Estimate: $31; Actual: $24
International: $6

Oceans (Dis) G
Opening Weekend Forecast $6; Actual: $6
Domestic Final Estimate: $23; Actual: $19
International: $63


Obsessed (Sony) PG13 Beyonce Knowles Idris Elba 
Opening Weekend Forecast $17; Actual: $29
Domestic Final Estimate: $69; Actual: $68
International: $6

Earth (Dis) G
Opening Weekend Forecast $8; Actual: $9

Domestic Final Estimate: $37; Actual: $32
International: $77

The Soloist (PAR/DW) PG13 Jamie Foxx Robert Downey Jr 

Opening Weekend Forecast $10; Actual: $10
Domestic Final Estimate: $33; Actual: $32
International: $3

Fighting (Uni) PG13 Channing Tatum Terrence Howard 
Opening Weekend Forecast $9; Actual: $11

Domestic Final Estimate: $24; Actual: $23
International: $9

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.