Box Office Guru Preview: Dinosaurs and Gangsters Spark Fireworks

Ice Age and Public Enemies try to take down Transformers

by | July 2, 2009 | Comments

Hollywood is hoping to score two $40M+ grossers over the Independence Day holiday frame for the first time ever. With Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen still raking in large numbers, two new releases opened on Wednesday to get a head start on the long weekend led by the animated sequel Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs which will give the robots a challenge for the number one spot. Looking to debut firmly in the number three spot is the period gangster flick Public Enemies starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale which will give mature adults something to rally behind.

With the Fourth of July falling on the prime moviegoing day of Saturday, ticket sales will take a hit that day due to outdoor distractions like parades, barbecues, and fireworks. But with many having the day off on Friday, that day should see busier-than-usual business as it tries to make up for Saturday’s losses. The last time the calendar was this way was in 1998 when Michael Bay‘s Armageddon blasted off at number one on Wednesday to a weaker-than-expected five-day score of $54.2M ($85M at today’s prices).

Following the enormous grosses of the first two installments, Fox’s top toon property is back in theaters in Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs which adds more to the table with its 3D presentation. The PG-rated pic should have no problem pulling in business from its clearly-defined audience of kids and parents and those thinking they’ve seen enough of Manny and pals will make another trip thanks to the extra dimension this time around. Despite higher ticket prices (up to $16.50 in New York City), moviegoers have had no problems lining up for this year’s brand-name 3D toons. March’s Monsters vs. Aliens bowed to $59.3M on its way to $196M and counting while May’s Up debuted to $68.1M and is targeting a finish at or above $300M. Fox is not as strong of a brand in this world as Pixar and DreamWorks, but Ice Age is.

It seems like every A-list toon sets a new record for most 3D screens and Dinosaurs is no different. The prehistoric comedy bowed on Wednesday in 3,993 locations including a record 1,606 3D sites. The last installment in the franchise, 2006’s Ice Age: The Meltdown, launched on a Friday with a three-day take of $68M, a figure the new pic should exceed over its five-day opening. Up which has displayed sensational legs will provide some competition as will Transformers which has been playing to every demographic including 10-year-old kids. But nothing specifically aimed at families has worked since the flying house pic debuted over a month ago so with the extra time off parents have over the holiday weekend, the dinotoon should make for a popular entertainment choice. Reviews have not been very good, but that will be irrelevant. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs could pull in about $47M over the Friday-to-Sunday period and around $72M over five days.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Three big names come together in the new gangster drama Public EnemiesJohnny Depp, Christian Bale, and director Michael Mann. Universal is gunning for mature adults with its 1930s John Dillinger tale, but with a dashing pirate in the lead the studio hopes to pull in young adults too. In 2003, Universal scored a hit targeting this crowd in late July with Seabiscuit which grossed $120.2M, but in 2005 it opened Cinderella Man with Russell Crowe on the first weekend of June and found its way to a disappointing $61.6M. This time, the timing seems better. Audiences typically get all actioned out by the mindless popcorn flicks of May and June so a good adult drama can play to solid numbers if released at the right moment. And if it pleases crowds.

With robots, terminators, Vulcans, and mutants having already hit the multiplexes this summer, Public Enemies comes at an opportune time. Starpower is solid too. However, reviews have not been as strong as they should be for this type of film to work since they will have an impact in decision-making with adults. That puts more pressure on Depp to bring in bodies off of his name and sex appeal. Outside of a big franchise, he isn’t as much of a guarantee as evidenced by 2007’s Sweeney Todd which opened to $9.3M from 1,249 locations on its way to a $52.9M final. That’s less than what Charlie and the Chocolate Factory did on its opening weekend.

Openings for films that played to a similar audience include $21M for Valkyrie, $22.3M for Walk the Line, $22.8M for The Interpreter, and $26.9M for The Departed. None of those opened on a Wednesday so the dynamics will be different for Dillinger. If audiences eat up the gangster story in the long run, then Universal will be in good shape at the end of the day. Breaking into 3,319 theaters (3,334 on Friday), Public Enemies may shoot up roughly $26M over the weekend and about $41M over five days.

Johnny Depp in Public Enemies

Reigning robo-champ Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen will try to score a second weekend on top of the charts but will have to deal with the arrival of the frame’s pair of newbies. Midweek openers usually don’t collapse on the second weekend since the first weekend’s Friday-to-Sunday figure does not include the massive upfront turnout of an opening day. Sophomore drops for some of the biggest midweek bows for summer blockbusters include 49% for Hancock, 53% for War of the Worlds, 49% for Spider-Man 2, and 48% for the first Transformers. With muscular grosses of $14.9M on Monday and $13.5M on Tuesday, Revenge of the Fallen looks set to break the $250M mark on Thursday after only nine days. That’s the second fastest any film has ever reached the quarter-billion level. The Dark Knight holds the record needing just eight days last July.

Transformers has absorbed an awful lot of business going into the second frame so a drop of more than 50% could result. While the session’s new releases offer different types of entertainment, Ice Age will still take away some younger kids and Depp will steal away some older adults. A decline of 55% might result giving Optimus and the rest of the Primes about $50M for a gargantuan 12-day haul of $301M.

With the robot juggernaut looking to leap past $300M, the sleeper smash The Hangover will try to reach a milestone of its own by surpassing the $200M mark this weekend. The Vegas-set comedy should be a popular choice for twentysomethings over the holiday frame so a 35% drop may result. That would leave Warner Bros. with about $11M over three days pushing the cume to a robust $204M.

The Sandra Bullock hit The Proposal might slide by 40% to around $11M as well for a sum of $91M to date. With the third helping of Ice Age hitting theaters, and stealing away most 3D screens, Disney and Pixar will have a hard time staying in double-digit territory this weekend with Up. A 45% drop may occur for the flying house flick for a $7M gross and $266M total.

LAST YEAR: With Independence Day falling on a Friday, holiday king Will Smith got the extended frame going early with the Wednesday launch of the superhero actioner Hancock which bowed to $62.6M over the weekend and $103.9M across the five-day debut period. Sony went on to gross $227.9M domestically and a stellar $624M worldwide. Dropping to second was the Pixar toon WALL-E with $32.5M followed by fellow sophomore Wanted which tumbled 61% to $20.1M. Rounding out the top five were Get Smart and Kung Fu Panda with $11.1M and $7.3M, respectively. Fizzling in its national expansion was Kit Kittredge: An American Girl which widened after a red hot two-week limited run to 1,843 theaters grossing just $3.3M for a weak $1,789 average. A final tally of $17.7M resulted for Picturehouse.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,