Box Office Guru

Box Office Preview: Jen and Vince Ready to Rumble

by | June 1, 2006 | Comments

How much money will moviegoers spend on watching two celebrities yell and scream at each other for 106 minutes? That is the question that Universal, and the film industry in general, will be asking itself with the opening of The Break-Up, the new romantic comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston.

Just like with last weekend, the frame only boasts one wide release hitting the multiplexes. In scheduling their summer, studios are more likely to have wanted to avoid clashing with the second weekend of X-Men: The Last Stand, than to not go head to head with the swinger and the friend. After a record-breaking bow, the mutant sequel aims to keep its command over the North American box office for the second straight week.

There have been no major star-driven romantic comedies in nearly three months so Universal hopes to fill the void with The Break-Up. Directed by Peyton Reed (Bring It On, Down with Love), the PG-13 concoction is aimed at adult couples with a clearly-defined premise that most can relate to. Vaughn plays a tour bus operator while Aniston plays an art gallery worker. As boyfriend and girlfriend, the two own and live in a spacious Chicago condo, but when they go splitsville, each refuses to move out and the former lovers must learn how to co-exist as just roommates.

Break-Up looks to play to an adult audience and females will surely outnumber dudes. Vaughn has been a rising box office powerhouse in recent years drawing in more moviegoers each year when anchoring comedies. In 2003, Old School was a leggy hit taking in $75.6M while 2004’s summer smash Dodgeball hit the mark with $114.3M. Last summer though, the funnyman struck gold twice with a supporting role in the former Mr. Aniston’s action hit Mr. & Mrs. Smith followed by Wedding Crashers which became the sleeper hit of the season zooming to $209.2M. The Break-Up will end that streak, unfortunately.

Vaughn excels at delivering guy humor opposite funny male co-stars. But this time, he is asked to star opposite a woman and still try to make ticket buyers laugh. Although the highlights of the film revolve around his humor, The Break-Up just doesn’t pack enough laughs to be a huge hit. In fact, the constant fighting between the two lead characters will put off many. What the filmmakers don’t realize is that couples actually go to the movies to get away from that sort of thing. Starpower, tabloid gossip, a lack of comedies, and a decent marketing push will help pump up the opening, but word-of-mouth should lead to hefty declines in the weeks ahead. Bad reviews are not going to help either.

The Universal release has gotten months of free publicity from the endless media attention on the off-screen relationship between Aniston and Vaughn. Last weekend’s birth of Pitt and Angelina Jolie‘s baby has also added some free plugs too. The Break-Up should attract the same crowd that spent $24.4M on the opening of March’s Failure to Launch, although the grosses could be a bit higher since the starpower is arguably greater this time. Competition should not be too much of a factor this weekend. With no other new films in national release, the entertainment media will focus fully on this one. Plus, X-Men and Over the Hedge are playing to different audience segments. The only direct foe it will face is The Da Vinci Code which has been drawing in tons of adult women over the last couple of weeks. Opening in 3,065 theaters, The Break-Up could debut with about $26M this weekend.

Mutant fever ruled the box office last weekend with X-Men: The Last Stand opening to a record $122.9M over four days. That was nearly $3M better than originally estimated giving Fox an explosive start to what could be its final film of the franchise. Super hero pics and sequels tend to fall hard on the second weekend and coming off of a huge holiday bow will certainly up the decline as well. Last weekend’s Friday gross included sales from midnight shows on Thursday night while Sunday was stronger than usual thanks to the Monday holiday.

However, X-Men is not facing much new competition since the Aniston crowd does not consist of too many Magneto fans. Two years ago, Fox launched its effects-driven actioner The Day After Tomorrow over the Memorial Day frame and saw its Friday-to-Sunday gross tumble 60% on the second weekend. The weather disaster pic also had the towering $93.7M opening of the third Harry Potter film to deal with so some of the fall was attributed to the new kid on the block. The first two X-Men films debuted over non-holiday frames and dropped by 57% and 53% respectively in their sophomore sessions. X2 faced only one new opener in its second mission helping to soften the blow.

With more upfront demand and a holiday start, The Last Stand should fall harder. A 60% drop from the massive $102.8M three-day bow would give Fox about $41M for the weekend and the top spot once again. The ten-day cume for the latest adventure from the mutant heroes would shoot to a stunning $183M. With $700M in global grosses from the first two films, the X-Men trilogy should break through the $1 billion milestone in worldwide box office this weekend.

After suffering a steep 56% second weekend decline, The Da Vinci Code showed that long legs are not in its future. Add in the fact that The Break-Up will steal away many adult couples and it looks like another rocky frame for the Tom Hanks mystery. The Friday-to-Sunday take could drop 50% this time around and pull in about $17M. That would give Sony a still-impressive $170M in 17 days.

As Da Vinci fades away this weekend, so will Sony’s market share lead for the year. The studio has dominated for much of the year with six number one openings and more wide releases than any other studio. However, with the surging strength of X-Men, plus grosses from the year’s number one blockbuster Ice Age: The Meltdown, Fox looks to capture the market share lead by Sunday. As of the end of Memorial Day, both studios had about 18% of the box office pie year-to-date with Sony’s $608M sitting $18M ahead of Fox. That lead will be erased this weekend as the two distributors will swap positions but more shifting is likely to occur throughout the summer.

Paramount’s backyard adventure Over the Hedge will remain the only major option for little kids so a good hold is likely. A 40% drop from last weekend’s Friday-to-Sunday tally should lead to a $16M frame and a 17-day cume of $107M. All other holdovers should drift away with less than $5M a piece.

LAST YEAR Memorial Day weekend leftovers ruled the charts as the top three films remained the same, although some musical chairs led to a new order. The DreamWorks toon Madagascar rose from second to first place with $28.1M in its sophomore weekend pushing its ten-day cume to a solid $100.4M. Adam Sandler‘s comedy The Longest Yard also climbed a notch taking second scoring $26.1M. The Paramount remake pushed its sum to $95.8M in ten days. After two weeks on top, Star Wars Episode III tumbled 55% and placed third with $25.1M but watched its overall domestic gross soar to $307.9M. No other film in the year since has reached the triple century mark. Among new releases, Universal’s early Oscar contender Cinderella Man debuted in fourth with a weaker-than-expected $18.3M. The Russell Crowe drama went on to punch up $61.6M. Bowing in fifth was the estrogen pic The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants with $9.8M while opening in seventh was the testosterone film Lords of Dogtown with $5.6M. Cumes reached a commendable $39M and a dismal $11M, respectively.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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