Box Office Beat: Weekend of October 12

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 grosses. After “Taken 2” dominated last weekend, with nearly $50 million in domestic sales, it’s unlikely that we’ll see another blockbuster-sized opening this weekend, especially with six wide openers vying for ticket-buyers’ money. However, the wealth of new releases makes for good predictions fodder, so strap yourselves in for an epic column and let’s crunch some numbers…

ArgoThe highest profile new release of the weekend is Ben Affleck’s “Argo,” which is being sold as a top-tier Oscar contender. That high-brow angle could come back to bite studio Warner Bros., however, because the movie is actually a very straightforward heist thriller that would appeal to the same mass audience that enjoyed Affleck’s mega-hit “The Town,” despite being based on true events that happened during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. I get the feeling that “Argo” is being viewed by audiences as more of a stuffy movie that’s distinctly for “adults.” Word-of-mouth should treat “Argo” well–it’s a nicely crafted piece of entertainment, even if it doesn’t take advantage of its premise’s inherent geopolitical parallels to today–but I think the opening will be significantly less than “The Town”’s $23.8m. I’d predict a figure more in line with other “adult”-targeted films that Affleck has starred in over the last decade, like “State of Play” ($14m) and “Changing Lanes” ($17.1m). In fact, the average of those two is as good a prediction as any — I’m calling “Argo” at $15.6 million. (That’s less than many prognosticators, but remember: I was one of the few to predict how well “The Town” would open, so one could say I have a gift with Affleck-directed projects – hah!)

Here Comes the BoomThe next biggest release is “Here Comes the Boom,” a PG-rated comedy starring Kevin James as a schoolteacher who takes up MMA fighting. James has done extremely well in this genre; “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” opened to a stunning $31.8m and “Zookeeper” to a respectable $20.1m. Both turned solid profits, especially the former. “Here Comes the Boom” is getting significantly better reviews than either past effort, but it just doesn’t seem to have the same level of buzz. Not is James’ star fading, but the MMA premise is also questionable given that the sport hasn’t caught on with general audiences (see: last fall’s “Warrior”). “Here Comes the Boom” should still open in the double-digits, but I think it will see a similar drop to what “Zookeeper” experienced from “Paul Blart” — about 36.8 percent. That would give the movie an opening weekend of $12.7 million.

SinisterThen there’s “Sinister,” the already widely celebrated horror film from the director of the wildly successful “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” and a former blogger for Harry Knowles’ Ain’t It Cool News. The pic is being distributed by Summit, who have given it a solid word-of-mouth screenings campaign, which they are bringing to a close with nationwide 10 p.m. (paid) preview showings tonight. By all press accounts, “Sinister” is a return to the roots of the horror genre in that it deals with the supernatural, not real-world torture scenarios like the “Saw” franchise. I see a lot of similarities with last year’s “Insidious” (non-major studio, unusually positive reviews by horror standards, WOM-based marketing approach), the one exception being that that film was rated PG-13 and this one is R, excluding a large portion of the horror audience. Thus, I must dock 25 percent off the “Insidious” opening for my “Sinister” prediction: $10 million.

Seven PsychopathsAlso being released, through CBS Films, is Seven Psychopaths, the crime-comedy from “In Bruges” director Martin McDonagh. There has been quite a bit of marketing for the film and the reviews are terrific, but with so many other, bigger options flooding the marketplace, it’s hard to think of a scenario in which this one catches on outside of the “In Bruges” fan-base. Older viewers who might have given it a try on a deader weekend will almost certainly go see “Argo” instead. So what does that leave “Seven Psychopaths” with? A total run that will struggle to double the $7.8m accumulated by “In Bruges”; in fact, if this film weren’t being released on over five times the screens, it might not even have done that much. I think the total is likely to be around $12-13m. However, “Seven Psychopaths” will certainly be a lot more front-loaded than “In Bruges” (which platformed over several weeks), doing about 40 percent of its business on opening weekend. That means a figure of around $5 million.

Atlas Shrugged: Part IIAmidst all these new releases, “Atlas Shrugged: Part II” seeks to tap into the niche of conservative moviegoers who made the recent right-wing documentary “2016: Obama’s America” so successful a few months back. An advertisement for the film has been at the top of the Drudge Report homepage all day. The first “Atlas Shrugged” did OK, as far as this type of film goes–$1.7m opening weekend for a total run of $4.6m–but it wasn’t released less than one month before a national election. The conservative base is riled up right now, meaning higher revenues. Plus, this installment reportedly has an ad budget 10 times the size of its predecessor and a team of seasoned marketing execs (who previously worked on “Lord of the Rings” and “Twilight” releases) at its disposal. As a result, the likely outcome is an opening per-theater-average in line with “Atlas Shrugged: Part I,” but for a release that is nearly four times the size (1,012 theaters vs. 299). That means an opening weekend of about $5.7 million.

The Perks of Being a WallflowerLastly, the indie coming-of-age film “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is expanding to a semi-wide release after several weeks of platforming. The movie, an adaptation of a young adult novel, is very good, but it deals with tough themes that could alienate mass audiences. The content reminds me a bit of Focus Features’ “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” which opened in a similar number of theaters almost two years ago to the day — only it’s much better and boasts a big star who appeals to the teenage demo (Emma Watson). Thus, I think “The Perks of Being A Wallflower” should be able to double that film’s paltry $2m gross for $4 million, a respectable expansion.

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

  1. “Taken 2” … $24.7m
  2. “Hotel Transylvania” … $17.6m  -34.9%
  3. “Argo” … $15.6m
  4. “Here Comes the Boom” … $12.7m
  5. “Sinister” … $10.0m
  6. “Pitch Perfect” … $8.9m  -40.0%
  7. “Frankenweenie” … $6.8m  -40.4%
  8. “Looper” … $6.7m  -44.7%
  9. “Atlas Shrugged: Part II” … $5.7m
  10. “Seven Psychopaths” … $5.0m