Box Office Guru Preview: Valentine's Day Comes Early

Also: Notorious, Hotel for Dogs, Paul Blart: Mall Cop in theaters

by | January 15, 2009 | Comments

Four new films roll into theaters hoping to take advantage of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday which will give many a day off on Monday. R-rated fare leads the way with the horror remake My Bloody Valentine 3D and the hip-hop biopic Notorious being the big guns trying to knock Clint Eastwood from his position atop the charts. Also opening are a pair of PG-rated films – the kidpic Hotel for Dogs and the comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

The first in a long line of 3D movies this year opens on Thursday night at 10:00pm in the form of My Bloody Valentine from Lionsgate. The R-rated fright flick takes the industry’s love of recycling past horror films and mixes it with the gimmick of three dimensions which gives moviegoers an enhanced experience, and takes an extra $2-3 from their wallet. In Manhattan, some theaters are charging $15 per stub instead of their normal $12.50. The Unborn‘s surprisingly strong $19.9M bow last weekend shows how much hunger there is for scary movies with intriguing ideas. But Valentine doesn’t take the spooky, no-blood route to a PG-13. It delivers hardcore violence, killings, and gallons of hemoglobin for the genre fans that expect top-notch violence.

Lionsgate has been marketing the pic very well making it stand out in a crowded field of terrorfests packed into the January-February corridor. Plus the distributor has locked in a record 1,033 3D screens, the most ever for this format. And with those venues charging extra dough, the overall grosses will get a nice bump. Early reviews have been shockingly positive which is rare for this genre. That certainly can’t hurt. Add in the holiday weekend and you’ve got back-to-back weeks of horror hits. Attacking 2,534 theaters, My Bloody Valentine might open with about $17M over the three-day Friday-to-Sunday period.


My Bloody Valentine in 3D

Fox has raked in $125M with Marley & Me. Disney has gobbled up a combined $206M for Bolt and Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Now Paramount joins the canine game hoping to score big dollars with not one but a whole gang of pooches with its kid comedy Hotel for Dogs. The PG-rated film should play to children and tweens plus their parents and with most students having a long holiday weekend, the target audience has extra leisure time. The MLK frame has been a good one for kidpics with 2005’s Racing Stripes bowing to $13.9M over three days and the following year’s animated film Hoodwinked opening to $12.4M. Not being tied to a major franchise, Hotel might debut in the same neighborhood. Competition is not too fierce and families are looking for something new to see following two weeks of Christmas leftovers. For those who just haven’t had their fill of doggies, this one will prompt a return trip to the multiplex. Marching into 3,271 theaters, Hotel for Dogs may open to around $14M over the Friday-to-Sunday span.


Hotel for Dogs

The life of slain hip-hop star The Notorious B.I.G. makes its way to the big screen on Friday in Fox Searchlight’s Notorious. The R-rated film comes from director George Tillman Jr. (Soul Food, Men of Honor) and stars Angela Bassett, Derek Luke, and Jamal Woolard as the late rap legend. With nearly every fan of hip-hop music being part of the built-in audience, sold out shows are guaranteed to pop up from coast to coast. And with Martin Luther King Day and the Obama Inauguration following in just a few days, the timing could not be better for the release of a biopic on a popular African American superstar.

Reviews have been generally positive which is quite good for a new release coming out in January. Business should come primarily from those between the ages of 20 and 40, especially all the Biggie Smalls fans from the mid-90s. For loyal fans, this is a must-see event film. Notorious has by far the fewest theaters of this weekend’s four new titles, however a sizable number of multiplexes are double-screening it indicating solid pre-release demand. Competition from both holdovers and newcomers will be miniscule. Landing in 1,637 locations, Notorious might debut with around $13M over the Friday-to-Sunday period.


Derek Luke and Jamal Woolard as Diddy and Biggie Smalls in Notorious

Kevin James gives headlining a comedy a try with Paul Blart: Mall Cop, the funnyman’s first film as the sole anchor. The PG-rated film about a security guard at a dull suburban mall who faces off against real bad guys will play to the not-so-mature crowd looking for dumb humor. Following his successful sitcom King of Queens, James started showing up in multiplexes as the secondary dude opposite established box office draws Will Smith in Hitch and Adam Sandler in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. With the training wheels off, he now gets to show himself, and the industry, whether or not he can open a picture solo. Younger kids may take interest and the rating promises harmless fun. But Hotel for Dogs will provide some overlap for tweens. Reviews will be terrible, but will eventually be ignored. Debuting wide in over 3,000 theaters, Paul Blart: Mall Cop could take in about $11M over three days.


Kevin James in Paul Blart: Mall Cop

Clint Eastwood hit a home run last weekend with his latest starring effort Gran Torino. To no surprise, the Warner Bros. hit has been holding up quite well during the week just as most of the actor/director’s films do. Monday and Tuesday each brought in an additional $2.8M. Second wide weekend drops for his recent films include 22% for Changeling, 38% for Flags of Our Fathers, and 31% for Million Dollar Baby. Plus all of the new releases skew much younger so Torino‘s Friday-to-Sunday take may slide by about 30% to $20M. That would boost the early cume to an impressive $71M.

Bride Wars also doesn’t have much in the way of direct competition so a respectable sophomore session is likely. With NFL conference championships on Sunday, and Monday being a holiday for many, Fox’s chick flick has a great opportunity to score with its target audience. A 35% drop could occur giving the Kate HudsonAnne Hathaway laugher roughly $13.5M over three days for a 10-day cume of $39M.

Look for a massive drop for the horror pic The Unborn thanks to the double impact of bad word-of-mouth and the arrival of a competing horror flick. A 60% tumble would lead to a $8M frame and would lift the total to $31M after ten days. Although a new set of dogs will enter the marketplace, Fox’s Marley & Me will still remain a major contender in the top ten. Sales might fall by 40% to about $7M putting the sum at $133M.

LAST YEAR: A brilliant marketing campaign fueled interest in the low-budget monster flick Cloverfield which shot straight to number one with a stellar $40.1M setting a new opening weekend record for January. Katherine Heigl also generated a solid debut for her new comedy 27 Dresses which bowed at number two with $23M. Final grosses reached $80M for the Paramount thriller and $76.8M for Fox’s wedding tale. Rounding out the top five were holdovers The Bucket List with $14.1M, Juno with $10M, and First Sunday with $7.8M. Premiering with weaker results was the caper comedy Mad Money with $7.7M for Overture on its way to just $20.7M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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