Box Office Guru Preview: Enchanted Leads Packed Holiday Weekend

Hitman, This Christmas, August Rush, The Mist also opening.

by | November 21, 2007 | Comments

This weekend For the first time this decade, a new release seems set to take over the number one spot during the busy Thanksgiving holiday weekend at the North American box office. Studios are cramming a six-pack of new titles into multiplexes nationwide hoping the recent famine in the marketplace will be replaced by a feast. The films lack major stars, but they do however have clearly-defined audiences which will hopefully allow them to survive and expand the overall pie.

Disney leads the way with the fantasy extravaganza Enchanted for young girls while Fox counters with the much more violent action offering Hitman aimed at young men. MGM goes for a scare with the horror film The Mist, Sony targets African American moviegoers with This Christmas, and August Rush from Warner Bros. will try to tap into family audiences. Meanwhile, Miramax goes after older adults and upscale crowds with its acclaimed thriller No Country For Old Men which widens into national release after two weeks of sold out shows in limited play.

Once upon a time, Disney regularly opened a new family film at number one over Thanksgiving weekend. After a long absence, the Mouse House is now poised to take its rightful place on the turkey throne with its fairy tale adventure pic Enchanted which finds an animated princess thrust upon the real world where people do not live happily ever after. The PG-rated film will appeal to the millions of young girls and mothers who have become devotees of Disney’s lucrative army of princesses. Getting in boys may be a bit tough, but the female following should be more than enough to propel this massive release into the top spot at the holiday box office.

Not since 1999’s Toy Story 2 has Disney, or any other studio for that matter, opened a new film at number one over this holiday frame. Holdovers have consistently ruled since 2000, mostly big guns that debuted on the weekend before the holiday to get an early jump on the cash. But from 1994 through 1999, Disney enjoyed an unprecedented streak ruling the Thanksgiving box office every year with an iron fist. Now that magic is back, thanks in part to a surprisingly weak line-up of November titles coming from Hollywood’s magic factories. With the widest release by far of any new film, no holdovers to stand in its way, and a holiday frame that welcomes family entertainment, Enchanted looks to become the queen bee. Opening in an ultrawide 3,632 theaters, the fantasy film may charm its way to about $30M over the Friday-to-Sunday period and $43M during the extended Wednesday-to-Sunday span.

Amy Adams in Enchanted

Fox hopes that young men from coast to coast will stamp their necks with barcodes and hit the megaplexes to see its new action thriller Hitman. Based on the popular video game, the R-rated film about a genetically-engineered superassassin has its eyes set squarely on male audiences done with cartoon Vikings and ready for some guns and ammo. The studio’s marketing has been superb with slickly-edited television spots featuring operatic tunes that really sell the picture to the target audience. Unfortunately there are no marquee names in the cast to help bring in business. Direct competition from Beowulf will also curtail grosses a bit. With a strong marketing push exciting the core crowd, look for a solid and respectable opening. Hitman invades 2,401 venues and might capture $13M over the weekend and $19M over five days.

Timothy Olyphant in Hitman

Some folks may be in search of a scare this weekend so MGM is rolling out the fright flick The Mist, a film adaptation of a Stephen King story. The R-rated pic comes from director Frank Darabont (The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption) and stars Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, and Andre Braugher. The actors add little starpower so Mist‘s commercial prospects will instead have to rely on King’s name and the popularity of the horror genre. With the pre-Halloween gorefests now eroding away, competition should not come from fellow thrillers. Instead movies like Hitman and Beowulf will be factors as both will play to older teens and twentysomethings. Historically, horror films have rarely found success over Thanksgiving weekend since audiences tend to flock to happy tales. Attacking 2,423 theaters, The Mist may scare up about $10M over the Friday-to-Sunday period and roughly $14M across the five-day span.

