Box Office Beat: Weekend of May 11

Danny Baldwin's Box Office BeatHello and welcome back to my weekly Box Office Beat column, in which I hopelessly predict how much cash the movies of the moment will be able to rake in. The beauty of this game is that even the experts often miss the mark, meaning that when I underestimate the gross of a blockbuster like The Avengers by over 40% (as was the case last week), it doesn’t disqualify me from being able to declare faux-expertise. For the sake of my non-existent reputation, however, I hope to do better this weekend.

Dark ShadowsMy life has once again been made easy by the fact that there is only one new release for the weekend. This time, it’s Dark Shadows, the latest collaboration between director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp, based on the soap opera from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. The movie’s buzz seems to have been sucked right away by the headlines-making, records-breaking grosses of The Avengers, and there is no doubt that the Marvel Comics adaptation will beat it for the number one spot. But Depp/Burton collaborations have been financially fruitful in the past–2010’s Alice in Wonderland opened to a whopping $116.1m–so it would be silly to rule out the possibility a terrific opening for Dark Shadows.

Probably the most similar effort that Depp and Burton have previously released together was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which opened to $56.2m in July 2005. But that figure still seems on the high side, for two reasons: 1) Charlie was PG rather than PG-13 and therefore more inclusive of families and 2) younger generations were familiar with the source material, whereas only those over 40 remember Dark Shadows. (However, one could also argue that while dated, the Dark Shadows concept is beloved by many older people who otherwise wouldn’t give Depp/Burton a chance.) It seems reasonable to me that Dark Shadows will open about 20% under Charlie, giving it a respectable first weekend tow of $45 million.

The Best Exotic Marigold HotelPerhaps the more interesting story this weekend is that Fox Searchlight’s British-accented old-geezer matinee, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, may find its way into the top 5, playing in just 177 theaters. The film’s per-screen average in its initial limited engagement last weekend was stellar, and there is no reason to believe that the train will slow down as it chugs into new cities. I’m predicting $3.1 million for the weekend.

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

  1. The Avengers … $83.0m  -59.9%
  2. Dark Shadows … $45.0m
  3. Think Like a Man … $4.1m   -49.4%
  4. The Pirates! Band of Misfits … $3.9m   -29.1%
  5. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel … $3.1m   +420.6%
  6. The Hunger Games … $3.1m   -44.5%
  7. The Lucky One … $2.9m   -46.0%
  8. The Five-Year Engagement … $2.9m   -42.3%
  9. Chimpanzee … $1.4m   -43.6%
  10. The Raven … $1.2m   -54.5%