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411's Box Office Preview: Lucy & Hercules To Battle The Apes
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 07.24.2014

Welcome to the first official 411 box office preview! My name is Jeremy Thomas and in what is planned to be a new weekly feature, I'm going to be looking at the upcoming weekend at cinemas and providing my analysis of which films will be soaring come Sunday afternoon when the results are announced, and which films will be falling up distinctly short.

I've been doing the weekly box office report here on 411mania for four years now, and during that time I've expanded from my (frankly) very bare-bones initial reports to a more in-depth look which uses a lot more analysis. It's always been my hope to eventually provide a preview of the box office to come, and this will be my attempt to do some box office crystal ball-peering that uses scrutiny of box office numbers, current tracking and buzz for new releases, early reviews and just a bit of prognostication. Of course, I don't claim to be psychic and there will always be over and underperformers, but based on some behind-the-scenes predicting I've doing over the last few weeks I'm moderately confident that I can do at least as well as most of the credible forecasters out there.

It's no secret that the domestic box office has been in a bit of a slump this summer. Receipts are down at the cinema by almost 7% year-to-date from 2013, and a huge part of that has been the fact that many blockbusters have disappointed. Transformers: Age of Extinction will be the first film in that franchise to fall short of $300 million, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a relative disappointment at just over $200 million, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is trailing its predecessor and Sex Tape bombed, to list just a few films that have failed to ignite the box office. Even with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and X-Men: Days of Future Past performing well, the summer box office is down almost 20% from last year when compared to the huge 2013 hits of Iron Man 3 ($409 million), Despicable Me 2 ($368.1 million), Man of Steel ($291 million) and Monsters University ($268.5 million).

Can this weekend spark a much-needed box office lift? Frankly, it's not that likely; we'll probably have to wait until next week and Guardians of the Galaxy for a real jolt. If it does happen though, you can probably thank a butt-kicking lady named Lucy. Luc Besson's sci-fi actioner should top the box office this weekend according to early tracking. The film is registering well thanks to Scarlett Johansson in the lead role; Johansson has become increasingly credible as an action lead thanks to her role as Black Widow in The Avengers and Captain America. The latter film's positioning of Widow as nearly an equal billing to the titular star certainly doesn't hurt matters and the film has had a smart marketing campaign that shows Johansson using her increasingly-high percentage of her brain to do reality-defying things. Morgan Freeman's supporting role is always a plus for a film and early reviews are calling it a dumb but entertaining thrill ride, anchored very well by Johansson. While the film has a few things going against it--heavy genre competition and the fact that Luc Besson hasn't directed a legitimate hit since 1997's The Fifth Element--it should do some great business to the tune of around $35 million.

Lucy's likely ascension should leave Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson out in the cold at #2 with Hercules. Johnson's mythological action film is unlikely to hit the numbers that Paramount needs for it to be a hit, especially considering the $100 million. And that's not to take anything away from the Rock; he's become a legitimate A-list film star over the last few years with a history of rehabilitating lagging franchises. G.I. Joe: Retaliation became a full-blown success with $375 million worldwide despite the first film's lackluster reception and his addition to the Fast & Furious franchise was a factor in rejuvenating that series as well. (He also managed to push Journey 2 to $100 million more at the worldwide box office than its predecessor.) But buzz around this film has been astoundingly negative thanks to trailers that seem very cheesy and Brett Ratner has been box office poison for a while. Ratner's last two films, Rush Hour 3 and Tower Heist, were box office disappointments and poorly received. Early reviews for Hercules are better than Ratner's usual films but not good enough to overcome fan skepticism and tracking has been soft, leading to a probably $22 million opening.

Among the holdovers, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes should hold on well and come in close behind Hercules for a #3 finish. The film has been enjoying better holds day-by-day than other man vs. CGI films like Godzilla and last year's World War Z, while looking comparable to Rise of the Planet of the Apes' holds from three years ago. It should finish out the weekend with around $20 million to $21 million. The Purge: Anarchy is in its second weekend and while it opened a little below The Purge's $34.1 million opening, slightly better reviews and a much better fan reaction means it should be able to get a softer drop than the brutal 76% fall that the first film did. Moderate numbers throughout the week mean that we can probably expect a fall of around 56% to around $13 million.

The other two second-weekend entries are Planes: Fire & Rescue and Sex Tape, both of whom disappointed last weekend to certain degrees. Of the two, the Planes sequel fared the best and that will mean good things not only for its grosses this weekend but for the whole of its box office run. The film has been holding on fairly well throughout the week thanks to good word-of-mouth (an A CinemaScore) and more critical appreciation than the first film; it should finish up the weekend in the $10 million to $12 million range. As for Sex Tape, the future is not looking bright. The film bombed last weekend and hasn't done well throughout the week; the lackluster C+ and poor reviews have doomed this one despite its star power. Expect a $7 million to $8 million second weekend, which is about a 45% drop.

There is one other new major release, though it shouldn't make too much of a dent. Rob Reiner's romantic dramedy And So It Goes is hoping to be counterprogramming against the younger-skewing action blockbusters, but a generic marketing campaign and the fact that Reiner hasn't had a serious hit in years are stacking up against it. Reiner is pairing with his The American President star Michael Douglas and Dianne Keaton, but pre-release tracking is soft and the film is opening in only around 1,800 theaters (barely more than half of Lucy's 3,500). Older audiences are more apt to pay attention to reviews and this one is not doing well among critics in the first few that have been published. The film could surprise and go into the high single-digits, but it's more likely to end up around $4 million to $5 million.

Below are my final predictions for the three-day weekend box office numbers:

1. Lucy - $35.5 million
2. Hercules - $22.1 million
3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - $20.7 million
4. The Purge: Anarchy - $13.1 million
5. Planes: Fire & Rescue - $11.6 million
6. Sex Tape - $7.8 million
7. Transformers: Age of Extinction - $5.6 million
8. And So It Goes - $4.8 million
9. Tammy - $4.6 million
10. 22 Jump Street - $2.6 million


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