Forecast: 'Five-Year' Will Likely Lead Last Weekend of Spring
On what will forever be known as "that weekend before The Avengersopened," four new nationwide releases hit theaters. With its strong cast and connection to Bridesmaids, The Five-Year Engagement appears to have the best chance of finishing in first, though its theater count (2,936) trails that of Aardman Animation flick The Pirates! Band of Misfits (3,358). The Raven and Safe also debut this weekend, though neither of these titles has much of a chance of cracking the Top Three.

The Five-Year Engagement reteams Forgetting Sarah Marshall writer-director Nicholas Stoller with writer-actor Jason Segel. That movie opened to $17.7 million in April 2008 on its way to $63.2 million, and it's fairly well-regarded among comedy fans today (it has a 7.3 rating on IMDb, which is identical to the rating for Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin). For The Five-Year Engagement, though, the Forgetting Sarah Marshall connection has taken a backseat to a potentially much more powerful one—the movie is also the latest from producer Judd Apatow, who brought last May's wedding comedy sensation Bridesmaids ($169.1 million total) to the big screen.

With an identical pink and white font scheme and a consistent producer citation in nearly all advertisements, Universal's marketing campaign has essentially made The Five-Year Engagement look like a spin-off to Bridesmaids. The movie isn't receiving quite as much buzz at this point, though, and it's a more competitive marketplace for female-skewing movies (Think Like a Man, The Lucky One and The Hunger Games should account for at least $35 million in ticket sales this weekend). Still, with a wedding angle targeting women and the Apatow R-rated humor targeting men, The Five-Year Engagement should be a strong date night choice this weekend. Universal is modestly projecting an opening in the low-teen-millions.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits is the latest movie from Aardman Animation, and it's their first stop-motion effort since 2005's Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Aardman movies have opened consistently between $16 and $19 million, and that even includes Arthur Christmas when looking at its five-day Thanksgiving debut. Bringing pirates in to the mix should help keep things at around the same level, and the movie should also benefit from the fact that it's the first animated offering in nearly two months. So far, The Pirates! has earned at least $56 million overseas, and Sony is expecting around $10 million in domestic coin this weekend.

The Raven finds author Edgar Allen Poe entwined in a gothic serial killer investigation that calls to mind From Hell, which opened to $11 million in 2001. Putting Poe on the case is also reminiscent of the movie The Brothers Grimm ($15.1 million debut), which had the titular author duo battling the kind of creatures they may have written about. Opening somewhere in between these two movies is probably the best case scenario for The Raven, which Relativity Media has modestly marketed after acquiring U.S. rights for $4 million. The studio is currently expecting between $8 and $10 million for the weekend.

Jason Statham has successfully established himself as a high-octane action star over the past decade, and lately his movies have performed at a fairly consistent (albeit not very high) level. Safe fits firmly in to this mold, though Statham isn't receiving any assistance this time either from a big-name star like Robert De Niro (Killer Elite) or an established brand (Transporter 3). Lionsgate has released a handful of Statham movies, including Crank: High Voltage ($7 million opening) in April 2009, and they are expecting between $6 and $8 million this weekend.

Weekend Forecast (April 27-29)

1. The Five-Year Engagement - $22.5 million

2. Think Like a Man - $17.8 million (-47%)

3. The Pirates! - $16.3 million

4. The Lucky One - $11.3 million (-50%)

5. The Hunger Games - $10.4 million (-29%)

6. The Raven - $10.1 million

7. Safe - $7.5 million

Bar for Success

The Five-Year Engagement needs to reach the $17.5 million that Nick Stoller's two previous projects did. With a super-wide release, The Pirates! Band of Misfits ought to open to the Aardman standard of $16 million. The Raven is in great shape if it can get close to $15 million, while Safe is fine if it gets over $10 million.

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