Box Office Guru Preview: Kids to Flood Multiplexes for Senior Year

Also: Saw V, Pride and Glory & Nightmare Before Christmas in 3D.

by | October 23, 2008 | Comments

Rarely does Hollywood release two films on the same day that are as opposite in every way as this Friday’s pair of new openers. Disney promotes a hit TV franchise to the big screen with the G-rated fun of High School Musical 3: Senior Year which will play to young kids and their parents. But playing in most of those same multiplexes will be the gruesome horror sequel Saw V which pushes the boundaries of its R rating. Both films have built-in fan bases that are sizable with zero overlap so each will have room to find its audience. Also debuting is the cop thriller Pride & Glory which targets serious-minded adults. Thanks to the pair of super sequels, the top ten could break through the $100M mark for only the second time ever in the month of October.

Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, and their clean-cut pals take the leap from the small screen in HSM3, the highly anticipated new story that follows the final high school year for a group of teens. After two wildly popular television movies for Disney Channel, the Mouse House has made an event out of the third chapter by making it a theatrical release. Just as teams do in baseball, the studio cultivated the property in the minor leagues and is now sending it to the majors after earning a spot on the roster. With a G rating and wholesome Disney family entertainment, Senior Year will pull in tweens and younger children with especially large sales from ages 4 to 14. Girls should outnumber boys and plenty of adult tickets for moms will be included in the grosses too. And let us pray for the single dads with daughters of single-digit age who will have absolutely, positively no choice but to trek out and sit through the film this weekend.

Advance ticket sales have been robust for weeks as fans have snapped up stubs ensuring that they don’t get sold out as some had been for February’s other Disney Channel superstar, the Hannah Montana film which bowed at number one with a stunning $31.1M. Though comparisons are inevitable, there are many differences here. The Miley Cyrus vehicle only launched in 683 locations since it played exclusively in digital 3D sites. Plus ticket prices were $15 meaning just over two million tickets were sold for that opening weekend. It was also promoted before its release as a one-week-only event further pushing upfront demand. The studio later extended the run. HSM3 is a more traditional release with regular ticket prices and an ultrawide release in over 3,400 playdates. Given the number of key male characters and the cast’s racial diversity, the potential audience for Musical should be much broader. But don’t expect too many newcomers to join the party. The target audience is large, but finite. The studio collected a sturdy $29.3M for a G-rated little talking dog a few weeks back, so this franchise pic should bring in most of that same crowd and then some. High School Musical 3 is certainly one of those films that could pop and explode this weekend, but a weekend debut of around $39M could result.

The seniors in High School Musical 3: Senior Year

This weekend features another sequel from a very popular franchise, but the similarities end there. When the MPAA grants the R rating “for sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture, language and brief nudity,” it must be time for another installment of the Jigsaw series. Lionsgate unleashes Saw V in its usual spot on the calendar – the Friday before Halloween. Diminishing returns set in on the franchise in the last installment and further erosion should occur with this one both with the opening and final grosses. Saw III debuted to $33.6M while Saw IV dipped a bit to $31.8M. Final grosses fell even further from $80.2M to $63.3M across those chapters. And each pic has drawn more of its total audience upfront on the first frame than the previous one. The first Saw drew 33% of its final gross on opening weekend. Shares then grew to 36% for Saw II, 42% for Saw III, and a whopping 50% for last fall’s torturefest. So why keep making the films? Because their budgets are still tiny by industry standards and worldwide box office and video revenue continue to be exponentially higher. Opening in 3,060 locations (the lowest count since Saw II), Saw V might cut up about $27M this weekend.

Another exasperated victim in Saw V

Edward Norton and Colin Farrell play New York detectives investigating a series of cop killings in the new police thriller Pride & Glory. The R-rated film from New Line Cinema is being released by Warner Bros. and should play to the same adult audience targeted earlier this fall by Body of Lies and Righteous Kill which were also law enforcement actioners anchored by two well-known stars. But Pride is a little lower on the starpower scale and should play out more like last fall’s sibling cop drama We Own the Night starring Max Payne and Johnny Cash which opened to just $10.8M. The push has not been too forceful on Pride and the fall has already had its share of action films so another generic-looking one is not really in demand right now. Busting into about 2,600 theaters, Pride & Glory might debut with about $9M.

Colin Farrell and Edward Norton in Pride and Glory

For the third straight October, Disney will re-release Tim Burton‘s popular creation The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3D venues. The 2006 release collected $8.7M from only 168 sites while last fall a wider run in 564 locations brought in an additional $14.5M. The studio had not reported at press time how many theaters it will open Nightmare in on Friday, but with this year’s growth in 3D theaters and films, it is sure to pack in audiences in each of its sites, despite the studio’s other content out now.

Max Payne looks to suffer a steep drop this weekend thanks to bad word-of-mouth and the latest Jigsaw flick taking away young adults. Look for Fox to absorb a 55% fall putting the Mark Wahlberg actioner at about $8M for the weekend and $30M after ten days. Disney’s HSM3 will be stealing away a bit of the audience for its own hit Beverly Hills Chihuahua this weekend. Look for the dog pic to drop by 40% to around $7M boosting the cume to $78M.

The new films The Secret Life of Bees and W., which are vastly different from each other in both subject matter and title length, debuted neck and neck with $10.5M a piece with Bees squeezing out a small victory despite playing in 439 fewer locations. Each film had a built-in audience and mixed reviews so the sophomore declines should be moderate, possibly 45%. That would give the films just under $6M each for the weekend boosting the totals to $19M for Fox Searchlight and Lionsgate, respectively.

LAST YEAR: If it’s Halloween, it must be Saw. That thinking was good enough to drive Saw IV into the number one spot with a $31.8M bow for Lionsgate nearly tripling its nearest competitor. Steve Carell tried out the world of dramedies with Dan in Real Life which debuted in second with $11.8M and a solid $6,148 average. Buena Vista ended up with a solid $47.6M. Rounding out the top five were holdovers – 30 Days of Night with $6.9M, The Game Plan with $6.1M, and Why Did I Get Married? with $5.6M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,