Box Office Beat: Weekend of January 18

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. And it’s not just any weekend at the movies, but a four-day one, seeing as Monday is Martin Luther King Day. Between this and posting my Top 10 Films of 2012 last weekend, it finally feels like January and not just “Oscar spillover month.” There are three new wide releases, so let’s get to number-crunching.

MamaThe winner of the weekend should be a film starring Jessica Chastain, but which one remains anyone’s guess. Competing against “Zero Dark Thirty,” now in its second weekend of wide release, is “Mama,” the obligatory January PG-13 horror film. All the kids who snuck into “Texas Chainsaw 3D” a couple weeks ago are now allowed to buy tickets to the film they actually plan to see, rather than what’s playing in the auditorium next door. There are several comparisons in the “creepy kid” horror genre, but the most apt seems to be last year’s “The Possession” ($17.7m three-day) which was also rated PG-13 and distributed by Universal. The second valid comparison would be the average opening of every January PG-13 horror film of the past five years, not including those released on Superbowl Weekend or the sci-fi skewing “Cloverfield.” There are three: “The Rite” ($14.8m), “The Unborn” ($19.8m), and “The Eye” ($12.4m), which average to $15.7m. The mean of that figure and “The Possession”’s opening is $16.7m. But that’s only for three days. Given that the horror genre is very front-loaded, Monday should be about 20 percent of the three-day total, bringing the four-day figure for “Mama” to an even $20 million.

Broken CityLikely to come in second among the new openers is “Broken City” starring Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe. Industry tracking for this film, directed by Allen Hughes (“Book of Eli,” “Menace II Society”), has been low, with some four-day estimates in the $10m range. I don’t buy it. Wahlberg can open a movie, and his lowest wide release opening in the last decade (by a considerable margin) was the similarly themed “We Own the Night,” which managed $10.8m in just three days. So the absolute floor on the four-day for “Broken City” is around $13.5m, in my view. Then, consider that this is targeted at a younger, hipper, more urban audience than “We Own the Night” was, meaning greater front-loading. Thus, I’ll give it another 10 percent bump on that James Gray film, meaning $14.9 million for the four-day. This is not aggressive at all in the context of Wahlberg’s box office history, especially considering that last year’s “Contraband,” which received similarly awful reviews, grossed a whopping $28.5m on the same holiday weekend.

The Last StandTracking in last place is the new Arnold Schwarzenegger movie (that’s the first time I’ve ever said that), “The Last Stand.” While the movie seems to be getting decent reviews—Korean director Kim Jee-woon is a critical favorite—there is very little discernible buzz for Ah-nuld’s “big” return to Hollywood. Here’s a list of distributor Lionsgate’s non-“Expendables” R-rated action openings: “Kick-Ass” ($19.8m), “Rambo” ($18.2m), “The Punisher” ($13.8m), “Crank” ($10.4m), “Gamer” ($9.2m), “From Paris with Love” ($8.2m), “Bangkok Dangerous” ($7.8m), “Crank: High Voltage” ($7.0m), “Dredd” ($6.3m), “The Bank Job” ($5.9m), “Punisher: War Zone” ($4.2m), and “The Condemned” ($3.8m). I would propose that a strict average of these openings, plus a bump for the extended weekend, will produce an apt prediction for “The Last Stand.” Which means: $9.55m, with a bump of 22 percent. That comes out to $11.7 million on the four-day, Arnold’s worst opening as a lead since “Junior” all the way back in 1994.

My prediction of what the full top 10 for the four-day weekend will look like:

  1. “Mama” … $20.0m
  2. “Zero Dark Thirty” … $15.9m  -34.9%
  3. “Broken City” … $14.9m
  4. “The Last Stand” … $11.7m
  5. “Gangster Squad” … $9.2m  -46.1%
  6. “The Silver Linings Playbook” … $8.6m  +71.3%
  7. “A Haunted House” … $8.1m  -55.2%
  8. “Django Unchained” … $7.5m  -32.1%
  9. “Les Miserables” … $6.3m  -34.7%
  10. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” … $5.5m  -40.1%