Box Office Beat: Weekend of March 1

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 a crowded post-Oscar weekend, with four new wide releases. Whether any of them are worth seeing, I’m not sure (I skipped the press screenings), but critics certainly don’t think so. As of this writing, the highest Tomatometer score of the bunch, by a considerable margin, is 55 percent. But bad reviews are rarely a deterrent, so with that in mind, let’s crunch some numbers…

Jack the Giant SlayerThe movie with the highest Tomatometer score is also the likeliest to top the chart: “Jack the Giant Slayer.” But with a whopping $195 million budget, it has to do a lot more than just top the chart to make its money back. Unfortunately for Warner Bros., despite a relatively big ad campaign, there is little evidence to suggest it will pull in huge, blockbuster-level numbers. In fact, “Jack the Giant Slayer” looks a lot like a flop that came out last March, Disney’s “John Cater,” which opened to $30.2 million. Additionally, two other PG-13 action-adventure films released in March seem like good comparisons: “10,000 B.C.” and “Wrath of the Titans,” which had similar openings of $35.9m and $33.5m, respectively. The average of the three figures comes out to $33.2m, which would normally be my prediction, but I’m doubting that “Jack the Giant Slayer” can manage that high a number because of reports that the studio is hoping for “at least $30m.” That doesn’t bode well for the film’s earnings potential. Thus, I’m downgrading my prediction to a cautious $26.5 million.

The Last Exorcism Part IILikely to place in second is “The Last Exorcism Part II,” which wasn’t screened for critics, as is becoming an increasingly standard practice in the horror genre (especially for sequels). The film’s predecessor opened to a very strong $20.4m, but this one might not be able to repeat that because of one major factor: audiences gave the original a “D” CinemaScore, signifying that they really hated it and may be none-too-eager to come back for more. That’s because it was marketed as something different from what it actually was and its mockumentary style clearly put off fans of traditional horror. However, the PG-13 horror fanbase is constantly replenishing itself with new teenyboppers coming of age, who likely don’t remember “The Last Exorcism,” and the trailer for this one makes clear that it’s more standard fare. If “The Last Exorcism Part II” drops from the first, it’s more likely to be the result of a new distributor (CBS Films) which is less experienced in this genre than the previous one (Lionsgate). The worst drop recorded in PG-13 horror appears to be “The Grudge 2,” which fell 46.8 percent from “The Grudge.” Something tells me “The Last Exorcism Part II” won’t be quite so bad, in that there’s little competition, thanks to “Dark Skies” underperforming last weekend. I’m going to say its drop is 10 percent less (so 36.8) from its predecessor, meaning an opening of $12.9 million.

21 & OverAttempting to repeat the success of the similar R-rated teen comedy “Project X” on this weekend last year, but unlikely to do so is “21 and Over.” The trailer gets laughs every time I’ve seen it with an audience (half a dozen or so), but nothing about the film screams must-see. Scanning a list of recent college comedies, the only one I find that seems similar to this is “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder” ($7.3m), which may be a good comparison in that it was also put out by a midsize, non-major studio. But adjustments have to be made for the comp to work, for both ticket-price inflation since 2002 and the fact that “21 and Over” is playing in about 700 more theaters than “Van Wilder.” After screwing around with the calculator, I come up with $10.5 million. That’s certainly no “Project X.”

PhantomThe last of the wide releases is “Phantom,” starring Ed Harris and David Duchovny. I keep up with movies more than 99.9 percent of people, and yet I have next-to-no idea what this is about. I know it involves a submarine and, I think, the Cold War. And I know it was partially filmed here in San Diego at the Maritime Museum. But outside of that, zilch. That means awareness must be catastrophically low among the general population. Adding insult to injury, it’s being released by a first-time distributor (RCR). They haven’t even put out an official theater count, but an exhibition insider tells me it’s about 1,200. My guess is that the per-theater-average will be right around that number, too (dismal). That means a weekend of $1.4 million, placing the film solidly outside the top 10.

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

  1. “Jack the Giant Slayer” … $26.5m
  2. “The Last Exorcism Part II” … $12.9m
  3. “21 and Over” … $10.5m
  4. “Identity Thief” … $10.0m  -28.7%
  5. “Escape from Planet Earth” … $7.5m  -29.8%
  6. “Snitch” … $6.6m  -49.9%
  7. “Safe Haven” … $5.7m  -45.5%
  8. “Silver Linings Playbook” … $4.7m  -18.3%
  9. “A Good Day to Die Hard” … $4.6m  -54.7%
  10. “Dark Skies” … $3.2m  -60.9%