Box Office Guru Preview: Travolta Faces Off With Denzel in 1 2 3

Also: Eddie Murphy tackles another family comedy in Imagine That.

by | June 11, 2009 | Comments

Two A-listers duke it out in North American multiplexes in the new action thriller The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta which will challenge last weekend’s top films Up and The Hangover for a three-way race to the number one spot. Eddie Murphy also joins the fun with his latest family comedy Imagine That which will try to enter the top five. Overall ticket sales should once again fall behind last year’s numbers, only by a much wider margin this time.

After two weeks of animation, horror, and comedy offerings, Hollywood shifts back into action mode with the hostage thriller The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 which reunites Washington with director Tony Scott for the fourth time. The R-rated pic is using starpower as its draw with moviegoers pitting the Oscar winner against Travolta who has been successful in selling tickets as a bad guy. Unlike the effects-driven actioners of May that skewed younger, Pelham will appeal mostly to adult audiences with a subway standoff story that tries not to be totally mindless.

Washington’s high profile action films typically find their way to the $20-30M range. Inside Man and Man on Fire debuted to $29M and $22.8M, respectively. American Gangster found him going head to head with another major star in Russell Crowe and bowed to a career best $43.6M. The star wattage of the leads and the slick marketing should attract a sizable adult audience in the first weekend, but don’t expect legs to be Bourne-like as the film does not deliver the goods. Mixed reviews will have an impact as older moviegoers pay attention to critics. Plus the staying power of this month’s other big R-rated pic The Hangover could steal away some young adult ticket buyers. Debuting in over 3,000 theaters, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 may open to about $29M this weekend.

Travolta and co. in The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

Eddie Murphy has had an erratic box office track record with kid-friendly comedies. The audience love he won with summer hits like Doctor Dolittle and Daddy Day Care has been worn out by summer turkeys like The Adventures of Pluto Nash and last year’s Meet Dave. So it should come as no surprise if parents show hesitation this weekend with the arrival of his latest family comedy Imagine That. The PG-rated pic stars Murphy as a busy dad who finally makes time for his daughter when he starts getting winning financial tips from her imaginary princess friends. Young girls are the target audience here and given their love of princesses, even non-Disney ones, the Paramount release has a shot at finding some success with its core demographic at the very least.

Reviews have been mixed which for an Eddie kidpic is a big step up. And with Nickelodeon Movies as a co-producer, promotional support from the cable network will be valuable in boosting awareness. However, competition will be a big factor as families are flocking to the Disney/Pixar smash Up which has been holding up very well since its debut. Many parents would trust a second sitting of the acclaimed toon over the risk of trying an Eddie Murphy kiddie flick. Even the Night at the Museum sequel is still pulling in business. Imagine That just hasn’t generated enough must-see buzz to blow away its summer foes. Opening in over 2,800 theaters, Imagine That might collect about $12M this weekend.

Eddie Murphy in Imagine That

After its surprise number one opening, the raunchy comedy smash The Hangover has continued its celebrating into the week with eye-popping grosses of $7.7M on Monday and $6.6M on Tuesday. Those are tentpole-size daily grosses beating out what franchise films like Star Trek and Iron Man took in on their corresponding days in the opening week. With all college students on their summer breaks in June, Hangover has been able to tap into young adults in a more effective way than early May films.

Second weekend drops for other well-liked R-rated summer comedies include 24% for 2005’s Wedding Crashers, 36% for 2007’s Knocked Up, 45% for the same year’s Superbad, and 37% for last summer’s Tropic Thunder. With the first wave of summer action movies now released, audiences are rallying behind something different with the raw laughs of Hangover which should hold up well this weekend thanks to strong buzz. A 35% drop would give the Vegas-set pic around $29M for the session pushing the ten-day cume to a fantastic $100M with much more still to come.

Up is set to fly past Wolverine this weekend to become the third biggest blockbuster of 2009. Eddie Murphy will not pose much of a threat so the flying house flick could fall by 30% to roughly $31M. That would raise the 17-day tally to a stellar $186M. Fellow family hit Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian may slide by 35% to about $9.5M for a total of $142M to date.

Will Ferrell has nowhere to go but down with his action-comedy flop Land of the Lost. The Universal release’s only shot at making money was during its opening weekend but the funnyman wasn’t able to fool too many people into buying tickets launching well below industry expectations. Land‘s $18.8M debut was on par with the $18.6M launch of last summer’s first big disappointment Speed Racer which collapsed by 56% in the second lap. Look for a similar 55% tumble for Land of the Lost to around $8.5M giving the expensive production only $34M in ten days.

LAST YEAR: Friday the 13th brought a pair of new releases that needed to prove themselves with Universal’s The Incredible Hulk starring Edward Norton debuting at number one with $55.4M on its way to $134.8M. That repped a smaller opening than the $62.1M of 2003’s poorly-received Hulk, but a slightly higher total than the first pic’s $132.2M. Kung Fu Panda slipped to second in its sophomore frame with a solid $33.6M for Paramount. M. Night Shyamalan saw a strong third-place launch for his latest thriller The Happening which took in $30.5M leading to a $64.5M final for Fox. Though lower than most of his previous levels, it was a nice rebound from the director’s last pic Lady in the Water which bombed with a $18M debut and $42.3M final. Rounding out the top five were You Don’t Mess with the Zohan with $16.4M and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull with $14.7M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,

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