Weekend Forecast

By Walid Habboub

Analysis for July 20-22, 2001

The biggest Hollywood franchise in the last ten years will face off against one of the biggest movie stars of the last ten years, as Jurassic Park III and America's Sweethearts open this weekend with heavy expectations surrounding both. Both look to do a lot of business this weekend and will battle for a position on top of the box-office charts, but not for the same audience. The difference in genres will mean that, while both movies can do well, they should not be affecting each other's drawing potential.

Jurassic Park III is the second sequel to the highly-successful Jurassic Park, which was directed by box-office king Steven Spielberg. The first sequel in the franchise, The Lost World, still holds the record for the largest opening weekend in movie history, based on its three-day numbers. It's very difficult to argue with a history of success such as this, especially for a franchise with the universal appeal of dinosaurs. The movies have, and continue to have, a perfect mix of suspense, action, wonder and eye-popping special effects. When all these ingredients are instantaneously associated with a movie, an audience will rush to the theatres to see it. JP3 should be no different than other films fitting these criteria; it should be one of the biggest movies of the summer and do much of its business in the first two weeks of release.

Using the chart provided, we can see the pattern in another movie franchise, Lethal Weapon. While the first Lethal Weapon had moderate success ($6.8 million opening) when compared to the first Jurassic Park, the movie found an excellent audience on video, which helped the sequel open to a third of the original's total gross. We can therefore look at the second Lethal Weapon as the first franchise film and move on from there. The jump we see from the first franchise film to the next is a quite healthy 65%. The jump from the first JP movie to its sequel is a healthy 48%. The thing to keep in mind is that JP2 had $2 million from early special engagements and that it opened over Memorial Day weekend and benefited from an inflated Sunday. The important thing here is to establish a solid enough correlation between the two series and hopefully be able to accurately use the pattern.

The result of the Lethal Weapon pattern is that the fourth Lethal Weapon, or for our use, the third in the franchise, saw a very moderate jump of only two percent in its opening box office. If we correlate that to the Jurassic Park franchise, we'd get a three-day total of $75.5 million and an overall weekend total of $93.8 million. Going back to the Lost World numbers, and taking into account the inflated holiday Monday, we can use the non-holiday pattern to extrapolate Lost World's close for a normal five-day non-holiday weekend.

First we take the three-day number, $74 million, and adjust the Sunday for a non-holiday take while leaving in the previews of $2.5 million, because this money would have been made on Friday anyway. This brings us to a $67 million three-day weekend based on conservative estimates. Here's where the guessing comes in; we can guesstimate the $18 million pulled in on holiday Monday to equal a $12 million non-holiday opening weekday. The reason it's attractive to do this is because not only will it better reflect the Wednesday opening for JP3, but it will also reflect that fact that these extra weekdays come before the weekend arrives. At the same time, it is also kept a little high relative to a weekday number because of the depreciation that occurred on Monday due to the Friday release. Meaning that if Thursday was a holiday and not Monday, the $18 million would have been much, much higher due to the fact that it'd be the first day of release as opposed to the fourth. This gives us a projected non-holiday total of $79 million for The Lost World.

What we've done so far is attempt to remove the holiday aspect of The Lost World while continuing to use a total weekend number. If we go by the Lethal Weapon pattern of a two-percent increase, we arrive at an estimated weekend total for JP3 of $80.58 million.

The math on America's Sweethearts should be much simpler, as it should fall within the normal Julia Roberts pattern. Of the last seven Roberts' movies, only two have failed to open to at least $20 million; Stepmom and Conspiracy Theory, which opened to $19.14 million and $19.31 million, respectively. So it is as close to a guarantee as there is in box-office forecasting that a Julia Roberts starrer will open to over $20 million. Factor in the heavy advertising and the high-profile stars she is surrounded by and this movie will most probably bring in quite a bit more than $20 million. The downside of its potential drawing power is that the ads have been lackluster at best and there doesn't seem to be much comedy to this comedy. The ads look to push Roberts' character as an over-worked, under-appreciated former fatty who is in love with her famous sister's famous boyfriend, with very little attention paid to putting across an entertaining ad.

The movie will still do well, will most likely bring in a large female audience and have an equal blend when it comes to the age demo. Roberts' biggest opener was Runaway Bride at $35 million, but with a much weaker ad campaign and a less attractive product, America's Sweetheart should bring in about $10 million less.

The important thing to note here is that these two movies will have very little impact on how much the other one pulls in. Jurassic Park III will have a very strong start and will have a slightly depreciated weekend due to the Wednesday release, while America's Sweethearts should have the normal weekend pattern. Both will most likely be hits, but the early forecast is that the dinos will outpace Roberts this weekend.

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