Box Office Beat: Weekend of June 8

Danny Baldwin's Box Office BeatIt’s Thursday evening, meaning it’s time for me to once again hopelessly predict the tallies of this weekend’s box office stars. Two openers that could not be more different, Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” and DreamWorks Animation’s “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted,” are vying for the top slot. Let’s crunch some numbers.

If one was to pay attention only to Internet hype, then one would probably conclude that “Prometheus,” Scott’s prequel to “Alien,” will have one of the biggest openings of all-time. Among males ages 17-35, that may be the case, but the reach outside of their demographic will not be widespread, despite two prominent female characters played by Charlize Theron and Noomi Rapace.

It’s very difficult to find comparisons among R-rated sci-fi in the last decade because, frankly, there hasn’t been much of it. Obviously, the “Matrix” sequels are too high and the “Resident Evil” films are too low. The comparison that best suits “Prometheus” is the PG-13 rated “Terminator: Salvation,” another prequel to a highly popular sci-fi franchise (that was itself, ironically, R-rated). But I would argue that the audience that “Terminator: Salvation” gained from a more inclusive PG-13 is made up for by “Prometheus”’s much better reviews, which will likewise expand its net.

“Terminator: Salvation” opened on a Thursday, but I think a three-day opening would not have been much higher than its four-day opening, given the high “rush out and see it” factor with franchise films. I would approximate a hypothetical three-day at around $49m. That’s slightly lower than the other strong comparison: “Watchmen,” which made $55.2m over its first weekend. “Watchmen” is like “Prometheus” in that it mainly appeals to young males, but is based on material from the ‘80s that will attract nostalgic oldsters.

That segues perfectly into the IMAX/3D factor, which will affect “Prometheus.” First, I must come up with a non-inflated prediction from the two aforementioned comparisons. “Terminator: Salvation” goes down at $49m. But Watchmen was inflated by IMAX. A reported 10 percent of its opening weekend gross came from the large format venues. That means, without IMAX, its opening would have been around $53m. Thus, averaging $49m and $53m, my estimate for “Prometheus” pre-surcharge is $51m.

Because awareness is high that “Prometheus” is a “real” 3-D movie, not a post-conversion, the format should make up the lion-share of its attendance. My best estimate is in the 65 percent range. Figuring an average surcharge of $3, that means the movie’s total weekend take will be $64.3 million.

Now that I’m done with that complicated prediction, I can tackle “Madagascar 3: Escape to Africa,” which is much easier to guess. The animated film is getting the best reviews of the series, which means it should be able to do total box office similar to its predecessors, which grossed an average $186.7m. Figuring that the movie does a third of its total opening weekend–a standard amount for a franchise children’s film–that means its opening weekend will come out around $62.2 million. That’s only $2.1m less than my prediction for Prometheus, meaning either film could very well take the #1 spot.

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

  1. “Prometheus” … $64.3m
  2. “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” … $62.2m
  3. “Snow White and the Huntsman” … $23.6m  -58.0%
  4. “Men in Black 3” … $15.0m  -46.6%
  5. “The Avengers” … $12.0m  -41.4%
  6. “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” … $3.6m  -19.7%
  7. “Moonrise Kingdom” … $3.3m  +376.3%
  8. “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” … $2.7m  -38.7%
  9. “Battleship” … $2.3m  -54.8%
  10. “The Dictator” … $2.2m  -45.9%