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Box-Office Preview #1: Weekend of January 8-10, 2010

And so begins a new decade of film with the first three new releases of the 2010s: Daybreakers, Leap Year, and Youth in Revolt.

Unfortunately, not one of them will be the first release of the new decade to reach the top spot at the box-office. In its first non-holiday weekend, James Cameron’s science fiction epic, Avatar, will brush aside the competition with ease and set the record for the biggest fourth weekend gross in Hollywood history. The picture, which has thus far shattered records left and right, has already broken even in just a few short weeks, even if the most inflated rumors concerning its budget are true. Worldwide, it grossed over $1 billion in just 17 days and should become the second-highest grossing film of all-time by Monday morning, as well as the highest grossing North American release of 2009.

Typically holiday tentpoles drop between 35-45% during the second weekend in January, but Avatar has been making up its own rules as it goes along. According to MovieTickets.com, it accounts for more than 84% of all online ticket sales for the upcoming weekend. That said, I would be amazed if it dropped less than 10%, seeing as most kids went back to school this week and colleges go back on Monday. I expect it to drop around 18-20%, which means that it should add between $48-54 million to its domestic cume and perhaps another $130 million worldwide. Either way, if it drops under 30% this weekend, Titanic's 12-year reign as the highest grossing film of all-time could be coming to an end fairly soon.

Coming in second this weekend should be Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, the sequel to the hit 2008 live-action adaptation of the classic cartoon. If it has a similar drop to its predecessor in the same frame, it will be on track to make around $21 million this weekend. However, it opened higher than the first film and has enjoyed better holds, so it could conceivably go as high as $25 million. It’s going to be close, however, with Guy Ritchie’s ambitious reimagining of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes threatening to make it a race to the finish. Holmes, which has thus far exceeded expectations, has grossed around $150 million domestically. Look for it to add another $18-20 million this weekend, raising its domestic cume to somewhere around $170 million. Final box-office grosses north of $200 million are beginning to look very probable for both pictures.

Coming in fourth place will likely be the vampire thriller Daybreakers. The film, starring Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe, has been receiving generally favorable reviews from critics and should become a modest hit for Lionsgate. I expect it to recoup most of its $21 million budget this weekend and earn around $17 million on its way to around $40 million.

I’m also expecting good holds from some of the other holiday leftovers. It’s Complicated has been performing well since its Christmas Day opening, having amassed nearly $65 million in just two and a half weeks. I don’t expect the end of the holidays to dampen its performance too badly, since its target audience didn’t have school to go back to this week. Look for it to drop around 35% this weekend and net around $12.5 million, raising its total box-office earnings to around $77 million. The film should surpass the $100 million milestone before the end of the month. Additionally, I’m expecting a small drop for 2009’s sleeper hit The Blind Side. The film has been playing well throughout the holidays, having already grossed more than $200 million domestically. It should add another $8 million this weekend.

Also opening this weekend is director Anand Tucker’s romantic comedy Leap Year, starring Amy Adams as a spoiled New York socialite who travels to Ireland with the intention of proposing to her boyfriend on Leap Day. However, due to unforeseen circumstances that will undoubtedly be foreseen by the audience well in advance, she falls in love with the goofy Irish cab driver (portrayed by a scrappy Matthew Goode) who is assigned with the thankless task of driving her ass cross country on a trip in which forced hilarity will no doubt ensue. The film, which has been universally panned by the critics, will probably earn roughly $12 million and gross somewhere in the vicinity of $25 million by the end of its run. However, I’ll be the first to tell you that my prediction is probably on the generous side, as the film is probably not even worth going to see in the first place. Even if it is half as bad as the reviews seem to indicate it is, the trailer gave away nearly the entire plot in just under 2 minutes, so really, what’s the point?

Rounding out this week’s new releases, we have Miguel Arteta’s raunchy black comedy Youth in Revolt, starring Michael Cera as a sex-obsessed nerd who invents an evil alter-ego so as to impress the girl of his dreams. Even though the film has been well received by the critics, I find it rather difficult to imagine mainstream audiences will feel the same way about it, at least in the short run, as it looks both too dark and too quirky, which is probably not a good combination for box-office success. However, it appears to be the sort of picture that, like Harold and Maude before it, could develop a rather strong cult following in the years to come, so fans of the book, take heart. Even if it fails to make big numbers this weekend (and it will), it will likely outlast this weekend’s other new releases in the long run. Expect it to earn around $7 million this weekend and $18 million by the end of its theatrical run.

Finally, Oscar hopeful Up in the Air and Disney’s The Princess and the Frog will round out the top 10. I expect Up in the Air to gross around $7-8 million this weekend and The Princess and the Frog to add another $6 million as it struggles to reach $100 million.

Weekend predictions (January 8-10, 2010)

  1. Avatar - $49.5 million
  2. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel - $21.1 million
  3. Sherlock Holmes - $19.7 million
  4. Daybreakers - $17.3 million (NEW)
  5. It’s Complicated - $12.5 million
  6. Leap Year - $12.2 million (NEW)
  7. The Blind Side - $8.3 million
  8. Youth in Revolt - $7.6 million (NEW)
  9. Up in the Air - $7.4 million
  10. The Princess and the Frog - $6.0 million
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  1. Hi, Avo. I’m not OscarGuy, by the way, just one of the contributors to his site.

    I’m not sure why “The Princess and the Frog” is struggling to reach $100 million. I surely hope that it has nothing to do with race, and I actually don’t think that is the case. I think that it has more to do with audiences being more willing to spend money to see CG-animated films in the theater than traditional cell animation. Remember, this is Disney’s first traditionally animated film since 2003′s “Home on the Range,” which was a tremendous box-office flop. In fact, of Disney’s traditionally animated films since 1999′s “Tarzan,” only ONE, 2002′s “Lilo & Stitch,” was a box-office success.

    I’d say that “The Princess and the Frog”‘s box-office performance is actually encouraging, all things considered. $100 million for TPATF would be a huge step towards re-establishing traditional cell animation as a viable investment for studios. Hopefully, it will also do well on DVD.

  2. Well, after the failures of such dismal Disney hand-drawn entries like Home on the Range and Brother Bear, many may have just been wary of traveling to another Disney film without any assurance of quality. While the performance is disappointing, it is roughly on par with how Disney’s The Little Mermaid finished with $110M after the disappointing ’80s numbers of Fox and the Hound and Great Mouse Detective. As more trust is placed in their hand-draw product (DVD release), it may pull more to the box office like how Beauty and the Beast pulled in $171M on the heels of Mermaid, Aladdin had $217M just after and Lion King topped the Disney Revival with $328M.

  3. Hello, Oscar Guy. I just came across your site for the first time today. I am curious what your contention is as to why Princess and the Frog is struggling. It’s a movie that should have easily made $200 million, but looks like it will top out at $100 million. Why do you suppose this is?

  4. It should be noted that “Avatar” has already surpassed “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and become the 2nd highest grossing film of all-time. This little milestone happened after I posted this report, so disregard the comment regarding it becoming the 2nd highest grossing film of all-time by Monday morning.


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