The hand-wringing has begun. After both Sex and the City 2 and Prince of Persia garnered less-than-optimal results last weekend, chatter about why the summer box office is not performing up to par went into full effect. In the end, Sex and the City 2 — with $57 million in its coffers — should end its run in the green, but I’m sure talks of making a third are not happening. And though people expected more from Prince of Persia, which Disney must have spent a mint marketing, it’s a movie based on a video game starring a guy best known for his indie work. The lesson learned here: Jake Gyllenhaal is not a movie star.
This weekend is not going to improve things much. Yes, there are four new releases hitting theaters tomorrow, but it’s unlikely any of them will cross the $20 million mark. In fact, Get Him to the Greek, Marmaduke, and Killers will all be vying for second place in the $15-$18 million range.
What makes this summer feel so tragic is that, thus far, there is no movie that audiences have fallen in love with. Yes, Iron Man 2 is close to banking $300 million, but few would argue that it’s better than the original. And Shrek Forever After is a hit, but there is no groundswell of love surrounding the last installment of this billion-dollar franchise. June has more to offer between The Karate Kid, Toy Story 3, and, of course, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. We’re just going to have to wait out this week before we get to some meaty films that we can get excited about. Read on for my predictions.
1. Shrek Forever After: $25 million
Though Shrek has made $150 million since it debuted three weekends ago, it did not live up to either of its past two predecessors, which helped spur the May Blues at the box office. It will, however, hold onto the number one slot for another weekend, which is good news for DreamWorks Animation, since Toy Story 3‘s release is just around the corner. Despite the first-place finish, Shrek Forever After will have to reach over $270 million to not be deemed the lowest-grossing film of the Shrek series.
2. Get Him to the Greek: $17 million
Consider this the sequel to Forgetting Sarah Marshall, even though Jonah Hill plays a completely different character in this R-rated comedy produced by Judd Apatow. This time around, Hill is a hapless low-level music executive charged with bringing Russell Brand’s Aldous Snow from London to Los Angeles to play a show at the Greek Theatre. Marshall writer/director Nicholas Stoller is behind this film too, which is likely to open in the same range as Marshall, which bowed to $17.7 million back in April 2008. I fear, however, that with so much competition in the marketplace and tracking not all that strong, Get Him to the Greek will be yet another sequel that performs below the original.
3. Killers: $16 million
Yes, Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl are playing the latest version of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, but with both of them lacking the star power of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, it’s unlikely this film will do close to the business of Smith. Lionsgate is withholding the film from critics (never a good sign), and despite Heigl’s successful run on Grey’s Anatomy, there is an awful lot of animosity toward the star. Sources tell me the film cost Lionsgate over $75 million, which seems crazy expensive to me. Though the tracking speaks otherwise, I’m not confident this PG-13 rated movie can cross the $15 million mark.
4. Marmaduke: $15 million
The kids audience always confounds expectations, since they are really hard to reach with traditional tracking metrics. We know that talking dogs sell — just look at Beverly Hills Chihuahua — but if I’m going to take an informal poll of the children living in my house, I’d have to say this movie hasn’t connected with the little tykes audience. Who knows — it could gross much higher than $15 million, but it doesn’t seem like Twentieth Century Fox is spending advertising money like they’ve got a winner on their hands.
5. Prince of Persia: $14 million
Expect this to drop over 50 percent this weekend. The word-of-mouth has not been kind, and with so much other fare in the marketplace to distract, Persia will be lucky if it crosses $100 million for its run.
6. Sex and the City 2: $12 million
The R-rated comedy only took in $31 million over the three-day frame, having generated a lot of its cash on Thursday night when it made $14.2 million. Because of that, I think its second-weekend fall-off will be steeper than 50 percent. The first Sex and the City lost over 60 percent of its value during its second weekend in theaters — and that movie was embraced by fans.
7. Splice: $11 million
This was one of the hot movies coming out of this year’s Sundance. From director Vincenzo Natali (Cypher), the R-rated sci-fi thriller has the Guillermo del Toro seal of approval, and producer Joel Silver was aggressive in buying it out of the snowy festival. The casting choices are interesting, with indie queen Sarah Polley pairing up with Adrien Brody for this thinking man’s horror film, but whether the film can connect with audiences remains to be seen. It’s the best reviewed movie of the bunch, but it could have trouble reaching into the double digits this frame.
Check back over the weekend for the results.