Box Office Beat: Weekend of May 18

Danny Baldwin's Box Office BeatHello and welcome back to Box Office Beat, Critic Speak’s weekly box office predictions column. After missing the mark considerably for two weekends in a row–I lowballed the record-breaking run of The Avengers and overestimated Tim Burton’s anemic Dark Shadows–I am ready to redeem myself with better predictions this time around. Thankfully, I have three times the chances to succeed, for this is the first weekend in May to offer more than one new release. Let the guessing and analysis commence…

Battleship, from director Peter Berg (Hancock, The Kingdom), is the big blockbuster of the weekend, and despite strong international returns ($215 million and counting), prognosticators remain skeptical about its domestic prospects. That said, the absolute floor for this would be the opening weekend of another silly movie starring Liam Neeson, 2010’s The A-Team, which pulled in $25.7m. But I think said prognosticators are putting too much emphasis on how “stupid” the movie seems, not realizing that many summer moviegoers like stupidity (in fact, this has been compared to the works of box office champion Michael Bay). Battleship is more likely to pull in a figure similar to fellow box office “disappointments” X-Men: First Class ($55.1m), Green Lantern ($53.2m), Cowboys and Aliens ($35m), and The Last Airbender ($40.3m). Heck, the average of those four — $45.9 million — seems as good a prediction as any.

Then there’s Sacha Baron Cohen’s R-rated comedy The Dictator, which opened yesterday and isn’t looking so hot thus far. It managed to rake in just $4.2m for Wednesday (including Tuesday night previews), less than half of Borat’s first day and less than a third of Brüno’s. Granted, those two Cohen efforts opened on the traditional Friday, which admittedly draws bigger crowds. But given that his core fan-base accounts for a large percentage of his viewers and that Brüno was incredibly front-loaded (grossing nearly half of its opening weekend on Friday), the degree to which The Dictator will grow on Friday may not be that great. I would predict +60%, tops, which means the best weekend the film will muster is around $17.7m. But I’m going to be even more conservative than that and predict $16.1 million.

Last up is the chick-flick What to Expect When You’re Expecting, which doesn’t have a lot of Internet buzz but has been advertised on television galore. It has a good chance of achieving modest success because there hasn’t been a female-oriented wide release for weeks (Think Like a Man and The Lucky One were the last ones). It’s also an ensemble film, which means lots of star-power, albeit in small doses. The best it could do is He’s Just Not That Into You’s $27.8m (unlikely) and the worst it could do is New Year’s Eve’s $13m (also unlikely). Splitting the difference between the two, my prediction comes out to $20.4 million.

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

  1. The Avengers … $58.0m  -43.7%
  2. Battleship … $45.9m
  3. What to Expect When You’re Expecting … $20.4m
  4. The Dictator … $16.1m
  5. Dark Shadows … $16.0m  -46.1%
  6. Think Like a Man … $3.2m  -45.0%
  7. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel … $3.0m  +11.2%
  8. The Hunger Games … $2.7m  -40.0%
  9. The Lucky One … $2.5m  -39.1%
  10. The Pirates! Band of Misfits … $1.7m  -45.9%