Box Office Guru Preview: Captain Jack and Captain Morgan Set Sail

Four films vie for the top box office spot.

by | January 10, 2008 | Comments

For the first time in three weeks, studios will pack a Friday with plenty of new releases as four films open or expand nationwide giving the box office chart a major shakeup. Leading in the polls and getting the widest release is The Bucket List starring Oscar winners Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Challenging Hollywood’s old guard are three younger agents of change. Ice Cube campaigns for a spot in the top five with the comedy First Sunday, Jason Statham heads up the adventure tale In the Name of the King, and some cartoon vegetables headline the kidpic The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything. Hoping to play the spoiler is the indie smash Juno which once again expands into wider release. The films should each play to different audiences which will help the overall marketplace expand.

After spending the last decade directing flops, Rob Reiner hopes to score his first number one hit in over fifteen years with The Bucket List which features the Academy Award-winning actors Nicholson and Freeman on screen together for the first time. The PG-13 pic tells the story of two dying old men who set out to fulfill their last wishes before taking the big trip upstairs. Financing a major film anchored by two men who celebrated their 70th birthdays last year is not something Hollywood studios typically do. It’s usually seen as a risky endeavor. But Warner Bros. is counting on mature adults, men and women alike, to take interest and come out to see two legends on the big screen together.

Hurting Bucket‘s chances are the mixed reviews it’s been getting from critics. The target audience for this particular movie will definitely be affected by what reviewers have to say. Also, the picture has come up almost empty-handed during awards seasons so it has less marketing tools in its arsenal than the handful of acclaimed adult dramas touting their awards and nominations. In limited release, Bucket scored muscular per-theater numbers over the last two frames averaging $20,989 and $20,424 from only 16 locations. Co-star drawing power will not shoot this film up to the opening weekend levels of recent Jack flicks like The Departed or Anger Management. But even his less flashy films generate solid debut numbers due to his loyal fan following. Kicking its way into 2,911 theaters, The Bucket List could debut with about $15M.

Nicholson and Freeman in The Bucket List

Two petty criminals plot to rob their neighborhood church in the new comedy First Sunday. The PG-13 film stars Ice Cube, Tracy Morgan, and Katt Williams and will find a large portion of its ticket sales coming from African American moviegoers. Cube has seen much success in the past with early-year comedies like Next Friday which opened to $14.5M in January 2000 and Barbershop 2 which debuted to $24.2M in February 2004. But both of those were sequels that took advantage of built-in audiences that wanted to see popular characters return to the big screen for new shenanigans. The rapper-actor is back with another laugher at the start of a presidential election season, but this time winning the job of commander-in-chief of the box office will probably be out of his reach.

First Sunday comes a week before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday frame which historically has been a good time for films led by black casts. Cube’s pictures usually are dependable when it comes to drawing a crowd. However his last two releases, the Sony sequels Are We Done Yet? and XXX: State of the Union, were not exactly major hits. Plus the story of stealing from church may not go down well with some folks. Breaking into roughly 2,000 theaters, First Sunday might open with around $12M.

First Sunday

Targeting young males (and older dudes who spent their childhoods playing Dungeons & Dragons), Freestyle Releasing offers up Jason Statham in the adventure tale In the Name of the King. The PG-13 actioner will try to play to the fantasy crowd although most will probably wait for this one on DVD. The distributor tried to make this genre work in the fall with Dragon Wars. which bowed to just $5M and a poor $2,214 average. Fox also failed with its fantasy clunker The Seeker the following month which opened to only $3.7M and an embarrassing $1,192 average. Though aging, heavyweight holdovers National Treasure: Book of Secrets and I Am Legend are set to steal a combined $20M this weekend from the same audience that might be interested in Statham flicks so there will be distractions for younger guys. Of course the NFL playoffs on both Saturday and Sunday will be factors too. Debuting in an estimated 2,500 locations, In the Name of the King may collect about $6M this weekend.

In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale

The year’s first new toon comes in the form of The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything from the VeggieTales franchise. Universal’s G-rated pic about a squash, cucumber, and grape that go on high seas adventures will play to younger tots and their parents. The 2002 film Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie enjoyed a solid bow opening to $6.2M and a $6,597 average during an October weekend when all other films in the top ten were catering to adults. Those kids are all five years older and have probably outgrown the produce-based characters so it will be a new generation taking interest this time. Plus Pirates will face more competition since Alvin and the Chipmunks continues to do killer biz from the family audience and even National Treasure and The Water Horse are pulling dollars from that sector. The studio’s marketing efforts have been aimed at its target audience only so crossover business is not likely. Opening in 1,336 theaters, look for The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything to gross about $5M this weekend.

Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything

Holdovers will finally get some competition to deal with which will certainly shake up the chart rankings. Fox Searchlight’s Juno has been patiently building up buzz and momentum and was rewarded on Monday and Tuesday by seizing control of the number one spot at the North American box office. The distributor will add another 500 theaters to the run climbing to 2,447 playdates which will lead to a solid its sixth frame. The pregnant teen will duke it out with a pair of grumpy old men for the top spot. It’s girl vs. geezers. Making the contest even more interesting is Juno‘s new televisions spot which features a clip of star Ellen Page mentioning Morgan Freeman by name in one of the film’s more memorable jokes. A scant dip would give Juno about $15M for the weekend and boost the cume up to a remarkable $72M.

After enjoying the second three-week box office reign of his career (the first being his other turn as Ben Gates), Nicolas Cage will see National Treasure: Book of Secrets drop down a couple of spots in the standings. The Buena Vista smash could fall by 40% to about $12M boosting the overall total to $187M which would make it one of the top ten blockbusters of 2007. Also hopping into that list will be fellow PG-rated holiday hit Alvin and the Chipmunks. Fox’s family comedy looks to slide by 35% this weekend to roughly $10M giving the singing chipmunks a robust $189M to date.

Scary movies from last weekend’s top five should witness larger declines. Will Smith‘s I Am Legend which is the highest grossing zombie movie of all-time may fall by 45% to about $8.5M for a $240M cume. The supernatural thriller One Missed Call should depreciate faster and fall 50% to around $6M giving Warner Bros. a respectable $21M after ten days.

LAST YEAR: The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend was ruled by the urban dance drama Stomp the Yard which generated a powerful $25.9M debut over the four-day extended frame. The Sony hit went on to finish with a solid $61.4M. Holdovers filled up the rest of the top five led by three-time champ Night at the Museum with $21.8M over the long weekend. Will Smith’s The Pursuit of Happyness followed with $10.7M with Dreamgirls in fourth with $10.3M and Hilary Swank‘s Freedom Writers ranking fifth with $8.8M over four days. Three new releases opened lower on the charts. Universal’s action drama Alpha Dog bowed to $7.4M on its way to $15.2M. Debuting in more theaters but with smaller grosses were Buena Vista’s horror pic Primeval with $6M and MGM’s kidpic Arthur and the Invisibles with $5.7M. Final grosses reached $10.6M and $15.1M, respectively.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,

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