Scotty G’s Box Office Predictions – Weekend of March 18th, 2011

Three new releases come into theatres this weekend with the hope of dethroning Battle: Los Angeles from the top of the box office – the sci-fi comedy Paul that stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost; the drama The Lincoln Lawyer starring Matthew McConaughey; and the thriller Limitless starring Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro.  Two of these films might generate enough interest to top the box office, but I think the other one will be a disappointment.  In limited release, quite a few films open in theatres, and a few are generating some buzz that would make them break out in the coming weeks (in my opinion).  Here’s how I see the weekend breaking down:

Paul is a sci-fi comedy that stars Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman and Seth Rogen as the voice of Paul.  Paul is alien that has been in a military base for 60 years.  One day, he gets fed up and escapes from the base.  He ends up being picked up by two losers (played by Pegg and Frost) and they try to help Paul get back home and avoid the military.  The premise is not all that entertaining and the commercials and trailers make the film look amusing at best.  What will draw audiences in will be Pegg and Frost and fans of the films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.  It’s hard to make a prediction on Paul because any film that has Pegg or Frost in a leading role never got a wide release on its opening weekend.  Here are the opening weekend theatre counts for their leading role films to prove my point:
2004 – Shaun of the Dead – 607 theatres
2007 – Hot Fuzz – 825 theatres
2008 – Run Fatboy Run – 1,113 theatres
2008 – How to Lose Friends and Alienate People – 1,750 theatres
2011 – Paul – 2,801 theatres
So you can see there is quite a difference.  The film is receiving decent reviews with Rotten Tomatoes listing the film at 64% positive as of this writing, but I don’t think it’s going to make much of a dent at the box office.  I’m predicting that Paul will open with a gross of $7.5 million, giving the film a 5th place finish.
The Lincoln Lawyer stars Matthew McConaughey as a criminal lawyer who works out of his Lincoln sedan.  He defends common criminals and most of his cases are just middle of the road, until he lands the case of defending a playboy who is accused of rape and attempted murder.  The case has more twists and turns than anticipated and McConaughey begins to fight for his own survival in both his career and his life.  The film marks a dramatic departure for McConaughey, who has been the poster boy for romantic comedies over the past few years, and he is going back to the type of role that made him famous (think 1996’s A Time to Kill).  When coming up with my prediction, I looked at films that had McConaughey in the lead that were dramas or thrillers.  I didn’t get a big list, so I took a look at other films that were legal thrillers that were not courtroom dramas.  Here’s what I came up with:
1996 – A Time to Kill – $14.8 million opening weekend
2005 – Two for the Money – $8.7 million opening weekend
2007 – Fracture – $11 million opening weekend
2009 – Law Abiding Citizen – $21 million opening weekend
Average Opening Weekend – $13.9 million
I don’t think the average is a good indication of where The Lincoln Lawyer will open as I think McConaughey can get a bigger opening than what is listed above.  The film is receiving excellent reviews as Rotten Tomatoes has the film listed at 80% positive as of this writing.  Opening in 2,707 theatres, I’m predicting that The Lincoln Lawyer grosses $16 million and finishes in 3rd place.

