Box Office Guru Preview: Shia Eyes Another #1 Hit

Eagle Eye, Nights in Rodanthe, Miracle at St. Anna vie for weekend box office.

by | September 25, 2008 | Comments

Indy Jr. looks to seize control of the North American box office with the new action thriller Eagle Eye which leads a new pack of candidates heading into the multiplexes on Friday. Also opening are the romance Nights in Rodanthe starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane plus Spike Lee‘s historical war drama Miracle at St. Anna. Overall, the marketplace stands a good chance of beating last year’s performance ending the month of September on a positive note after such a dismal start.

Shia LaBeouf and director D.J. Caruso spent three weeks atop the box office chart with their sleeper hit thriller Disturbia last year. Now, the two reunite and hope that lightning will strike twice with the political action thriller Eagle Eye which should have no problem debuting in the number one spot this Friday. The PG-13 film finds the Transformers star playing a slacker who is targeted by a mysterious government agency that can use modern information technology to track the lives of any person. Michelle Monaghan, Rosario Dawson, Michael Chiklis, and Billy Bob Thornton co-star. Paramount and DreamWorks are aiming for a broad audience here but teens and young adults should be the core. Cross-gender appeal is solid as Shia is a star with males and females alike. This one is for the actor what Enemy of the State was for Will Smith ten years ago – a chance for a rising action superstar to break away from bigger guaranteed hits and anchor a conspiracy thriller on his own.

With most films in multiplexes now skewing towards the 30-plus crowd, Eagle should hit its mark just fine. Plus, there really haven’t been any major serious modern-day action movies since The Dark Knight so ticket buyers are ready to go for another action-packed thrill ride. The reliable tactic of using “from Executive Producer Steven Spielberg” in the marketing is also at play here and will add to the numbers. Disturbia debuted to $22.2M in April 2007 and outside of the Saw sequels, movies released in the September-October corridor rarely break past the $30M mark. Attacking over 3,300 locations, Eagle Eye will try to approach that level and could generate around $27M this weekend.

Shia LaBeouf in Eagle Eye

Adult women and couples will be targeted by Warner Bros. with its new romantic drama Nights in Rodanthe. Based on the best-selling Nicholas Sparks novel, the PG-13 film reteams Richard Gere with Diane Lane a good six-plus years after their Unfaithful became a summer hit in 2002. This time around, Gere plays a lonely man staying at a cozy inn run by Lane’s character. Rodanthe will skew heavily female and more mature so competition will come from The Women, Burn After Reading and even Lakeview Terrace which should steal away a combined $18M this weekend. The session’s other new releases should not pull away too many customers though. The turnout will come from the same audience that drove the Richard Gere-Jennifer Lopez pic Shall We Dance to a $11.8M debut ($6,650 average) and the Keanu ReevesSandra Bullock reteam The Lake House to a $13.6M bow ($5,148 average). Reviews have been lukewarm, but starpower and the source material’s built-in audience should lead to a solid bow. Debuting in over 2,500 theaters, Nights in Rodanthe might take in roughly $12M this weekend.

Richard Gere and Diane Lane in Nights in Rodanthe

Spike Lee gets the subdued-national-release treatment for his latest project Miracle at St. Anna, a military drama that recounts the achievements of four African American soldiers in World War II. Starring Derek Luke, the R-rated historical pic will go out in just 1,185 theaters. Coupled with its 160-minute running time, the war drama will have its grossing potential curtailed so big numbers are not expected. Plus reviews have been pretty weak so Miracle may have to struggle just for a slot in the top five. Lee struck gold with Inside Man which bowed to a stellar $29M in March 2006, but that was more thanks to Oscar winners Denzel Washington and Jodie Foster than anything else. Those numbers won’t carry over in this case and the subject matter will be hard for mainstream moviegoers to digest. It’s not just Iraq war stories that people are avoiding. Hoping to tap into the director’s core fan base, Miracle at St. Anna may debut to about $6M.

Miracle at St. Anna

A wildcard this weekend will be the first presidential debate between Senators McCain and Obama on Friday night which is sure to affect business, especially with older adults. Given how more than 38 million people tuned in to each of their convention speeches just a few weeks ago, the live political smackdown between the two candidates is sure to distract voters and affect the Friday box office. Nights and Miracle should be hit more severely than Eagle Eye, but may also witness stronger Saturday bumps.

Samuel L. Jackson hit the top spot last weekend with the not-so-friendly-neighbor thriller Lakeview Terrace. The Sony film’s adult audience will have new options so a 45% decline could be in order. That would leave the PG-13 film with about $8M for the frame and a ten-day sum of $27M.

Burn After Reading held up nicely in its sophomore session so another moderate drop is likely. Focus may see a 40% decline to roughly $6.5M for a total of $45M after 17 days. Dane Cook flicks fall hard on the second weekend as witnessed by his pics Good Luck Chuck and Employee of the Month which both stumbled by 54% in the second frame. The comic’s new masterpiece My Best Friend’s Girl looks to fall by 55% to about $3.5M for a disappointing cume of only $14M after ten days.

LAST YEAR: The Rock became the latest macho star to drive a family comedy to number one. His hit The Game Plan debuted on top with $23M for Disney on its way to a solid $90.6M making it the top-grossing pic for the September-October corridor. Opening in second was the political thriller The Kingdom with $17.1M for Universal on its way to $47.5M. Former chart-topper Resident Evil: Extinction lost two-thirds of its audience and fell to third with $8M in its second weekend. Rounding out the top five was Lionsgate with its double feature of Good Luck Chuck and 3:10 to Yuma with $6.2M and $4.2M, respectively.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,

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