Box Office Guru Preview: Smith to Rule Again With Hancock

Kit Kittredge, Wanted, WALL•E to fight for second place.

by | July 3, 2008 | Comments

Movie fans will get jiggy with their favorite Fourth of July superstar this weekend as Will Smith flies into multiplexes across the globe with his newest effects-filled action film Hancock from Sony. Meanwhile, Picturehouse expands its Abigail Breslin-starrer Kit Kittredge: An American Girl giving the frame’s two new openers ample room to breathe. Both films went into wide release on Wednesday ahead of the Friday holiday. Add in some strong sophomore contributions from the reigning box office power couple WALLjelina and it should make for some sparkling fireworks at the multiplexes this weekend. Independence Day often takes a bit of a toll on the box office because of outdoor activities like fireworks, parades, and barbecues, but the days surrounding the holiday see very active spending at theaters.

Saving the world one drunken step at a time, Will Smith takes on starring and producing roles in Hancock playing a superhero with an attitude problem in need of an image upgrade. Co-starring Jason Bateman and Charlize Theron, the PG-13 film from director Peter Berg stands as the former rapper’s latest venture to conquer the Fourth of July holiday frame, but the first in six years. Kudos to Smith and Sony for developing a new type of hero story.

But the awful reviews could make the undecided moviegoers hesitate a bit when making their holiday weekend movie selections. The core audience of action and Will Smith fans will disregard the complaints from critics and line up anyway. Negative reviews didn’t stop his last film I Am Legend from generating the actor’s all-time biggest debut. And a short running time of 92 minutes will ensure that each multiplex can serve up enough Hancock showtimes to absorb all the demand. In New York City for example, the Regal Union Square is offering 32 shows per day.

The former Fresh Prince’s new film will be his eighth consecutive number one opener and will remind the industry who sits at the top of the mountain in Hollywood. Hancock could appeal to many of the same moviegoers who powered Smith’s Men in Black films to record Fourth of July openings in the past. Those debuts amounted to $84.1M over five days plus Tuesday night previews for 1997’s original installment ($130M at today’s prices) and $87.2M over five days for the 2002 sequel ($106M today).

Hancock crashes into theaters this weekend.

Hancock has no true direct competitor this weekend, but other films will indeed eat away at parts of its target audience. WALL•E will grab younger kids and even some teens while Wanted will steal some of the adult action crowd. But the marketplace typically expands during holiday sessions and many movie buffs find the time to see more than one film. Early audiences have gotten basic satisfaction from the cussing superhero with over 3,000 users on Yahoo Movies giving it a decent B+ average. That’s not a big endorsement, but it doesn’t show that moviegoers are trashing the picture the way critics are either.

On Tuesday, the badass took in an impressive $6.8M from preview shows that began at 7pm. That’s a bigger haul than 2003’s Terminator 3 from its Tuesday night previews but less than the $8.8M of last July’s Transformers from its Monday night previews from this same holiday week. Both of those began their shows at 8pm and had longer running times. The Schwarzenegger sequel went on to gross $72.4M over its five-and-a-half-day span when the holiday also fell on a Friday. That would amount to $85M at today’s prices for the R-rated actioner. Terminator 3 was based on a better-known property, however Hancock has a more commercially-friendly rating and a more popular star.

Now playing in 3,965 theaters across North America, Hancock could open to around $66M over the Friday-to-Sunday period and $108M from Tuesday night through Sunday.

Will Smith as Hancock.
After two weeks of exclusive engagements with $20 ticket prices (including a free t-shirt for moviegoers), Abigail Breslin‘s Kit Kittredge: An American Girl opens in nationwide release aiming to connect with young girls and moms. The G-rated Depression-era tale is based on the wildly popular series of books and toys so Picturehouse has a built-in audience to tap into. The opening weekend average of $44,059 from five locations was impressive, even when factoring in the extra high admission fee. Demand is high, however crossover business outside the core demographic should be limited. Hancock and Wanted won’t provide much competition, but little miss sunshine does have to worry about WALL•E which is playing extremely well with kids and is more gender-neutral so it can attract whole families with boys and girls together. Expanding to 1,753 theaters, Kit Kittredge: An American Girl could take in about $11M over the weekend and $17M across the five-day span.

Abigail Breslin as Kit Kittredge.

Disney has been aggressively advertising WALL•E this week as the number one movie in America in hopes of making families forget that Will Smith has a new offering in multiplexes right now. The robot adventure scored a strong opening and followed that up with solid midweek numbers with $8.9M on Monday and $7.6M on Tuesday. Some competition will come not only from Hancock but also from Kit Kittredge who will steal away more than just a few young girls. Last year, Ratatouille was also in its second frame during this holiday session and slipped by just 38%. A drop of 40% could hit WALL•E for a weekend take of about $38M which would boost the ten-day total to a robust $131M.

Angelina Jolie came out with guns blazing last weekend flexing her box office muscles to the tune of nearly $51M with Wanted. The Universal release kept the bullets flying on Monday and Tuesday with a combined $11M in two days. Though word-of-mouth is good, a sizable drop is still likely since the fan base already rushed out upfront in large numbers and a new competing action entry is now in the marketplace complete with Hollywood’s number one star. A 50% drop would give Wanted about $25M for the weekend and $95M after ten days.

Warner Bros. could witness a 45% decline for the action-comedy pic Get Smart. That would give the Steve Carell vehicle roughly $11M and a cume of $98M. Kung Fu Panda, another Jolie project in last week’s top five, should see a smaller fall. The Paramount/DreamWorks title may slide by 40% to about $7.5M lifting the cume to $193M.

LAST YEAR: Michael Bay returned to form with Transformers which clocked in at $70.5M over the weekend and a massive $155.4M haul over its six-and-a-half-day opening week. The Paramount release went on to gross $319.2M domestically becoming the top-grossing non-sequel of 2007, and brought in a stunning $707M worldwide. Disney and Pixar claimed second with Ratatouille which grossed $29M followed by the Fox action sequel Live Free or Die Hard with $17.7M. The romantic comedy License to Wed bowed in fourth with $10.4M and $17.8M since its mid-week debut. Warner Bros. found its way to a mediocre $43.8M. Universal’s Evan Almighty rounded out the top five with $8.7M in its third voyage.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,

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