Weekend Forecast for November 18-21, 2005

By Reagen Sulewski

November 18, 2005

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After several months of rather tepid box office, we finally have ourselves a real blockbuster. The fourth Harry Potter film will be easily the biggest opening film since July, and has an outside shot at challenging for the top spot of the year.

One of the most successful book-to-film franchises in the history of cinema, the Harry Potter series has been almost a blueprint for how to make films that cross demographics. The three movies so far have all ranged between $88 and $94 million dollars over opening weekend, although total box office has been dropping slowly, from $340 million down to $240 million. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has the best chance to reverse this trend, as it is widely hailed as the best book of the series so far, and it marks the return of the series to the fall after one experiment with a summer release.

The film involves the young wizard as an entrant in the Tri-Wizard Tournament, a dangerous magical competition. With the dark wizard Voldemort continuing to gain power and personal issues threatening to split apart good friends Harry, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, this edition of the series could be the most action-packed yet. The MPAA agrees, tagging the series with the PG-13 rating for the first time ever. This has led many to wonder if the series is not now too intense for its audience, but it's important to note that it's now four years since it first debuted. Ten-year-olds at the time of the first film are now fourteen, and certainly able to handle what the film can throw at them.

This does, though, somewhat limit the younger audience members, even as the series has never been more popular. Sales of the sixth book reached a record 20 million worldwide, the most since the first book of the series. That said, the fandom for the films is likely to remain somewhat static. Directed by British helmer Mike Newell, this film has the typical long length of the other films so far, clocking in at over two and a half hours, though much more needed to be trimmed from the plot to bring it to this length. With the typical extremely large launch of over 3,800 screens, the opening weekend should be right in line with others in the series so far, coming in at about $95 million.


The other big release of the weekend is Walk the Line, the Johnny Cash biopic. Like last year's Ray, this film covers the life of a troubled, maverick musician. Cash came up through the ranks of Sun Records (home of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and many other legends) in the 1950s and '60s as one of the most successful country artists of all time. Walk the Line focuses primarily on his romance with June Carter Cash at a time when they were both married to other people, as well as his period of addiction to amphetamines.

Cash is played here by Joaquin Phoenix, who unfortunately does not resemble Cash in any particular way, although his acting credentials are not in question. June Carter Cash is played by Reese Witherspoon, with both actors performing their own singing and instruments and Joaquin having to completely learn the guitar. Surprisingly and crucially, this appears to be effective. Although you can absolutely tell its his singing, it's very close to Cash's style.

Hailed as an early Oscar contender for many of its performances, Walk the Line should also prove to be an audience favorite, much as last year's Ray was. Cash found new popularity late in his career with the release of the American Recordings series, introducing his music to a new generation. The film itself looks like nothing special, but its subject matter practically guarantees a hit. Opening on about 2,900 screens, look for Walk the Line to earn around $28 million this weekend.

Chicken Little took top spot again last weekend as expected, but what was not expected was how well the film held up, dropping just 21%. It's a good thing the film earned its money when it could as it runs into the children's juggernaut of Harry Potter this weekend. Even Pixar gem Monsters, Inc. faired poorly against the opening weekend of a Harry Potter film, and this film is in nowhere near as strong a position. It should fall to around $14 million this weekend, still approaching or potentially reaching the $100 million mark in its third weekend.

Zathura is also likely to fare poorly with its target audience this weekend, even though the $13 million it earned in its opening weekend represents a decent total for this youth-centered sci-fi actioner. It should bring in about $7 million this weekend. This is a film that would have been much better served with a different release slot, but should eventually prove to be a popular home video title.

Derailed surprised slightly with a $12 million opening weekend, as generic looking a thriller as it seemed. Jennifer Aniston's status as jilted star and Clive Owen's rising fortunes likely propelled it to this finish, but are unlikely to sustain it much further. It should also drop to around $7 million this weekend.

Speaking of films with short shelf lives, Get Rich or Die Tryin' could set a record in screaming down the box office charts. The audience for 50 Cent's debut performance is likely as front-loaded as it gets, and the critical thumping the film took is a bad omen for its future takes. It should fall to around $5 million in its second weekend.

Forecast: Weekend of November 18-21, 2005
Number of
Changes in Sites
from Last
Gross ($)
1 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 3,858 New 95.2
2 Walk the Line 2,961 New 28.3
3 Chicken Little 3,514 -144 14.7
4 Zathura 3,232 +9 7.1
5 Derailed 2,447 +6 6.9
6 Jarhead 2,414 -34 5.8
7 Get Rich or Die Tryin' 1,666 +14 5.2
8 Saw II 2,257 -692 4.3
9 The Legend of Zorro 2,150 -903 4.2
10 Prime 1,225 -556 2.7



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