Weekend Forecast for July 6-8, 2007
By Reagen Sulewski
July 6, 2007

For reasons passing understanding, he is inspired by Shia LaBeouf.

With the July 4th holiday pushing this week's films to open early, the weekend might appear just a formality. However, while early results have told some of the story, the full tale of this non-holiday holiday-weekend is still to come.

So let's dispense with the obvious right off the bat. Transformers is a massive, massive hit. Although its 8 p.m. Monday start time makes a mockery of the concept of the opening weekend, the Michael Bay-directed adaptation of the '80s-toy-turned-cartoon-series nonetheless has put up a massive first two and a half days, totaling $65 million, and setting records for the largest Tuesday ever, as well as the largest 4th of July total ever.

A CGI ‘splosion fest of the highest order and a badly needed rebound for Bay after the disaster of The Island, Transformers now needs to carry that momentum forward in order to play with the three previous big boys of summer. Word-of-mouth is generally good, and the improvement in box office from the 3rd to the 4th is a good sign, if expected. What works in its favor are both the kid friendly premise, decades of nostalgia and an uncomplicated plot (when you boil it right down). The effects look fantastic, and they finally went with the idea of using the classic cartoon sound effect in the ads, which started separating geeks from their money almost immediately. It may be a cross-marketed, corporate cash-in Frankenstein of a film, but dammit, it's fun, at least for most viewers.

With the effects being the star here, it'll be interesting to watch how much the success will transfer over to the careers of its human stars, Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox. Although both are going to be household names for at least a little while and recognizable for a bit longer, my first guess is that this is the peak for both of them. Enjoy it while it lasts.

As far as the actual weekend figure, the question now is how much of its audience it's burned off in these few days. Let's not forget that last summer, Superman Returns opened in a semi-identical spot to $21 million, which was the greatest single day total of its run. Of course, that film sucked, but it's something to consider. I would look for Transformers to surpass that on at least one day of the weekend, but certainly not all three, along the way to an $82 million weekend figure. This should put it at about $160 million to that point.

The other new film of the weekend, License to Wed, will not fare nearly as well. In fact, to earn 1/10 of what the Transformers bring in would be a moral victory for it at this point. It stars Robin Williams, Mandy Moore and The Office's John Krasinski in a marriage comedy, with Williams playing a semi-deranged reverend that puts engaged couple Krasinski and Moore through a relationship boot camp in order to test their marriage worthiness. While the two make a nice bit of casting as a cute couple, and Krasinski is an excellent choice for a foil for the manic Williams, the resulting film seems to be lacking in a few things - specifically, humor and charm.

Earning a meager $5 million over its first two days, License to Wed is looking to be yet another film for the ever-growing pile of regrettable choices for Williams. Not that he seems to have to worry for his career – not many other stars have so many flops on their record and continue to get steady work. The probably $8 million weekend is actually about in line for Moore's track record, and Krasinski...well, he's got Leatherheads to look forward to this winter.

This brings us to our returning films. Ratatouille came in with a surprisingly low opening weekend total of $47 million, the lowest opening weekend for a Pixar film since A Bug's Life. Things have picked up since then, though, and it has now racked up Pixar's highest Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday totals, and is on pace to bring in an astounding 60 to 65% of its weekend total in the four day inter-weekend period. Word-of-mouth is clearly kicking in here, though the extent is still to be seen. I expect a pretty strong hold over of about $33 million, and while a Finding Nemo result is out of the cards, we can't rule $200 million plus out yet for the Little Chef.

Another disappointing result last weekend was the opening of Live Free or Die Hard, which opened to a mere $33 million, well below the inflation adjusted opening weekends of either Die Hards 2 and 3. Perhaps the 12-year gap between sequels was a bit too much to overcome, perhaps action tastes have changed, or perhaps there's no coming back for Bruce Willis. In either case, this has to be a bit of a disappointment in today's environment of huge opening weekends for blockbusters. The film isn't sunk by any means, as it's performed moderately well mid-week and has decent if unspectacular word-of-mouth. Look for a second weekend of about $19 million, pushing its total to about $85 million after 12 days.

The next few films in the top ten are a group that isn't threatening to stick around past the month of July. Evan Almighty, 1408 and The Fantastic Four 2 all fell around or greater than 50% last weekend, though each of these films is in quite a different situation. Evan Almighty remains a tremendously expensive flop, and will do well to earn even half of its extraordinary $200 million budget in domestic receipts. 1408 has the benefit of being cheap, so its probable $75 million final figure should be spun as a win. And The Fantastic Four at least got out to a hot start, though it's shed an amazing 85% of its opening weekend in two short weeks.

Knocked Up continues to show legs, although with just $7 million last weekend, it is close to the end of its run. All in all, it's been a very impressive one, and the schlubby Seth Rogan will soon be able to claim that he was the lead in a $150 million grossing film where he got to have sex with Katherine Heigl. Tough life he's having.

Finally, the latest Michael Moore documentary, Sicko, continues its expansion, jumping to 702 screens after making the top ten in just 441 last weekend. It boasted the second highest per screen average of all films, behind only Ratatouille, which is a decent feat for a film about health care. It's not quite as controversial a film as his last two documentaries, though it's certainly achieving some notoriety and ruffling feathers, Moore's general goal for all his films. I would look for another $5 million this weekend, and continued expansion in following weeks.