Box Office Beat: Weekend of September 28

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. I may not have been successful across the board last weekend, but I was one of the few prognosticators to correctly predict that “End of Watch” would outperform expectations by a good margin and that “Dredd” would bomb, so I’ll chalk it up as a win. Nonetheless, there’s always room for improvement, and I believe that I have some good comparisons for this weekend’s three new wide releases. Let’s crunch some numbers…

Hotel TransylvaniaThe Adam Sandler-led animated family comedy “Hotel Transylvania” will undoubtedly win the weekend, even though I have my doubts that many parents will spread positive word-of-mouth about this stinker. It’s being distributed by Sony, so Disney/Pixar or even DreamWorks numbers seem out of reach, but it should be able to open on the high end of non-sequels from the “lesser” studios that weren’t adapted from a well-known source. I’ll first average the top five films that fit that description: “Despicable Me” ($56.4m), “Ice Age” ($46.3m), “Happy Feet” ($41.5m), “Rio” ($39.2m), and “Robots” ($36.0). That comes to $43.9m. However, because of my aforementioned skepticism about good word-of-mouth and also the fact that it is not summer (when a few of those films opened, boosting Friday sales), I’m going to downgrade that figure by 25 percent for my final prediction: $32.9 million.

LooperLikely to come in second place is the high-concept sci-fi film “Looper,” which is generating a lot of great buzz on the Internet, but one should be wary of this because the 20-something male fanboys that are the main commenters on geek-blogs are the movie’s target demographic. I don’t sense that awareness is anywhere near as high among the general public. After all, director Rian Johnson’s past two films both made under $4m total, so this is really his first shot to prove himself to “regular” audiences. Outside of young males, I think “Looper” will attract an audience comparable to last year’s “In Time” ($12.1 million), which was similar on the surface in that it was a future-set sci-fi story grounded in the real world. I’ll give “Looper” a 20 percent boost for the momentum it has with the aforementioned young males, for a prediction of $14.5 million.

Won't Back Down“Won’t Back Down,” which is said to be a surprisingly politically conservative film when it comes to school choice, is not likely to fare as well. Had the studio sold the movie that way, perhaps it could have replicated the recent success of the low-budget right-leaning flicks “2016: Obama’s America” and (to a lesser extent) “Last Ounce of Courage.” Instead, it seems that Fox has targeted the Oprah audience… only problem is, Oprah’s no longer on network television to interview Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and the real teachers and moms who inspired the movie. That might have given it a boost. Instead, I don’t see a per-theater-average much better than what the similarly-themed documentary “Waiting for Superman” scored when it had its major expansion to 290 theaters ($2,671). That would give “Won’t Back Down,” which is scheduled to play in 2,515 theaters, an opening weekend of $6.7 million

The Anna Kendrick musical-comedy “Pitch Perfect” also opens in a limited release of 335 screens to build buzz. This is sort of unprecedented for such a mass-appeal movie–typically, the studio would just run Friday or Saturday night sneak previews–but I think interest in “Pitch Perfect” may be high enough for it to score 10th place during this down time of the year at the box office. This is not an “official prediction”–I’ll make a more educated guess when the movie opens wide next week–but I listed it in the top 10 below, so I figured I needed to offer an explanation.

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

  1. “Hotel Transylvania” … $32.9m
  2. “Looper” … $14.5m
  3. “End of Watch” … $8.9m  -32.3%
  4. “Trouble with the Curve” … $8.0m  -34.2%
  5. “Won’t Back Down” … $6.7m
  6. “Finding Nemo 3-D” … $6.0m  -37.8%
  7. “House at the End of the Street” … $4.9m  -60.1%
  8. “Resident Evil: Retribution” … $3.4m  -49.3%
  9. “The Master” … $3.0m  -31.7%
  10. “Pitch Perfect” … $2.7m