Box Office Guru Preview: Witch Mountain Challenges Watchmen for Top Spot

Last House on the Left, Miss March also competing for box office this weekend.

by | March 12, 2009 | Comments

After five consecutive frames of beating the 2008 box office, ticket sales this time may have a tough job keeping the streak alive. Looking to knock the superheroes of Watchmen out of the top spot is the artist formerly known as The Rock, Dwayne Johnson, who headlines the new Disney live-action film Race to Witch Mountain opening on Friday. A pair of debuting R-rated pics will target older audiences. Universal unleashes the horror entry The Last House on the Left while Fox Searchlight releases the weekend’s only film not inspired by a 1970s classic with the comedy Miss March.

Dipping back into the Disney well after the successful hit The Game Plan grossed $90.6M, Johnson this time plays a Las Vegas cab driver who picks up a pair of teens with supernatural powers in Race to Witch Mountain. The PG-rated adventure is the latest in the studio’s long line of recycled films updated for a new generation of children. Kids and younger teens sick of seeing Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Coraline yet again, and who obviously were less than thrilled by the Jonas Brothers concert flick, make up the target audience here. Most of the major films in release right now target older moviegoers so Witch has a great opportunity to score.

The wrestler-turned-actor provides ample starpower and has family-friendly credibility too. Game Plan bowed to $23M in 2007 during the normally slow month of September. Actors Anna-Sophia Robb and Ciaran Hinds give the film cross-gender appeal plus the title will be familiar to parents making it a safe choice for the whole family. Marketing hype has been about normal for this type of pic which should be good enough to propel it to the top of the charts. Reviews have been fairly good which certainly can’t hurt. Opening in 3,187 theaters, Race to Witch Mountain may debut with around $27M this weekend.

Dwayne Johnson and co. in Race to Witch Mountain

Universal’s Rogue Pictures banner has a strong track record in the horror field and aims for another hit this weekend with the new update of The Last House on the Left. The R-rated revenge thriller is inspired by the 1972 film of the same name from director Wes Craven who sticks to producing this time around. This brutal fright flick will play to a core horror crowd and its Friday the 13th release date will help on opening night, even though it’s not a key element of the marketing campaign. Horror films for the most part have overperformed this year with big bows for Rogue’s The Unborn ($19.8M), My Bloody Valentine 3D ($21.2M), and Friday the 13th ($40.6M). No new offering from the genre has hit theaters since Jason’s return so direct competition will be weak for Left which will have a clear field ahead of it. Those looking for a good scare are ready for a new film. Breaking into about 2,400 locations, The Last House on the Left could take in roughly $14M this weekend.

The bad guys in Last House on the Left

Fox Searchlight goes after older teens and young adults with the raunchy comedy Miss March which tells of a young man who wakes up after a four-year coma to find that his former lady friend has become a Playboy bunny. The R-rated pic hopes to connect with spring breakers who may not have the cash for a trip to Florida or Cancun but want some sort of wild fun anyway. The plot is interesting, but with no starpower the film will only go so far. The audience should match to some extent the small crowds that came out for October’s R-rated Sex Drive ($3.6M opening) and last month’s PG-13 Fired Up ($5.5M). Entering 1,742 theaters, Miss March could take in about $5M this weekend.

Miss March

All eyes will be on Watchmen‘s second weekend to shed some light on what type of final gross Warner Bros. will extract from the domestic market. Given its fanboy following, the R-rated effects-heavy pic is built to draw the bulk of its business in week one so a sizable decline should be in store for the sophomore frame. Looking at recent early March action films from the studio that relied heavily on special effects, second weekend drops were 53% for last year’s 10,000 B.C. and 54% for the previous year’s 300. Watchmen is more of an upfront film pulling in its audience in the first few days, and there is little indication that the comic flick is branching out to non-fans of the source material. Word-of-mouth is not very strong either with over 7,000 users of Yahoo Movies giving it a B- average. Dr. Manhattan and pals might fall by 60% this weekend which would lead to a three-day take of $22M and a ten-day cume of $90M.

Liam Neeson‘s unstoppable revenge thriller Taken could dip another 25% to about $5.5M lifting Fox’s amazing cume to $125M. Tyler Perry looks to suffer a 45% drop for his highest grossing film ever Madea Goes to Jail. That would put the Lionsgate release at $5M for the weekend and $83M overall. Slumdog Millionaire could slip by 40% this weekend to roughly $4M and give Fox Searchlight $131M to date.

LAST YEAR: Fox teamed up with Dr. Seuss and generated a huge number one opening for Horton Hears a Who which bowed to a stellar $45M. With voices from Jim Carrey and Steve Carell, the animated hit went on to bank a sizable $154.5M domestically and $297M worldwide. The prehistoric drama 10,000 B.C. fell 53% in its second weekend to $16.8M ending up in second place. Debuting in third was the actioner Never Back Down with $8.6M on its way to $24.9M for Summit. Rounding out the top five were the Disney comedy College Road Trip and the Sony assassination thriller Vantage Point with $7.8M and $5.5M, respectively.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,

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