For crissakes! Like TV viewers haven’t been bombarded enough with NBC promos about the August 8th start of the Beijing Summer Olympics, now moviegoers to sister company Universal’s product will be equally assailed. I’m told that the choice of setting The Mummy 3: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor in China was made to include Jet Li and unlock a new chapter in the location and culture of mummies without regard to the Olympics. But the decision to move the release to this weekend absolutely was. So, too, the inclusion of a bunch of pre-pic theater ads promoting NBC’s coverage of the Beijing Olympics. “We thought it would be mutually beneficial as the world’s attention focused on China. So there are a series of co-branding spots with NBC,” a Uni exec tells me. Trust me, you’ll wish that dancing box of popcorn was back on the big screen…
This is more a relaunch than a threequel to The Mummy series. The Mummy debuted back in 1999 to $43.3M its first weekend, while The Mummy Returns opened back in 2001 for $68.1M. And let’s not forget that 2002 spin-off The Scorpion King‘s $36M. With an enormous release into 3,759 theaters and a good marketing campaign trumping dreadful reviews (only 27% positive among top critics), my box office gurus mostly agree that Mummy 3 should make at least mid to high $40sM. And it wouldn’t shock them if the number is $50+M. “I don’t think that’s out of line given the history of the franchise and Rob Cohen is at the helm,” one rival studio marketer told me. Even Universal sees the “possibility” of high $40sM despite the usual studio game of lowered expectations. But another analyst asked: “It’s like The Fast And The Furious franchise: how many times can Uni go to the well and manage to pull it off? It’s certainly possible for it to lose its mojo.”
The general feeling is that Mummy 3 should end the weekend as No. 1. “But if The Dark Knight is down less than 45% it could give Mummy a run for the money,” an expert at a rival studio warns me. Of course Warner Bros is sitting pretty while every day the Batman pic sets speed records on its fast approach to $400M gross from North American theaters.
Sony’s holdover Step Brothers should easily take No. 3 with $14 mil for the weekend, while close behind at No. 4 will be that other veteran Mamma Mia! with $11M. But all my gurus smell the stink surrounding Disney’s debut of Swing Vote. I gotta ask: why in the world did anyone make this pic with box office poison Kevin Costner? Well, no one did since Costner claims to the Los Angeles Times he put up $20+ mil of his own money to finance this soon-to-be-bomb. Notice the wide swing: my experts say the election comedy, playing in 2,213 venues, could earn as much as $10M and as little as $4M. Ouch!