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411's Box Office Preview: Will Guardians of the Galaxy Rule For a Fourth Time?
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 09.04.2014



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.

The summer movie season is officially over as of last weekend. Labor Day traditionally marks the end of Hollywood's most profitable time of year, and while the 2014 summer movie season was a disappointment it'll still likely be the strongest period of the year. It's actually interesting to look forward to this coming winter to see if that period--the other big box office boom session--can top the summer. We'll definitely have some strong contenders between Big Hero 6, Interstellar, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, Exodus: Gods and Kings, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. It would hardly be the first time that winter releases dominated the summer ones; it happened just last year in fact, when The Hunger Games: Catching Fire topped the yearly box office race. But it is a relative rarity and it appears that we'll be in for the same by the end of this year.

Of course, the last two weekend have been more or less a disaster for new entries with If I Stay, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and The November Man all disappointing. The Chloe Moretz film opened just a little south of expectations with $15.7 million; it will be just fine however thanks to a moderate drop last weekend and especially considering the $11 million budget. It's A Dame to Kill For that really made jaws drop thanks to its brutally low $6.3 million opening. The opening was so below the mid-teens number that was being predicted, many sites turned their public ire to the companies that do internal tracking. That's just the way it goes sometimes though; box office prediction isn't an exact science and the emergence of new marketing tools like social media makes it harder to predict where films are going to fall. Sin City's nine-year gap combined with the barely-there marketing tactics to create a distinct lack of awareness for the film. It was as if Dimension expected the first film's fanboy audience to be actively following every development, know on their own that the film was coming out and spread word to their friends. Not the smartest move; it was exasperated last weekend when it fell by half.

Meanwhile, The November Man opened below the $10 million mark as well. The Labor Day release window--never a good time to open a film--didn't help but mostly it was that audiences weren't that interested in what looked like (and ultimately was) a retread of the old espionage tropes. Relativity shouldn't be hurting too badly once the final tally is in thanks to a low $20 million budget but it still wasn't the hit they were hoping for. As Above, So Below followed the now-old hat habits of the found footage horror film: cash out early and make your money back thanks to a microbudget. It took in $8.6 million and should finish out around the $20 million mark, which will be quite profitable but unremarkable for Universal.

It's a new weekend, but you wouldn't know it from the box office choices. Only one new film is opening, and it isn't a particularly wide release or garnering a lot of buzz. That means that this weekend we're going to see one of August's mainstays so far on top, and that's going to be Guardians of the Galaxy. Marvel's film has already become the highest-grossing film of the year this weekend; as of Tuesday's receipts it is up to $283.6 million domestically to pass Captain America: The Winter Soldier's $259.8 million. The film has been enjoying strong holds from weekend-to-weekend and seems poised to hit $300 million by the end of its domestic run. It's ironic that the film that has been billed as Marvel's riskiest venture has turned out to be their biggest hit as the new entry of a franchise, but audience have truly taken to the space epic and on an empty weekend, there's nothing stopping it from topping for a fourth non-consecutive week. Audience fatigue is going to set in at this point but you can look back at Gravity, a film that lacked strong competition, as a comparison and see that at this point it's unlikely to fall too far from the tree. With a $17.1 million three-day take last weekend, it should be able to hold onto about two-thirds of its take which means about $10 million to $12 million.

Second place will likely to go the other overperformer from August, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Michael Bay-produced live-action film has been falling pretty comparably to most fanboy franchises, which is to say at a higher level than the unusually strong Guardians. The key for this franchise has been the marketing, which in the last stretch leading up to released focused (and continues to focus) on the film's titular characters and their personalities. That the film managed to successfully capture those familiar personalities is part of the movie's saving grace and has led it to a moderately good reception among audiences, even if critics hated it. The film is approaching a multiplier from its first weekend of three, which is well ahead of the 2.4 that Transformers: Age of Extinction managed. This suggests that audiences much preferred Turtles and have been spreading the word, even coming back on successive weekends. The bottom will likely drop out a bit this time around, and it should end up with around $7 million for the weekend, pushing it ever closer to the $180 million mark. It won't top $200 million by the end of its run but could get close to $190 million, which will be a great number.

The rest of holdovers from last weekend will take some hefty hits. If I Stay is looking at holds comparable to 2009's The Time Traveler's Wife and doesn't have a crowded marketplace for the female crowd, so it should be able to drop less than half for around $5 million. The November Man's B+ CinemaScore is balanced by its low critical regard and with the audience definitely skewing older, it is bound to be hit by low reviews more than it will be helped by good word of mouth. It'll fade around 40% for around $4.5 million to $5 million. As Above, So Below should take the requisite 50% to 60% hit of horror films to fall behind November Man and Sin City doesn't matter, as it's already fallen out of the top ten.

The one newcomer to theaters this weekend won't make much of a splash at all. That's The Identical, Freestyle Releasing's faith-based music tale. Faith-based films have become big business at the box office this season; analysts were shocked when Freestyle's God's Not Dead brought in $60.7 million during its run. Heaven Is For Real did even better for Sony with $91.4 million and even Son of God, a recut of the miniseries The Bible, finished with $59.7. Those films had strong grassroots efforts by Freestyle to appeal to Christian audiences and The Identical has the same, but it hasn't been registering as strongly by a long shot. Critical attention has been absolutely savage; it sits at an abysmal 4% on Rotten Tomatoes and is being considered one of the worst of the year. Of course, the other faith-based films weren't liked as well, but at least they had stars of a certain caliber (or at least a built-in audience from The Bible). The Identical has Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd, both of whom are legit stars but are deeply lacking in hits in recent years. Tracking for this one is very low; it shouldn't bring in more than $2 million to $3 million.

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

1. Guardians of the Galaxy - $11.8 million (-31%)
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - $6.6 million (-45%)
3. If I Stay - $5.1 million (-46%)
4. Let's Be Cops - $4.9 million (-41%)
5. The November Man - $4.7 million (-40%)
6. As Above, So Below - $3.9 million (-55%)
7. When the Game Stands Tall - $3.8 million (-37%)
8. The Giver - $3.4 million (-36%)
9. The Hundred-Foot Journey - $3.1 million (-35%)
10. The Identical - $2.7 million





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