Box office preview: 'TRON: Legacy' to cycle past its competition

TRON-LEGACY-RACEImage Credit: DisneyLast weekend was supposed to be the weekend that helped rescue this year’s slumping holiday season, but The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Tourist arrived with less fizzle than a glass of Pellegrino. This weekend will try to set things right. While it’s unlikely that the frame will be able to match the same weekend from a year ago, when Avatar debuted to $77 million, it should at least be an improvement over last week. Disney’s TRON: Legacy will easily lead the pack, which also includes the introspective family film Yogi Bear, the romantic comedy How Do You Know, and the expansion of indie sensations The Fighter and Black Swan. And although the weekend before Christmas can be tough on the box office due to an explosion of last-minute holiday preparations (I still need to track down one of those blasted Sing-a-ma-jigs), there’s truly something here for everyone. My predictions, stat:

1. TRON: Legacy: $45 million

The $170 million sequel to the 1982 cult film opens this weekend at 3,451 locations, with 70 percent of those theaters screening the film in 3-D. The drums for this computer-set epic have been banging since 2008’s Comic-Con, and Disney has done a splendid job of emphasizing the film’s hypnotic visuals and groovy soundtrack while not reminding moviegoers that the original TRON was something of a disappointment. Early reviews have been mediocre, but this is one of those “I-want-to-see-it-for-myself” spectacles that should be immune to any form of naysaying, at least initially. And all those 3-D screens (plus 234 IMAX theaters) will help boost its totals. Don’t expect Avatar numbers, but an opening of about $45 million seems well within reach.

2. Yogi Bear: $21 million

I keep telling myself that this movie can’t possibly exist. But here it is, and no matter how discouraging the reviews are, if your kid is into the idea of watching a tie-wearing animated bear eat worms, you’re totally seeing Yogi Bear. Don’t even fight it — just give in. The 3-D component will give the PG movie a modest bump (nearly 60 percent of theaters are projecting Mr. Bear with an added dimension), and parents with young children may perceive TRON: Legacy to be a little too intense. But regardless of how Yogi Bear opens this weekend, count on it to perform particularly well the week after Christmas.

3. The Fighter: $13 million

David O. Russell’s boxing drama, starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, rapidly expands from four sites to 2,503 theaters this weekend. The Oscar-hopeful is riding a wave of positive reviews and Best Picture nominations from the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice Awards, and Screen Actors Guild (for the film’s ensemble cast). Additionally, I’ve been told that it’s playing surprisingly well with women. Expect The Fighter to perform similarly to Million Dollar Baby, which expanded to 2,010 theaters in January 2005 for a weekend tally of $12.3 million.

4. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: $12 million

After its disappointing $24 million debut last weekend, there’s only one direction Dawn Treader can go from here. The first two Narnia movies, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian, dropped 51 percent and 59 percent, respectively, their second weekends. Dawn Trader should hold up a smidgen better — figure a 50 percent drop for $12 million.

5. How Do You Know: $10 million

James L. Brooks’ $100 million romantic comedy, starring Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, and Jack Nicholson, looks like it may struggle this weekend. Reviews have been mixed, and Brooks’ last film, 2004’s Spanglish, opened to only $8.8 million. Still, this is one of the few moviegoing options particularly geared toward women, and the star-studded cast has been doing its part to plug the flick. (I cherished Jon Stewart’s interview with Rudd, which was almost entirely devoted to discussing the actor’s 5’10” height.) However, if How Do You Know really fails to find an audience, fifth place could easily be snatched by Tangled, The Tourist, or Black Swan, the last of which expands to 959 theaters this weekend.

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  • m1

    The Fighter’s doing well with women? Hmm…interesting. It could do well this weekend because women have been deciding the box office lately (Sex and the City 2, Burlesque, Love and Other Drugs, etc).

    I don’t know if Black Swan will be able to hit double digits this weekend, but congratulations if it does.

    The Tourist (unfortunately) will savor a small drop due to those undeserved GG nods.

    As for Narnia, yikes! Those projected drops do NOT look good.

    Yogi Bear and How Do You Know look horrid and disappointing respectively, so I will be skipping those.

    $40+ million for Tron seems accurate.

  • Allex

    WTF??? Somebody spent 100 million dollars on a friggin’ romantic comedy??? Don’t get me wrong, I like them chick flicks, but that film better have some Na’vi warriors, Dream-within-dream-within dreamscapes, and block-decimating explosions for it to be that expensive…

    • Matt1

      Haha! Reese Witherspoon kinda looks like a Na’vi!

    • AK

      I was thinking the exact same thing. Did he pay everyone in the cast a $20 million salary or something?

      • Hey Now

        I think Reese got 15 million, Jack got 12, Owen got 10, and Paul Rudd got 3 million. So about 40 percent of the budget was for salary for the actors.

