Box Office Guru Preview: Celeb Clan Takes on Pink Panther

Also: Push, Coraline to open this weekend.

by | February 5, 2009 | Comments

Four new releases hit North American multiplexes on Friday setting up a pair of cinematic fights. The main event sees rival franchise comedies go at it for the number one spot with He’s Just Not That Into You targeting the date crowd and The Pink Panther 2 reaching out to kids and families. The second battle is between two short-titled films starring young superstar Dakota Fanning who voices the title character in the girly animated fantasy and co-stars as a teen bad-ass in the sci-fi actioner Push. The overall box office looks to easily outpace the same weekend from a year ago.

The battle of the sexes unfolds this weekend with the all-star comedy He’s Just Not That Into You as the popular relationship book jumps to the big screen. The PG-13 film brings together the acting talents of Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Ben Affleck, Scarlett Johansson, and Jennifer Connelly. Seeing broader potential, Warner Bros. set up a marketing push for the New Line production that targets both genders preventing a ladies-only turnout. Sure females will outnumber the chaps, but a significant number of couples will pick up tickets since it doesn’t have an ultra chick flick vibe. You should target the same audiences that last year generated openings of $20.2M for What Happens in Vegas, $21.6M for Fool’s Gold, and $23M for 27 Dresses.

Indeed with Valentine’s Day around the corner and recent weeks being dominated by Clint, Blart, and Liam, there is an opening for a romantic comedy to score with young women. And the cast is young enough to draw in celebrity-obsessed teens too. Direct competition should not be too fierce which could open the door for a top spot bow. With a built-in audience from the self-help book and plenty of star wattage, a solid turnout should be expected this weekend. After that, it’ll be up to words from the mouth. Opening in 3,175 theaters, He’s Just Not That Into You could pull in about $22M this weekend.


He’s Just Not That Into You

Nearly three years to the day after Steve Martin rebooted the classic bumbling sleuth franchise, the funnyman returns with The Pink Panther 2 reuniting him with past co-stars while new cast members join in too. The PG-rated pic features Jean Reno and Emily Mortimer reprising their roles from the 2006 edition and sees additions with John Cleese, Alfred Molina, Andy Garcia, Lily Tomlin, Jeremy Irons, and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. The last Panther, which was also one of four new wide releases on the weekend before the Presidents’ Day frame, bowed at number one to a solid $20.2M from 3,477 locations and went on to gross $82.2M domestically and $159M worldwide. Knowing the international potential of the franchise, actors from across the globe were tossed in along with a story that unites a dream team of detectives from all parts of the world banding together to solve a new case.

The family audience is the target here and given the success of the last film, there should certainly be a built-in audience here. Weak reviews should matter not. Fans have not been clamoring for a new adventure so don’t expect the opening weekend to far exceed the last one’s, but rather mimic it. Competition will be a factor since the PG-rated comedies Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Hotel For Dogs have given this crowd plenty of physical humor over the last three weeks with close to $135M in combined sales. Plus Coraline may take away some girls not interested in seeing grown men fall flat on their faces. Sony breaks into more than 3,000 theaters with The Pink Panther 2 and could see a debut of around $20M.


Steve Martin as Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther 2

Chris Evans turns his flame off but remains in the sci-fi action genre with Push, a Hong Kong-set thriller about a group of operatives with paranormal powers that must fight the government agency out to exploit them. The PG-13 film co-stars Dakota Fanning and Djimon Hounsou. As the latest young-skewing movie to brand its title and release date across the top of its entire 30-second television spot, Push should play to teens and young adults and skew a bit more male. A slick trailer from Summit has been selling the picture well which is crucial since the stars are known, but far from sure things at the box office. With no new action entries to face this weekend, the main competition will come from the current chart-topper Taken which proved last weekend that an appetite is still there for interesting action films. Floating into 2,313 theaters, Push could make off with about $10M this weekend.


Chris Evans and Dakota Fanning in Push

Fanning fans who find her new tough-girl persona too radical in Push can rest easy. The actress voices the title character in the stop-motion pic Coraline playing an 11-year-old girl who discovers a gateway to a mysterious new world in her new house. The PG-rated film from Focus should play to a young audience of kids and skew female. It will have to compete with Pink Panther which is a bigger brand name to girls and parents so it won’t be easy this weekend. But despite the recent round of PG-rated content, there have been no new animated films since mid-December’s The Tale of Despereaux so there should be some takers this weekend, especially among moms and daughters. Selling this to ten-year-old boys will be tougher. The advertising has been shrewdly pitching Coraline as being from the director of James and the Giant Peach which many think was helmed by Tim Burton. He produced. A respectable opening should result and good legs could follow since many schools take time off in February for winter breaks and Presidents’ Day. Sneaking into about 2,100 locations, Coraline may debut to roughly $9M this weekend.


Coraline

Liam Neeson still aims to make his presence felt in the top three this weekend. His action thriller Taken scored a major opening last weekend despite facing off against the highest-rated Super Bowl ever. Audiences responded to the raw nature of the kidnapping pic’s marketing push. A 40% drop may occur this frame giving Fox about $14.5M and an impressive ten-day total of $47M.

Sony’s Paul Blart: Mall Cop has a new bumbling crime-fighter to deal with which happens to be another PG-rated comedy from the same studio. Pink Panther should provide some direct competition for families and young kids looking for mindless humor. Look for a 35% fall to roughly $9M boosting the 24-day cume to a jolly $95M.

Not faring all that well last weekend was the supernatural thriller The Uninvited which failed to open the way so many previous horror films debuting over Super Bowl weekend have. Fans seem to have had enough fright flicks over the last few weeks. The road ahead is creepy too with nothing here to keep the numbers alive. A fall of 55% may result putting the Paramount title at around $4.5M this weekend pushing the sum to $16.5M.

LAST YEAR: The comedy-adventure Fool’s Gold which reunited Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson debuted at number one with $21.6M. The Warner Bros. release went on to capture $70.2M. Opening in second place in 738 fewer theaters but with a nearly identical average was Martin Lawrence‘s comedy Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins with $16.2M. A $42.4M final resulted for the Universal title. Former champ Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus tumbled 67% and fell from first to third with $10.3M in its sophomore session for Disney. Rounding out the top five were The Eye with $6.5M and Juno with $5.6M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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