Forecast: 'Conan' and Company Not Likely to Slay Audiences
Update: From Thursday night shows that started at 9 p.m., Fright Night drew an estimated $400,000 at over 1,700 locations.

Forecast: Between the openings of three 3D movies trying to recapture a bygone era, Conan the Barbarian, Fright Night and Spy Kids: All the Time in the World, and holdovers The Help and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, this weekend is a free-for-all for the top spot. That speaks to the relative weakness of the new movies and the strength of the holdovers. The Help, in particular, is on track for a second weekend in the high teen millions at least, which will likely be all it takes to emerge victorious.

Spy Kids 4 attacks the most locations: 3,295 (including around 1,300 showing it in 3D, and all of them will have "smell-o-vision"-type cards dubbed "Aroma-scope" handed out). Fright Night lashes out at 3,114 locations (including 2,220 showing it in 3D), and Conan hits 3,015 locations (including roughly 2,100 showing it in 3D). All three movies are estimated to have screen counts in the 4,000 range. One Day brings up the rear with 1,719 single-screen locations.

In terms of promised spectacle, Conan the Barbarian is the big gun, but that doesn't necessarily translate to the highest gross. Fantasy or ancient action movies have been a mixed bag, and the similar past August titles in particular have been busts, including The 13th Warrior, Kull the Conqueror and The Last Legion. The new Conan has taken a generic approach in its marketing, lacking strong characters, and it's unlikely to be as popular as the 1982 Conan the Barbarian, which was the 17th highest-grossing movie of its year and made the equivalent of over $107 million, normalized for ticket-price inflation. The new Conan's ads have also pushed 3D with the line "3D gets barbaric," which contradicts the 3D industry's aim to be state-of-the-art. "Barbaric" 3D doesn't sound like a pleasant experience. What, do knives sprout from the 3D glasses and rip into your skull?

The Fright Night remake has been pitched as a Disturbia-like take on the vampire movie, stressing the thrills over the laughs. Unromantic vampire movies have typically done modest numbers, but, since this could appeal to both young males and females, it may have more potential than the testosterone-drenched Conan. The original Fright Night was the 35th highest-grossing movie of 1985 and made the equivalent of $56 million, adjusted for ticket-price inflation.

Box Office Mojo's "when will you see it" reader polling bears this out. Conan was close to 13 percent for opening weekend, below most of its comps, while Fright Night was near 15 percent for opening weekend, beating Priest (and even Disturbia).

Based on the success of its predecessors, Spy Kids 4 would seem like a contender, but it's been eight years since Spy Kids 3D: Game Over. The original Kids are no longer kids, and the same could be said for most of the original audience. The new movie seems closer in appeal to director Robert Rodriguez's Shorts and The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3D than its predecessors. What's more, in its marketing, it looks like something parents would have to be dragged to by their kids far more than something like The Smurfs. Polling at 4.5 percent for opening weekend, Spy Kids 4's drawing power appears comparable to Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, another 3D sequel to a long-dormant kids spy movie from last summer.

Meanwhile, One Day has barely registered with its modest marketing campaign, and that's reflected in its low 4.6 percent opening-weekend score in the polling.

The Forecast, Aug. 19-21

1. The Help - $17.5 million

2. Fright Night - $16.5 million

3. Rise of the Planet of the Apes - $15.5 million

4. Conan the Barbarian - $15 million

5. Spy Kids: All the Time in the World - $12 million

  • One Day - $5.5 million

Bar for Success

Conan the Barbarian is the wannabe event picture of the crop, but its genre is far from bulletproof, so a start in the $20 million range would be passable. Since Spy Kids 4 arrives eight years after its predecessor, it doesn't have the same burden to perform, but it still needs $20 million plus to show its box office relevance. Given that unromantic vampire movies don't have a history of breaking out, Fright Night could claim an opening in the high teen million range as a success. The bar is low for One Day, but it's still the sort of movie that should be doing $10 million or more its first weekend.

Related Stories:

Last Weekend's Forecast: Death Won't Take the 'Apes'

Ad Fidelity: 'Fright Night'

August Preview

Comps for:

'Conan the Barbarian'

'Fright Night'

'One Day'

'Spy Kids: All the Time in the World'