Box Office Guru Preview: Pineapple Hopes To Defeat Knight

Also: Sisterhood hopes to beat Mamma Mia!

by | August 7, 2008 | Comments

Studios got off to an early start by launching this week’s two new films, the stoner comedy Pineapple Express and the girlpower saga The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, on Wednesday. The midweek launches allow the movies to tap into available students on summer vacation, generate some word-of-mouth going into the all-important weekend period, and get a headstart on the Olympics in Beijing which kick off with the tape-delayed broadcast of the Opening Ceremonies on Friday night. Audience overlap will be close to zero so each pic will have space to connect with its target audience which will be very much divided by gender lines. Meanwhile, a little film called The Dark Knight hopes to score its fourth consecutive number one finish.

The Judd Apatow factory has been churning out content like crazy in the last two years. Maybe too much content. But one of its more promising titles is Pineapple Express which teams factory regular Seth Rogen with James Franco as two potheads on the run after one witnesses a murder committed by a drug lord and a corrupt cop. The R-rated comedy will play as late-summer relief from the endless string of action and special effects flicks dominating multiplexes over the last three months. Pineapple also is an action film to some extent, but is aimed at the older teens and young adults that drove Superbad to a $33.1M number one bow this month a year ago. Stoner comedies have never been known to score huge openings, but this one should fly high thanks to solid buzz, the Apatow brand, and Franco’s breakthrough performance as a character unlike any he’s played before.

Young men will make up the core audience but some female interest is there too. Twentysomethings should come out in solid numbers but the 30+ crowd may not be as big as for past R-rated Apatow projects like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. Sony’s marketing push has been terrific and just as it did with Superbad last summer, the studio pushed its red-band trailer early to get the film on the radar. Competition from Batman will be a factor as that one has become a pop culture event whereas many Pineapple fans may choose to be lazy and wait for the DVD to pop into the mailbox three months from now to avoid leaving the house. But for the under-25 set, this film does have a substantial amount of hype right now and if word-of-mouth from Wednesday and Thursday is good, the recommendations could help encourage undecided voters to take a trip on the Express over the weekend. Rolling into 3,072 locations, Pineapple Express might gross $28M this weekend and $42M over five days.

Seth Rogen and James Franco in Pineapple Express.

Warner Bros. aims in a different direction this weekend going younger and much more female with its friendship sequel The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2. The followup to the 2005 pic reunites all four stars in a new saga as the characters head off to college. The first Sisterhood also saw a midweek Wednesday bow although it was in early June when most of the under-17 crowd was still in school. Its fifth-place launch brought in $9.8M over the weekend and $13.6M over five days which was decent, but not too impressive. The film ended up with a respectable $39M and found a larger audience on video and TV. Also helping to justify a sequel was the rising starpower of the four young actresses from their respective television careers led by America Ferrera headlining ABC’s Ugly Betty. Amber Tamblyn, Alexis Bledel, and Blake Lively also star in the PG-13 film.

The new installment should attract most of the folks who came out on opening weekend for the first round. But the numbers will be even bigger thanks to the growth of the fan base for the property, the increased drawing power of the cast, and of course the 10% bump in ticket prices since the last time Batman hit screens. Plus with guy flicks filling up the top ten competition will be light. An underserved crowd of young females done singing along to ABBA will have some new entertainment to pass the time with during the lazy days of August. Now playing in 2,667 locations, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 could open to about $16M over the weekend and $23M over five days.

The sisters of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2.

With two new foes entering the ring, The Dark Knight will face yet another challenge but hopes to keep its grip on the box office crown for a fourth consecutive weekend. It will need a very strong hold on its part and for Pineapple Express to pull much of its audience out upfront on Wednesday and Thursday. The sixth Batman movie has been shattering every record in its path and should have $416M in the bank when it starts the weekend. Direct competition from the new releases should not be too potent so a 40% decline could result. That would give the Caped Crusader about $25.5M and boost the cume to a towering $441M after just 24 days. The Dark Knight would then climb up to number three on the all-time blockbusters list sitting right behind Titanic and Star Wars (including all re-releases). Ticket prices varied greatly in the years these films played so their admissions totals would still be far ahead.

The good news for The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is that it doesn’t have a true action movie opening against its second weekend. But the downside is that buzz is not very good and as a threequel, it probably drew the bulk of fans upfront in the first week. Universal is seeing sensational numbers overseas, especially in Asia, but stateside a steep fall is set to occur. The Universal release could tumble by 60% to about $16.5M and raise its ten-day sum to $72M.

Step Brothers will face direct competition from Pineapple for young adults looking for raunchy R-rated humor. A 45% decline could result giving Sony around $9M boosting the cume to $82M. Universal’s feel-good hit Mamma Mia! should post another low drop although Pants will steal away some of its female support base. Look for a 30% dip to roughly $9M which would up the total to $105M allowing the Meryl Streep musical to join the century club.

LAST YEAR: The buddy comedy Rush Hour 3 opened at number one becoming the sixth and final threequel of the summer to debut in the top spot. New Line went on to gross $140.1M domestically and $255M worldwide with the Chris TuckerJackie Chan flick. Dropping a notch to second was The Bourne Ultimatum with $32.9M in its sophomore session. The Simpsons Movie followed with a third weekend take of $11.3M. The fantasy flop Stardust bowed poorly in fourth with only $9.2M for Paramount on its way to just $38.6M. The leggy musical Hairspray rounded out the top five with $6.4M for a dip of just 31%. Launching with weak results in tenth place was the family sequel Daddy Day Camp with a pitiful $3.4M leading to a $13.2M final.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,