Weekend Box Office

Box Office Guru Preview: Turkey Frame Stuffed With New Movies

by | November 23, 2006 | Comments

Happy Turkey Day! A crowded marketplace gets even more packed as six new films open or expand nationally over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

New films bowing on Wednesday include the action pic Deja Vu, the Christmas comedy Deck the Halls, the rock music comedy Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, and the sci-fi romance The Fountain.

Expanding nationwide are the political drama Bobby and the ensemble comedy For Your Consideration. Despite all the new releases, last weekend’s two big openers – the animated penguin flick Happy Feet and the James Bond adventure Casino Royale – will try to hold onto their positions atop the charts. With something for everyone, the overall holiday box office should be robust.

Nearly a dozen years after teaming up for the hit submarine thriller Crimson Tide, Denzel Washington, director Tony Scott, and superproducer Jerry Bruckheimer join forces once again for Deja Vu. The PG-13 pic finds the Oscar-winning actor playing an ATF agent investigating the bombing of a New Orleans ferry which kills over 500 innocent people. To make this stand out from other scripts, a sci-fi element is added that gives investigators the possibility of preventing the tragedy from ever happening in the first place. Bruckheimer and Scott know how to please action-seeking movie fans. From Top Gun, to Tide, to Enemy of the State, the duo has scored many blockbusters over the past two decades.

Denzel is a bankable star, especially in a law enforcement role in an action film. His recent openings for gritty action pics include $29M for this year’s Inside Man, $22.8M for 2004’s Man on Fire, and $22.6M for 2001’s Training Day. Deja Vu should play to most of the same fans, however its biggest challenge will come from competing action film Casino Royale which is still new and getting positive marks. A holiday frame as big as Thanksgiving will usually expand to handle both choices so there may be room to breathe, but there will certainly be some adults interested in both who only get time to see one. Buena Vista’s marketing push has been solid and reviews are even favorable. Debuting in 3,108 theaters, Deja Vu might open to around $23M over three days and about $34M over the long Wednesday-to-Sunday period.

Fox offers up a new Christmas comedy for family audiences with Deck the Halls starring Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick. The PG-rated pic finds two dads with two different styles of holiday cheer going to battle over Christmas light decorations. The studio is hoping to pick up business from family audiences that are in a holiday mood and have already seen Tim Allen‘s The Santa Clause 3. But Happy Feet, which opened only five days before Deck, will be a major competitor since it is a more high profile kidpic with a louder marketing campaign. Deck looks to play to the same audience as last Thanksgiving’s Yours, Mine and Ours which debuted to $17.5M with $24.3M over five days. Deck has the starpower to grab some attention, but will have more direct competition. Landing in 3,023 sites, Deck the Halls might collect around $14M over the Friday-to-Sunday span and roughly $19M over five days.

Funnyman Jack Black goes into vanity-project mode with the new comedy Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny which teams him with his musical partner Kyle Gass. The New Line release will appeal mostly to young males but with its R rating, many younger fans will have trouble buying a ticket. The rating should serve as a major strike against its commercial potential. Female appeal also does not seem too high so Destiny will play to a very specific audience. Expanding beyond Tenacious D fans will be difficult. Black’s last starring role was in the summer wrestling comedy Nacho Libre which opened to $28.3M thanks in part to its PG rating which let all the 12-year-olds in.

Films like Let’s Go To Prison and Harsh Times learned in recent weeks that R-rated films aimed at young men can struggle at the box office. Both of those bowed to about $2M each. Pick has more starpower which should help its cause plus the busy turkey frame when college guys are all out of class. Those not busy playing their PlayStation 3, might rock out with JB and KG. Opening in 1,919 locations, Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny may debut with about $8M and $13M over five days.

