Box Office Beat: Weekend of February 9

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. It’s finally February, meaning there are now non-Oscar-bait releases worth getting excited about. Steven Soderbergh’s new thriller “Side Effects” is one such release. But that doesn’t mean the slate is filled with winners, as the lowbrow comedy “Identity Thief,” also opening, is getting pummeled by the critics (it currently sits at 28 percent on the Tomatometer). Of course, it’s all but certain to beat “Side Effects” at the box office, as its appeal is much broader. Let’s crunch some numbers…

Identity ThiefThere are three obvious comparisons for “Identity Thief,” which stars Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy. The first is “Horrible Bosses,” also directed by Seth Gordon, which opened to $28.3m. Like this film, that was a middle-budget R-rated comedy aimed at general audiences. The one thing about it that’s quite dissimilar with “Identity Thief” is that it had three male protagonists, as opposed to just one, so there was more room for male audience interest (the trailers for “Identity Thief” make it clear that the film is McCarthy’s show). So perhaps that makes “Bridesmaids,” which featured McCarthy in a supporting role and was more women-geared, a more apt comparison. That opened to $26.2m. But even still, both “Horrible Bosses” and “Bridesmaids” were well-reviewed (which meant better word-of-mouth through opening weekend) and were released during the summer, when college students and older high schoolers are free to see more movies. So another comparison I feel needs to be added to the mix is “The Bounty Hunter,” which opened to $20.7m in March 2010 to scathing reviews. It shares a similar premise, even though it was a rom-com as opposed to just a comedy. The average of all three of the aforementioned comparisons, minus 10 percent to compensate for the slightly older-skewing material, is my prediction for “Identity Thief.” That is to say, $22.6 million.

Side EffectsGetting back to “Side Effects”: the Soderbergh fanboy in me wishes it would do as well as Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns’ “Contagion” ($22.4m opening), but that’s never going to happen. I think the most apt way to predict this film’s box office potential is to look at distributor Open Road’s short history. Clearly, “Side Effects” has very little chance of beating Open Road’s top three openings to date: “The Grey” ($19.7m), “A Haunted House” ($18.1), and “End of Watch” ($13.2m). Those films were much easier to market in that the target demo was crystal clear. Here, that’s not so; in fact, reviews indicate that the movie is not at all like the ads. And even though there is some star power (Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta Jones, Jude Law, and Channing Tatum), there’s nothing about the marketing that would make one say “I want to see ‘Side Effects’ for this star alone!” So I’m left to think that the film will open at about what Open Road’s fourth biggest grosser, “Killer Elite,” made in its first weekend: $9.4 million. That would fall right in between Soderbergh’s recent “The Informant!” ($10.5m) and “Haywire” ($8.4m) — not a success, but not a complete bomb like his “Solaris” remake ($6.8m in November 2002).

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

  1. “Identity Thief” … $22.6m
  2. “Warm Bodies” … $10.2m  -49.9%
  3. “Side Effects” … $9.4m
  4. “The Silver Linings Playbook” … $6.8m  -12.1%
  5. “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” … $5.2m  -44.8%
  6. “Zero Dark Thirty” … $3.5m  -32.4%
  7. “Mama” … $3.4m  -48.4%
  8. “Django Unchained” … $2.5m  -16.7%
  9. “Argo” … $2.1m  +3.5%
  10. “Bullet to the Head” … $2.1m  -53.8%