Weekend Box Office

Box Office Preview: "Poseidon" vs. "Mission: Impossible III"

by | May 11, 2006 | Comments

The summer movie season’s second big action contender rolls into theaters this weekend as the sinking ship flick Poseidon takes aim at last week’s Mission: Impossible III for the number one spot across North America.

Two smaller new releases will aim for younger moviegoers. Lindsay Lohan lets loose her girlpower with the comedy Just My Luck while soccer boys are being courted by the sports drama Goal! The Dream Begins. With spring holdovers fading fast and the new May titles only showing so much strength, there is no guarantee that the seven-week streak of the box office beating out last year’s will continue.

Warner Bros. sets sail with its first big-budget entry of the summer with Poseidon, a modern retelling of the 1972 disaster film The Poseidon Adventure. After The Perfect Storm and Troy, veteran A-list director Wolfgang Petersen is back with another pricey summer action pic reportedly spending $160M to produce this new film. Poseidon finds a group of ordinary people on a luxury cruise ship who must fight for survival after a mammoth wave capsizes the ship while at sea. Kurt Russell, Josh Lucas, Richard Dreyfuss, and Andre Braugher star.

Poseidon does work as an escapist treat for the summer season. Despite a lame beginning with the usual setup, the PG-13 film quickly kicks into the disaster scenario and becomes a non-stop action film. No hour-and-a-half of teen courting before an iceberg hits in this one. Audiences that find their way into the theaters should have a relatively good time. But getting them to buy the tickets in the first place is the challenge that Warner Bros. faces. None of the stars has much pull and the original source material isn’t exactly something that moviegoers have been clamoring to have a remake of. Plus Poseidon’s appeal to teens is not very strong making it a film that will be going after mature adults just like MI3 currently is. The direct competition should keep the sinking ship’s grosses in check.

Unlike most disaster films, Poseidon comes with a trim running time of under 100 minutes which means that theaters will be able to provide an ample amount of showtimes per day. Plus, a few dozen Imax locations will open the film day and date which will add a bit to the overall tally. The studio has invested heavily in the marketing push for its first entry in the summer sweepstakes. But that has not driven excitement beyond a manageable level. May has been kind to disaster films in the past. The Day After Tomorrow bowed to $68.7M two years ago, Deep Impact opened to $41.2M in 1998, and Twister bowed exactly one decade ago to a then-shocking $41.1M. Poseidon is not hitting the marketplace on a wave of momentum the way those hits did. And with recent real-life tragedies like Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami, only so many people will have an appetite to see hundreds of innocent people drown to death on the big screen. Docking in 3,555 theaters on Friday, Poseidon could open in the neighborhood of $31M.

Paparazzi magnet Lindsay Lohan stars as a lucky young gal who comes across a wave of misfortune after a magical kiss in the fantasy comedy Just My Luck. Directed by Donald Petrie (Mystic Pizza, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days), the Fox release basically has one audience in its crosshairs – readers of Us Weekly and Teen People. Yes, teenage girls and young women should make up the bulk of the audience as male appeal is lacking. Lohan brings with her a respectable box office track record. Some of her recent openings include Herbie: Fully Loaded ($12.7M after a Wednesday bow and a $3,610 average), Mean Girls ($24.4M debut, $8,606 average), and Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen ($9.4M, $3,736 average). This time, Lohan has to carry the film on her shoulders with no big co-star or studio brand name to help out. A not-so-interesting plot won’t help matters.

Teen girls can be a fickle audience rejecting what seem to be surefire hits and flocking to lower profile pics that speak to their generation. Stick It exceeded expectations a couple of weeks ago by connecting with this crowd. With two big action entries dominating theaters and playing to an older and more male crowd, plus RV playing to young kids, Fox does have an opportunity to connect with a group that is underserved at the moment with a star that is still very popular with the target audience. This weekend, Lohan will put her drawing power to the test with Just My Luck which opens in 2,541 theaters. An opening weekend gross of around $11M could result.

A young Mexican-American man follows his dreams of playing professional soccer in Disney’s new sports drama Goal! The Dream Begins. Directed by Danny Cannon (Judge Dredd, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer), the PG-rated film packs zero starpower, but offers an inspirational tale that young boys can relate to. In the United States, Hollywood films about the sport we call "football" typically do much better at the turnstiles than ones about what the rest of the world uses that term for. Buena Vista is not giving Goal! a big push, but rather is hoping to collect a respectable amount of business before seeing the real audience on DVD. Uplifting against-the-odds sports dramas often do well as the studio has seen in the past with Remember the Titans, Miracle, and this year’s Glory Road. However, Goal! lacks the visibility of those films and overall awareness is not too high. Opening in more than 1,000 theaters, Goal! might debut to around $4M.

Last weekend, Mission: Impossible III opened below expectations to $47.7M and now runs the risk of being booted into second place in its sophomore frame. Reviews and word-of-mouth seem to be positive, however that may not provide much help this time. As a heavily-hyped action sequel, MI3 has its audience carved out already and most moviegoers have already made their minds up as to whether or not they plan to see it. This is a film made to make its money upfront. Plus Poseidon will be playing to the same audience of adults over 30 looking for an action thrill ride. A 50% drop for the Tom Cruise vehicle could leave Paramount with about $24M for the weekend and $84M in ten days. By comparison, ten-day cumes for recent summer kick-off films include $85.1M for 2004’s Van Helsing, $147.7M for 2003’s X2: X-Men United, and an eye-popping $223M for 2002’s megahit Spider-Man.

Robin Williams enjoyed a solid hold for his family comedy RV last weekend. Once again, competition for kids is mild so the Sony release should see another small decline. RV may drop 30% to around $8M this weekend lifting the film’s total to $41M after 17 days.

LAST YEAR: J Lo. and J Fo. went head to head in the marital comedy Monster-in-Law which opened at number one with $23.1M. New Line’s hit summer film went on to gross a solid $82.9M. Opening in second was Will Ferrell’s soccer comedy Kicking and Screaming which debuted close behind with $20.2M on its way to $52.7M for Universal. While those two new releases entered more than 3,400 theaters, another freshman title bowed in less than 2,000 sites and placed third. The Jet Li actioner Unleashed opened to $10.9M for Focus and found its way to $24.5M. Fox’s Crusades epic Kingdom of Heaven fell 51% in its second weekend dropping from first to fourth with $9.6M. Fellow sophomore Crash held up exceptionally well in fifth dipping only 23% to $7M. The frame’s final new release, the Miramax thriller Mindhunters, debuted to a weak $1.9M before limping to a $4.5M total.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, BoxOfficeGuru.com

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