Weekend Forecast for May 16-18, 2008
By Reagen Sulewski
May 16, 2008
One of the features of May's release schedule ever since it's become the time to open the summer movie season is its spareness, often with just half a dozen or less movies opening in wide release. That continues this year, with just the fifth new movie three weeks in.
This week's entry is the second film in the Narnia series, Prince Caspian. After 2005's The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe earned nearly $300 million domestically and another $450 million internationally, Walden Media had its first real hit, and continuing with adaptations of C.S. Lewis's fantasy series were a no-brainer. They occupy something of a middle ground between the Lord of the Rings series and Harry Potter, at least as far as fantasy goes, with them neither as dense literature-wise as Tolkien, nor as gee-whiz-bang as Rowling. The difference hardly matters as far as box office goes, though.
Prince Caspian sees the return of the Pevensies to Narnia, but 1,000 years after the events of the first film. There, they find that a lot has changed, with the kingship in the hands of an evil pretender to the throne. They must find the King's nephew, the titular prince, who is the true heir, using the help of Narnia's magical creatures, including the great lion Aslan. Kids love the dynastic civil war stories, I tell ya.
Prince Caspian is a bit more action and battle oriented than The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and seems to be trying for a bit more of an epic feel. The story is a bit lesser known, and it comes in with a slightly lower hype than the first film, with some of the novelty gone. It makes up for that by being more of a known quantity and with a prime release date (though Christmas is more of a natural time for this to release). With close to 4,000 screens, it should see an opening weekend of about $68 million.
With this number, it will displace Iron Man at the top of the box office, after it took two straight. Iron Man's box office was chopped almost evenly in half in its second weekend, from $102 million to $51 million, though it's knocking on the door of $200 million already. It's a bit surprising that the drop was so steep given the almost universally positive reaction it received, but that's often just the case with blockbusters. You can't count on legs for any mega-opener any more, and your demographics have to be dead on for it to happen. Even so, I expect we'll see Iron Man pushing towards $300 million very soon, and certainly with Memorial Day around the corner. Give it $27 million this weekend for a strong second place.
What Happens in Vegas snuck by the crashing and burning Speed Racer for second place last weekend by a $20 million to $18 million score. Vegas was successful at using its two stars, Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz, in a screwball romantic comedy in the latest hip setting. I don't expect it to be too remarkable in the coming weeks, but it should probably look like Titanic compared to Speed Racer. The Wachowskis' incredibly faithful adaptation of the Saturday morning cartoon proved to be a bit too much for most viewers, who weren't quite in on the whole ADD-acid trip concept. It was a very dividing film, and in cases like this where the yeas and nays battle, the nays typically win out. I see $12 million coming for Vegas, with $8 million for Speed Racer.
The blockbuster hegemony over movie screens means that there's actually very little selection this weekend, and just eight films are playing in over 1,000 venues, with the 500 venue mark broken by just twelve. Of these remaining scraps of film, only Made of Honor has a decent shot at $5 million on the weekend, and even that's not a sure thing. Most of these small comedies, like Honor, Baby Mama and Harold and Kumar have justified their existence, so these weekends are just gravy, but their screens will be quickly gobbled up by the coming Blockbuster Apocalypse. We could even be looking at the fateful weekend each year in which there's a film in the top ten with under $1 million for the weekend.