Box Office Guru Preview: Indiana Jones Set To Conquer Multiplexes

No other films bother to show up this weekend.

by | May 22, 2008 | Comments

The summer movie season gets a big shot in the arm as the highly anticipated launch of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull kicks off the extended Memorial Day holiday weekend a day early with its Thursday bow. The rest of Hollywood steered clear of opening anything against the SpielbergLucasFord reunion so a towering total is expected over its five-day debut period. Paramount unleashed the PG-13 adventure sequel in a mammoth 4,260 theaters making it the third widest opening in history after only Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which bowed in 4,362 and 4,285 locations last summer, respectively.

The new tale arrives 19 years after the previous installment Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. That film debuted to a then-stunning $37M from 2,327 theaters over the same four-day holiday on its way to a powerful $197.2M making it the second biggest grosser of 1989 trailing the $251.2M of Batman. The Caped Crusader and the Joker will give Indy a run for his money during this summer’s box office race as well. At today’s ticket prices, Crusade‘s tally would stand at roughly $330M.

Crystal Skull puts Steven Spielberg back in the director’s chair, George Lucas back to his writing and executive producing chores, and Harrison Ford back into the starring role. Shia Labeouf and Cate Blanchett join the cast to help diversify the film’s appeal and help it stay relevant to younger folks who have never seen an Indiana Jones flick on the big screen before. In fact Shia was in diapers when Dr. Jones went on his last adventure. The story fast forwards from the past films by two decades to 1957 and finds the whip-cracking adventurer trying to solve the mystery behind ancient skulls that wield a mysterious power and must be returned to their rightful place in South America.

Dr. Jones and the crew are back.

There are numerous box office records that Crystal Skull will try to break in the coming days. The largest Memorial Day holiday opening was generated a year ago by At World’s End with $139.8M over the Friday-to-Monday span. That sequel also enjoyed the biggest worldwide launch with a gargantuan $404M in six days globally. The best five-day start for any film was the $172.8M hauled in by Star Wars Episode III in May 2005. That would amount to roughly $190M at today’s prices.

Reviews for Crystal Skull have generally been positive. For a much-awaited sequel with tons of hype, they are more than good enough to drive in foot traffic. And if all the publicity wasn’t enough, the extra jolt of buzz from its star-studded world premiere at Cannes only made the spotlight brighter.

Competition that Spielberg and gang will face this weekend will be weaker than anyone would have guessed just a couple of weeks ago. With both Speed Racer and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian performing below expectations, the field is basically clear for Skull to not just rule, but to dominate with an iron fist. Plus no other film opens in wide release this weekend. The rest of the top five combined looks to gross roughly $80M over four days which would be the worst showing for this holiday weekend since 1999. Normally there is much more depth in the marketplace at this time.

With the Thursday opening, Paramount is letting hardcore fans see the film a bit early allowing for more seats over the weekend to open up for the rest of the public. Sure it dilutes down the weekend figure, but the strategy is more about making as much money as possible and not about setting records. Lucas launched his Star Wars prequels with mid-week May bows as well and is too old to care about commercial milestones anymore. Skull‘s Thursday may not break the opening day record currently held by Spider-Man 3‘s $59.8M. Since Indy skews older more of the audience will wait for the weekend to see it. Typically films heavy on digital effects draw the biggest crowds on opening day like Spider-Man, Pirates, Star Wars, and Harry Potter films. Indiana Jones is old-school Hollywood that is more driven by stunts like the James Bond and Jason Bourne pictures. A Thursday debut in the neighborhood of $40M could result. The official four-day weekend might reach the vicinity of $125M giving Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull around $165M across the five-day opening weekend span.

Indiana Jones finds himself in familiar territory.

For the last five consecutive years, the number two film over the Memorial Day holiday frame managed to gross over $40M over four days. That streak might come to an end if Disney’s The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian doesn’t post a strong hold this weekend. PG-rated family films typically witness small declines on this session, however Caspian may play more like a sequel and nostalgic parents could be more in the mood to take the gang to see Dr. Jones despite the PG-13 rating. The first Narnia, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, fell by 51% when it faced the launch of King Kong in December 2005. For Prince Caspian, its four-day holiday tally this weekend could fall by 30% from its three-day debut and hit about $38M. That would boost the 11-day total for the fantasy flick to $107M.

Iron Man has been nothing short of an overachiever for Paramount this month. A third-place finish is guaranteed and even though the studio is launching a new Indy saga, its effects-driven super hero film will remain a popular entry with those who have heard great buzz plus with others who will line up for repeat viewing. The Robert Downey Jr. vehicle might drop by 25% to roughly $24M and lift its domestic haul to $256M as it becomes the 45th film to join the quarter-billion club.

Fox has had great legs for its star-driven comedy What Happens in Vegas which will be a formidable choice for young women not interested in a geezer archaeologist, kids in fantasyland, or a metallic comic book dude. As the Sex and the City crowd waits a week for SJP and her gal pals to hit the multiplexes, a date with Cameron and Ashton could be in order over the holiday weekend. Look for the Friday-to-Monday take dip 15% from last weekend’s three-day figure to about $12M. That would put boost the winnings to $57M.

Poor Speed Racer has been neglected by moviegoers in every country. Nobody has interest in paying top dollar for this colorful concoction. A 35% fall to around $5M could result giving Warner Bros. a dull $38M to date.

LAST YEAR: Johnny Depp and mates conquered the Memorial Day holiday box office with a record haul of $139.8M over four days for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and $153M including Thursday grosses from showtimes that began at 8pm. Worldwide the adventure sequel shattered another record with a stunning $404M in global sales in the first six days accounting for 42% of its eventual $961M tally. In North America, the Disney smash sailed to $309.4M which narrowly edged out the first Pirates and fell $114M below the total of the middle installment. Dropping to second was Paramount’s Shrek the Third with a massive $67M sophomore take, however sales tumbled by 56% thanks to bad word-of-mouth. The month’s other mega threequel Spider-Man 3 ranked third with $18.1M and vaulted past the triple-century mark. Moviegoers spent a jaw-dropping $225M on seeing the trio of threequels over the holiday frame. Rounding out the top five with $4M each were the horror flick Bug and the indie comedy Waitress with the latter posting a much stronger average.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,

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