For the weekend, The Conjuring should wind up with at least $35 million (probably closer to $40 million). Turbo could make it past $20 million, while Red 2 will fall just shy of that figure. Finally, R.I.P.D. is poised for less than $13 million.
Friday AM Update: The Conjuring earned $3.31 million from Thursday night shows, which is in line with last month's The Purge ($3.4 million). For the weekend, it should take first place with over $30 million.
Forecast: Exactly one year ago, The Dark Knight Rises opened to over $160 million. This weekend, it's going to be a much different story: for the first time this Summer, four movies are debuting nationwide, and it's unlikely that any of them open above $40 million.
With an effectively frightening marketing effort and without any real competition, well-reviewed supernatural horror movie The Conjuring should wind up in first place. Turbo and Red 2 should also have fine openings, while expensive comic book adaptation R.I.P.D. will likely be a major disappointment.
Opening at 2,903 locations, The Conjuring has nearly all of the ingredients of a horror hit. Horror movies dealing in the supernatural are consistently strong box office performers—look no further than January's Mama ($28.4 million debut) for a good example. It's also "based on a true story," and Warner Bros. has pushed this angle pretty hard in their marketing. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the movie looks legitimately terrifying; some commercials suggest that you shouldn't see it alone, which only adds to the impression that this is going to deliver the scares.
The one thing that might hold The Conjuring back, though, is its "R" rating. The best debut ever for an original R-rated horror movie belongs to last month's The Purge ($34.1 million), which narrowly topped supernatural horror movie The Devil Inside ($33.7 million). With a wider release, very aggressive marketing effort, strong reviews (which can't hurt), and zero horror competition, it wouldn't be surprising if The Conjuring set a new record this weekend.
Playing at 3,016 theaters, Red 2 arrives nearly three years after the first Red became a surprise hit. The geriatric action comedy—which starred Bruce Willis as a retired CIA agent forced back in to the game—opened fine with $21.8 million in October 2010, then rode good word-of-mouth to a $90.4 million total.
The marketing for Red 2 makes the movie look very similar to the first installment: once again, there's a hit out on Willis' character, and once again there's an emphasis on comical, over-the-top violence. The most-evident change is the addition of Catherine Zeta-Jones as a romantic rival to Mary-Louise Parker, though that's not likely to affect demand too much.
The best comparison for Red 2 may be The Expendables 2: both are tongue-in-cheek action sequels featuring an older cast, and both are follow-ups to well-received originals. If Red 2 performs like The Expendables 2, it would wind up with around $18 million this weekend.
Getting a jump on the weekend, DreamWorks Animation's Turbo opened at 3,551 locations on Wednesday ahead of expanding in to 3,806 venues on Friday. This is DreamWorks Animation's second release under their new distribution arrangement with 20th Century Fox; the first movie, The Croods, was a resounding success with $185.8 million at the domestic box office and nearly $400 million overseas.
The Croods had a wide-open schedule, though, while Turbo is opening on the heels of massive animated hits Monsters University and Despicable Me 2 (which combined for over $54 million last weekend). Family audiences only have so much cash to spend, and they've already put a lot of that towards those sure-thing sequels.
As for the movie itself, Turbo has essentially been sold as Cars for the Fast and Furious crowd, and the movie explicitly references part of this in its tagline ("He's Fast. They're Furious."). It looks different enough, and will likely play well through the remainder of the Summer, though it's going to get off to one of the slower starts among animated movies.
The movie opened to $5.5 million on Wednesday; based on other family-oriented movies opening on a non-holiday Wednesday, it will likely earn over $35 million by Sunday.
Box office reporters are likely getting their "R.I.P.D. is D.O.A." puns ready, and for good reason: the pricey comic book adaptation opens in 2,852 locations but so far seems like an afterthought among this weekend's releases. The movie features Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds as deceased police officers who are tasked with battling the undead on Earth; with previews showcasing a comedic tone and cartoony CGI action, R.I.P.D. appears derivative of Men in Black.
With a light marketing effort, negative buzz (there still aren't any reviews up as of 5 p.m. PT the day before opening), and overwhelming competition from newcomers and holdovers, it's unlikely that R.I.P.D. does much business this weekend. Don't be surprised if it winds up in line with other recent comic book adaptation bombs like The Losers ($9.4 million), Dredd ($6.3 million) and Jonah Hex ($5.4 million).
Kristen Wiig movie Girl Most Likely is receiving a moderate release (353 locations) this weekend. Distributor Roadside Attractions has had a handful of successful openings in that theater range, including past Wiig movie Friends with Kids ($2.02 million from 369 theaters). Unfortunately, Girl Most Likely has received awful reviews (17 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), which should deter some audience members. A debut around $1 million is likely.
Also opening in limited release this weekend is Only God Forgives, which re-teams Ryan Gosling with Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn. It's a day-and-date VOD release as well; distributor TWC-Radius has not reported a theater count yet, which suggests they may not report grosses this weekend either.
Forecast (July 19-21):
1. The Conjuring - $37.7 million
2. Turbo - $25.7 million ($36 million five-day)
3. Despicable Me 2 - $25.6 million (-41%)
4. Red 2 - $20.8 million
5. Grown Ups 2 - $20.4 million (-51%)
6. Pacific Rim - $15.6 million (-58%)
-. R.I.P.D. - $7.8 million
Bar for Success
As an original animated movie, the bar isn't too high for Turbo—if it hits $40 million through its first five days, it's in good shape. The first Red opened to $21.8 million in 2010, so Red 2 should really be reaching at least $20 million.
The Conjuring is a fairly cheap horror movie, meaning anything above $15 million or so is a win (it's going to do much, much more than this). Finally, as an expensive comic book adaptation, R.I.P.D. should be opening to at least $20 million.
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• Last Weekend's Report: 'Pacific Rim' Loses to Family Sequels
• Summer 2013 Forecast
• 2013 Preview