Box Office Beat: Weekend of April 19

Danny Baldwin's Box Office BeatHello and welcome to the inaugural Box Office Beat column here at Critic Speak, a weekly post in which I will predict/analyze the monetary prospects for the upcoming weekend’s crop of new films. To those of you who have read variations of this column in the past at and on the Hollywood Stock Exchange forums, I’m glad we have been reunited here, where I plan to crunch the numbers for some time to come.

This weekend, three new films open in wide release, two of which have a strong shot of unseating The Hunger Games from the #1 slot, where it has dominated for a stunning four weekends straight. They are the Zac Efron tearjerker The Lucky One and the African-American targeted comedy Think Like a Man. Joining them on the marquee is Disney’s annual nature documentary, Chimpanzee, which is unlikely to be a real competitor.

The Lucky OneLet’s tackle the The Lucky One first. This is essentially being sold as Efron’s movie; the female lead, Taylor Schilling, has not yet built much of a following, only having appeared on the short-lived TV show Mercy and as the lead in the conservative-interest film Atlas Shrugged. Thus, the logical two comparisons are the two other wide release films in which Efron was the major selling-point: 17 Again ($23.7m opening) and Charlie St. Cloud ($12.4m). As it happens, the average of those two movies ($18.1m) falls right around the opening for the last Nicolas Sparks adaptation, 2010’s The Last Song starring Miley Cyrus ($16.0m). This proves a good comparison, because both films court the same demos: older women who are Nicholas Sparks fans and teenage girls who are fans of the lead. The other recent Sparks adaptation, Dear John, premiered to a freakishly good $30.4m that is unlikely to be replicated here. So I’ll stick with the Efron brand average as my prediction for The Lucky One: $18.1 million.

Think Like a ManBut it’s the Steve Harvey self-help book based Think Like A Man that is likely to take the weekend. This may come as a surprise to certain readers, being that the film is likely to perform like gangbusters in African-American areas but just so-so elsewhere (where it’s virtually unadvertised). But as Tyler Perry films consistently prove, strength in one passionate demographic is more than enough to launch a successful film. The advertising for Think Like a Man has focused on a single one of its stars, the wildly popular comedian Kevin Hart. Hart’s stand-up comedy film, Laugh at My Pain, grossed a whopping $7.7m in just 287 theaters last September — one of the best-ever performances in that genre. Presumably just about everybody who saw that, plus fans of the best-selling source material, will be out in full force on opening weekend. Tack on the fact this movie is an inoffensive rom-com with appealing co-stars like Gabrielle Union, Regina Hall, and Meagan Good and it simply seems like a recipe for box office success. At the very least, it’s likely to post the $20.6m figure that director Tim Story’s comedy Barbershop was able to pull off a decade ago. But I think that Think Like a Man’s total will end up even higher, with a strong $24 million opening — double its modest budget.

ChimpanzeeAs for Chimpanzee, one need look no further than the previous two DisneyNature films, Oceans and Earth. The only problem is that both films were released on weekdays (that’s when Earth Day fell in 2010 and 2009). I’ll assume that half of their weekday business would have gone on the weekend anyway, making Oceans’ opening figure $7.3m and Earth’s $11.6m. Chimpanzee seems to have less marketing than Earth, but I think it will open closer to Earth than Oceans, simply because people think chimps are cuter than sea animals. Mark it down for a serviceable $10 million.

My prediction of what the full top 10 will look like:

  1. Think Like a Man … $24m ($11,911 PTA)
  2. The Lucky One … $18.1m ($5,737 PTA)
  3. The Hunger Games … $12.2m ($3,252 PTA) -42.2%
  4. The Three Stooges … $10.2m ($2,929 PTA) -40.0%
  5. Chimpanzee … $10m ($6,398 PTA)
  6. Titanic 3D … $7.7m ($3,062 PTA) -35.5%
  7. The Cabin in the Woods … $6.7m ($2,383 PTA) -54.6%
  8. American Reunion … $5.9m ($1,947 PTA) -43.7%
  9. 21 Jump Street … $4.3m ($1,772 PTA) -34.4%
  10. Mirror Mirror … $4.0m ($1,361 PTA) -41.6%