Box Office Guru Preview: Jim Carrey and Will Smith Face Off For #1 Spot

Also, TheTale of Despereaux looks to come in third.

by | December 18, 2008 | Comments

Hollywood titans Jim Carrey and Will Smith go head-to-head at the North American box office but only one can add to his long list of number one openings. Carrey has the edge with his comedy Yes Man while Smith could fail to reach the top spot for the first time in seven years with Seven Pounds, his new dramatic offering. Most holdovers will be in the single-digit millions so audiences should welcome these two new star-driven vehicles. Also debuting is the animated mouse adventure The Tale of Despereaux which will target young children.

Jim Carrey returns to his core genre – the broad comedy – with Yes Man playing a loan officer who changes his mundane life when he joins a self-help program requiring him to give a thumbs up to anything and everything life throws at him. The PG-13 film should play to a wide audience and since the actor doesn’t do these types of comedies that much any more, it should prove to be highly in demand not just this weekend, but over the holiday weeks ahead. Star-driven comedies sell when the trailers and commercials have plenty of jokes and this one fits the bill. No, this isn’t a defining moment in his career artistically, but for now audiences that have already laughed it up with Vince and Reese will be looking to move on to the next big comedy and Carrey is most bankable in this type of role, especially one which offers plenty o’ physical humor.

The funnyman’s last live-action comedy came three years ago over Christmas weekend with Fun With Dick and Jane which bowed to a four-day take of $21.5M and a six-day Wednesday-to-Monday tally of $29.1M from 3,056 sites. Warner Bros. has done a fine job in marketing the film focusing on the its two biggest assets – Carrey and the funny situations. These are the two elements that will sell the pic – not reviews, not awards, and not co-stars. Teens and young adults will respond in solid numbers. Mature adults may be distracted by the final shopping weekend before Christmas and may catch it later. Audiences want to laugh and feel good right now and this should deliver the goods at the turnstiles. Marching into 3,434 theaters, Yes Man may open to about $26M and post good holds in the weeks ahead.


Jim Carrey in Yes Man

What could be the least hyped Will Smith film since The Legend of Bagger Vance opens this Friday in the form of Seven Pounds. With it comes a serious threat to the A-plus-lister’s amazing streak of eight consecutive $100M+ blockbusters which began in 2002. But Sony has been in the most difficult of positions as the PG-13 film’s story is so full of twists and turns that most of it cannot be revealed in the pre-release marketing. Without giving away too much, Smith plays a tax man who seeks to help seven strangers with acts that go well beyond the world of kindness. Essentially it is a story that audiences must unravel as the film progresses so the studio can do little more than just say ‘Hey, it’s Will Smith. Buy a ticket!’ In fact the poster is really just a headshot of the man.

Seven reunites Smith with Gabriele Muccino who directed The Pursuit of Happyness which bowed to $26.5M two years ago around this same time. That pic was in ways an easier sell with its uplifting rags-to-riches story and kiss of approval from Oprah. This time around, moviegoers are left to wonder as most don’t really know what the hell Seven Pounds is about. The marketing push is there, but the volume has been low considering the name that hangs above the title. The film has been noticeably absent from awards season with no major group highlighting the pic and reviews have been lukewarm. Strong critical acclaim and some big nominations could have really helped here.

That man in black’s name will certainly be enough for many fans who will just trust their guy and give this a shot on opening weekend. But many might wait for the recommendations of friends and will choose the guaranteed laughs of Mr. Carrey for this weekend’s entertainment instead. Landing in roughly 2,600 locations, Seven Pounds could debut with about $17M. With Brad, Leo, Tom, and Adam all launching new films next week, Will will need to win over fans fast in order to compete in the long-term.


Will Smith in Seven Pounds

Universal secures a spot in the marketplace for its kidpic offering for the holiday season with the animated mouse flick The Tale of Despereaux. The G-rated film is not necessarily out for a big opening, but just looking to settle into the marquees now so when kids start to break for the holidays and parents get some time off of their own, it will be in perfect position to take in some cash. The one big problem is that it is not based on any well-known brand and that will hurt its chances in the short-term. Still, the week between Christmas and New Year’s when everyday is a Saturday at the multiplexes will be the key period when this film can draw in some sales. Overall excitement is not too high and reviews will be mostly irrelevant. It’s really about how many kids will get excited enough to bug their parents to see this new character. Debuting in 2,739 theaters, The Tale of Despereaux could collect about $8M this weekend.


The Tale of Despereaux

Fox Searchlight opened its Mickey Rourke pic The Wrestler in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles on Wednesday and begins a platform rollout this weekend. Already winning numerous Best Actor prizes for his performance as a down-and-out grappler looking for redemption, the Darren Aronofsky-directed film has earned unanimous acclaim from critics and also scored the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival.

Klaatu and Gort will see a big dip this weekend. After ruling the chart this past week, the sci-fi thriller The Day the Earth Stood Still should face a hefty decline as word-of-mouth is quite poor. The Keanu Reeves pic sits with a weak C+ average from 3,700+ voters on Yahoo Movies. However, there are no new action pictures opening so a total collapse may not occur. Look for Day to drop by 45% to about $16M which would give Fox $55M in ten days.

The holiday comedy smash Four Christmases has been seeing great strength at the box office as moviegoers have been spreading good will and with Santa’s big day approaching, the subject matter is becoming even more relevant. Looking at 2003 when the calendar was exactly the same, the Christmas laughers witnessed slim declines this very weekend. Bad Santa starring the former Mr. Jolie dipped only 15% in its fourth weekend while Will Ferrell‘s Elf eased only 9% in its seventh frame. All this despite a record-breaking opening by the final Lord of the Rings epic which played broadly. Four Christmases does have Jim Carrey stealing some laughs so it may witness a 15% slide to around $11M pushing the cume to a stellar $103M for Warner Bros.

LAST YEAR: Leading a wave of five new releases over the pre-Christmas weekend, Disney shot straight to number one with its action sequel National Treasure: Book of Secrets which bowed to $44.8M on its way to a stellar $220M domestically and $457M worldwide. Sophomore juggernauts I Am Legend and Alvin and the Chipmunks followed with $33.5M and $28.2M, respectively. Debuting in fourth place was the Tom HanksJulia Roberts dream team in Universal’s Charlie Wilson’s War which grossed $9.7M. Johnny Depp was close behind with Paramount’s Sweeney Todd which bowed to $9.3M from half as many theaters. Final grosses were $66.7M and $52.9M, respectively. The Warner Bros. romance P.S. I Love You opened in sixth place with $6.5M leading to a $53.7M stateside tally, but a much stronger $88.4M haul overseas. The frame’s biggest casualty was the Judd Apatow project Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story which debuted to just $4.2M finishing with only $18.3M for Sony.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com