For the first time in eleven weeks, Hollywood releases more than two wide openers on the same weekend as a trio of male-driven pictures will invade multiplexes across North America on Friday. Leading the way is the comic book sequel Hellboy II: The Golden Army which looks to become the latest superhero film to bow at number one. Brendan Fraser counters with his own action offering Journey to the Center of the Earth while Eddie Murphy tries to deliver some laughs with the comedy Meet Dave.
The second badass-superhero-with-an-attitude flick in as many weeks hits the multiplexes with Hellboy II which marks the return of Ron Perlman as the devilish crimefighter and Guillermo del Toro behind the camera showing off his inventive imagination with visual effects that leap ahead of those from the last installment. Sony bowed the first Hellboy to $23.2M in April 2004 on its way to a $59M final. It was hardly the type of number that warrants a sequel, but the director’s stock has risen since then and so Universal is the distributor this time around and has included Golden Army in its summer four-pack of action titles designed to boost its marketshare after a slow start to the year.
Reviews have been exceptional and the marketing push has been strong too. Fans of both science fiction and fantasy are likely to be interested here given the starpower of del Toro, plus there is already a cult audience that loved the first film and will be out on the opening weekend for the new tale. In addition, there is intense hunger for The Dark Knight which is still a week away and many comic book fans will try to curb their desires just a bit by taking a ride with Hellboy as they wait. With Wanted, Universal saw how sales can sizzle with a stylish action picture chock full of impressive visual effects. Hellboy II should play to many of the same folks and can skew younger thanks to its PG-13 rating. Genuine excitement should lead to the demon dethroning Hancock after just one week on top. Hellboy II marches into 3,203 theaters on Friday and could debut to around $37M.
Three weeks before he steps back into his comfortable Rick O’Connell role, Brendan Fraser stars in Journey to the Center of the Earth, the first live-action narrative film to be shot in digital 3D. The PG-rated New Line pic, inherited by Warner Bros., should score with young boys and could play to audiences of all ages in search of something new and different when leaving home for big screen entertainment. The pair of H boys will take away much of the action crowd so the competitive environment right now will limit Journey‘s potential. Last November’s animated 3D pic Beowulf bowed to $27.5M partly on the stylish look, and partly on Angelina Jolie‘s starpower. Outside of The Mummy flicks, Fraser doesn’t pull in too much in sales, although in this case he’s in the type of action hero role he can sell best. Reviews have been pretty good which can’t hurt. Descending into 2,811 theaters, Journey to the Center of the Earth might come up with about $17M this weekend.
Not being shown to the press is Eddie Murphy’s latest comedy Meet Dave where the popular comedian plays an alien spaceship as well as the micro-sized captain inside controlling it. The PG-rated film is aiming for a broad audience with its silly and non-offensive humor, but in the end may reach nobody. Early buzz has been negative and although there is awareness out there, overall excitement is low. The studio is putting most of its hopes into its advertising blitz, and of course a giant Eddie head that traveled across the country hoping to generate publicity in lieu of a human actor who could do talk shows and interview appearances. Comedies starring the media-shy Murphy sell based on how funny they look and Meet Dave is more The Adventures of Pluto Nash ($2.2M opening) than Norbit ($34.2M bow). Plus stiff competition from an assortment of better films will have an impact too. Landing in 3,011 theaters, Meet Dave might meet with about $13M.
Hancock flew right to the top spot at the box office all around the world last weekend and now has to face fierce competition from three new wide releases that will each eat away at a portion of Will Smith‘s audience. Add in word-of-mouth that is far from strong and a big drop is guaranteed. Midweek numbers have been solid though with $8.5M on Monday and $7.4M on Tuesday pushing the opening week tally to $119.7M in seven days plus previews.
Smith has enjoyed numerous blockbusters in July and Hancock has generated the best first-week gross of any of them. But that doesn’t mean it’s the most popular. Ticket prices have climbed significantly since 1996 when Independence Day rocked the multiplexes, but the alien smash still attracted more moviegoers than any of his other action offerings from this month.
This weekend, look for Hancock to witness a post-Fourth of July weekend drop similar to those seen by past holiday chart-toppers like Terminator 3 (56%), MIB2 (53%), and War of the Worlds (53%). A 55% stumble for the drunken superhero would result in a weekend take of about $28M which would push Sony’s cume to $161M. That would give the former rapper a stunning fifth consecutive $150M+ blockbuster.
WALL-E has been chugging along collecting cash and rolling its way towards the $200M mark. Two new PG-rated films open on Friday aimed at kids and families so there will be some level of competition. Luckily for Disney and Pixar, neither Journey nor Dave is expected to be a megasmash. A 35% decline for WALL-E could result giving the animated hit about $21M and a cume of $166M.
Universal will see some of the Wanted audience flee to stablemate Hellboy so another big fall is likely. The assassin actioner might fall by 45% to around $11M giving the Jolie joint $111M to date. Get Smart could drop by 40% to $6.5M for a $111M total for Warner Bros. as well.
LAST YEAR: For the third straight frame a franchise action pic debuted midweek ahead of a solid weekend opening. This time it was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which landed at number one with $77.1M over three days and a stunning $139.7M across five days. The Warner Bros. blockbuster went on to gross $292M domestically and a towering $938M globally edging out the numbers of the previous installment in the series. Transformers dropped to second but held up well with $37M and a $224M cume. Disney placed third with Ratatouille with $18M, Live Free or Die Hard followed with $11.3M for Fox, and License to Wed rounded out the top five with $7.3M for Warner Bros.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com