Saturday, March 28, 2009

Mendelon Memos' Friday night box office rundown (03/27/09)

This will be shorter than usual because so much is up in the air due to the nature of the two big openers. I will say that there was a major surprise and it's not what you're thinking.

Yes, the Paramount/Dreamworks animated spectacle Monsters Vs. Aliens opened to number one with a rock-solid $16.7 million. But we do not yet know if this will play like a family film (3.5x multiplier gives it $58 million for the weekend) or a mainstream hit (3x gives it $50 million) or a front loaded franchise picture (2.5x gives it $41 million). As it is, the under $20 million opening day suggests a solid Saturday and Sunday bump (since Friday is still a school day in March). Regardless, it needs to do at least $50 million to justify the (self-imposed) hype. Amusingly, Dreamworks was bragging about a $60 million opening weekend, while Paramount was trying to temper the buzz, claiming they only expected $50 million. When the studio itself is raising expectations and calling it the dawn of a new age, it better at least meet those studio expectations. We'll see tomorrow. I'm quite curious to see what the percentage is in regards to 2D vs 3D vs IMAX 3D ticket sales.

But the big surprise for me this weekend is the knockout $9.5 million opening day for The Haunting In Connecticut. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I'm pretty sure that this is the biggest opening day for any Lionsgate movie that isn't a Saw film or a Tyler Perry production (that previous record I believe belonged to the $8.5 million opening day for Fahrenheit 9/11). This looked more like a Sony horror picture, with its PG-13 rating and emphasis on kids and family strife (think Prom Night or The Messengers). And it opened at the high end of that studio's horror properties. Prom Night opened to a $9.5 million Friday and When A Stranger Calls opened to $9.1 million.

Lionsgate had one truly scary image to sell (the mysterious 'something' coming out of young boy's mouth) that they used it on the poster and every piece of print advertising, and they also ended every trailer and TV spot with it. That single shot is responsible for I'd guess 70% of the money that the movie makes this weekend. But, once again, its weekend is up in the air due to the front loaded nature of the horror genre. While one expects a low multiplier, the reviews are better than expected (never have I read so many two-star reviews with so many good things to say) and the film could theoretically skew more adult with its old fashioned haunted house storyline, its PG-13 rating, and its emphasis (in the trailer) on grown up actors Virginia Madsen and Tate Donovan.

The holdovers performed about as expected, with one mild exception. Knowing dropped a pretty solid 48%, which means it'll end the weekend with about a 45% drop (these days, especially for a science fiction picture, that's considered legs). I Love You Man will drop the usual 1/3 that Judd Apatow films usually do, meaning that it'll play into the beginning of summer. Duplicity dropped a disturbing 50%. Usually adult-themed pictures compensate for their less than huge opening weekends with stronger legs. The theory is that adults don't need to rush out and see a movie on opening weekend. But this way too expensive caper picture is now likely to struggle to even make it to $40 million. That's a shame, as it's a good, fun, twisty little movie that allowed Julia Roberts and Clive Owen to shine. It deserved better. But then, had Tony Gilroy and company kept the budget in check (how on earth did this no frills character-driven comedy thriller cost $80 million?), this wouldn't have been an issue.

That's pretty much all of the news that's fit to print. I'll discuss weekend figures tomorrow or Monday.

Scott Mendelson

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