Forecast: 'Jack' Unlikely to 'Slay' at the Box Office This Weekend
Coming off a few very slow weekends, the box office should recover a bit in the first weekend of March thanks to four new nationwide releases.

Unfortunately, the same weekend last year saw the arrival of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax and Project X, which combined to earn over $90 million through their first three days. Even if Jack the Giant Slayer, 21 and Over and The Last Exorcism Part II all overperform, there's no way they'll match that number, which means this will be the latest 2013 weekend that lags behind its 2012 equivalent.

Jack the Giant Slayer is poised to open in first place this weekend, though it probably won't earn enough to avoid being dubbed the first big-budget disaster of 2013. The $195 million fantasy adventure—loosely based on the "Jack and the Beanstalk" folktale—has been plagued by issues for what feels like years now. Directed by X-Men's Bryan Singer, the movie was originally titled Jack the Giant Killer and scheduled for June 2012, but was bumped back to early 2013 and given a softer title in an attempt to appeal more to family audiences.

Warner Bros. marketing effort has been somewhat light for a movie with such a high budget, suggesting they aren't very bullish on its prospects. The material that is out there is heavy on awkward computer-generated giants and light on story, and it makes the movie appear to be too violent for younger audiences and too silly for older ones.

Big-budget fantasy movies like 10,000 B.C. and John Carter have been underwhelming in this time slot. With its bloated budget and CG-heavy world, Carter seems like the best comparable title for Jack; unfortunately, Carter had a blockbuster-level marketing push from Disney, while Jack hasn't gotten a ton of support from Warner Bros. As a result, it's likely to open below Carter's $30.2 million.

With its Hangover connection and its focus on younger R-rated debauchery, 21 and Over seems targeted at the same audience that got Project X to $21.05 million on this weekend last year. Similar to Warner Bros.'s Project X strategy, distributor Relativity Media has executed a focused word-of-mouth screening campaign. It doesn't seem like the feedback is being leveraged as well as it was with Project X, which prominently featured Twitter quotes as part of its marketing effort. In general, the buzz feels lower on 21 and Over, and Relativity is also expecting lower grosses ($13 to $15 million for the weekend).

At 2,700 locations, The Last Exorcism Part II arrives in theaters two-and-a-half years after The Last Exorcism earned a surprisingly solid $41 million. With the exception of Paranormal Activity 2—which was following up a nearly unprecedented word-of-mouth hit—horror sequels almost always open lower than the original movie. A great example here is The Grudge 2, which opened 47 percent below its predecessor; by dropping the original's popular found footage aspect, there's a good chance The Last Exorcism Part II takes a similar dive from the first movie's $20.4 million (distributor CBS Films is expecting low-teen-millions at best).

First-time distributor RCR is releasing submarine thriller Phantom in to over 2,000 theaters despite the fact that it has barely received any marketing push. While submarine movies are generally popular, awareness is so low that the movie won't even crack the Top 10 this weekend.

Finally, Fox Searchlight unveils Stoker at seven locations this weekend. While it has an interesting aesthetic, and should get a minor boost from Nicole Kidman fans, the mixed reviews will keep it from reaching huge per-theater averages at this weekend's arthouse locations.

Forecast (March 1-3)

1. Jack the Giant Slayer - $26.1 million

2. 21 and Over - $14.7 million

3. The Last Exorcism Part II - $12.5 million

4. Identity Thief - $10.1 million (-28%)

Bar for Success

Jack the Giant Slayer needs to at least match John Carter's $30.2 million, though even then it won't be poised for a very profitable run. It's unreasonable to expect 21 and Over to match Project X's $21.05 million, so $15 million seems like a fair level for a pass. The Last Exorcism Part II also shouldn't be expected to match its predecessor, though it still needs to retain some of its audience—it would be in great shape at $15 million.

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