April 14, 2011

WEEKEND PREDICTIONS: Box Office is Alive After All

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Written by: Mitch Metcalf
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>Two strong films open Friday, with Rio and Scream 4 poised to fuel the weekend to a strongly positive uptick from the same weekend last year.

After weeks of disappointing box office returns, two films are set to open this weekend, together reaching for about $80 million.  Rio should lead the weekend at around 3,800 theaters, and if it hit its estimate it will be the third-highest opening in April ever (behind only Fast and Furious and Clash of the Titans but ahead of Anger Management.)  The 73% positive score on rottentomatoes suggests long-term playability.  While Rio will play well to kids and families, Scream 4 is going after teens and young adults at about 3,300 theaters, in an example of excellent counter-programming.  The 61% positive score for Scream 4 is actually pretty solid for a horror movie.  Finally, playing on around 700 theaters, Robert Redford’s The Conspirator should open relatively quietly with a $3,000 per theater average.  See Mitch Salem’s review of The Conspirator, and keep in mind a historical drama like this should have more positive reviews than 57% if it is going to make a play to broaden out to the quality film audience

 New Films                        Critics   Opening  Domestic
April 15-17                      Positive  Weekend  Ultimate*
Rio                    Fox  G      73%      $46.5     $160
Scream 4             Weins  R      61%      $34       $100
The Conspirator    Roadsde  PG13   57%      $ 2       $ 11

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 Ultimate is a very early ShowbuzzDaily projection of the North American gross, based on the Weekend Forecasts.

Hop again should be the #1 returning film, although the projected 50% decline from last weekend is worse than it is used to (given the heavy competition from newcomer Rio).  The other declines are generally fairly high, as suggested by the sluggish mid-week business the past few days. 

Returning Films                  Change     This    Domestic

                                vs wknd 1  Weekend  Ultimate

Hop                    Uni        -50%      $11       $115
Hanna                  Foc        -47%      $6.5      $40
Arthur                  WB        -51%      $6        $32
Soul Surfer            Tri        -47%      $5.5      $33
Insidious            FilmD        -44%      $5.5      $52
Source Code            Sum        -44%      $5        $54
Your Highness          Uni        -54%      $4.5      $24
Limitless              Rel        -43%      $3        $81

Box Office Volume

For the past four years, the top 12 films in the comparable weekend have averaged $92 million total, ranking 43rd of 52 weeks.  Last year this weekend’s total was $112 million, and April 17-19, 2009 was $100 million.  This weekend is looking like $135 million: only the second up weekend versus 2010 (and the first since Feb 18-20, which was up 6% when Unknown and I Am Number Four opened).    

This Weekend Last Two Years

The last few years this weekend has been filled with weak to moderate films.  If both Rio and Scream 4 open well, as expected, it will buck a trend of ignoring mid-April for the most part.    


Kick-Ass (LG) R Aaron Johnson Nicolas Cage 
Opening Weekend Forecast $29; Actual: $20
Domestic Final Estimate: $60. Actual: $48
International: $48

Death at a Funeral (Sony) R Chris Rock Martin Lawrence 
Opening Weekend Forecast $21; Actual: $16
Domestic Final Estimate: $46. Actual: $43
International: $6


17 Again (WB) PG13 Zac Effron Matthew Perry 
Opening Weekend Forecast $22; Actual: $24
Domestic Final Estimate: $66. Actual: $64
International: $72

Crank: High Voltage (LG) R Jason Statham Amy Smart 
Opening Weekend Forecast $13; Actual: $7
Domestic Final Estimate: $19. Actual: $14
International: $21

State of Play (Uni) PG13 Russell Crowe Ben Affleck 
Opening Weekend Forecast $12; Actual: $14
Domestic Final Estimate: $45. Actual: $37
International: $51

We want to remind you about a helpful new feature, Showbuzz Basics.  You’ll find a list of frequently-used terms and jargon (that we sometimes take for granted), as well as some helpful rules of thumb in box office analysis. 

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.