Weekend Box Office

Box Office Guru Preview: Aliens and Debaters Join End-of-Year Lineup

Crowded market tops off the year.

by | December 28, 2007 | Comments

With the holidays making every day a Saturday at the multiplexes, studios are
enjoying brisk business at the box office with the marketplace getting even more
competitive thanks to three new releases that opened wide on Tuesday, Christmas
Day. Action fans get the sci-fi sequel Alien vs Predator: Requiem,
those looking for drama have Denzel Washington‘s
The Great Debaters,
and family audiences in the mood for fantasy adventure get
The Water Horse
. Overall, the final weekend of 2007 should be a busy
one thanks to an abundance of product.

Three and a half years after the first monster battle grossed $80.3M, Fox brings
back the sci-fi action with Alien vs Predator: Requiem.
Some changes have been made with this release, though. Upping the violence, the
PG-13 rating of the first has been replaced by an R. The summer launch has been
changed to a Christmas Day opening and the sequel blasted off in 832 fewer
theaters. Requiem tapped into its built-in audience of genre fans by
generating a strong $9.5M gross and $3,707 average in its first day of release
on Tuesday. It should be a downhill road from there as most fans will want to
see the flick sooner rather than later. The studio is targeting the marketing at
its core audience of older teen and young adult males. Crossover appeal to new
fans is unlikely. With most other films playing to younger kids or to more
mature adults, AVPR does have an opportunity to score some bucks, though
it will be a short-lived run. Playing in 2,563 locations, Aliens vs.
Predator: Requiem
could go on to gross $13M over the Friday-to-Sunday

Those who want their battles done verbally in a language indigenous to Earth
will get to see Denzel Washington‘s
latest film
The Great Debaters
in which the star acts and directs. Produced by The Weinstein Company and
distributed by MGM, the PG-13 film about a 1930s college debate team in the
segregated South bowed on Tuesday with a solid $3.6M from only 1,164 locations
for a sturdy $3,096 per theater. Add in Oscar winner
and producer
Oprah Winfrey
and Debaters boasts a good amount of starpower to help market the period
film. African American audiences are the driving factor here as evidenced by
studio research that shows 60% of the opening day crowd coming from this
powerful group. The marketplace can certainly use a pic like Debaters
right now as most of the films in the top ten boast all-white casts.

Washington has been doing his fair share of press to promote Debaters
including a one-hour plug on Oprah’s chatfest. Reviews have been good and the
film even nabbed a Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture – Drama. Denzel’s
second-ever directorial effort should hold up well as it rides into the weekend
period when more of its target audience will be available. Plus this is a great
time of year for feel-good and uplifting films. And the true civil rights story
should remain relevant through the Martin Luther King holiday frame in
mid-January. The moderate release, however, will hold back potential but keep
the average strong. For this weekend, The Great Debaters might collect
about $9M over three days.

Adding to the Christmas week feast is Sony with its Loch Ness Monster fantasy
The Water Horse
which will aim for family audiences. The PG-rated
film falls into the boy-and-his-pet genre and is being marketed as a spectacle
from the creators of

The Chronicles of Narnia
(Walden Media). Grosses are already in a much
smaller league as the film’s Christmas Day opening resulted in a lukewarm $2.4M
bow from 2,772 theaters for a mild $861 average. The marketplace has had a
shortage of family films this month, but Water Horse just isn’t strong
enough of a title to take advantage of these conditions. Most parents will be
taking their kids to see the PG flicks
National Treasure

and the Chipmunks
so the seas will be rough. Water also has no starpower
and is based on subject matter that American children have never been too
excited about. A three-day weekend take of roughly $8M may result.

Three big films dominated last weekend’s box office and are likely to post
another session of solid sales. The New Year’s frame can often see grosses go up
versus the prior weekend while for some films the declines can be smaller than

National Treasure: Book of Secrets
will attempt to close out the
year on top which is appropriate given how sequels propelled the marketplace to
some major records this year. Midweek numbers have been exceptionally strong
with Monday delivering a cool $7M while Tuesday’s Christmas Day business brought
in an additional $13.7M for a five-day holiday launch of $65.4M for Disney. A
20% slide may result giving the
Nicolas Cage
adventure about $36M for the weekend and a stunning $124M in ten days.

Will Smith‘s
I Am Legend
has been powering its way up the actor’s all-time chart of blockbusters and
smashed the $150M mark on Tuesday in only its 12th day in theaters. Christmas
Eve saw $4.4M worth of stubs while the yuletide holiday more than doubled that
sum with a powerful $9.8M. The Warner Bros. smash may fall by 15% this weekend
and take in about $28M which would boost the total to a staggering $196M in 17
days. That could put Legend on course to join the $200M club on the first
day of the new year.

and the Chipmunks
has been a surprise smash for Fox and the holiday
break has been very kind to the family comedy. The kidpic grossed $4.4M on
Monday plus $6M on Tuesday. The Water Horse should be the only new
competitor and that film is not likely to put too much of a dent into business.
A slim 10% dip could be in order for this weekend. That would give Alvin roughly
$25M for the frame and lift the 17-day cume to a spectacular $133M.

LAST YEAR: The final weekend of the year saw mostly the same faces from
Christmas fill up the charts.
Night at the
was tops again with $48.2M over four days pushing the 11-day cume
to a stunning $127.3M which would represent about half of its eventual total.
Will Smith’s
The Pursuit of Happyness
remained in second with $25.5M over four days.
The musical Dreamgirls
jumped up to third with $18.4M in its first full weekend of wide release and was
followed by the kidpic  Charlotte’s
and CIA drama
The Good Shepherd

with $14.9M and $14.2M, respectively.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,

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