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Weekend Forecast for August 17-19, 2001

By Reagen Sulewski

The veritable orgy of blockbuster releases that occurs each summer starts its wind-down this week. Barring a major surprise, none of the three new films this week looks to have the ability to open above $20 million. The last weekend that did not have an opening film reach that mark was the weekend of June 8th, when Swordfish was the top bow at $18.14 million. Only now are we beginning to see the typical films that can get resigned to what many call the dumping ground of summer, a place where blockbusters fear to tread. Obviously, Rush Hour 2 and American Pie 2 have shown that to be a ridiculous habit, but with studios, old habits die hard.

The film coming in with the best chance for success is Paramount's Rat Race. Ostensibly a remake of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, this broad comedy has been building buzz through canny advertising and sneak previews. Not heavy on star power (the biggest name in the cast would likely be Oscar winner Cuba Gooding, Jr.), Rat Race also has to fight a fairly tired premise, a Cannonball Run-esque dash for hidden money. The studio's promotion has been relentless, though, with ads showcasing each main character in the film as a competitor in the race for $2 million. Response to trailers and commercials has been positive, with the sneak preview this previous weekend obviously a sign of studio confidence (why sneak a bad movie?). I predict an opening of $16 million, with a good chance for additional legs.

Probably the most heavily-advertised of this week's releases, American Outlaws launches in 2,348 venues. After seeing a brief renaissance about a decade ago after the release of Young Guns, westerns have once again become few and far between on movie screens, with fewer still becoming successes. This can easily be seen with Texas Rangers, a film that was in competition for release dates with American Outlaws, now delayed into 2002. Of all recent westerns, only Shanghai Noon could truly be considered a financial success, earning $56.9 million and inspiring a sequel currently in development. That movie itself stretches the traditional definition of a western, attempting to transplant Rush Hour's buddy-movie formula. Despite the genre's recent troubles, Warner Bros is giving this movie solid support. Similarly to May's A Knight's Tale, it uses modern rock music in both the advertising and in the film itself. The commercials are energetic and showcase the attractive up-and-coming cast members. Both these moves are designed to appeal to the target audience of young males and females. I expect a solid opening of about $11 million, with modest carryover.

Captain Corelli's Mandolin is the weekend's third wide opener and has the fewest venues, at 1,594. Although last week The Others opened quite well in only slightly more venues, that was more a case of a niche film finding its audience with solid ads, versus this film, which is trying for much broader appeal. Few films with this size venue count reach the $10 million mark at the box office in their opening weekend. Nicolas Cage gives this film its best opportunity, but his star power doesn't look to be enough to save this romance. Penelope Cruz has not had much luck carrying over her huge fame in Spain to America, with only Blow achieving a modest success, and with her only in a supporting role. Another sign of trouble for this film is that it has already received release in several European countries before release in the United States, a very uncommon move. Although a decent earner in the UK, it has the added advantage there of being directed by Shakespeare in Love helmer John Madden. The film looks to have little to no appeal to the younger set, instead drawing its biggest support from the 35-and-older crowd, who are typically slow to embrace a film. An opening of $8 to $9 million is likely.

American Pie 2 gets the chance this weekend to be the first film since Pearl Harbor to repeat as the number-one film. As with the last few weekends, this mega-opener should experience a large initial drop on its second weekend, possibly in excess of 50%. Audience response to the film has overall been positive, though not glowing. Facing its biggest challenge from Rat Race and a possible recovery by Rush Hour 2, a $22 million total should be enough for it to hold on to the top spot. The Others, last week's surprising (to most) hit expands by approximately 500 screens, an expected move after it exceeded the sub-$10 million predictions of last weekend. Traditionally, an expansion of this size has typically meant that the film will hold ground or improve slightly. Ads are now pushing heavily the twist ending, although this does not appear to be developing into a Sixth Sense-like phenomenon. The 28% increase in screens should help bump this film to approximately $15 million on the weekend.

Forecast: Weekend of August 17-19, 2001
Projected
Rank
Film
Number of Sites
Change in Sites from Last
Estimated Gross ($)
1
American Pie 2
3,070
+7
22.1
2
Rush Hour 2
3,080
-38
18.9
3
Rat Race
2,550
New
16.3
4
The Others
2,153
+475
15.0
5
American Outlaws
2,348
New
11.4
6
The Princess Diaries
2,726
+20
8.5
7
Captain Corelli's Mandolin
1,594
New
8.4
8
Planet of the Apes
3,059
-342
6.2
9
Jurassic Park III
2,490
-685
3.9
10
Osmosis Jones
2,305
no change
2.6


     


 
 

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