The annual convergence of the Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day holidays has lead to a unique situation this year as studios are all releasing their wide openers on Thursday hoping for strong five-day starts for their pictures. The two effects-filled movies heading up the charge are Fox’s science fiction actioner Jumper and Paramount’s fantasy adventure The Spiderwick Chronicles attacking over 3,400 theaters each. Buena Vista counters with its dance saga Step Up 2 The Streets while Universal offers the romantic comedy Definitely, Maybe.
With something for everyone, and the two holidays giving a boost to overall moviegoing activity, the North American box office should be robust this weekend although it may not be able to match the record-shattering frame from a year ago. The last time Valentine’s Day fell on a Thursday was in 2002 but all five wide releases that year had traditional Friday bows. This time studios felt no need to leave business on the table on the typically strong love holiday so openings were scheduled a day earlier.
Fox has a savvy way of taking subpar films not loved by critics and selling them successfully to the ticket buying audience. The success of recent films like Alvin and the Chipmunks, 27 Dresses and Meet the Spartans is proof. The studio is hoping to make the magic work again with the new actioner Jumper which tells of teleporting men who face off against an elite group set to destroy them. Former Jedis Hayden Christensen and Samuel L. Jackson star in the PG-13 pic directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith). Teens and young adults are the target audience here with males likely to slightly outnumber the gals.
The Presidents’ Day frame is often used by studios to launch effects-driven sci-fi films and audiences always turn out. Last year saw Ghost Rider bow to $52M over four days, Constantine opened to $33.6M in 2005, and Daredevil debuted to $45M in 2003. Jumper will play to most of the same people, however it boasts less starpower and its literary source is not as famous. Plus it faces more competition for the action audience with Spiderwick taking away some of the younger crowd and Fool’s Gold stealing away some women and adult couples.
Jumper lacks the goods people expect from a solid sci-fi flick and Christensen proves once again that he’s no leading man so lukewarm buzz from first-day audiences on Thursday may water down some of the weekend rush. But a strong marketing campaign will get the upfront audience to show up this weekend before the large declines set in. Invading 3,402 theaters, Jumper could open to around $30M over four days and $35M over five days.
Hayden Christensen in Jumper
With virtually no other options for the family audience this weekend, Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies hope to have a clear shot at reaching their target audience with the PG-rated fantasy pic The Spiderwick Chronicles. Based on the best-selling books, the effects-driven film aims to connect with kids over a weekend that is typically a good one for that crowd. Don’t expect Harry Potter numbers here, but Spiderwick could appeal to the same people who powered Disney’s Bridge to Terabithia to a $28.5M launch a year ago over the four-day holiday session.
The studio has given an extended marketing push to the film and fans of the books are likely to be curious as to how the leap to the big screen was made. Reviews have been generally positive so that should help persuade parents to give a green light to a trip to the multiplex this weekend. Enjoying the widest release of all new flicks with 3,847 theaters, The Spiderwick Chronicles might premiere with roughly $24M over four days and a five-day haul of $27M.
Freddie Highmore and friend in The Spiderwick Chronicles
In the summer of 2006, Buena Vista scored a surprise hit with its low-budget teen dance drama Step Up which grossed a hefty $65.3M after its $20.7M debut. So no one is surprised that the sequel bug hit this pic resulting in Step Up 2 The Streets which will aim for the same teenage and young adult crowd. Rated PG-13, the new installment will have a built-in audience to tap into which will help it at the box office this weekend. Add in that virtually all students have a long weekend away from school and the potential becomes big. However Streets is not surrounded by the excitement that the first film brought with it for the target audience. For these types of films nowadays, lightning strikes once at the box office and future revenue comes from direct-to-DVD sequels. Plus Channing Tatum who became a big star with teen girls thanks to the first film, is not starring this time. Disney is trying a theatrical approach and is using today’s hottest urban music to keep the franchise relevant and hip. Ethnic youth may contribute some solid numbers. Step Up 2 The Streets will break into 2,470 locations and may gross around $15M over the Friday-to-Monday period and $18M over five days.
Step Up 2 the Streets
Van Wilder himself Ryan Reynolds stars with a little miss full of sunshine Abigail Breslin in the new dramedy Definitely, Maybe which will target female audiences over the long weekend. The PG-13 film finds the actors playing a father-daughter pair examining the dad’s love options with various women. Universal’s Valentine’s Day offering lacks the starpower to become a big hit and competition will be quite tough given all the other options already out there for adult women. Reynolds is more known for male-skewing comedies so selling him in a chick flick could be a stretch. Debuting in 2,203 theaters, Definitely, Maybe might take in about $8M over four days and $10M over five days.
Abigail Breslin and Ryan Reynolds in Definitely, Maybe
Last weekend’s top choice Fool’s Gold should see a sizable drop thanks to not-so-great word-of-mouth and ample competition from new releases. But the holiday frame will help cushion the blow. Look for the four-day tally to drop by about 30% from the three-day opening weekend figure to about $15M. That would give the Warner Bros. adventure flick $42M after 11 days.
Martin Lawrence‘s comedy Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins could see a similar decline due to similar reasons. Both sophomore comedies have earned a troubling C+ average grade from over 1,000 users of Yahoo Movies. Universal’s family reunion pic may drop by 30% and grab about $11.5M over the Friday-to-Monday session boosting the 11-day total to $31M.
Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus should continue dropping fast at the box office but with all the loot it has already taken in, future grosses are just Disney gravy. The 3D concert pic may tumble by 50% to roughly $5M across four days and lift the stellar cume to $60M. After the third week, the numbers should shrink as U23D expands into many of the same Hannah auditoriums on February 22.
LAST YEAR: The Presidents’ Day holiday weekend box office was on fire as five new releases injected a stunning $122M in business into the marketplace over the four-day span. Nicolas Cage led the way with the comic book flick Ghost Rider which bowed to $52M over the long weekend for Sony on its way to $115.8M. Disney posted muscular results in second with its new fantasy pic Bridge to Terabithia which opened to $28.5M over the Friday-to-Monday session leading to a $82.3M final. Eddie Murphy‘s comedy Norbit dropped from first to third with $19.9M. Debuting behind it were the romantic comedy Music and Lyrics with $15.9M and the Tyler Perry pic Daddy’s Little Girls with $13.1M. Final grosses reached $50.6M and $31.4M, respectively. Bowing in sixth was the thriller Breach with $12.3M on its way to $33.2M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com