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Weekend Forecast for November 10-12, 2006

By Reagen Sulewski

November 10, 2006

Whatever you do, don't look down.

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Complications arise when a love interest enters in the form of a French caf� owner, and a long lost cousin may have a claim on the farm. Yay, probate battles! Reviews have been less than kind of the film, and although Ridley Scott is a capable and respected director, he's also prone to letting off a few stinkers from time to time. This looks to be the case here, as I'm reasonably sure audiences aren't too interested in seeing Russell Crowe rediscover his childhood while walking around in a vineyard. I would expect about $6 million for the film this weekend.

Harsh Times is an unusual take on the hood/gangster drama, notably because of its racial makeup. The film stars Christian Bale and Six Feet Under's Freddy Rodriguez as old friends who grew up in Los Angeles, returning to become police officers in their old neighborhood. There, the line between cop and thug is drawn pretty thin, and old habits start to settle back in. It could almost be mistaken for a Grand Theft Auto plot.

The film is the directorial debut of David Ayer, who most famously wrote The Fast and the Furious and Training Day, which this closely resembles. Bale can chew scenery with the best of them, and as an ex-Army Ranger gets to play out the tough guy skills he's learned in a few recent action films. Released on just under 1,000 screens, it could have an impact like other "urban" films, though it lacks a star that will really connect with that audience. Give it about $4 million this weekend.

Although many pundits (including yours truly) expected Borat to be a hit even in its limited release last weekend, virtually no one could have predicted the magnitude of its breakout. Employing a strategy to pack limited houses, Fox was able to get it to the top of the box office in just 837 screens, pulling in $26 million when all was said and done. This was over $30,000 per venue, a number that rivaled the opening weekend of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Now that they've got everyone's attention, they're tripling the screen count, and are a stone cold lock to win it again.




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Moreover, the film was blisteringly funny, one of the best reviewed films of the year that has built up incredible word-of-mouth. A repeat of last weekend's per screen average is impossible (...I think) but it's been by far the strongest holdover mid week, indicating a pent-up demand and staying power. Look for it to win the weekend, with $33 million.

Two family films made strong showings going head to head last weekend. The Santa Clause 3 and Flushed Away came in within less than $1 million of each other, at $19.5 and $18.8 million respectively. Even at that, that's a bit of a downturn for Tim Allen's franchise, and maybe a little bit better than expected showing for Aardman Studio's latest. I give Flushed Away stronger odds on showing legs, as Santa Clause is a bit of a stale concept at this point. Give it $13 million, with Santa Clause just behind with $12 million.

Major Oscar contender Babel also gets a major expansion after a terrific run in limited release, jumping to 1,251 screens from 35. The multiple-narratives film starring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and many more earned almost $1 million on those 35 screens, and its complicated take on communication and connectedness is earning it many early plaudits. Pitt's star power is definitely its best chance to make an impact this weekend, and on this many screens, it should be able to bring in about $9 million.


Forecast: Weekend of November 10-12, 2006
Rank
Film
Number of
Sites
Changes in Sites
from Last
Estimated
Gross ($)
1 Borat 2,566 +1,729 33.4
2 Stranger Than Fiction 2,264 New 14.1
3 Flushed Away 3,707 0 13.5
4 The Santa Clause 3 3,458 0 12.6
5 Babel 1,251 +1,216 9.0
6 The Return 1,986 New 7.7
7 Saw III 3,013 -154 6.6
8 A Good Year 2,066 New 6.6
9 The Departed 2,236 -69 5.6
10 The Prestige 2,210 -575 5.0

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