THIS WEEKEND: It’s going to be “all Horton all weekend” including mammoth Saturday kiddie matinees. Because not even Hollywood can screw up Dr. Seuss so completely that audiences stay away. But also thanks to big name actors voicing the characters and that big plug on American Idol (where Jim Carrey was an ass in an elephant costume). “It was lame. But it was still 30 million people, or whatever the number is, watching the kids from American Idol at the premiere shaking hands with Steve Carell,” said one rival studio marketing exec. My box office gurus say Fox’s G-rated Horton Hears A Who! should finish the weekend in the $40sM or $50sM in really wide release (3,954 theaters) even though the studio is trying to lower expectations to “only $35M and maybe $40M if the weather breaks right for us.” But the reviews are great (87% on Rotten Tomatoes). The toon has a clear berth for the next couple of weeks, too. “Especially given no family competition over Easter, we will play to a big multiple,” a Fox exec told me last night.
Funny, even rival studios hope the pic does well. “Because we have been in a cycle where moviegoing has not been as big as any of us in the business would like. It’s not a permanent thing. But we’re waiting for that one movie that unlocks the gates again. Horton has the ingredients to do that,” said one competitor. Right now, rival studios think the only downside is the film skews very young and older kids may not buy tickets because they say the toon is lacking that Scrat-like character which tweens and teens like in the Ice Age franchise. But the parent-kid tracking is said to be big, especially with moms. “There’s still every reason to believe it’ll be a giant hit,” one marketing maven explains,. “Dr. Seuss properties are really really special.” Even reviewers are saying this pic is Dr. Seuss finally done right. Or, as Steve Carell told the Fox execs, “It’s nice to put some good out into the world.”
As my gurus said last week, Universal’s Doomsday from Rogue Pictures could go either way, meaning flopped or fueled. Seriously, as a Uni studio exec confided, “I honestly have no clue what it’ll do. The nature of these genre movies is why you don’t spend a lot to make them and why you don’t spend a lot to market them. You’re looking to have a couple of them break out each year, but you never know which ones they’re going to be.” Since the no-holds-barred hardcore action pic only cost $19 million to make, anything north of $8 million for Doomsday this weekend will make the studio ecstatic. Double digits over $10 mil? “We’ll be doing cartwheels”. Playing in only 1,936 venues, this movie’s appeal is psychographic rather than demographic, so those video game couch potatoes had better show up in theaters. Some rival studios think $10M to $12M mil is possible, but one marketer is downright cruel: “Doomsday is doing nothing. No one’s going to that.”
This weekend’s Never Back Down opening in 2,729 dates is the first developed, financed, produced and distributed film from Summit Entertainment in its new incarnation. The studio timed the release to capitalize on the upcoming Spring Break period which may explain why the ad campaign for this PG-13 street fighting pic “looks like they’re selling the Abercrombie & Fitch of it all,” one rival studio exec wisecracks. “They’re totally marketing the eye candy to appeal to a mass teen audience.” Since the negative cost of the movie is only $20 mil, and the film has been sold off quietly on the foreign side, the domestic number needed is low, thank god. The studio is hoping for $7M to $9M but some rival studios think it could bring in $10M to $12M. “Comps suggest that it’ll work even if it looks like a bad episode of The OC,” one rival marketer says. But I’m told total awareness is a low 43%.
TRACKING: Paramount thinks its March 21st comedy Drillbit Taylor under the Judd Apatow banner won’t do Superbad numbers because it’s a smaller high school movie even starring Owen Wilson. The studio is looking for box office numbers in the mid-teens. And the ad campaign has a laugh or two. Sony is high on the prospects for its card counting movie, 21, opening on March 28th. So is Universal for its George Clooney comedy Leatherheads on April 4th.