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411's Box Office Preview: Will Sin City: A Dame to Kill For Blow Away the Competition?
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 08.21.2014

Welcome back to 411's official weekend box office preview! I'm your host Jeremy Thomas and once again we're going to be looking at the upcoming weekend at the movie theater, predicting which films will hit the jackpot or go bust at the blackjack table.

Last weekend saw both major new releases, The Expendables 3 and Let's Be Cops, fail to do the job of pulling Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles out of the top box office slot. Both new entries disappointed to a degree, although it was The Expendables that received the most of the attention thanks to its higher name-value stars and profile, not to mention the budget and the hot-button issue of piracy. 411's own Steve Gustafson provided an excellent post-mortem about the film's fall that is well-worth checking out. The film had several factors working against it, but to me the primary problem was that the Expendables gimmick has just run its course with audiences. It was a nostalgia trip that should have been a one-and-done or perhaps two films, but three was really pushing it in terms of holding audience interest. Other factors came into play as well: the younger cast that drew a distinct lack of interest, the poor marketing...and perhaps even the PG-13 rating and piracy issues, though I think those are overblown a bit. The film even floundered a bit overseas and will be very lucky to make back its budget by the time it's done.

But enough of last week's woes; it's another new weekend and we have three new contenders to the throne. Only two of them have a chance at topping the box office however. The most likely contender isn't the one that most people might consider though. Instead, If I Stay is currently on course to take the big win. The Chloe Moretz-starring supernatural drama is looking to corner the female audience that has been showing increasing strength throughout the year. It's a young adult adaptation, having been based on the book by Gayle Forman. YA fiction-based films are a bit of a crap shoot at the box office; for every A Fault in Our Stars-level successes there's a handful of Mortal Instruments and Vampire Academy-style failures. The supernatural elements of this film--a young girl who suffers an out-of-body experience after a car accident--may suggest the latter, but it also has elements of the Shailene Woodley film that could piggy-pack of that film's success earlier in the summer.

It certainly won't hit Fault in Our Stars numbers though, for several reasons. First and foremost is the fact that the source novel doesn't have the phenomenon status of Fault's. If I Stay has a lot of fans but it hasn't hit the crossover mainstream level of success Fault did. Reviews have been cold with only 28% on Rotten Tomatoes, but they aren't always a factor in tween-oriented films. Factoring in in a stronger capacity is the fact that Chloe Moretz's fanbase is more in the male crowd thanks to her genre work in the likes of Kick-Ass, Carrie and Let Me In. Woodley, on the other hand, had a female-led one-two punch of Divergent and Fault and has also achieved more mainstream notability (not to mention an Oscar nomination for The Descendants). As much as we might adore Moretz, she has yet to open a film on her own over $20 million. If I Stay is tracking to potentially break that boundary which will be huge for her and for Warner Bros., who made the film for just $11 million. But when you consider that many of the film's potential audience is back in school, late Thursday and Friday grosses will be lessened and thus it will probably settle in the still-very-sold $16 million to $20 million range.

That's going to leave this weekend's fanboy-targeted film shooting for the runner-up spot, and it may be a contest to even get there. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is the sequel to Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez's 2005 hit Sin City, which opened to $29.1 million amidst critical appreciation for its comic book look and a widespread appreciation from moviegoers. There is one big, big problem working against it though, and that is the nine-year delay since the last film. Long delays often result in profit loss unless you're a true blockbuster and the first film's $74.1 million final domestic gross, while good, doesn't qualify for that level. Early reviews for this one haven't been nearly as kind (49% on Rotten Tomatoes) but awareness of the film through social media is strong, which may boost its numbers. Some may be concerned by the loss of certain cast members (Brittany Murphy, Michael Clarke Duncan and Clive Owen), but the first film was more of an ensemble piece and The Weinstein Company has been wisely marketing it as such. The focus has largely been on Jessica Alba and Mickey Rourke for their beloved characters from the first film, Eva Green as the seductive femme fatale Ava Lord and Josh Brolin replacing Owen as Dwight.

A Dame to Kill For shouldn't be hurt as strongly by school being back in, as it's an R-rated film, but it does have one other thing to worry about that If I Stay doesn't: competition. There is a glut of fanboy films still in the marketplace and some of them are still performing quite well. That's going to take a piece of this film's pie. Early tracking for the film is suggesting a mid-teens opening and it does have the largest theater count of the new releases at around 2,750. It could open compared to its predecessor similarly to how 300: Rise of an Empire stacked up against 300. That's a 64% drop from original to sequel, but Rise of An Empire was also facing less competition from the male crowd. A $15 million to $18 million first-weekend take should be the final count.

The #3 and #4 spots will be a battle between the last two box office champions in Guardians of the Galaxy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Turtles has held sway the last two weekends, though it's been dropping off more than the Marvel film and that should continue this weekend. In fact, Guardians has managed to take the top spot twice so far throughout this mid-week period and the positive word of mouth and momentum should be able to lead it to the higher spot with around a 40% drop for $15 million or so. Turtles certainly isn't slouching through and it's turned itself into quite the little hit in its own right. It's following the trend of 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra nicely but with more competition this week it will fall a little higher with around a 50% drop to $14 million.

Finally we have a bit of back-to-school programming as Sony/TriStar bring us When the Game Stands Tall. This football-themed drama is looking to capitalize on the impending school year and should ride that wave to a solid opening weekend. The real-life inspirational story brings to mind hits like The Blind Side, Friday Night Lights, Invincible and Coach Carter, the latter of which was directed by Game's Thomas Carter. This one won't get the higher grosses of those films, though; for one, it has a lower star value. Jim Caviezel is a fine actor but he's no Sandra Bullock or Mark Wahlberg in terms of box office track record. The film is getting poorer reviews as well, with a 48% on Rotten Tomatoes, and sports dramas cater to a crowd that pays more attention to the critics. With a 2,600 theater opening, the film is likely to finish off around the $10 million mark which will put the $15 million-budgeted film well on its way to being a success for the studio.

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

1. If I Stay - $19.3 million
2. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For - $17.2 million
3. Guardians of the Galaxy - $15.2 million (-39%)
4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - $14.6 million (-49%)
5. When the Game Stands Tall - $10.3 million
6. Let's Be Cops - $10 million (-44%)
7. The Expendables 3 - $7.1 million (-55%)
8. The Giver - $6.3 million (-49%)
9. The Hundred-Foot Journey - $4.9 million (-32%)
10. Into the Storm - $3.8 million (-51%)


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