Box Office Guru Preview: "Wild Hogs" Aims to Run Over "Ghost Rider"

by | March 1, 2007 | Comments

One super hero on a motorcycle looks to get replaced by four middle-aged bikers at the number one spot at the North American box office this weekend.

The new comedy "Wild Hogs" leads the pack of new releases with the widest release of the trio. Also debuting are the serial killer thriller "Zodiac" and the southern sizzler "Black Snake Moan" to kick of a March movie marathon.

Starpower is at the center of Buena Vista’s new highway to hell comedy "Wild Hogs." The PG-13 film brings together Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy as four suburban men who take to the road to put some adventure back into their lives. An adult audience is likely here and both genders should be represented fairly evenly. Star wattage and concept should sell the picture and trailers and commercials haven’t been half bad. The studio saw encouraging results from its sneak previews last Saturday which were at 85% capacity and skewed 51% male. "Wild Hogs" could reach the same audience that came out for Travolta’s "Be Cool" and "Ladder 49" which opened to $23.5M and $22.1M, respectively. Both Travolta and Allen have been out promoting the film aggressively so awareness is sizable. Opening in about 3,300 theaters, "Wild Hogs" may take in around $23M in ticket sales this weekend giving Allen a badly-needed hit.

Several actors attempt to kickstart their stalled careers in "Wild Hogs."

Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo star in the new serial killer pic "Zodiac" from director David Fincher ("Seven," "Panic Room"). The R-rated film chronicles the investigation behind one of the most notorious and mysterious murderers of the twentieth century. Paramount has long had a solid track record at finding success from crime thrillers with its slick marketing. For this particular film, the studio is hoping that the public does not find out that it is in for a nearly three hour saga. The running time should cut into the box office potential of the film since theaters will have to offer one less showtime per day compared to most other movies. A more subdued theater count will play a role too.

Still some appealing names are being offered in front of and behind the camera. Older adults are more likely to show up as the subject matter is too ancient for those in their early 20s. Films about famous California murders were met with indifference last fall in the other 49 states when Ben Affleck‘s "Hollywoodland" and Josh Hartnett‘s "The Black Dahlia" opened nationally to just $5.9M and $10M, respectively. "Zodiac" is a little more modern and is being packaged in a better way so its debut should be stronger. But the film lacks a star that can really bring some bang to the box office right out of the gate. Critics have been very supportive which will help with the older target audience. Attacking 2,362 theaters, "Zodiac" might find itself with about $16M this weekend.

Contemplating horoscopes is emotionally draining in "Zodiac."

With the eye-catching image of an older black man chaining up a young scantily clad white woman, Paramount Vantage’s "Black Snake Moan" already has one of the year’s most memorable posters. The new R-rated entry from writer/director Craig Brewer is the follow-up to his 2005 hit "Hustle & Flow" which won an Oscar last year for best song. With some more cash and bigger stars, "Snake" features Samuel L. Jackson as a Bible-loving blues guitarist who finds and cares for a beaten, bruised, and half-naked woman with a disturbing past played by Christina Ricci. Justin Timberlake adds some starpower with his second film of the year following
January’s "Alpha Dog."

"Black Snake Moan" should appeal to much of the "Hustle" crowd. That film was a summer opener and bowed to $8M from just over 1,000 locations for a solid $7,915 average. Jackson is always a wild card at the box office as many of the films he anchors do not pull in the big numbers while his ensemble pics tend to thrive. Here, he is the main draw. Competition from other contenders should not be that much of a factor as the film will work if audiences find it cool. Reviews have been generally favorable so that could provide an assist at the turnstiles. Young adults not interested in Vincent Vega and Santa on choppers might go for a more bold moviegoing choice like this. Opening in 1,252 locations, "Black Snake Moan" may debut with about $8M.

Ricci and Jackson in "Black Snake Moan."

After leading the pack for two weeks, Sony’s "Ghost Rider" will get passed up by some of the new releases this weekend. A 50% drop to about $10M seems likely giving the Nicolas Cage film $93M in 17 days.

Disney should enjoy a better hold for its fantasy drama "Bridge to Terabithia" since its audience is a little too young for the newcomers. A 35% decline would leave the PG-rated film with roughly $9M for the frame and push the 17-day cume up to $58M. Jim Carrey on the other hand should tumble with his thriller "The Number 23" which will see some direct competition from "Zodiac." A 55% drop would leave New Line with $7M over the weekend and $25M after ten days.

LAST YEAR: Tyler Perry stayed at number one for the second straight weekend with the Lionsgate comedy "Madea’s Family Reunion" which grossed $12.6M despite a hefty sophomore drop. Opening close behind in the runnerup spot was the Bruce Willis actioner "16 Blocks" with $11.9M on its way to $36.9M for Warner Bros. Disney’s family adventure "Eight Below" held up well in its third ride grossing $10.1M for third place. Debuting with unimpressive results were Sony’s action flick "Ultraviolet" with $9.1M in fourth and Fox’s drama "Aquamarine" with $7.5M in fifth. Final grosses reached $18.5M and $18.6M, respectively. Opening with decent results was "Dave Chappelle’s Block Party" with $6.2M for Focus from 1,200 theaters on its way to $11.7M overall.

Source: Gitesh Pandya,

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