Box Office Guru Preview: Hulk 2.0 Battles Shyamalan 8.0

Hulk and The Happening try to hold off Kung Fu Panda.

by | June 12, 2008 | Comments

Two new films with skeptical fan bases hit the multiplexes on Friday with something to prove. From the comic book world comes The Incredible Hulk while from the land of supernatural thrillers comes The Happening from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan. Both new releases are followups to two of the most hated summer films of this decade and so a bad taste is still in the mouths of moviegoers. That has provided a marketing challenge as the studios want to win back the trust of the fans, and collect their dollars. Friday the 13th may prove to be unlucky for one or both of these films.

Universal returns to the scene of the crime with the Marvel super hero saga The Incredible Hulk which brings the big green guy back to the screen five years after his first shot at big-screen fame. Directed by Louis Leterrier (The Transporter, Unleashed), the PG-13 film stars Edward Norton as Bruce Banner with Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, and William Hurt also along for the ride. Computer software returns again to play the title character while his grunting voice role was given to Lou Ferrigno. The cast and crew is different from the 2003 Ang Lee-directed Iron Man‘s valuable currency to make sure the muscle man can earn as much green as possible. Smashing his way into 3,503 theaters, The Incredible Hulk might open with about $53M.

Hulk wants you to come back to the theaters

As a brand, M. Night Shyamalan became a strong force in the movie business this decade as one of the few director names that could open a film. But his last two ventures The Village and Lady in the Water were rejected by audiences and have tarnished his image. Second weekend drops were 68% and 60%, respectively. That puts pressure on his latest thriller The Happening which Fox is hoping can turn the tables and return Shyamalan back to his old commercial form. Starring Mark Wahlberg and John Leguizamo, the chilling tale of mysterious deaths that occur without warning is using two elements in the marketing that are not directly linked to story or starpower – the R rating and the Friday the 13th release date.

The rating is a first for the director and it is being heavily used in the ad campaign to let moviegoers know that they will be getting something more here. Something darker. No fairy tales, no kids seeing dead people. Plus the release date may get ticket buyers in the right mood for a scary movie. With fans getting sick of Shyamalan’s twist endings, this is a new way to make audiences feel as if they do need to try this film out. But buzz has been bad and early reviews are also negative so it will be difficult to get a large audience to come in and hand over some trust. Plus Hulk will provide some level of audience overlap with young men. The Strangers two weeks ago did show that there is a healthy appetite for horror right now so genre fans may show up and take a chance again. Invading 2,987 theaters, The Happening may debut with around $22M.

Zooey Deschanel and Mark Wahlberg in The Happening

Six films will try to reach double-digit millions as four holdovers aim to give moviegoers some variety. Kung Fu Panda kicked its way to a potent debut last weekend monopolizing the family audience and tapping into teens and young adults too. Competition for younger kids will be minimal this weekend. Shyamalan appeals to a totally different crowd and Hulk will only have some overlap. Pixar’s June toons Cars and Ratatouille witnessed sophomore declines of 44% and 38%, respectively, and Panda should be in between. Look for a 40% drop to around $36M giving Paramount and DreamWorks a sensational $118M in ten days.

Adam Sandler comedies are very predictable at the box office, even after the opening weekend. Last summer’s I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry fell 44% in its sophomore session while 2006’s Click dropped by 50%. The comedian’s latest laugher You Don’t Mess With the Zohan may decline by 45% and take in $21M this weekend. The cume would rise to $74M in ten days. Previous ten-day totals were $71.7M for Chuck and $87.6M for Click.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull could dip by 45% to roughly $12.5M and push its cume to $275M. The ladies of Sex and the City won’t be disturbed much by the new Friday the 13th pics. Look for a 50% drop to about $10.5M for a $120M tally to date.

LAST YEAR: Marvel ruled the box office with its super hero sequel Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer which opened at number one with $58.1M. The Fox release went on to capture $131.9M falling a bit below the $154.7M of the first one. Another sequel Ocean’s Thirteen followed in second with $19.7M while the hit comedy Knocked Up placed third with $14.1M and the smallest decline in the top ten. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End took in $12.4M and the animated pic Surf’s Up rounded out the top five with $9.3M. Warner Bros. debuted its kidpic Nancy Drew in seventh with $6.8M on its way to $25.6M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,

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