Weekend Predictions: Can Cowboys Overtake Captain?
Summer is starting to wind down and while there are no sure-fire monster hits opening from now till November, there are still a few more potential $100 million hits coming out before we can close the book on the summer.Cowboys and Aliens is one of these films, and while it is clearly the biggest new release of the week, it still has competition from Captain America: The First Avenger during its opening weekend. On the high end, the film could earn more than the combined openings of last year's three wide releases. Even on the low end, it should have no trouble topping last year's number one film. This should help 2011 win over 2010 for the third week in a row, which is enough to be considered a streak.
The box office prospects for Cowboys and Aliens appear to be peaking at just the right time and a lot of analysts are expecting the film to finish on the high end of earlier expectations. This is a movie that could be a cool blend of two widely disparate genre, or a confused mess. The critics are leaning towards the later, although a Tomatometer score of 43% positive is hardly terrible for a summer blockbuster. The advertising has been appealing to moviegoers and it's a very good bet that it will end with more than the $80 million figure originally predicted. On the high end, it could come close to $50 million over the next three days. On the low end, it could struggle to reach $30 million. I'm going with a $42 million opening and safely over $100 million in total.
Captain America: The First Avenger could remain in top spot, if it holds on better than expected and Cowboys and Aliens misses expectations. Its midweek numbers suggests the Fanboy Effect will overpower its reviews and a 50% drop-off is likely, but it could be close. Look for $32 million over the weekend and about $120 million in total. If it can catch up to Thor, then the studio should be quite happy, but its international potential could be more limited.
After shattering records last weekend, the bad kind, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 is looking to bounce back this weekend. I can't imagine it would suffer a similar decline two weeks in a row; in fact, there are some predicting it will avoid a 50% drop-off this weekend. I'm not that bullish, but it could score third place with $22 million. That will be enough to push its running tally past $300 million domestically and $900 million worldwide.
The second wide release of the week is The Smurfs, a film that was undoubtedly given the green light after the success of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Unfortunately, there are a few reasons why this film won't match it at the box office. Firstly, it doesn't have as good of a release date. Opening a family film during the Christmas holiday is one of the best recipes for financial success, while this late into summer there have been too many releases aimed at the same target demographic. Secondly, in addition to the two Alvin films,Hop recently came out, and how many similar films can the market handle? Finally, its reviews are simply terrible. Granted, kids normally don't read reviews, but the advertising is also going after adults looking for nostalgia that they can share with their kids. If these people are unsold, the film could have real trouble. It still might battle for second place with close to $30 million. On the other hand, it might miss $20 million. I'm going with fourth place with $21 million, but I'm not that confident in my prediction.
The best-reviewed wide release of the week is Crazy, Stupid, Love. Unfortunately, it is also tracking the weakest. It will likely place fifth with about $16 million, but this is not a terrible start for two reasons. Firstly, as already stated, its reviews are very good. Secondly, it is aimed at a more mature target audience, which means they are less likely to rush out to see the movie opening weekend, but more likely to see it during the following weeks. Assuming it didn't cost an outrageous amount to make, it should do well enough to keep the studio happy. There's even a chance it will surprise and compete for third place with just over $20 million. I'm a little more optimistic than most, and I'm going with $18 million.
1- Cowboys and Aliens: 30,000,000 - 50,000,000 (42,000,000)
2- Captain America: (32,000,000)
3- HP7: (22,000,000)
4- The Smurfs: 18,000,000 - 30,000,000 (21,000,000)
5- Crazy Stupid Love: 16,000,000 - 20,000,000 (18,000,000)
Forecast: Can 'Cowboys & Aliens' Rope in Audiences?
This weekend, three new nationwide releases duke it out:Cowboys & Aliens rides on to approximately 5,600 screens at 3,750 locations, The Smurfs plucks around 5,400 screens at 3,395 locations (including 2,042 showing it in 3D), while Crazy, Stupid, Love. woos more than 3,300 screens at 3,020 locations. Throw in holdoversCaptain America: The First Avenger and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, and that's the Top Five for the weekend.