    • tom

      i have to agree….what makes this worth 100 million dollars as a budget….i am hoping it was a typo……i love reese…and paul rudd…but 100 million for the same movie we have seen time and time again….IT HAD TO BE A TYPO…EW is known for them

    • Adrian

      Same thing I said, friend! Sounds just like the $80 million flop, “Town & Country”, starring Warren Beatty. What? You never heard of it? EXACTLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Michael

      …and How Do you Know can be added to the bombs this year. Only projected to make $8 million for the weekend (worse than Spanglish) based upon a $2.6 million Friday. With Fockers out on Wednesday, there’s no way this in going to find an audience over holiday break.

  • dominic

    It pains me to see that this is the type of film that children want to watch nowadays. Hollywood butchered Scooby-Doo, then Alvin and the Chipmunks. Then next summer, they’re going to butcher The Smurfs. Where does it end?!? Pixar is the only studio that makes good children’s movies today. I still can’t believe that the two Alvin and the Chipmunk movies made over $200 million domestically, when substantial children’s movies like Fantastic Mr. Fox and Where the Wild Things Are made less than $100 million domestically. Those movies deserve much more money than that. But children today mostly go for juvenile toilet humor, and that’s a shame.

    • John

      “But children today mostly go for juvenile toilet humor, and that’s a shame.”

      correct me if I’m wrong….but isn’t that the kind of humor most children have always gone for?…

    • ryan

      100 million for that garbage! The previews were horrible, none of those actors pull in that much anymore, although wilson still is a draw, what did they spend the money on!!!!! Megamind with special effects galor cost 130 mill, A-team about 110, Knight and Day 117, salt 110, I mean come on did reese get 50 million in make up?

    • JonG

      You sir, are incorrect. Dreamworks has made some great stuff: Monsters v Aliens, Despicable Me, HOw to Train Your Dragon, all great flicks. Also, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is good too.

      Pixar makes cartoons that adults pretend are monumental works of art.

  • Allex

    Dominic, I feel you, man. But you can’t underestimate nostalgia. I bet a lot of those parents taking their kids to see Yogi are probably reliving their own childhoods. To think that The Iron Giant flopped…

  • Harvey Dent

    Tron will open to 60m, Disney has been promoting this nonstop

  • Summer Bay

    Unfortunately Tron is another Speed Racer very pretty to look at, let down by the script.

  • Matt1

    I’d like to take this opportunity to thank EW for handing over the weekend prediction reigns to John Young and sparing us all from the stupidass opinions, juvenille writing and horrible journalistic skills of that hack Nicole Sperling!
    Now onto my real point… you are SERIOUSLY underestimating the numbers for Black Swan Mr. Young!!
    The movie made $3.3 million on 90 friggin screens last weekend and now it’s expanding to 10 times that and you don’t think it’ll crack $10 mil!!?? C’mon man! Almost everyone at my work, including myself are more pumped to see it than Tron (even though Tron will win the weekend for sure)! Don’t be surprised when Black Swan makes the top 3 with around $18 million dude.

    • ryan

      Where do you work Matt? Burger king with ten employees? Bull!

      • Matt1

        I work for a casino on the strip in Vegas douchebag.

    • Hey Now

      I agree that if Black Swan doesn’t make at least 15 million I will be shocked. The fact that Natalie and Mila get busy is worth 10 mil at the box office.

    • Bluto

      “Black Swan” may be opening in a large number of cities—but that doesn’t mean that it will pull in crowds of the same number that it does in NYC or LA. As far as “Tron,” it will tank and make less than $35M this weekend.

      • Matt1

        Wrong and wrong.

    • ann

      Can I just second the gladness of a non-Nicole Sperling column?

    • Michael

      Black Swan is playing middle America and expanding with The Fighter. The Fighter is going to do better than Black Swan, hands down (and I know that it did already since I’ve seen Friday’s estimates). And why the disrespect to Nicole? What do you do for a living, matt1? At least Nicole works for a large-circulation magazine!

  • tom

    i think tron will bomb….sorry…just my thoughts

  • tom

    and if paul rudd took his shirt off more…we all would be woofing….yum

  • rich

    I too think Tron won’t do as well as has arabid fan base but not much else…The firghter will do better then predicted

  • timbo

    This holiday movie season has been so disappointing…I’m not excited for anything. The last big movie was Harry Potter…..I think Tron will pull in big numbers. Audiences are hungry for something new and fun….I dont really get the plot for “How Do You Know” The comercials don’t give much…

  • The Dude

    Keep an eye on Black Swan…it’s been doing gangbusters in limited release (enough so that it got a 6th place finish last week, if I remember correctly). It goes into semi-wide release this weekend, and I think it’s gonna surprise a lot of people. I, for one, will be contributing to its box office this weekend (and I’ll be holding off on TRON until I’m home to see it with my fam).

  • shdrew

    You’re crazy if you think Tron:Legacy is only going to go $45 million. Nerds everywhere have been jonesing for a Tron sequel. I think it will do much higher BO than that.

  • JPX

    Oh I think your predictions for TRON are way too low. You’re underestimating the nostalgia market.

  • David

    Have any of you actually seen the first Tron film??? It was a bad film when it came out all those years ago and I can’t imagine the sequel is any better… However no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence or taste of the American film going public….

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