Thomas Jane and co. in The Mist

The true meaning of family is explored once again in the holiday drama This Christmas from Sony. The PG-13 story about different generations of the Whitfield clan reuniting for the holidays stars Delroy Lindo, Regina King, Mekhi Phifer, and pop singer Chris Brown. The studio is aiming primarily for African American adults. With American Gangster going into its fourth frame and most other films neglecting this particular audience, Christmas should have clear sailing as it heads into the multiplexes. But starpower is lacking. Gangster and Why Did I Get Married? both did stellar business thanks in part to A-list drawing power from Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry, respectively. This Christmas opens in 1,802 playdates, with a widening to 1,858 on Friday, and could be in for a three-day bow of $8M and a five-day tally of $11M.

This Christmas

Likely to have a tough time finding ticket buyers this weekend is the new PG-rated drama August Rush which brings together an oddly assembled cast including Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Terrence Howard, and Robin Williams. The Warner Bros. tale about a young music prodigy in search of his parents will no doubt have its work cut out for it trying to convince parents to not spend their time and money on Disney fairy tales, talking bees, Santa’s siblings, and wonder emporiums. Competition is too strong for this one and overall excitement is quite low. August Rush opens Wednesday in 2,280 theaters and expands to 2,310 on Friday. Look for a three-day debut of $5M and a five-day tally of $7M.

Freddie Highmore and Robin Williams in August Rush

With few options for older adults looking for serious fare over the long weekend, Miramax is rolling out its critical darling No Country For Old Men from the Coen brothers into nationwide release. Expanding from 148 to 860 locations, the R-rated thriller starring Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, and Tommy Lee Jones will try to target those folks that have already watched Denzel and Russell go head-to-head and are looking for more shoot-em-up action from veteran filmmakers and actors. Hot buzz has been spreading over its two weeks in limited release so awareness is now high enough to take the pic wider. Last weekend’s scorching $20,782 average will probably get sliced in half and some people will opt for happier films over Thanksgiving. But direct competition is not too fierce and word-of-mouth is on its side. Look for No Country For Old Men to take in about $7M over three days and $10M over five.

Josh Brolin in No Country for Old men

Last weekend’s champ Beowulf would normally see a sizable sophomore drop especially with Hitman stealing away young men. But thanks to the holiday cushion, the decline should not be as bad. A 30% fall may result giving Paramount a Friday-to-Sunday take of around $19M which would push the cume to $60M after ten days. Studio stablemate Bee Movie will join the century club by Friday and should remain a solid option for families. Look for a 20% dip to roughly $11M and a boost in the total to $111M.

A 25% drop might be in the works for American Gangster which may tap into patient adults that have heard the buzz, but just haven’t made a trip to the theaters yet. Universal could take in about $9.5M over three days and raise its sum to $116M. Christmas films routinely see their three-day grosses climb over the turkey frame when compared to the previous weekend thanks to the cheery holiday mood of ticket buyers. That could come as good news to Warner Bros. which might see its Vince Vaughn offering Fred Claus edge up by 10% to around $13M. Cume would hit $54M.

LAST YEAR Despite five new films opening in wide release over the turkey frame, moviegoers continued to spend their money on the same films as the top two spots remained unchanged. Sophomores Happy Feet and Casino Royale led the session with $37M and $30.8M, respectively, over three days. The penguin toon dipped only 11% while the rejuvenated Bond flick dropped by just 25% giving the pair a towering combined gross of $193M after ten days. Denzel Washington won the bronze with his new sci-fi actioner Deja Vu which bowed to $20.6M while the Christmas comedy Deck the Halls followed in fourth with a debut of $12M. Final grosses reached $64M and $35.1M. Borat rounded out the top five with $10.3M in its fourth weekend. Other new releases stumbled. MGM’s political drama Bobby expanded nationally and took in only $4.9M on its way to a weak $11.2M. Warner Bros. debuted its sci-fi drama The Fountain to the tune of $3.8M and New Line saw just $3.2M for its Jack Black pet project Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny. The pics ended their runs quickly with a measly $10.1M and $8.3M, respectively.

author: Gitesh Pandya

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