Box Office Guru Preview: Punisher Heads Into Weak Frame

Also: Cadillac Records opens in limited release.

by | December 4, 2008 | Comments

Following the Thanksgiving holiday frame, the North American box office should hit the brakes and see sharp declines in ticket sales. The action offering Punisher: War Zone is the only major film going into true wide release which means most of the top five should look familiar. Also opening nationally but in a more limited run is the music industry pic Cadillac Records which will try to make its way into the top ten. Leftovers from turkey weekend like Four Christmases, Bolt, and Twilight should remain among the most popular titles at the multiplexes as the marketplace takes a breather before a new wave of holiday films hits next Friday.

Lionsgate unleashes an action sequel aimed at young men for the second time in as many weeks with Punisher: War Zone which follows up on The Punisher which was released in 2004 back when the distributor went by the name Lions Gate. That film starred Thomas Jane and John Travolta, opened to $13.8M, and found its way to a respectable $33.7M. This time, Ray Stevenson picks up the title role and fans will be asked to disregard the swapping of actors and to come out and buy a ticket because of the brand name.

The R rating may cut out those 14-year-old boys, but it will give young males some bang at a time when there are no R-rated actioners for this audience. Lionsgate’s PG-13 pic Transporter 3 should fall hard in its sophomore session, but it will still provide some direct competition. Ticket buyers haven’t exactly been craving a new vigilante flick from this punishing series so business may come from frequent moviegoers who just don’t have anything else to do or see. Debuting in 2,508 locations, Punisher: War Zone might gross about $9M this weekend.

Ray Stevenson in Punisher: War Zone

Sony quietly enters the marketplace with Cadillac Records, a drama revisiting the rise of the blues music scene. The R-rated film stars Adrien Brody, Jeffrey Wright, and Beyonce Knowles who also executive produces her first feature. The marketing push has not been strong, the subject matter is not too appealing, and the starpower is questionable for this type of project. The studio knows that it doesn’t have a hit on its hands so it may be cutting its losses. Reviews have been decent, but not compelling enough to mobilize large crowds. Landing in just 600 or so theaters, Cadillac Records may end up with a mere $2M this weekend.

Mos Def as Chuck Berry in Cadillac Records

Over the last three years, the Top 20 on the weekend after the Thanksgiving holiday frame fell by 43% to 48%. With moviegoers cutting back on spending after last weekend’s big feast, and a lack of interesting new releases, another sizable fall is likely this time. That could pave the way for a second win by the incumbent comedy hit Four Christmases. Yuletide-themed films often hold up well on the weekend after the turkey session so the sophomore drop for Warner Bros. could be about 50%. That would give the Vince VaughnReese Witherspoon film around $15.5M for the weekend and a ten-day tally of $67M.

Disney’s Bolt is still the only major kidpic out there and the 3D theaters continue to give families a unique experience not found at home. This one may also drop by half to roughly $13M putting the 17-day sum at $83M. A harsher fall may await the not-so-bloody vampire flick Twilight. Look for the Summit release to fall by 55% to around $12M which would up the cume to $136M after 17 days. Sony’s Quantum of Solace should remain in the top five and drop by 50% to $9.5M for a $154M total to date.

LAST YEAR: Nicole Kidman found her way into the number one spot with the fantasy adventure The Golden Compass which was the only new wide release of the frame. Bowing to $25.8M, the New Line film didn’t exactly blow away expectations however it was a monster hit in most other parts of the world. Compass went on to gross just $69.9M domestically but $372M worldwide with North America accounting for a slim 19% of the global tally. The rest of the top five included Enchanted with $10.7M, This Christmas with $5M, Fred Claus with $4.6M, and Beowulf with $4.5M. Debuting with sizzling results in limited release were Atonement with a $24,901 average from 32 theaters and Juno with a $59,124 average from just 7 sites. Both would go on to win Oscars.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,