Box Office Guru Preview: Zack and Miri Want Your Vote

Also: Changeling, RocknRolla, Haunting of Molly Hartley in the race.

by | October 30, 2008 | Comments

In the final weekend before a new president is elected, all polls show that the raunchy comedy Zack and Miri Make a Porno is the leading ticket among the frame’s new candidates. Horror fans will get a fright flick with The Haunting of Molly Hartley which creeps into theaters on Friday, Halloween Day. Two films in limited release expand nationwide too – Angelina Jolie‘s missing son drama Changeling and Guy Ritchie‘s crime pic RockNRolla. All will have to work hard in order to beat out the incumbent hit High School Musical 3 which is coming off of a spectacular debut. Overall, the five-week box office winning streak should come to an end as North American ticket sales are not likely to top year-ago levels when November kicked off with a bang.

Years before Judd Apatow became a brand name in the business of R-rated comedies there was Kevin Smith who now leaves behind New Jersey for Pittsburgh in his newest laugher Zack and Miri Make a Porno. The Weinstein Co. release stars Apatow regular Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks as two life-long friends and debt-ridden roommates who decide to film an X-rated flick in order to make some quick cash. Older teens and young adults will take interest here and cross-gender appeal is solid. Reviews have not been glowing, but they are more than adequate for a pic like this. The catchy title and savvy marketing materials will also spark interest with audiences looking for envelope-pushing humor. And a divide and conquer approach to the advertising has led to tame television shows having spots for Zack and Miri while commercials on more crude shows use the full Porno title.

It’s been a good year for raunchy R-rated comedies with openings of $17.7M for Forgetting Sarah Marshall, $30.9M for Will Ferrell‘s Step Brothers, and $23.2M for Pineapple Express. All were produced by Apatow. But Smith is a bankable name too especially when he’s outside the Jersey Girl world. Zack should build upon the audiences that came out for the 2006 pic Clerks II ($10.1M) and 2001’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back ($11M). Rogen has become a superstar in this genre so his name will draw sales too giving Smith his biggest debut ever. Competition will come primarily from Saw V and Max Payne. Young adults looking to get away from the non-stop election coverage this weekend will have a very appealing option with this one. Bowing in 2,735 locations, Zack and Miri Make a Porno may gross around $19M this weekend.

Elizabeth Banks and Seth Rogen in Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Aiming for 14-year-olds that can’t get into Saw V and find HSM3 uncool, Freestyle Releasing unleashes its PG-13 horror flick The Haunting of Molly Hartley on Halloween Day. The story of a teenage girl whose soul was sold to the devil lacks starpower, but its intriguing concept and spooky marketing materials should allow it to connect with its target audience in the short term. Plus the rating will allow it to reach a wide audience of younger teens looking for a good scare so the timing is good. Competition from the Jigsaw sequel’s second weekend will certainly curtail Molly‘s potential. And Freestyle is not known for drawing large crowds to their releases so don’t expect a runaway smash like The Grudge or The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Creeping into 2,250 locations, The Haunting of Molly Hartley might bow to about $11M.

The Angelina Jolie mother-in-crisis flick Changeling got off to a robust start last weekend averaging $32,601 from only 15 theaters. Universal got the word out for the Clint Eastwood-directed pic with that limited bow and will now go nationwide expanding to 1,856 sites on Friday. Changeling has starpower working in its favor as Eastwood and Jolie are both popular draws – in the right movie. Plus there is little competition for older adults right now. However, the mixed reviews and grim subject matter will dampen interest with mature audiences. The long running time and lack of Oscar buzz won’t help either. Plus films that take place in the 20s and 30s generally do not perform all that well. There was a time when dramas like Seabiscuit could pull in over $100M outside of awards season. Those days are gone. Changeling might take in about $9M this weekend.

Angelina Jolie in Changeling

By what must be pure coincidence, Guy Ritchie‘s confirmation of his divorce plans got the director plenty of press right when his new film RockNRolla was hitting theaters in limited release. The Gerard Butler starrer bowed in seven theaters to a muscular $20,672 average, but then saw the figure slump significantly to $6,103 from 22 sites and then dip again to $5,404 from 19 locations in the third session. That does not bode well for the nationwide expansion on Friday when the R-rated crime pic widens to 826 theaters. Look for the average for RockNRolla to get diluted down much further with a weekend gross of under $2M.

Gerard Butler, Idris Elba, et al in RocknRolla

Last weekend’s top two films should suffer hefty declines thanks to their built-in audiences all rushing out on opening weekend, but given their relatively low costs each is already singing in the rain. High School Musical 3 will have more than $45M in the bank after its first full week of release, but its 9% Friday-to-Saturday drop during the debut frame indicates that the G-rated film is very front-loaded. Fans will buy the DVD and get most of their repeat viewing done that way so a large 55% fall could result this weekend. That would still be less than the sophomore drops of 58% and 67% seen by past Disney Channel pics The Lizzie McGuire Movie and Hannah Montana, respectively. HSM3 could end up with about $19M this weekend and reach a cheery ten-day total of $66M.

Saw V tumbled by a whopping 30% on Saturday from its powerful opening day. The sophomore slide should be on par with what the last installments in the torture franchise have seen. 2006’s Saw III fell by 56% while last year’s Saw IV crumbled by 67%. With Halloween falling on Friday, some fans may get a kick out of spending the later hours with Jigsaw. A 60% decline could result putting Saw V at $12M over three days and pushing the cume to $47M.

Disney will have no new competition for its doggie hit Beverly Hills Chihuahua so a 35% dip may occur. That would give the kidpic roughly $4.5M for the weekend and $84M after one full month of play.

LAST YEAR: Denzel Washington scored a career high opening with American Gangster which bowed at number one with a potent $43.6M for Universal. Ridley Scott, who will be lucky to reach that figure with the entire run of his latest Russell Crowe starrer Body of Lies, found his way to a stellar $130.2M domestically and $265M worldwide. Opening in second targeting families was Jerry Seinfeld‘s animated entry Bee Movie with $38M for Paramount and DreamWorks which went on to collect $126.7M with a global gross of $287M. Saw IV collapsed losing two-thirds of its opening and fell to third with $10.3M for Lionsgate. Rounding out the top five were Buena Vista’s Dan in Real Life and The Game Plan with $7.9M and $3.9M, respectively.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,

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