Box Office Beat: Weekend of August 17

Danny Baldwin's Box Office BeatHello and welcome back to Box Office Beat, the column in which I predict the upcoming weekend’s box office grosses. Last weekend, three of four releases did well, delivering exceptional results — in the case of “The Bourne Legacy,” results that few predicted. One wonders if their success will lend itself to equally strong holdover business that detracts from that of the new openers (the biggest risk is “Bourne” doing this to “The Expendables 2,” as they are both male-oriented franchise action films). It’s hard to tell, and I’m simply going to evaluate the openers on their individual merits rather than trying to entertain a million different alternate scenarios. I’ve already spent the bulk of the day writing–be sure to check out my hot-off-the-presses reviews for the indies “Searching for Sugar Man” and “Easy Money”–so let’s get right into crunching the numbers.

“The Expendables 2” will almost certainly be the big winner of the weekend, but the question is: By what margin? I think it is likely to perform almost identically to its predecessor, which was released on the exact same weekend two years ago. That film received a good-but-not-great CinemaScore of “B+,” which indicates to me that it will likely retain most of its audience without earning many new viewers. It’s the exact same schtick as before, so no matter how inventive the marketing has been (the “Last Supper”-themed poster art was especially clever), “The Expendables 2” definitely has a finite audience. Thus, I’m predicting exactly what the first film grossed: $34.8 million.

SparkleAlso likely to be successful is “Sparkle,” the musical drama starring the late Whitney Houston in a supporting role. There isn’t much precedent for posthumous releases–obviously, this film will not come anywhere close to “The Dark Knight” in terms of financial success–so the best comparisons are the usual high-grossing dramas targeted at African-American audiences. Had “Dreamgirls” been released widely from the start (it instead opted for an awards season rollout), it likely would have grossed around $30m opening weekend, based on its final total of $103m. That’s probably a bit high for “Sparkle,” which should come closer to Tyler Perry’s last female-headlined drama, “I Can Do Bad All by Myself” ($23.4m). But I will average the two figures, because the Whitney Houston factor should add to Perry’s standard audience by a bit. That brings my prediction to $26.7 million.

ParaNormanThen there are two family films, the more interesting of which is “ParaNorman,” the terrific second feature from LAIKA, Inc., the studio that brought us “Coraline” in 2009. (Read my glowing take here.) The film has great reviews and will be playing in about 1,000 more theaters than “Coraline,” but I sense that it will have a hard time ascending to its predecessor’s $16.8m for two reasons: 1) It isn’t directed by Henry Selick, the filmmaker of the beloved “Nightmare Before Christmas” and 2) 3-D animation is no longer the new novelty it was back with “Coraline,” meaning fewer moviegoers will elect for the up-charge. Ensuring that the movie is on the radar of adults–after all, ‘80s horror junkies will probably enjoy it more than children–could be a challenge for distributor Focus Features. But I want to believe that “ParaNorman” will do well because it deserves to. Word-of-mouth should be strong. So I’ll place its opening weekend take just a smidgen under “Coraline,” at $14.0 million.

The Odd Life of Timothy GreenLast up: Disney’s “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” which opened on Wednesday to $2.3m. After I lowballed last week’s Wednesday release, “Hope Springs,” following a similar figure, I am reticent to be conservative and let history repeat itself here. But I think I found an excellent comparison: “Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams,” which also opened in August. That film was able to pull in 3.6X its Wednesday gross on opening weekend, but its sequel-status likely made Wednesday a more popular option than it was for “Timothy Green.” As a result, I’m upping the multiplier on “Timothy Green” by 25 percent, making it 4.5. That brings the movie’s opening weekend take to an adequate $10.4 million.

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

  1. “The Expendables 2” … $34.8m
  2. “Sparkle” … $26.7m
  3. “The Bourne Legacy” … $16.4m  -57.0%
  4. “ParaNorman” … $14.0m
  5. “The Campaign” … $13.2m  -50.4%
  6. “The Dark Knight Rises” … $11.4m  -39.9%
  7. “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” … $10.4m
  8. “Hope Springs” … $10.3m  -29.7%
  9. “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” … $4.4m  -45.0%
  10. “Ice Age: Continental Drift” … $4.3m  -32.6%