Forecast: Will 'Ninja Turtles' Take Down 'Guardians' This Weekend?

by Ray Subers
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

August 7, 2014

Friday AM Update: Playing at 2,651 locations, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles earned an estimated $4.6 million from late Thursday shows. Among Summer 2014 releases, that's ahead of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ($4.1 million), Maleficent ($4 million) and Lucy ($2.75 million).

While those aren't all apples-to-apples comparisons—Apes opened at 10 p.m., while Turtles started at 7 p.m.—it still suggests that the movie will have no problem earning over $40 million this weekend (Paramount is now expecting mid-to-high $40 millions).

Meanwhile, Into The Storm opened to $800,000.

Forecast: On what should be another busy August weekend, the latest big-screen version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will attempt to take first place ahead of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy.

That could be easier said than done. Marvel's last three movies have all dropped between 56 and 58 percent in their second weekends, and there's little reason to expect Guardians will have a steeper decline than that. With strong word-of-mouth, enthusiastic reviews and impressive mid-week numbers (the biggest Tuesday/Wednesday of the year so far), Guardians may actually have a lighter drop. Look for it to earn at least $40 million—perhaps quite a bit more—this weekend.

Opening at 3,845 theaters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles could wind up higher than Guardians. Paramount is expecting low-$40-millions, while Fandango is reporting that the movie is out-selling both G.I. Joe movies (the last one, Retaliation, earned $51 million in its first four days).

While the Turtles did appear in animated form on the big-screen a few years ago, this is the first "live-action" version of the characters since 1993's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III. The movie is produced by Michael Bay, who has guided similar Paramount franchise Transformers to astonishing levels at the box office. Reinforcing the Transformers connection, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles features Megan Fox as the Turtles reporter friend April O'Neil.

While Bay and the Transformers franchise has plenty of fans, that factor is secondary to the power of the Turtles brand itself. Many who grew up in the 80s and 90s have fond memories of the original movies and TV shows, and will almost certainly be curious about this latest big-screen version. Meanwhile, present-day children have connected with the brand as well: Nickelodeon, a producer on the movie, has an immensely popular animated Turtles show on the air right now.

A strong brand and an aggressive marketing effort can only get the movie so far, though. The franchise-low domestic numbers for the latest Transformers movie suggest that the Bay connection isn't as much of a draw as it once was. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles also looks like it fits in to that weird gray area where it's too silly for older moviegoers and too violent for youngsters (it's the first Turtles movie to get a PG-13 rating). Add in horrible reviews—around 16 percent on Rotten Tomatoes—and moviegoers who are on the fence may opt to skip this.

Of course, the big play here is international, where producer Michael Bay's brand holds more sway. The movie opens in 17 markets, including Russia and Mexico, this weekend; ultimately, it would be shocking if this earned less than $200 million overseas.

Into The Storm opens at 3,434 locations, and should take third place this weekend ahead of Lucy and the other newcomers. Marketing for the movie has first-and-foremost sold it as something to be experienced: using effects that have surely improved in the two decades since Twister, Into the Storm appears to put viewers on the ground during a major tornado disaster.

While that approach has its advantages—most notably, that it encourages viewing on the biggest screen possible—it's done at the expense of character or story. The most successful disaster movies give the audience some kind of on-screen surrogate: Jake Gyllenhaal and Dennis Quaid in The Day After Tomorrow, George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg in The Perfect Storm, and even Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt in Twister.

In comparison, Into the Storm's Richard Armitage and Sarah Wayne Callies are barely featured in the marketing material (not to mention they're far less recognizable than any of the previously-mentioned actors). Without any characters of interest, Into the Storm has the feel of a bigger-budget version of a SyFy Channel original movie—albeit without the killer sharks.

Add in horrible reviews (hovering around 11 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and Into the Storm's audience will be limited to the most decided thrill-seekers. An opening weekend in the mid-teens ($13-$17 million) seems likely.

The Hundred-Foot Journey and Step Up All In are also opening this weekend, though neither is expected to make a huge dent in the box office. At 2,023 theaters, The Hundred-Foot Journey tells the true story of two rival restaurants in the French countryside. Starring Helen Mirren, the movie's focus on the joy of cooking calls to mind past August hits Julie & Julia and Eat Pray Love, both of which earned over $80 million.

Even with the backing of Oprah and Steven Spielberg, though, The Hundred-Foot Journey doesn't seem to be attracting the same level of interest. With middling reviews (below 60 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and a modest release, it's likely that the movie winds up in the same range as Million Dollar Arm this weekend ($10.5 million).

Step Up All In, the fifth installment in the dance movie franchise, opens at 2,072 theaters this weekend. The first Step Up earned $65.3 million, and it may be best known now for introducing Channing Tatum to moviegoers. Since then, each outing has earned less than the previous one at the domestic box office; the most recent entry, 2012's Step Up Revolution, wound up with just $35.1 million.

Step Up All In brings back cast members from each of the previous movies, which could help it slow down the bleeding. Still, with a modest release, it would be surprising if it matched the last movie's $11.7 million debut.

As is the case with most sequels these days, this franchise is still active thanks to strong international interest. The last movie earned $105 million overseas; this one has already grossed $26.2 million, and should ultimately close near the $100 million mark as well.

Romantic comedy What If opens at 20 locations this weekend. The movie is receiving solid reviews, and star Daniel Radcliffe has been working hard to get the message out. Still, don't expect a huge per-theater average this weekend; it appears to be the kind of movie that's meant more for mainstream audiences than arthouse crowds.

Forecast (August 8-10)
1. Guardians of the Galaxy - $43.4 million (-54%)
2. Ninja Turtles - $42 million
3. Into the Storm - $14 million
4. Step Up All In - $10.1 million
5. Lucy - $10 million (-45%)
6. Hundred-Foot Journey - $9.5 million

Bar for Success
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ought to be at least matching G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which opened to $40.5 million after burning off some demand with a Thursday launch. Into the Storm gets a pass over $15 million, while Step Up All In and The Hundred-Foot Journey need to top $10 million.

Discuss this story with fellow Box Office Mojo fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @boxofficemojo, and follow author Ray Subers at @raysubers.

Related Stories:
Last Weekend's Report: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Obliterates August Record
Last Weekend's Forecast: 'Guardians' To Take Off With August Record
Summer 2014 Forecast

3/18 'Black Panther' Tops $600M Domestically While 'I Can Only Imagine' Surprises with $17M Debut
3/15 Can 'Black Panther' Fend Off 'Tomb Raider' for Fifth Straight Weekend at #1?
3/11 'Black Panther' Remains Box Office King, Topping $1 Billion Worldwide
3/8 Disney's 'A Wrinkle in Time' and 'Black Panther' Compete for the Weekend's Top Spot
3/4 'Black Panther' Tops $500 Million, Becoming Tenth Largest Domestic Release All-Time
3/1 'Black Panther' Preps for Third Weekend at #1 as 'Red Sparrow' & 'Death Wish' Debut
> MORE: News | Features
WEEKEND: Weekend Estimates, 'Black Panther' #1
DAILY: Friday Estimates, 'Tomb Raider' #1
WEEKLY: 'Black Panther' Tops the Week with $57.49m
DAILY: Thursday 3/15 (45 tracked)
DAILY: Wednesday, 3/14 (42 tracked)
DAILY: Tuesday, 3/13 (42 tracked)
New MPAA Ratings Added
DAILY: Monday, 3/12 (42 tracked)