Box Office Guru Preview: Cage, Roberts, and Rudd Battle For #1 Spot

Knowing, Duplicity, I Love You, Man to battle it out.

by | March 19, 2009 | Comments

Three new films roll into North American multiplexes and for the first time in ages, all three have a realistic chance of claiming the number one spot. Comedies have been overperforming this year so a slight edge could go to Paramount’s raunchy buddy flick I Love You, Man. Julia Roberts returns with her first major lead role in years with the spy action-comedy Duplicity co-starring Clive Owen. And Nicolas Cage dips into the action well yet again with the doomsday thriller Knowing. The new releases are different enough that they should help the box office climb higher than last week’s levels.

Hoping to become the fourth R-rated film to hit number one this year, I Love You, Man enters a marketplace that has been very kind to comedy, all sorts of comedies. Produced by DreamWorks and released by Paramount, the buddy comedy about a newly-engaged man who must find a male friend to be the best man at his wedding will appeal to a broad audience. The storyline offers appeal to both men and women and moviegoers from their late teens to their forties will want to take a look. Leads Paul Rudd and Jason Segel both have won over audiences in the past with their various Judd Apatow projects so starpower is ample for this type of film. But Duplicity will appeal to many of the same people and could take away some dough.

Man will try to get into the same neighborhood as Rudd’s Role Models and Segel’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall which bowed last year to $19.2M and $17.7M, respectively. Both were R-rated comedies debuting outside the prime summer season, but were released a bit wider in just under 2,800 locations. With Madea Goes to Jail being the only comedy in the current top five, the time is right for another broad laugher, even if it has a restrictive rating. Because of the raunchy nature of the humor, marketing materials have fallen into two categories. The studio has wisely used the internet to preview uncensored parts of the film with a hilarious red-band trailer plus age-restricted clips in more recent weeks. But the mainstream commercial spots just aren’t as funny thanks to the limitations of what jokes they can include. Those that only see the TV commercials may not feel that they are going to have a fun time at all. But reviews have been good for the most part which may help convince ticket buyers by Friday. Opening in over 2,500 locations, I Love You, Man could debut with about $18M.


Jason Segel and Paul Rudd in I Love You, Man

It’s been over a half-decade since Julia Roberts has headlined a major Hollywood release. She reunites with Clive Owen for the caper film Duplicity with the two popular actors playing former spies trying to pull a fast one in corporate America. Directed by Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton), the PG-13 film co-stars Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti. Aside from raising her three kids, Roberts has kept busy with supporting roles (Ocean’s Twelve, Charlie Wilson’s War), voice roles (Charlotte’s Web, The Ant Bully), and a lead in Closer with Owen which was only given a moderate release playing in less than 1,100 sites at its widest point. These films did not rely solely on her starpower to pull in ticket sales. Now she has the opportunity to show the industry if she still has what it takes to open a film.

Duplicity is essentially like a less violent version of Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Instead of slam-bang, it’s got chit-chat. Adult women should make up the largest group but the male appeal is strong too. Interest from teens may be light. The marketing has been trying to give off an Ocean’s vibe, only moviegoers know they are getting fewer stars for the money. The Roberts-Owen combo will add some value as the target audience enjoys their chemistry. Universal is not going ultrawide with this title so Danny Ocean numbers are not possible. Plus mature audiences pay attention to critics so the mixed reviews will make some hesitate. Opening in about 2,400 theaters, Duplicity might gross around $16M this weekend.


Julia Roberts and Clive Owen in Duplicity

Nicolas Cage headlines Summit’s doomsday action thriller Knowing which finds the Oscar winner playing a professor who discovers a secret code that foretells deadly events about to occur around the world. The PG-13 film boasts no other major stars but Cage is enough to anchor a pic in this genre. His track record varies in this field with big hits like the National Treasure adventures and clunkers like his last offering Bangkok Dangerous which bowed to $7.8M and Next which opened to only $7.1M. Knowing has an intriguing, though unoriginal, plot and TV spots have been cramming all the effects shots into a 30-second package hoping to lure those in need of an adrenaline rush. With some action titles already out, there will be some solid competition. Plus the other two new releases will steal away some business from adult audiences as many will see this as the latest recycled attempt by Cage to save the world. As the weekend’s widest new release, Knowing will invade over 3,000 theaters on Friday and could walk away with about $15M.


Nicolas Cage in Knowing

Disney scored a hit last weekend with Race to Witch Mountain which should enjoy a good hold this weekend since none of the new films will steal much cash from the family audience. Looking back at similar live-action hits from the studio, Dwayne Johnson’s The Game Plan dipped by only 28% in its second weekend while Vin Diesel‘s March hit from 2005 The Pacifier fell by 41% although it faced direct family competition. Despite all the new films hitting theaters on Friday, Witch Mountain should still finish in the top five. A decline of 35% may occur giving the effects-driven adventure around $16M for the weekend and a cume of $47M after ten days.

Watchmen will continue on its downward path but the fall will be less than the hefty 68% tumble suffered last weekend. The Warner Bros. comic flick may see a 55% drop which would give the band of heroes roughly $8M for the frame and push the 17-day total just shy of $100M.

Rarely does a horror pic fall by less than 50% on the second weekend. Universal’s The Last House on the Left looks to play out in a typical way and may drop 55% this weekend. The revenge thriller would then take in about $6M and raise its ten-day tally to $24.5M. The other vengeance-based film out right now Taken will have some competition for mature adults and action fans. Still, the Liam Neeson sensation has been defying gravity and may slip by only 20% this weekend. Fox would up its cume to an impressive $134M.

LAST YEAR: Fox’s Horton Hears a Who remained in the top spot for a second straight weekend dropping 45% from its debut to $24.6M pushing its ten-day start to a robust $86M. A trio of new releases followed led by Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns which landed in second with a $20.1M opening and stellar $10,011 average for Lionsgate. Not faring as well were Fox’s horror entry Shutter with $10.4M and Paramount’s comedy Drillbit Taylor which debuted close behind with $10.3M. Final grosses for the three openers were $42M, $25.9M, and $32.9M respectively. Rounding out the top five was 10,000 B.C. with $8.9M in its third frame.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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