Box Office Beat: Weekend of February 22

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 results. Most moviegoers’ eyes will be on the Oscars this weekend, so there isn’t much happening in the way of new wide releases; just two films open and both would be very lucky to come near the $15 million mark. They’re also about as far from Oscar-bait as movies get: one is a horror flick that was not screened for critics and the other stars Dwayne Johnson.

Dark Skies“Not screened for critics” is probably an understatement when it comes to “Dark Skies,” which Dimension has not only hidden from the press, but has not allowed Midnight screenings of in most markets. To me, that says the ending of the film is probably terrible, like “Devil Inside” terrible. But nobody knows for sure yet, of course. Moreover, the audience for “Dark Skies” is mostly going to see it opening weekend anyway, meaning word-of-mouth won’t be a huge factor (after all, the aforementioned “Devil Inside” opened to a whopping $33.7m). So let’s look at the hard numbers: the recent floor for major studio PG-13 horror appears to be Dimension’s own “Pulse” ($8.2m). But that film didn’t have a very good trailer, as “Dark Skies” does… and speaking of the trailer, it mentions (“From the producer of”) a good comparison: “Insidious” ($13.3m). “Dark Skies” may not get as high as that 2010 surprise, but it should be closer to “Insidious” than “Pulse.” I’ll guess an even $12 million, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the total ended up higher given how well PG-13 horror has been doing lately (last month, “Mama” opened to $28.4m).

SnitchNow for Dwayne Johnson and “Snitch.” There are only two films that Johnson has made that feel comparable to this in that he was the only star, they targeted an older-than-teen audience, and they didn’t have some big secondary attraction (e.g. football in “The Gridiron Gang”). The films are 2004’s “Walking Tall” ($15.5m) and 2010’s “Faster” ($8.5m). Now, both comparisons have their downsides. The former film was made when Johnson was still well-known as a WWF wrestler and may have earned a bigger audience through that avenue, while the latter was rated R (as opposed to this film’s friendlier PG-13) and released by a smaller, less established studio (CBS Films). But it seems to me that an average of their openings will result in a pretty good prediction for “Snitch.” That’s $12 million; in other words, a dead tie with “Dark Skies.”

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

  1. “Identity Thief” … $12.4m  -50.0%
  2. “Dark Skies” … $12.0m
  3. “Snitch” … $12.0m
  4. “A Good Day to Die Hard” … $11.0m  -55.7%
  5. “Safe Haven” … $9.6m  -55.1%
  6. “Escape from Planet Earth” … $9.2m  -42.1%
  7. “The Silver Linings Playbook” … $4.6m  -26.3%
  8. “Warm Bodies” … $4.5m  -49.2%
  9. “Side Effects” … $3.0m  52.2%
  10. “Beautiful Creatures” … $2.9m  -61.8%