Box Office Guru Preview: Sex in the Multiplex All Weekend Long

The Strangers also opens in wide release.

by | May 29, 2008 | Comments

This weekend a quartet of New York City gals will try to boot Indiana Jones out of the number one spot at the North American box office as the much-hyped comedy Sex and the City makes its way into multiplexes on Friday backed by an army of fans. Lovers of horror will have the chance to see the Liv Tyler thriller The Strangers which will try to scare up some business of its own. The new releases kick off what could be a banner summer for R-rated fare. Overall, the marketplace stands a realistic chance of beating last year’s performance.

Leaping from HBO to DVD to basic cable to syndication to the big screen is the heavily-promoted entry Sex and the City which stands as a major event film for female moviegoers. The New Line pic reunites Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, and Kristin Davis as four white women in New York looking for love in their busy lives. The cable series built up millions of fans over the years which has only increased in numbers in the four years since the series finale thanks to the various platforms where it still lives on. Women over 30 will make up the bulk of the audience but the film’s must-see status will help bring in older teens and twentysomethings too. Jennifer Hudson was added to the cast to help boost appeal with African Americans and the under-30 set, but her limited role and weak acting will probably only go so far commercially.

There are a small handful of female-skewing comedies that Sex can be compared to. Last summer’s R-rated hit Knocked Up bowed to $30.7M while the previous year’s Jennifer AnistonVince Vaughn vehicle The Break-Up with its PG-13 debuted to $39.2M. Opening weekend averages were $10,690 and $12,772 respectively and both Universal releases used the weekend after Memorial Day as its launching pad. Women on opening weekend made up 57% of the Knocked Up crowd and 67% of the Break-Up audience. City could up the share to 80%. The timing helped those pics as the first wave of summer testosterone films had passed and underserved female audiences were eager to see a movie that spoke to them. Also a summer hit was New Line’s R-rated Wedding Crashers in 2005 with a $33.9M launch. Though it was not met with as much pre-release anticipation as Sex, it did have significant male appeal.

It would be an understatement to say that Sex and the City lacks male appeal, but the format of the story will not lead to too many straight men being dragged in to buy extra tickets. This is a leave-your-husbands-behind type of picture. The marketing has been superb and the secrecy around the story has only fueled excitement with the target audience. Grosses this weekend will show the film industry how powerful chick flicks can be and international prospects are bright too given the widespread popularity of the brand. Wednesday’s opening in the U.K. brought in a stellar $4M on a weekday. Reviews have been pretty good, but even negative notices from critics won’t stop the flow of traffic.

Advance ticket sales have been brisk, especially in Manhattan. As of Thursday morning, 21 of Friday’s 26 showtimes at the centrally-located Regal E-Walk were sold out. The multiple screens show how much demand is anticipated.

Males dominate the world of box office forecasting so don’t be surprised if most underestimate the power of this film. And it’s only appropriate for a movie about fortysomethings to reach the forties on opening weekend. If it really explodes, it may even reach Kim Cattrall’s age. Debuting in 3,285 theaters, Sex and the City could premiere to around $43M this weekend.

They’re back.
Horror films usually flop in May but Universal doesn’t care. It’s releasing The Strangers starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman anyway as a counterprogramming choice for those not interested in action or comedy. The R-rated film about masked intruders that terrorize a couple in their vacation home will face a tough time at the box office. The marketing push has not been too strong, starpower is lacking, and the concept isn’t very compelling. And between Carrie Bradshaw and Indy, adults of both genders have much more interesting characters to spend their money on. A small portion of true horror fans may be the only takers. Invading 2,469 playdates, The Strangers could bow to about $8M.

See Liv Tyler get scared in The Strangers

Films usually fall pretty hard when coming off of the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Chart-topper Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull should be no exception despite its older skew. Last year, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End tumbled by 62% on the same frame while the previous year’s X-Men: The Last Stand crumbled by 67%. Both of those sequels launched over the Memorial Day session. Even 2004’s non-sequel The Day After Tomorrow fell by 60%. The new Spielberg adventure seems to be liked by audiences a tad bit more so a 55% drop could result. Plus competition from the newcomers is not really direct so there will be no distractions for adult men. Look for Indiana Jones to take in about $45M boosting the cume to $216M after 11 days.

Disney’s The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian has not been a winner with audiences as witnessed by its huge second weekend tumble. A 50% fall in the third frame would yield a $12M weekend raising the total to $114M. Iron Man will see a smaller decline thanks to its durability. The super hero flick could dip by 35% to about $13M for an impressive cume to date of $275M.

LAST YEAR: Johnny Depp and friends held the number one spot captive for a second straight weekend with Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End which grossed $44.2M on its way past the $200M mark. Bowing in the runnerup spot with strength was the pre-Juno pregnancy comedy Knocked Up with $30.7M for Universal on its way to $148.8M. It became the second biggest R-rated film of 2007 after 300. Shrek the Third dropped down to third with $28M in its third round. Kevin Costner opened his new film Mr. Brooks in fourth with $10M leading to a $28.5M final for MGM. Rounding out the top five was the third threequel of the list Spider-Man 3 with $7.6M in its fifth session.

Author: Gitesh Pandya