Box Office Guru Preview: Three New Films Battle Super Bowl Frenzy

Taken, Uninvited, New In Town try to arrest Paul Blart.

by | January 29, 2009 | Comments

With all eyes on Tampa Bay for the Super Bowl, Hollywood offers three counter-programming options for those looking for something a little different. Fox releases the kidnapping thriller Taken, Paramount also delivers teen girls in distress with the suspense chiller The Uninvited, and Lionsgate counters with a few laughs with the Renée Zellweger comedy New in Town. Each will try to prevent “>Kevin James from winning his third championship ring.

After voicing Aslan twice, Liam Neeson takes on a more violent and demanding role in the crime thriller Taken playing a former government operative on a mission to save his abducted teenage daughter. Produced by Luc Besson, the PG-13 film is offering a Jason Bourne-type gritty action thriller filled with hand-to-hand combat scenes hoping to pull in the action audience. Given the star, Taken may skew a bit older and should certainly see the bulk of its weekend business in the first two days given Sunday’s football activities. Neeson is more known for supporting roles and rarely headlines a film himself so his solo box office might is unproven. Fox’s marketing has been good, but many will find this just as entertaining later on DVD. Debuting in more than 3,000 theaters, Taken may take in about $14M this weekend.


Liam Neeson in Taken

Sony and its Screen Gems unit have long used Super Bowl weekend as a time to offer spooky thrillers for young female audiences. But with the pair already hitting theaters last week with the latest Underworld tale, Paramount seizes the opportunity to unleash its own horror flick The Uninvited. The PG-13 film tells the story of two sisters who suspect their soon-to-be-stepmom to be something other than what she claims to be. An American remake of a Korean frightfest, the picture should skew more female and towards teens and young adults. A creepy marketing campaign will allow it to connect with the core audience and the tame rating and trim 87-minute running time will help it at the turnstiles too.

Horror has done well this month, but how long can the boom last? Over the last three weeks, Rise of the Lycans, My Bloody Valentine 3D, and The Unborn each debuted in the $19-22M range. Some fans of the genre may be all scared out and not interested in another helping. Some may be holding their dollars for Friday the 13th. Plus Uninvited is not getting a 3,000-theater push, but instead will be releasing in just over 2,000 locations. That could limit the potential, even though the average should be solid and one of the best in the top ten. Look for The Uninvited to generate around $13M this weekend.


Elizabeth Banks and Emily Browning in The Uninvited

For adult women, Renée Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr. come together for the comedy New in Town which Lionsgate opens on Friday. The PG-rated film gives the Oscar-winning actress another chance to show what little box office clout she has as her anchoring duties here should not attract too many paying folks. Connick Jr. has never been much of a draw either so the low star wattage will be a liability this weekend. The story of a Miami businesswoman adjusting to life in Minnesota also is not exciting many. Mature women can be a tricky demo to target on Super Bowl weekend since they are more likely to get involved with football activities than teenage girls and young woman. And those who do hike out to the cinema may instead want to try out one of the many Oscar nominees which deliver more quality for the dollar. Lionsgate rolls into 1,941 theaters with New in Town and could find itself with about $5M.


Renée Zellweger and Harry Connick, Jr. in New In Town

Kevin James enjoyed two full weeks on top of the chart, and may have kicked off a new franchise, with Paul Blart: Mall Cop. But can he threepeat? Last weekend saw a strong hold with only a 32% dip so audiences are getting entertained, and this Friday sees no new funny films for young guys. Cop should see its usual declines on Friday and Saturday but Sunday should find a larger fall given the target audience’s preparations for the Super Bowl. Last-minute junk food runs can take up the whole day. So the three-day period may see a 35% decline which would give the Sony hit about $14M for the frame pushing the 17-day tally to a stellar $83M.

Clint Eastwood‘s Gran Torino should still coast along on its current path so a 25% drop may be in order. That would leave the Warner Bros. release with $12M keeping it in the top five for yet another week and raise the cume to a fantastic $113M. That would make it the top-grossing film ever for Eastwood although past hits like Unforgiven and In the Line of Fire have still sold more tickets.

Sony’s werewolf actioner Underworld: Rise of the Lycans drew most of its fan base last weekend so a steep drop is guaranteed this time. Look for a 60% tumble to around $8.5M for a sum of $34M after ten days. The kinder, gentler beasts in Hotel for Dogs enjoyed a great sophomore hold sliding just 24% last weekend. With Sunday contributing a larger-than-normal drop, this weekend could see sales fall by 30% to roughly $9M pushing the tally to $48M for Paramount.

LAST YEAR: The ladies were in charge over Super Bowl weekend. Disney’s teen 3D event film Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert rocketed into first place with a stunning $31.1M fueled by two million screaming girls and $15 tickets. What was originally advertised as a one-week-only event ended up running for three months pulling in a stellar $65.3M from under 700 digital 3D screens. Jessica Alba debuted in second with the horror remake The Eye which bowed to $12.4M for Lionsgate on its way to a $31.4M final. Rounding out the top five were the Katherine Heigl comedy 27 Dresses with $8.5M, the spoof comedy Meet the Spartans with $7.3M, and the action flick Rambo with $7.1M. Two other films opened but failed to make the top ten. The Eva Longoria Parker comedy Over Her Dead Body launched with just $4M while the nature flick Strange Wilderness bowed to only $3M. Final grosses reached $7.6M for New Line and $6.6M for Paramount Classics.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeguru.com

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