Box office preview: 'Tower Heist' to climb past 'Puss in Boots'

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Image Credit: Wilson Webb

It’s comedy weekend at the movies, as Tower Heist and A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas will attempt to push Puss in Boots off its box-office perch. This weekend’s results should help to answer a number of questions: Will Eddie Murphy boost Tower Heist‘s numbers, or has the actor’s star fallen so low that his presence will have hardly any influence? How much did the World Series and last weekend’s blizzard affect Puss in Boots‘ opening? And will moviegoers be willing to pay a 3-D surcharge for a modestly budgeted stoner comedy? Here are my predictions for the top five:

1. Tower Heist: $31 million

With the Occupy Wall Street movement continuing to keep wealth inequality on the national radar, Tower Heist couldn’t be opening at a more appropriate moment. The PG-13 action-comedy is about a group of employees at a Manhattan high-rise who fall victim to a wealthy businessman’s Ponzi scheme. As retribution, the workers plan to rob the man’s penthouse. Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy lead an ensemble that includes Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick, Téa Leoni, Michael Peña, and Gabourey Sidibe.

Stiller is one of Hollywood’s most dependable box-office magnets — his last five wide releases averaged an opening weekend of $31 million. By comparison, Murphy hasn’t had a live-action hit since 2007′s Norbit. His last two movies, Imagine That and Meet Dave, debuted to $5.5 million and $5.3 million, respectively. Tower Heist is really Stiller’s picture — Murphy’s in the film less than one would expect — and I think it’ll open like a typical Stiller movie. But Murphy’s presence here doesn’t hurt, especially since he’s playing a role that’s closer to the spirit of 48 HRS. and Beverly Hills Cop than The Haunted Mansion.

Also, the $85 million movie was directed by Brett Ratner, whose prior eight films debuted to an impressive average of $40.1 million. If Tower Heist‘s reviews were more encouraging, I could see it finishing around $35 million, but I’m sticking with slightly more than $30 million — a result that’ll please Universal as well as the AMPAS, which has tapped Murphy and Ratner to host and produce next year’s Academy Awards.

2. Puss in Boots: $23 million

Señor anthropomorphic cat, your $34.1 million debut last week was flat.
Halloween anticipation and East Coast precipitation may have been the cause of that.
But with solid reviews and an “A-” CinemaScore.
Your movie should continue to purr, if not exactly roar.
Translation: A 33 percent drop is in store.

3. A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas: $17 million

The first two Harold & Kumar movies opened to $5.5 million and $14.9 million. This 3-D threequel should beat them both, if only due to 3-D surcharges. Some moviegoers may find it obscene to pay as much as $19.50 (at the ArcLight theater in Hollywood) for a stoner comedy, but the series has a sizable group of passionate fans. The R-rated movie cost $19 million to produce, and is receiving mostly mediocre reviews (although EW’s Owen Gleiberman gave it a glowing “A” rating).

4. Paranormal Activity 3: $7 million

I was wrong about this one last week. With it being Halloween weekend and there being no other horror films around, I thought PA3 would decline only slightly more than 50 percent. Instead, it plummeted 65 percent. Clearly, there’s not much interest in the horror prequel beyond those who saw it on opening weekend, so PA3 should continue to fall hard. I’m going with a 60 percent drop this weekend.

5. In Time: $6 million

The PG-13 sci-fi thriller debuted to a ho-hum $12.1 million, received ho-hum reviews, and earned a ho-hum “B-” CinemaScore rating. Add all ho-hums up, and you get a second-weekend drop of at least 50 percent.

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