The good thing about having an endless line of stars like in the political drama Bobby is that the studio can have a different actor plug the film on every major talk show simultaneously. That’s what MGM is finding out this week with the Emilio Estevez picture which expands nationally on Thursday from two exclusive engagements to 1,667 sites from sea to shining sea. Last weekend, the R-rated story behind the day that Robert Kennedy was assassinated averaged a potent $34,519 per theater from its solo houses in New York and Los Angeles. But how will it play across all 50 states? Certainly Bobby will appeal to an older crowd that remembers the 1960s and to a smart upscale audience not looking for Bond or Denzel to save the day. Reviews have generally been good, but critics have not been overwhelming in their praise. As a national candidate, Bobby could collect about $7M over three days and about $10M over five days.

Movie fans in search of the fountain of youth get to try out The Fountain, a time-travel adventure from writer/director Darren Aronofsky (pi). Hugh Jackman stars as a man determined to save the woman he loves, played by Rachel Weisz, and will cross a thousand years of time in order to do so. If marketing support is any indicator, this PG-13 entry is a low priority for Warner Bros. Awareness is not very high and its target audience of adults has many other options to choose from. Critics have not been too supportive either. Debuting in 1,472 theaters, The Fountain could open with around $4M and a five-day tally of $6M.

Also expanding nationally after a strong start in limited play is the film industry comedy For Your Consideration which widens from 23 to 623 locations on Wednesday. The Warner Independent release enters a very crowded marketplace and will find it tough to bring in ticket buyers outside of the Christopher Guest fan club. Last weekend, the PG-13 film posted a stellar $16,174 average, but even acclaimed films like Babel have found out that gunning for smart adult audiences is one hard task. Look for a weekend gross of about $3M.

Last weekend’s two chart-toppers will try to fend off competition from the new releases to hang on to their gold and silver medals. Warner Bros. may sit at the head of the dinner table once again with its animated penguin hit Happy Feet which narrowly won the weekend race last frame. Kid movies always do well over Thanksgiving and this should be no exception. Holdover films have ruled the holiday all decade long with 1999’s Toy Story 2 being the last new release to open at number one over this particular holiday weekend.

With so many films opening or expanding over the turkey frame, direct competition for Feet will only come from Deck the Halls and The Santa Clause 3 which should see its weekend gross rise as most Christmas-themed films do over Thanksgiving. A 25% drop for Happy Feet would give the toon about $31M over three days and a ten-day cume of $91M.

The James Bond actioner Casino Royale might slip a little more in its sophomore frame. In 2002, Die Another Day dropped 34% against no new competition in its second session which was also the turkey holiday. Casino will face a serious direct threat from Deja Vu, however it seems to be pleasing audiences more than Die did. That could lead to a similar 35% decline to around $26M giving the new Daniel Craig adventure $88M in ten days.

Fox looks to crack the $100M mark with Borat this weekend. The raunchy comedy is phasing out at the box office, but non-frequent moviegoers may take a trip this weekend to catch up on one of the most-talked-about films of the year. A 35% drop to around $9.5M could occur giving Borat a hefty $107M in 24 days.

LAST YEAR: Wizard power ruled the turkey frame as Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire remained at number one with $54.7M over three days falling 47% from its debut. That gave Warner Bros. a staggering $201M in only ten days. Fox’s Johnny Cash film Walk the Line held steady in second place with $19.2M but slipped only 14% from its opening. Paramount opened its holiday family comedy Yours, Mine, and Ours in third place with $17.5M in three days and $24.3M over the long five-day holiday period. It reached $53.4M overall. Disney’s Chicken Little placed fourth with $12.6M, down 15% in its fourth frame. Sony’s musical Rent rounded out the top five bowing to $10M and $17.1M over five days. A final gross of $29.1M resulted. Other new releases over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend posted more modest numbers. New Line’s comedy Just Friends opened to $9.2M on its way to $32.6M. Lionsgate launched the drama In The Mix to $4.4M leading to a $10.2M end. And the caper pic The Ice Harvest debuted to $3.7M on its way to only $9M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com