6/9 Forecast: Finally, audiences will find out whether the emperor has any clothes or not. Super 8 will be unleashed on approximately 5,300 screens at 3,379 locations this weekend (including 240 in IMAX), and it's doing sneak previews today at 324 locations (including 239 in IMAX).
Director and lens flare enthusiast J.J. Abrams has played the mystery card again with Super 8, just like he did with Cloverfield and his television series Lost. Super 8's been obtusely marketed as a monster movie in the sense-of-wonder style of Steven Spielberg's '70s and '80s movies (i.e., people looking up at something off-camera with their mouths agape), only without providing a glimpse of the monster or alien or whatever the heck it is.
The Spielberg homage extends to the movie's early June release date, which is in line with Spielberg's key directorial efforts (Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial) and productions (Poltergeist, Gremlins, The Goonies) of the early-to-mid 1980s.
"It has escaped. It has a plan. On June 10, find out why it's here," Super 8's television ads beckoned, showing eye-catching, real-world effects, such as a car twirling in the air. Abrams and company have banked on audiences wanting to know what "it" is. Now, they better deliver or feel the wrath that M. Night Shyamalan experienced with The Village and other movies.
Super 8 needs to be more than a kid-friendly Cloverfield in a small town to succeed. Unfortunately, it's shaping up to be just that. After the marketing started building some momentum last month, it's derailed in recent weeks, including desperate pandering on American Idol and the MTV Movie Awards. The latest ads have taken a monster thriller angle and have also revealed that the creature is super-intelligent and potentially benevolent, all the while unclear on story or purpose. What's more, the ads have always relied too much on the Abrams and Spielberg names, rather than selling the actual picture.
Abrams may think he's preserving the moviegoing experience by being such a tease, but you have to first get people into the theaters before they can even have a moviegoing experience. Cloverfield only had mystery about what the creature looked like, and it wasn't as muddled as Super 8 at this point. Abrams and company act like people want to see movies that they don't know much about, when it's actually story that drives moviegoing, helping people to make decisions with their hard-earned money. Given how pedestrian Super 8 has turned out in its ads, the mystery angle seems like a ruse to disguise that there's no there there. Note to Abrams: Though people didn't literally see the shark in Jaws until near the end of the movie, they still knew it was a shark before buying tickets.
Super 8 has generated solid interest in Box Office Mojo's "when will you see it" reader polling, scoring 47.4 percent for opening weekend (as of this writing). Then again, so did Battle: Los Angeles (44.8 percent) and The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) (42.1 percent). Cloverfield had nearly 56 percent for "opening weekend" at this point. These poll results seem to suggest an opening weekend range of $27-38 million for Super 8.
Since industry tracking hasn't been so hot for Super 8, distributor Paramount Pictures has attempted to keep expectations in check, projecting a $25-30 million opening, and they were spot on with Kung Fu Panda 2. If that happens, that would be a failure for such a high-profile release. For perspective, Shyamalan's The Happening opened to $30.5 million on the comparable June weekend in 2008. Now, one can counter that Super 8 is angling to be a long-playing, word-of-mouth hit, but that's not something that can be counted on.
Also opening this weekend is Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer at 2,524 locations, while Midnight in Paris expands nationwide, rising to 944 locations from 147 last weekend. Both should post modest numbers, though Midnight should be relatively stronger.
The Forecast, June 10-12
1. Super 8 - $34 million
2. X-Men: First Class - $23 million
3. Kung Fu Panda 2 - $14.5 million
4. The Hangover Part II - $14.5 million
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - $9.5 million
6. Bridesmaids - $9 million
7. Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer - $6 million
8. Midnight in Paris - $5.5 million
Bar for Success
Make no mistake, Super 8 is no underdog in a sea of giant franchise fare. The marketing has been just as relentless and ubiquitous as any other wannabe blockbuster (including a Super Bowl spot), maybe even moreso (it seems like only Green Lantern tops it on this front). This movie should be pulling in over $40 million this weekend to be deemed worthy.
• June Preview
• Extended Summer Forecast: 'Harry Potter,' 'Transformers' & More Vie for Top Gross
• 'Super 8'
• 'Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer'