Box Office Guru Preview: Ugly Truth and G-Force Battle Potter

Kid wizard still expects to take the box office this weekend.

by | July 23, 2009 | Comments

As Harry Potter inches closer to graduating wizard school, the box office prince will face three new releases opening on Friday each targeting its own specific audience. Sony goes after the adult date crowd with its battle-of-the-sexes comedy The Ugly Truth, Disney offers kids a handful of cute talking animals in G-Force, and Warner Bros. hopes to pull in the horror set with its fright flick Orphan. Each pic will have breathing room but none may be able to stop Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince which despite what undoubtedly will be a huge dropoff, aims to hold onto its top spot on the charts.

Moviegoers in the mood for a formulaic romantic comedy can now leave Sandra Bullock alone and shift their attention to Katherine Heigl who stars opposite 300‘s Gerard Butler in The Ugly Truth. The first in an endless late-summer string of R-rated films scheduled to hit theaters between now and Labor Day, Truth is just the latest pic to build a story around one of the film industry’s favorite stock characters – the hopelessly single career woman who meets Mr. Wrong only to find out that he’s Mr. Right.

The Sony release will have to sell itself based on starpower and the jokes. Heigl has come into her own in recent years with Knocked Up, which in the beginning was sold more as a Judd ApatowSeth Rogen vehicle, and 27 Dresses which became a hit solely because of the actress. Opening weekend grosses were $30.7M and $23M, respectively. Butler shot to fame as a Spartan and later diversified his portfolio adding hunk appeal to the romantic drama P.S. I Love You which went on to gross a respectable $53.7M. As for Ugly‘s comedy, the trailer delivers a few laughs though the newer television spots with the running scoreboard of points between men and women is indeed attention-getting.

With wizards, robots, and cartoon mammoths ruling the box office for the past month, the adult date crowd has been underserved which partially explains the sensational legs displayed by The Proposal and The Hangover in recent weeks. Truth gives this audience something new to try so at least in the short term it should score some business. Reviews have been ugly which won’t help things and those looking for raunchiness will be disappointed as this is essentially a PG-13 pic with language that forces the R rating. Entering more than 2,700 theaters, The Ugly Truth could take in about $21M this weekend.


Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler in The Ugly Truth

Kids can’t resist talking animal movies so Disney is hoping that the reliable formula works for its new adventure G-Force. The PG-rated pic, presented in 3D in select theaters, finds a team of guinea pigs working in a covert government operation to become spies. Jerry Bruckheimer produces and picks an odd choice for his first ever 3D film. Summer is a great time for kidpics and only two films have really dominated with the target audience this season – Up and the Ice Age sequel. Families with younger children are ready to move on to something new, but at the same time they’ve invested heavily already in those higher-priced 3D tickets on both blockbuster toons. Some parents may opt to wait for G-Force on DVD and save the cash.

The Bruckheimer and Disney brand names will be put to the test since the film is not based on any property that already has a fan base. Nor are there any big stars here to help get the sale. Kidpics opening in the second half of summer not based on a wildly popular brand are a mixed bag. Recent bows for these types of pics include $7.2M for last summer’s Space Chimps, $11.6M for the somewhat known Underdog in 2007, and $22.2M for 2006’s Monster House. The Mouse House has been putting some marketing muscle into its guinea pig film’s release so a decent showing could result, but breakout potential is limited. Opening in more than 3,200 theaters, G-Force might debut with around $20M this weekend.


The G’s of G-Force

Horror fans get to try out the new suspense pic Orphan about an adopted girl who, that’s right, is more evil than she looks. The R-rated film boasts no starpower and a story that is very generic. But with no horror films released since Drag Me To Hell in late May, the timing allows the thriller to stand apart from the competition. The marketing push has been decent, but not too powerful. Overall, there is nothing to make this movie special and worth paying top dollar for. Fright films typically perform better during colder months so a summer title needs to really pack the goods if it wants to connect with audiences. Debuting in about 2,600 theaters, Orphan may debut with around $9M.


The orphan in Orphan

Last weekend, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince ruled the box office and barring a breakout surprise from a newbie, the wizard sequel should once again lead all competitors. The last Potter film Order of the Phoenix, which also bowed on a Wednesday in July, saw a 58% drop in the second weekend while facing moderate competition from new releases. Prince is witnessing a more front-loaded run. Its first four days of release saw grosses that beat out the comparable days for Phoenix. But the tide changed on Sunday and Monday which lagged behind the last Hogwarts flick by 5%. Tuesday beat Phoenix by 3% so some staying power is there. For this weekend, Prince should fall by at least 60% and rake in about $30M pushing the 12-day tally to $222M making it the fifth biggest hit of 2009 in under two weeks.

G-Force will give Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs some competition for the family crowd, but the hit shouldn’t be too hard. The 3D toon has been holding up well every week so a 35% drop could be in order. That would leave the prehistoric pic with about $11.5M raising the cume to $174M giving the studio three summer hits above the $170M level joining fellow franchise flicks X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. A colon in the title seems to be the key to success.

Look for about $7.5M in ticket sales for box office king Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen which may slide by 45% this weekend. Paramount would then climb to $378M domestically on its continuing march to the quadruple-century mark.

LAST YEAR: After breaking the all-time opening weekend record, The Dark Knight then set a new benchmark for best second weekend gross collecting a stunning $75.2M in its sophomore frame, down 53%, boosting the ten-day total to an eye-popping $313.8M. Opening in the number two spot was the Will Ferrell comedy Step Brothers with $30.9M and an even $10,000 average. The R-rated comedy reached $100.5M for Sony. Universal’s hit musical Mamma Mia! slipped to third with $17.7M boosting the ten-day cume to a solid $62.6M. Fox stumbled into fourth with its sci-fi sequel The X-Files: I Want to Believe which bowed to just $10M and a weak $3,147 average. Mulder and Scully limped to a measly $21M finish as the new pic sold a disturbing 84% fewer tickets than its 1998 predecessor. Rounding out the top ten was Journey to the Center of the Earth with $9.7M in its third session.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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