Box Office Guru Preview: Can Speed Racer Defeat Iron Man?

What Happens in Vegas also happening this weekend.

by | May 8, 2008 | Comments

Fast cars and comedy stars make their way into North American multiplexes on Friday hoping to shake things up after Iron Man‘s sheer dominance of the box office over the past week. Warner Bros. unveils its family actioner Speed Racer while Fox counters with its anti-romantic comedy What Happens in Vegas starring Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher which targets young adults. Neither is expected to steal away the crown from Tony Stark,
however they will provide some variety to the marketplace and try to keep the new summer season moving along. With three strong players, look for the box office
to outperform last year’s webslinger-led frame.

From the small screen to the big, Speed Racer zooms into theaters this weekend hoping to tap into nostalgia on its way to building an audience. The PG-rated film
is from The Wachowski Brothers and is their first non-Matrix directorial effort in 12 years. This time the boys are going after young kids and their parents plus the cult following that the Americanized version of the popular Japanese cartoon series has built up over the decades. Emile Hirsch stars as the title character and is joined by Susan Sarandon, John Goodman, Christina Ricci, and Matthew Fox.

Speed Racer offers amazing visuals that fans will want to catch on the big screen. Plus there are no films out there for younger children except for the PG-13 Iron
Man
which is playing very broadly. But the Mach 5 crew has an uphill battle as awareness is not too high and current tracking data suggests that excitement levels
aren’t so high. And that flying iron guy is certainly going to be tempting to the family audience even though technically it’s not a kidpic. Speed Racer may also
struggle with word-of-mouth as adult fans may find it too corny and childish while parents might feel many elements are a bit too racy for little kids. Long-term
prospects are also shaky as Disney’s rival PG flick The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian opens seven days later and is based on a property that is significantly more popular. Racing into 3,606 locations, Speed Racer could make off with around $32M.


Speed Racer opens this weekend.

Following a string of four successful comedies debuting over three frames, Fox’s What Happens in Vegas becomes the latest offering giving moviegoers some laughs. The PG-13 pic stars Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher as down-on-their-luck New Yorkers who meet and marry in Vegas, but must try to make the marriage work in order to keep their $3 million jackpot. The film packs more starpower than just about any other live action comedy released this year and the studio is banking on that to pull in dollars. Cross-gender appeal is strong given the actor names and the premise. Creatively it’s everything that 2006’s The Break-Up tried to be, only it won’t reach that film’s commercial heights.

But a big problem with the marketing is with the television spots as the film is much funnier than the ads make it seem. Diaz is usually a pretty bankable draw at the box office, especially in comedies, and Kutcher lends some weight of his own too. Audiences may be interested in seeing the chemistry between the blonde superstar and the boy toy of her Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle co-star Demi Moore. Plus Mother’s Day weekend could add some business from adult women looking for something to see that speaks to them. Iron Man probably won’t be it. Most female-skewing comedies have opened in the $14-18M range over the past couple of weeks. Entering 3,208 theaters, What Happens in Vegas will probably score a bigger opening and debut with about $20M.


Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher in What Happens in Vegas

Despite the new releases, Iron Man is not worried at all and plans to remain in the top spot by a comfortable margin. The film has been cheered by critics and audiences alike so word-of-mouth is in its favor. Plus competition from new films is not too strong. However, the metal man was made to absorb much of its audience upfront so a sizable drop cannot be avoided.

In 2002, Spider-Man shattered the all-time opening weekend record and then went on to decline by only 38% to $71.4M in its sophomore frame. The following year, X2: X-Men United fell 53% in its second try playing out more like a sequel. Iron Man is more likely to mirror the Wolverine flick despite the positive buzz. Megahits just don’t hold on like the first webslinger pic anymore. Iron Man could see its sales get chopped in half leaving Paramount with roughly $49M this weekend. That would make the cume surge to $171M after ten-plus days of play.

Made of Honor could see its sophomore drop cushioned a bit by Mother’s Day. Recent declines for comedies aimed at the same audience have been 38% for Forgetting Sarah Marshall and 42% for Baby Mama. Look for Patrick Dempsey to snuggle into that range and see a 40% slip. That would give Sony’s romantic comedy about $9M and a mediocre ten-day tally of $27M.

Universal’s Baby Mama has been holding up pretty well and a 35% decline would give the surrogate motherhood pic $6.5M and a total of $41M.

LAST YEAR: For the second weekend in a row, Spider-Man 3 ruled the box office taking in $58.2M boosting the ten-day cume to a jaw-dropping $240.2M. The Sony megahit fell a steep 62% but still managed to be the only film to attract double-digit millions. Opening in second was the horror sequel 28 Weeks Later with $9.8M for Fox while Universal bowed its dramedy Georgia Rule in third with a dismal $6.8M. Final grosses reached $28.6M and $19.1M, respectively. Paramount’s hit thriller Disturbia starring Spielberg‘s favorite new kid ranked fourth with $4.7M and a slim 19% dip. The comedy Delta Farce flopped debuting in fifth with just $3.4M for Lionsgate with an average of under $1,800. A $8.1M final resulted.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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