Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Weekend Box Office Bingo...

NOTE - This is early because I will be out of town from Thursday morning to around Sunday morning. I will be back on Sunday for a detailed rundown on The Dark Knight numbers.
I've argued with myself back and forth for the whole summer about whether The Dark Knight could take down Spider-Man 3's opening weekend record of $151 million. No more pussy footing around... time to make a call and live with it.

The Dark Knight - $125 million. Tonight I choose realism over possible hyperbole. Because young kids will not be as large a force as other recent tent-polers, and because no film has ever opened to over $100 million when opening against any other major film (Dark Knight has genuine competition with Mama Mia!), and because only one film (Pirates 2's $135 million) has ever opened to over $90 million in July...

The reviews are glowing (hell, my 'A-' review is almost a pan in comparison), the online sales are through the roof, and everyone that I know wants to see this movie. I haven't seen this kind of anticipation for any event movie in a long, long time. Perhaps this weekend Batman will reclaim its title amongst super heroes as box-office champion. This is a character whose first series that broke the opening weekend record three times in a row (the first three entries opened to $43 million, $46 million, and $52 million). Batman Begins had a learning curve, not everyone knew if they could trust the franchise after 1997's Batman & Robin. Batman Begins opened to $48 million over Fri-Sun and $72 million from Wed-Sun and earned $200 million the old fashioned way - slowly and through positive word of mouth.

And as we all know, sequels to word of mouth sensations usually explode over opening weekend (Austin Powers 2, Bourne Supremacy, Terminator 2). The theater count will be a record 4,366. Plus, the kids who won't be allowed to see it may be compensated by the adults who will be drawn by the reviews and the cinematic pedigree. And, one can't underestimate the sheer number of people who will show up merely to watch a very famous dead man live one last time onscreen.

But, keep in mind that for this record to fall, The Dark Knight would have to come close to or top Spider-Man 3's $59 million opening day. That means that Batman 2 would have to gross $11 million more in one day than Batman 1 made in its three day opening weekend. And, kids will be a factor, perhaps a fatal one. Almost every review warns not to bring the younger set, so that will be a potential deal breaker. Frankly, most of the press comes from the record-setting online ticket sales, but Sex & The City sold about as many tickets online prior to opening weekend just two months ago. I'm pretty sure that Warner Bros. is hoping for something more than $55 million. I say this to warn against the naysayers who cry foul if it does not shatter any records this weekend. Make no mistake, anything over $90 million is a huge win for this sure-to-be leggy word of mouth hit. So, either it opens like Spider-Man 3 or it opens like Spider-Man. Worst case scenario, it opens like The Matrix Reloaded with $85-90 million. Don't believe anyone who tells you that the latter is a failure. But gosh I'd love to be wrong on this one.

Mama Mia! - $30 million. The reviews are pretty decent, the show has a huge fan base, and the ads have been pretty prevalent. Universal is going after the same audience that New Line chased with Hairspray last year, and they probably will get it. Note - if The Dark Knight pulls is $150 million+, downgrade this prediction to $20 million.

Space Chimps - $155 million. Wouldn't that be ironic? Ok, seriously, about $5 million.

Scott Mendelson

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