Limitless is the final new release of the weekend and it stars Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish and Robert De Niro.  The film is about a writer who is suffering from a severe case of writer’s block.  A chance meeting introduces him to a new drug called NZT, which allows him to access all parts of his mind.  He no longer has writer’s block, he can learn new languages instantly, he enjoys art, and most importantly for him, he begins to make a lot of money on Wall Street.  This catches the eye of some shady characters and the writer’s joy in his new found success is short lived, as he’s always dealing with a diminishing supply of NZT and people following him around.  When I was coming up with my prediction for Limitless, I looked at films that paired up a young star with a veteran star, and believe it or not, I’m using two of the same films in my prediction that I did with The Lincoln Lawyer.  Here are those films:
2000 – Men of Honor – $13.3 million opening weekend
2005 – Two for the Money – $8.7 million opening weekend
2007 – Fracture – $11 million opening weekend
Average Opening Weekend – $11 million
The opening weekend is a little softer than where I think the film will open as the reviews are all right with Rotten Tomatoes listing Limitless at 57% positive.  I think the advertising has done a good job in selling the film and I think that Limitless will be the best performing film among the three new releases.  Opening in 2,756 theatres, I’m predicting that Limitless will gross $18 million and finish in 2nd place.
With Limitless, The Lincoln Lawyer and Paul entering the top five, I’m predicting that Red Riding Hood, Mars Needs Moms and The Adjustment Bureau will be leaving the top five.  Here is how I see the rest of the films breaking down:
Battle: Los Angeles dominated box offices last weekend, and it should continue to do the same this weekend.  The sci-fi action film seems to have decent word-of-mouth going for it, and it was the number one film at the box office on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  I’m predicting that Battle: Los Angeles will drop 42% (which is low for a sci-fi film, as they perform much like horror movies and suffer large second weekend drops) giving Battle:  Los Angeles a gross of $20.6 million and a 1st place finish for the second weekend in a row.
Rango posted a strong hold last weekend and there is no reason to think that it won’t do the same this weekend.  I’m predicting that Rango will fall 36% from last weekend, giving the film a gross of $14.5 million and a 4th place finish.
Red Riding Hood underperformed last weekend and I think it will suffer a big drop this weekend (as I said in my box office wrap-up report on Sunday, Beastly had a better opening weekend per theatre average than Red Riding Hood did).  I’m predicting that the Amanda Seyfried // Gary Oldman thriller will drop 54% giving the film a gross of $6.4 million and a 6th place finish.
The Adjustment Bureau had a bigger than expected drop last weekend and I think its drop will even be slightly higher this weekend.  I’m predicting that The Adjustment Bureau drops 46% giving the film a gross of $6.3 million and a 7th place finish.
Mars Needs Moms crashed and burned with audiences last weekend and I think the percentage drop this weekend will also be a disappointment to Disney.  I’m predicting that Mars Needs Moms will fall 55% from last weekend, giving the film a gross of $3.1 million and an 8th place finish.
Hall Pass should hold up well again this weekend, despite the film facing some competition in the comedy genre from Paul.  I’m predicting a drop of 39%, giving Hall Pass a gross of $3 million and a 9th place finish.
Beastly will round out the top ten with a drop of 52%, giving the film a gross of $2.4 million and a 10th place finish.
In limited release:
The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman – This action comedy is about a group of people (listed in the title) and a kitchen cleaver that is made from parts of the five greatest swords in martial arts history.  The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman is being released in 37 theatres and has a 60% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing
The Music Never Stopped – This film stars J.K. Simmons and is about a relationship between a father and son that is strained after the son runs away from home after being banned from seeing a Grateful Dead concert.  They reunite years later, only to find out that the son needs a brain operation to remove a tumor, but the procedure will not allow him to create new memories.  Through music, the father tries to connect with his son.  For fans of the film “Awakenings”, The Music Never Stopped is based on a case study by Dr. Oliver Sacks, who was also the man behind the story of “Awakenings”.  The Music Never Stopped is being released in 32 theatres and has a 72% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing
Alabama Moon – This film stars John Goodman and Clint Howard and is about a young boy raised in the woods of Alabama who has to deal with his dad’s sudden death and trying to fulfill his last request, to go and live in Alaska.  Alabama Moon is being released in 7 theatres and does not have a rating at Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing.
Cracks – This film stars Eva Green and is about a female diving team at an elite all-girls boarding school and how they fight to win their diving teacher’s trust and affection.  Cracks is being released in 6 theatres and has a 38% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing.
Win Win – This comedy stars Paul Giamatti and is about a struggling attorney who also coaches a high-school wrestling team and deals with one of his client’s kids along the way.  Win Win is being released in 5 theatres and has an 89% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing.
Desert Flower – This drama is based on the true life story of model Waris Dirie and her struggle of growing up in Somalia, being sold into a fixed marriage, to her ascent as a supermodel and now as a UN Spokesperson that speaks out against female genital cutting. Desert Flower is being released in 3 theatres and has a 50% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing.
Winter in Wartime – This drama is about a young boy in Nazi-occupied Holland that helps a wounded British soldier.  His action causes him to be part of the resistance to stop the Nazis, and to take the step from childhood to adulthood in rather dramatic fashion. Winter in Wartime is being released in 3 theatres and has an 85% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing.
Bill Cunningham New York – This documentary is about Bill Cunningham, a New York Times fashion photographer and the fashion trends he has followed and photographed over the years.  Bill Cunningham New York is being released in 1 theatre and has a 91% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing.
So to recap, here are my predictions:
  1. Battle:  Los Angeles – $20.6 million 
  2. Limitless – $18 million 
  3. The Lincoln Lawyer – $16 million 
  4. Rango – $14.5 million 
  5. Paul – $7.5 million 
Remember to check back on Sunday to see how I did!

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