At 3,303 locations, Paddington is shaping up to be a solid choice for family moviegoers this weekend. The movie was originally scheduled to open on Christmas Day; recognizing that there was an abundance of family options around that time, the Weinstein Company smartly moved Paddington back to this less crowded mid-January date.
In the past, Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend has proved a good launching pad for family movies. Last year, The Nut Job earned $25.7 million over the four-day weekend, while Beauty and the Beast (3D) took in $22.2 million over the long weekend back in 2012. With great reviews (97 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and a solid marketing effort, Paddington seems poised to open in a similar range.
Opening at 2,567 theaters, Michael Mann's Blackhat will probably be the odd man out this weekend. While Mann has a vocal fan base, it's unlikely his brand has much influence after a decade in which his only output was Miami Vice and Public Enemies. Meanwhile, star Chris Hemsworth has tons of fans as well—thanks mostly to his work as Thor—though that didn't help 2013's Rush ($26.9 million).
Blackhat's biggest problem is that, quite frankly, it doesn't look all that appealing. The blending of blurry action sequences with a computer hacking storyline makes for an odd mix, while Hemsworth's role as a "Blackhat hacker" doesn't jive with his "Sexiest Man Alive" status. It also doesn't help that the movie has, for the most part, received poor reviews (as of Thursday afternoon, it was at 32 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). When faced with the choice of seeing this or American Sniper, are there that many people who are going to choose Blackhat? Probably not.
The movie should do substantially better overseas, specifically in Asia. A significant portion of the action takes place in Hong Kong and Jakarta, and most of the cast—excluding Hemsworth and Viola Davis—are of Asian descent.
Lionsgate/Pantelion is releasing Spare Parts at 440 locations this weekend. Sporting a solid cast that includes George Lopez, Jamie Lee Curtis and Marisa Tomei, the movie tells the true story of four Hispanic high school students who go up against MIT's team in a national robotics championship.
Lionsgate and Pantelion have had some success with moderate releases targeted toward Hispanic moviegoers; the biggest of these, by far, is Instructions Not Included, which earned $44.5 million in 2012. That was a special case, though, and it's more likely that Spare Parts winds up in the same ballpark as 2013 releases Cantinflas ($6.4 million) and Cesar Chavez ($5.6 million).
Alzheimer's disease drama Still Alice is opening in at least a dozen locations tomorrow. While the movie has received mixed reviews, its box office prospects are solid thanks to the buzz surrounding Julianne Moore's lead performance: she just won a Golden Globe on Sunday, and received an Oscar nomination on Thursday. Look for it to earn at least $20,000 per-theater this weekend.
After earning nearly $9 million over two months in limited release, Foxcatcher finally expands nationwide this weekend (to 759 theaters). The Sony Pictures Classics drama just scored five Academy Award nominations, four of which were in major categories; it was conspicuously absent from the Best Picture list, however. Even so, look for the movie to take in over $1 million this weekend.
Weekend Forecast (January 16-18)
1. American Sniper - $42 million ($49 million four-day)
2. The Wedding Ringer - $22 million ($26 million four-day)
3. Paddington - $17 million ($22 million four-day)
4. Taken 3 - $15.5 million (-60%)
5. Selma - $8.7 million (-23%)
6. Blackhat - $8 million ($9.4 million four-day)
Bar for Success
American Sniper would be in good shape if it hit $30 million over the four-day weekend; while that may seem modest, it is essentially in line with Zero Dark Thirty.
Kevin Hart's About Last Night opened to $25.6 million over its first three days, which is a number that The Wedding Ringer ought to be matching over four.
On this same long weekend last year, animated movie The Nut Job earned $25.7 million. Paddington doesn't need to open quite as high, though it should be clearing $20 million.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit took in $18 million on this weekend last year, and was viewed as a disappointment. Anything lower than $15 million for Blackhat should be treated the same way.
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