Dark Shadows, the eighth collaboration between director Tim Burton and star Johnny Depp, is the sole new nationwide release this weekend, and it's opening at a substantial 3,755 locations. Unfortunately, the movie has absolutely no chance of stealing the top spot away from The Avengers, which is coming off a record-setting $207.4 million opening weekend.
Dark Shadows is based on the daytime soap opera of the same name which ran from 1966 to 1971. Vampire Barnabas Collins, played by Depp in the movie, didn't appear on the show until the second season in 1967, but the character's presence was a major reason why the show was fairly popular at the time. Dark Shadows does maintain a bit of a cult following to this day, and some older audience members remember it fondly, but the source material connection isn't the main attraction for the upcoming Warner Bros. release.
Instead, the driving force behind most attendance this weekend will be to see what Burton and Depp, two of the most prolific collaborators in modern cinema, have come up with this time. Depp has starred in eight of Burton's movies beginning in 1990, when Depp's role in Edward Scissorhands catapulted him from TV heartthrob to respected big-screen actor. The two are coming off Alice in Wonderland, which is their biggest hit yet with $334.2 million, and they also scored recently with 2005's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ($206.5 million).
With its nearly black-and-white palette and gothic, sporadically violent premise, though, Dark Shadows skews a bit closer to R-rated Burton and Depp fare like Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Sleepy Hollow (though Dark Shadows is PG-13). Sleepy Hollow was a hit with $101.1 million in 1999, but Sweeney Todd disappointed with just $52.9 million in 2007. Dark Shadows does have more intentional comedy, though, and previews emphasize the fish-out-of-water jokes (Depp's vampire awakens in the 1970s after being imprisoned in a coffin for 200 years) and an outlandish sex scene while mostly avoiding any vampiric violence (or the semblance of a story, for that matter).
Even for somewhat obscure properties, big-budget TV adaptations tend to open to at least $25 million (Land of the Lost is a notable exception), and with Depp and Burton it's easy to think that Dark Shadows will wind up much higher. Unfortunately, the movie is opening in the shadows of The Avengers, and the second weekend of May is a notoriously difficult time to debut. Warner Bros. has released movies on this weekend a few times in the past decade—they got a strong debut from Troy in 2004 ($46.9 million), but stumbled with Poseidon ($22.2 million) and Speed Racer ($18.6 million) in 2006 and 2008. It doesn't help that Dark Shadows is at a middling 44 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, which will probably drive more discerning viewers to check out The Avengers or perhaps even The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
Dark Shadows is also opening in 42 overseas markets this weekend, including all major territories except Japan (May 19), Brazil and Mexico (both June 22). On Wednesday, the movie earned a very solid $770,000 in France.
With its rare "A+" CinemaScore and solid holds throughout the week, there's been speculation that The Avengers could score a second weekend north of $100 million. Unfortunately, when a movie opens that big ($207.4 million, in this case), it's always in line for a steep second weekend decline. Every movie that's ever opened above $120 million has dropped at least 50 percent in its second weekend—the best hold among that group came from 2008's The Dark Knight, which fell 52.5 percent to a then-record $75.2 million. If The Avengers equals that, it will just barely miss $100 million. Regardless, it's practically a foregone conclusion that the movie beats Avatar's $75.6 million second weekend record.
Forecast (May 11-13)
1. The Avengers - $95.4 million (-54%)
2. Dark Shadows - $33.3 million
Bar for Success
With Burton and Depp, and a release date to itself, Dark Shadows should be opening to at least $35 million, which would put it at the high-end for TV adaptations.
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• Last Weekend's Forecast: 'The Avengers' Takes Aim at Opening Weekend Record
• Last Weekend Report: 'Avengers' Smashes Records
• May Preview
• Summer 2012 Domestic Forecast