Box Office Beat: Weekend of November 2

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. Last week, I decided to take a much needed break before the onslaught of heavyweight holiday releases over the next couple of months, and it turned out to be a good time to do so: no new film grossed more than $10 million. In fact, two (“Fun Size” and “Chasing Mavericks”) didn’t even crack $5m, earning spots amongst the biggest bombs of the year. Needless to say, that is unlikely to happen again this weekend, as the new Disney and Denzel Washington films are the hot-ticket openers. The biggest variable is whether the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which includes the continued closure of about 300 theaters, has a significant impact. I’m sure it will have some negative effect, but to try to calculate that precisely would be lunacy. So I’m simply going to deduct 10 percent from every figure I reach through my normal predictions procedure. Let’s crunch some numbers…

Wreck-It RalphDisney’s “Wreck-It Ralph” (review) was clearly designed to expand the usual family film audience size by appealing to 20- and 30-somethings nostalgic for the classic arcade games it bases its story around. Thus, it’s tempting to liken the movie’s potential appeal to that of a Pixar release, minus viewers over 40. But nobody thinks “Wreck-It Ralph” is going to open to a figure in the mid-$60m range a la “WALL-E,” “Up,” or “Brave.” I’m going to go out on a limb, however, and say it matches Pixar’s smallest New Millennium opening weekend, the $47m grossed by “Ratatouille.” (Minus 10 percent due to Sandy for my official prediction: $42.3 million.) That’s also about the average opening number of a recent studio-produced animated film.

Robert Zemeckis’ “Flight, starring Denzel Washington, probably won’t reach its full potential because it only opens in around 1,900 theaters, presumably with the intention of expanding as word-of-mouth kicks in and awards buzz builds. (Our Timothy Semenza was one of the few who gave the film a very negative review.) Denzel’s only other relatively recent projects to play on so few screens were “The Great Debaters” and “Antwone Fisher,” both of which were passion projects he also directed that were aimed at smaller audiences. So “Flight” marks uncharted territory. On the surface, the Denzel project this resembles the most is “Inside Man,” in that it showcases a highbrow director tackling a serious-but-widely-appealing subject. So my prediction will be the opening gross of that film ($28.9 million), cut by 30 percent due to the substantial reduction in theaters and another 10 percent because “alcoholic pilot” is a bit harder sell than “hostage negotiator.” That comes out to $17.3m. (Minus another 10 percent due to Sandy for my official prediction: $15.6 million.)

The Man with the Iron FistsLastly, there’s “The Man with the Iron Fists, a unique spin on the kung-fu film directed by hip-hop musician RZA. Quentin Tarantino slapped his name on the movie, a practice that has historically lent itself to success (Zhang Yimou’s “Hero” opened to $18m and Eli Roth’s “Hostel” to $19.1m). But in spite of this–and the presence of Russell Crowe in a major role–I don’t see any signs of buzz for the film anywhere. Peculiarly, it was screened for a very small section of the press, even though reviews seem to be pretty good. Plus, it’s only opening on around 1,800 screens. I’d predict an opening somewhere in line with other specialty releases geared mainly at well-educated, 20- and 30-something young males like “Hot Fuzz” ($5.8m). In fact, I think that’s a really good comparison, bumped up by 15 percent or so because “Fuzz” only opened on 825 screens. That’s $6.7m for “The Man with the Iron Fists.” (Minus another 10 percent due to Sandy for my official prediction: $6.0 million.)

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

  1. “Wreck-It Ralph” … $42.3m
  2. “Flight” … $15.6m
  3. “Argo” … $9.0m  -25.5%
  4. “Hotel Transylvania” … $5.7m  -39.6%
  5. “The Man with the Iron Fists” … $6.0m
  6. “Cloud Atlas” … $5.4m  -43.8%
  7. “Taken 2” … $4.6m  -40.4%
  8. “Paranormal Activity 4” … $3.4m  -60.0%
  9. “Here Comes the Boom” … $3.2m  -38.6%
  10. “Silent Hill: Revelation” … $2.8m  -65.1%