Scotty G’s Box Office Predictions – Weekend of December 18th, 2009

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This weekend can be summed up by one word – Avatar. The James Cameron film opens this weekend, and most of the other studios got scared away by it. Only one new wide release is going up against it as counter-programming, while four films open in limited release. Here is the breakdown.

Avatar – James Cameron’s pet project for the last several years finally sees the light of day this weekend. The film stars Sam Worthington from Terminator: Salvation fame and Zoe Saldana from Star Trek in the story about an ex-Marine who helps the military spy on the Na’vi people by becoming an avatar for them. Unfortunately for the military crew that is leading the operation, Worthington’s character finds himself sympathizing with the Na’vi cause. Early reviews have been praising the special effects of the film, and they say that you need to see it for this reason alone. Rumours about the films’ budget have surfaced, as estimates have put the cost of the film from anywhere between $250 – $500 million. The money put into Avatar is evident in every shot, and Avatar hopes that enough people have been interested to go check it out on opening weekend. Also helping is the fact that the critics like it. Rotten Tomatoes currently has the film listed at 82% as of this writing, so that is a good sign. The film has a long running time of about 2h45m, which will not give it as many screenings per day, but the film is being heavily promoted in 3-D and IMAX 3-D which ups the ticket price. Opening in 3,453 theatres this weekend (2nd highest theatre count behind The Princess and The Frog) Avatar has a lot going for it, and I think that the film will open at #1 with $75 million this weekend.

Columbia Pictures is going the counter-programming route with the film Did You Hear About The Morgans? I think this film reminds me of Old Dogs, as the stars of the film – Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant – were bigger earlier in the decade (Sarah Jessica Parker is more associated with Sex and The City, and has never become a big star outside of that), and it should have been released when both stars were more popular. Reviews have been awful with Rotten Tomatoes listing the film at 9% as of this writing. The plot involves a married couple, who want to separate, but end up witnessing a murder and are put into the witness protection program. Hilarity is supposed to ensue. It’s released this weekend to target the female demographic, but I think they would rather see Avatar. Opening in 2,718 theatres, I’m predicting that Did You Hear About The Morgans? will open with $8 million making it the #4 film.

For holdovers, the following three films have consistently appeared in the 1, 2, and 3 slots so far this week, so it’s safe to say that we’ll see them in the top five this weekend.

The Princess and The Frog should hold up well. It still has the highest theatre count of any film in theatres, and reviews have been strong. More families will be available to go see the film now that school is out for most kids. Dropping only 32%, I’m predicting The Princess and The Frog to gross $16.4 million, making it the #2 film.

The Blind Side is going to continue to hold up in its 5th weekend. I think it will lose some of the men who have been dragged to see it, as those men will now take their wives or girlfriends to see Avatar. I predict that The Blind Side will drop 37% for a gross of $9.4 million making it the #3 film.

Rounding out the top five will be Invictus. The Clint Eastwood drama did not have a strong opening weekend, but Clint Eastwood directed films hold up very well. Here is a look at the 2nd weekend drops of his most recent films (with the exception of Letter From Iwo Jima) after the film has been put into wide release:

2008 – Gran Torino – 25.5%

2008 – Changeling – 22.4%

2006 – Flags of Our Fathers – 38.1%

2004 – Million Dollar Baby – 29%

2003 – Mystic River – 25.4%

That is an average drop of 28%, and if you take away Flags of Our Fathers, it is a drop of 25.5%. I’m going to split the difference, and say that Invictus will drop 26% making it the #5 film with a gross of $6.3 million.

In limited release, here is what is opening:

The Young Victoria starring Emily Blunt about the early life of Queen Victoria is opening in 44 theatres. Rotten Tomatoes currently has the film listed at 69%

Crazy Heart starring Jeff Bridges as a washed up country singer is earning great reviews. Rotten Tomatoes has the film at 96%, and there is a lot of Oscar buzz about Bridges performance. It is being shown in 4 theatres

Nine starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Kate Hudson and Nicole Kidman gets released with a lot of Oscar buzz, but surprisingly the film is not doing that well with the critics, as they currently have it listed at 34%. It is being released in 4 theatres.

Ricky, a French comedy about a gifted child is being released in 1 theatre.

So there you have it. There are my predictions for the weekend. Just to recap, they are as follows:

  1. Avatar – $75 million
  2. The Princess and The Frog – $16.4 million
  3. The Blind Side – $9.4 million
  4. Did You Hear About The Morgans? – $8 million
  5. Invictus – $6.3 million
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