Box Office Beat: Weekend of September 21

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. There are a whopping five new wide releases, which will make it especially pathetic if not one bucks the ongoing trend of box office duds. Last weekend, “Resident Evil: Retribution” and “Finding Nemo 3-D” didn’t do abysmally–certainly not as abysmally as “The Words” and “The Cold Light of Day” did seven days prior, at least–but they both definitely underperformed. Let’s crunch some numbers to see if any of the newcomers have a shot at renewing hope for Hollywood.

Trouble with the CurveThe biggest studio release is Warner Bros’ “Trouble with the Curve” (which I reviewed here), starring Clint Eastwood as an aging baseball scout rebuilding his relationship with his daughter, played by Amy Adams. The release is well positioned, just before the MLB enters the playoffs and without much competition for older adults. Eastwood plays a character similar to his curmudgeon in “Gran Torino” (toned down for a PG-13 rating), but don’t expect a repeat of that film’s stellar $29.5m opening — the result of a month of WB building it in limited release and strong reviews. Instead, the film should open more in line with last year’s baseball movie, “Moneyball,” which in many ways was its opposite but was marketed to a similar crowd. That would give “Trouble with the Curve” $19.5 million. Anything higher would be a real feat for WB, because that is the current opening weekend ceiling for a baseball movie.

House at the End of the StreetThe next “biggest” release is Relativity’s “House at the End of the Street,” a PG-13 horror movie starring Jennifer Lawrence. The “Hunger Games” actress has certainly become a household name, but given the rather narrow (but loyal) demographic that this type of film appeals to, it’s unlikely to get much of a bump on the genre norm because of her presence. That means the outlook is somewhere between “The Haunting in Connecticut” ($23.0m) and “Pulse” ($8.2m). In fact, averaging those two movies’ openings is about as valid a way to make a prediction on “House at the End of the Street” as any, giving it $15.6 million.

End of WatchThe biggest surprise, however, could be “End of Watch,” the independent production written and directed by David Ayer (“Training Day”) about two L.A.P.D. agents who dangerously encroach on the Mexican drug cartel. The reviews are exceptional, meaning the movie should pull in a lot of older adults, plus it should do fantastically in urban areas where this material resonates, especially in Southern California. In fact, I even think “End of Watch” will best Ayer’s prior film, “Street Kings” ($12.5m), by a small margin, given that film scored the latter demographic but not the former. This is a bold prediction, higher than those of my fellow prognosticators, but I’m saying $14 million.

DreddThen there’s “Dredd,” a re-imagining of Sylvester Stallone’s notoriously bad 1995 action flick “Judge Dredd.” The reviews on this one are surprisingly positive, but awareness doesn’t seem to be that high, and young males are likely to be siphoned off by “End of Watch.” I see the film opening about 50 percent better than Neil Marshall’s similarly-targeted “DOOMSDAY” — 25 percent for the 3-D surcharge bump and 25 percent for the built-in fan-base of guys who remember the original nostalgically. That would give “Dredd” an unimpressive $7.4 million opening, meaning it’ll face an uphill battle in recouping its $45 million budget, even though foreign markets should be stronger.

The MasterLastly, Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” is expanding to 788 theaters — a bold move by Harvey Weinstein and company given the artsy nature of the film, but one that they felt warranted following last weekend’s record-breaking New York/Los Angeles exclusive bow. There is very little precedent here because this type of release is usually platformed slowly, over several weeks, before going wide. I’m going to conservatively estimate that it does well, but not amazingly — meaning a per-theater-average around $7,500. Big cities should do huge business, but smaller markets are not likely to take nearly as kindly to the film, which has been characterized by some critics as avant-garde. But really, this one is anyone’s guess. Mine just happens to work out to $5.9 million, which is nothing to sneeze at.

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

  1. “Trouble with the Curve” … $19.5m
  2. “House at the End of the Street” … $15.0m
  3. “End of Watch” … $14.0m
  4. “Finding Nemo 3-D” … $10.1m  -39.5%
  5. “Resident Evil: Retribution” … $8.4m  -60.0%
  6. “Dredd” … $7.4m
  7. “The Master” … $5.9m  +801.6%
  8. “Lawless” … $3.2m  -26.4%
  9. “The Possession” … $2.6m  -54.9%
  10. “ParaNorman” … $2.3m  -25.6%