Though January has traditionally been a month where studios dump their very worst pictures of the year, it looks like times may be a’changin’. This year, during the Martin Luther King 4-day weekend, we have four new wide releases and two major expansions that don’t all look awful! As far as new films go, entering theaters this weekend is the horror film My Bloody Valentine: 3D, the kiddie flick Hotel For Dogs, the biopic Notorious, and the Sandler-produced comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Definace and Last Chance Harvey are each launching into 1,000+ theaters. Contrary to past Januaries, the respective studios seem to be very confident in these releases, and the advertising has been surprisingly strong. Gran Torino is still a force to be reckoned with, though, and it could stay on top for a second weekend. All in all, the variety of choices at the theater along with the extended weekend should provide the box office with some depth and lead to a solid weekend of receipts.
The number one film this weekend should be My Bloody Valentine: 3D. The strong debut of The Unborn last weekend confirmed a renewed interest in the horror genre, and Valentine has the 3D gimmick working in its favor as well. Lanuching on a record 1,033 3D screens, this savvy move by Lionsgate not only creates novelty and interest, but it pumps up ticket prices in these venues, which will lead to a higher total gross. There has been tons of advertising for this one, and it’s kind of nice to see a film that’s not hiding from it’s “R” rating. The ads sell violence, terror, sex, gore, lots of 3D action shots, and most of all, FUN! You see, the problem with the way so many films are marketed, is that the studio forgets to tell people that they will have fun if they go see the film. My Bloody Valentine: 3D has not forgotten this point, and with some surprisingly great reviews and a legion of Supernatural fans eagerly awaiting Jensen Ackles on the big screen, the horror movie should scare up a strong $23 million from 2,534 venues over the three day period.
The only other opener that could have a chance to take the top spot is Paramount’s Hotel For Dogs, a film that proves difficult to predict. On the one hand, it’s a movie about dogs, and between Beverly Hills Chihuahua ($94 million) and Marley And Me ($126 million so far), dogs are totally the new penguins at the box office. Also, it’s got the widest release of any film this week, checking in to 3,271 theaters, and the sheer accessibility will help it’s total. Advertising has been solid for Hotel for Dogs, and there aren’t any other new films vying for the family market. While all these things are positives for the film, we must not forget that Marley And Me opened huge just four weeks ago, and I have to wonder if audiences are ready for another dog movie so soon afterwards. Maybe they are, and Hotel For Dogs will garner its own massive opening, but I don’t think this is the most likely outcome. Still, the reviews are good enough, and parents and kids know Emma Roberts from her popular Nickelodeon show Unfabulous. When all is said and done, I think this could leash a pretty good $20 million, but $5 million more or less wouldn’t surprise me.
Notorious, a film chronicling the life and untimely death of rap legend Notorious B.I.G., opens into 1,637 theaters this weekend, and it should find a fair degree of success. Biggie’s iconic status in the rap community will absolutely help this Fox Searchlight effort, produced by Sean “P Diddy” Combs. Films marketed to an urban audience are often quite successful, and given that this is MLK weekend, Notorious should be able to capture success similar to the racially themed basketball film Glory Road, which opened to $13 million in 2006. For the 3-day weekend, Notorious might grab about $12.5 million.
The final new release of the weekend is Paul Blart: Mall Cop, a film that excites me about as much as Bride Wars. Ugh. This is a film from Adam Sandler’s production company Happy Madison, which has brought us such classics as Grandma’s Boy and The Benchwarmers. There’s been almost a shocking amount of promotion for this, and while I love Kevin James, I truly hope audiences can spot this as the stinker that it is. Reviews are, not suprisingly, bad. You know, I’ve learned over the years that it is a bad idea to mix my own personal feelings with box office prediction, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. Even if it’s opening in a huge 3,144 theaters, I still see Paul Blart: Mall Cop coming in with just $10 million. (UPDATE: okay, okay- I see that I’m too much on my high horse. I think the commercials I have seen just really suck. I’ll bump my prediction up to $12 million instead.)
Last Chance Harvey and Defiance both have major expansions this weekend, moving into 1,054 and 1,789 theaters, respectively. Neither of these films has been blowing up in limited release, but Defiance, which stars Daniel Craig, has certainly has more promotion behind it. Still, with a $60 million pricetag, it won’t make back its budget in theaters, and it will probably earn about $7.5 million this weekend. Last Chance Harvey, the quirky comedy starring Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman, has achieved a little bit of awards attention, but it will probably only earn about $3 million over the weekend.
Among holdovers, drops should be soft, as Sunday numbers will be stronger than usual, due to the holiday on Monday. Gran Torino is not going to go down quietly. The Clint Eastwood film has struck a chord with audiences, and it’s looking at another weekend of solid bank, and a possible second weekend at number one. For the 3-day weekend, a 27% drop should give it $21 million. Wedding “comedy” Bride Wars should also see a small drop, earning about $13 million. Finally The Unborn, which opened well last week, will erode quickly for two reasons. First, that’s just the nature of the horror genre, and second, My Bloody Valentine: 3D is coming out. A 65% plunge will give it $7 million for the weekend. Here the full weekend predictions:
Predicted Top 12 for January 16-18
1. My Bloody Valentine: 3-D – $23 million
2. Gran Torino – $21 million
3. Hotel For Dogs – $20 million
4. Bride Wars – $13 million
5. Notorious – $12.5 million
6. Paul Blart: Mall Cop – $12 million
7. Defiance – $7.5 million
8. The Unborn – $7 million
9. Marley And Me – $7 million
10. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button – $6 million
11. Slumdog Millionaire – $5 million
12. Bedtime Stories – $5 million
Do I have this right, or am I way off? What do you predict these movies will make?