Box Office Guru Preview: Vin Diesel and Gang Racing for #1 Spot

Also: Adventureland to provide the amusement.

by | April 2, 2009 | Comments

Universal makes a serious play at setting a new April opening weekend box office record with its street racing four-quel Fast & Furious which should lead the marketplace to a scorching spring frame. The only other new film attempting to steal away audiences is the quirky theme park comedy Adventureland which opens in about half as many theaters. With last weekend’s champ Monsters vs. Aliens still doing strong business, the industry could for the first time in history see two films gross over $30M each in the traditionally slow month of April.

Keeping the eight-year-old franchise going, Universal unleashes Fast & Furious on Friday hoping to reclaim old glory by reuniting the four principal cast members of the original surprise blockbuster. Starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, and Jordana Brewster, the PG-13 film is aimed at teens and young adults with a need for speed. Broad appeal across all ethnic groups will help widen the audience as with previous chapters. Given the age of the series, sales from the 30-plus crowd could make the debut bigger allowing it to challenge Anger Management’s record April bow of $42.2M.

Openings for the franchise include $40.1M for 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, $50.5M for 2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, and $24M for 2006’s The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift which featured a new cast and setting. At today’s ticket prices, those figures would amount to roughly $52M, $61M, and $27M respectively. Clearly a part of the audience has eroded away over the years and each film featured less and less of the “original parts”. Universal really had no way to get fans back for a fourth lap but to reunite the stars from the first pic.

The new FF is a comeback vehicle for Vin Diesel who has only had two starring roles in the past four years – the back-to-back flops Find Me Guilty and Babylon A.D. Walker, Rodriguez, and Brewster have never been big box office draws anyway so the promise of a big paycheck in a very high-profile film certainly helped to lure each actor. Reaching the opening weekend takes of the first two chapters (adjusted for today’s prices) will probably be out of reach. Part of the appeal back then was that this fresh new concept spoke to a new generation of young people. But the fan base is still huge and the original cast will spark tons of interest.

With a strong marketing campaign, limited competition for its target audience, theaters booking multiple auditoriums, and the buzz surrounding its reunited cast, Fast & Furious should finish in first place with a big sack of cash. Racing into more than 3,400 locations, a Friday-to-Sunday debut of about $43M could occur.


Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in Fast and Furious

Miramax offers a different entertainment option for the non-automotive fan with the quirky theme park comedy Adventureland starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart. The R-rated pic is being promoted as being from the director of Superbad in hopes of attracting a crowd of older teens and twentysomethings. Starpower will be one of the main tools here in generating business as Eisenberg is known for his critical indie hit The Squid and the Whale, Stewart will be testing her drawing power after co-headlining the vampire smash Twilight, and supporting actors Bill Hader and Kristin Wiig will attempt to draw in the Saturday Night Live audience.

But the promotional push has not been as strong as those for hits like Superbad, Juno, or Little Miss Sunshine although Adventureland clearly wants to appeal to the same folks. Also Stewart’s pull outside of her lucrative franchise may be limited especially with the restrictive rating. A lot of heavy hitters are currently filling up screens in the multiplexes so competition will be a big factor too. That level of urgency just doesn’t seem to be there so many will wait for the DVD. However, reviews have been among the best of any wide release this year so if ticket buyers decide to listen to critics then the coming-of-age film could enjoy a respectable bow. Going out moderately wide in over 1,800 runs, Adventureland may debut to about $8M.


Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart in Adventureland

Monsters vs. Aliens has enjoyed a good week following its potent debut grossing another $3.5M on Monday and $3.4M on Tuesday.on its way to a $70M+ opening week tally. With no new kidpics launching this weekend, the stage is set for another impressive frame. A 40% decline would lead to a weekend take of around $35M putting the ten-day sum at a robust $107M for Paramount and DreamWorks Animation. Lionsgate scored big last weekend too with its spookfest The Haunting in Connecticut. Both of the new releases will steal away teens and young adults so a sizable decline is likely. Look for a 55% fall to about $10M for a cume of $38M after ten days.

The doomsday thriller Knowing has done surprisingly well not only in its launch but with its sophomore hold. With a new actioner opening, Summit could see a 45% drop to roughly $8M raising the total after 17 days to $57M. Paramount’s dude comedy I Love You, Man may match up with about $8M as well which would be a 35% drop. Cume would climb to $49M.

LAST YEAR: The gambling drama 21 spent a second weekend at number one with $15.3M dropping only 36% for a solid hold. Jodie Foster‘s adventure Nim’s Island debuted in the runnerup spot with $13.2M and was followed closely by George Clooney‘s football comedy Leatherheads with $12.7M. Final tallies reached $48M for the Fox family film and $31.4M for Universal’s period pigskin pic. The animated hit Horton Hears a Who ranked fourth with $9.1M and the new horror entry The Ruins opened in fifth with $8M on its way to a $17.4M total.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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