Historical antecedents point to a 50-60 percent drop forCaptain America, which would give Cowboys & Aliensthe edge to claim first place this weekend. On paper, an action spectacle directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man), starring Daniel Craig (James Bond) and Harrison Ford(Indiana Jones/Han Solo), co-written by Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci (Transformers, Star Trek), produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer and executive-produced bySteven Spielberg teams with box office potential. ButCowboys & Aliens has struggled in its extensive, year-long marketing campaign (including its Super Bowl spot). Sure, it has been more polished than Green Lantern's panicked ad spree, but most ads have made Cowboys & Aliens look like a half-baked Western and a half-baked alien-invasion movie shoe-horned together.
Cowboys & Aliens title, which is a riff on "cowboys and indians," is catchy, but it may have a Snakes on a Planeeffect: title tells all in a goofily blunt way, so no need to see the movie. The premise does raise the stakes on the typical alien invasion movie by having lower-tech humans, though that's somewhat contradicted by giving Craig an alien weapon from the start. The marketers have tried to mitigate the potential silliness by taking a serious approach and presenting the Western portion first. There's a lot of Craig not saying much (in a nod to Clint Eastwood) in a cliche Western and some grumpy Ford (though none of the Ford that audiences love), and then aliens randomly attack. Recent ads have included more interaction between Craig and Ford, though not to the level their casting asks for.
One can hope that the True Grit has primed audiences for more Westerns, and that the Western angle will make the alien invasion angle seem fresh. Hybridized Westerns, though, often fail, including Wild Wild West, Jonah Hexand The Warrior's Way ("Cowboys and Ninjas"), and, True Grit aside, regular Westerns generally don't reach mass audiences. The cross-genre exercise seems more for movie buffs and fan boys than for the general public. Perhaps aware of all of this, Cowboys & Aliens' ads have featured the line "We have one advantage. They underestimate you." Maybe that relentless marketing has turned the corner for this movie. Distributor Universal Pictures did report a last-minute expectation in the $40 million range.
Box Office Mojo's "when will you see it" polling hasn't provided a clear read on Cowboys & Aliens, perhaps due to the picture's genre mash-up. With an "opening weekend" score in the 34-35 percent range, interest seemed less intense than fellow alien movies Super 8 (47.1 percent), District 9 (46.2 percent) and Battle: Los Angeles(44.8 percent), which didn't bode well. However, its voting pattern was comparable to Fantastic Four (36.5 percent opening weekend) and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (29.4 percent), which was a positive sign. These comps suggested a spread of $26-53 million.
The Smurfs is the latest talking critter comedy, and the sub-genre seemed like a sure thing until such stumbles asMarmaduke, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore and Zookeeper, though Yogi Bear and Hop saved some face with their $100-plus million runs. In addition to its brand awareness, Smurfs, which copies the premise from Enchanted, has one key thing going for it: the critters are small. Led by Alvin and the Chipmunks, the most successful talking critter movies feature diminutive critters. Aside from that, Smurfs looks like a run-of-the-mill genre entry, and distributor Sony Pictures has pegged it for the high-$20-to-low-$30 million range in its last-minute expectations.
Crazy, Stupid, Love. has been pitched as an adult alternative, featuring familiar faces Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling,Julianne Moore and Emma Stone (who is shown prominently but oddly not named in Crazy's television ads). Carell's playing to type in what looks like a more mature version of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and he's had success pitching to this audience before with Date Night and Dan in Real Life. Crazy appears to have more going for it than Larry Crowne from earlier this month, though there are some reservations from its male-centric romantic comedy ensemble premise.
In Box Office Mojo's polling, The Smurfs posted 6.2 percent for opening weekend, which was close to Gnomeo and Juliet (6.3 percent) but less than G-Force (7.8 percent). Crazy, Stupid, Love. had 9.3 percent for opening weekend, which was better than Larry Crowne (5.9 percent) and similar to In Good Company and The Dilemma.
The Forecast, July 29-31
1. Cowboys & Aliens - $36 million
2. Captain America: The First Avenger - $29 million
3. The Smurfs - $26 million
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 - $23.5 million
5. Crazy, Stupid, Love. - $19 million
Bar for Success
On the one hand, the bar should be low for Cowboys & Aliens, because it's a Western. On the other, Cowboys is a big alien invasion movie with big name talent behind it, and it's positioned as an intended event movie with a massive, year-long marketing campaign, so the bar should be high. With so much riding on it, an opening close to $50 million would give it justification. As for The Smurfs, the average of its comps is close to $30 million, so that's a reasonable number, while Crazy, Stupid, Love. could get by in the high teen millions.