Forecast: 'Contagion' to Grip the Box Office
This weekend, Contagion spreads onto over 3,700 screens at 3,222 locations (including 257 IMAX venues) and is poised to end The Help's reign. Warrior trains to be a slow-burning crowd pleaser on close to 2,100 screens at 1,869 locations, while Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star and Creature should be contenders for the worst opening title, hitting 1,500 and 1,507 single-screen locations, respectively.

With a rash of familiar faces (Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, etc.) and deadly disease thriller storyline, Contagion recalls Outbreak, only with a darker, grittier, more global bent. Back in 1995, Outbreak debuted to $13.4 million or the equivalent of nearly $25 million adjusted for ticket price inflation. Contagion's infection and potential end-of-humanity angles also echo the recent zombie craze, and the movie's even opening in the same mid-September slot that the Resident Evil franchise is known for. Contagion's diffuseness, though, may not make it a threat to September's record books.

Mixed martial arts drama Warrior looks like the type of movie that people need a lot of convincing to see, and that's been reflected in its marketing campaign that has included extensive screenings, sneak previews, audience testimonials and more. Distributor Lionsgate believes that people will like Warrior if they see it, but such belief doesn't always translate to box office, as the distributor found with Peaceful Warrior, another sports drama with Nick Nolte that grossed $4 million from two releases. Outside of The Fighter and the Rocky franchise, the box office history of comparable fighting movies (Gladiator (1992), Streets of Gold, Price of Glory, Play It to the Bone, Annapolis, etc.) doesn't bode well for Warrior.

Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star is the latest comedy from Adam Sandler's Happy Madison Productons, but it's more Grandma's Boy than Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo. Its television ads feature some guy telling the audience that the movie is funny, but it doesn't even convey that the movie's about a porn star. With a title nearly as generic as Warrior's, Creature was a last-minute addition to the nationwide schedule and seems more amateurish and less appealing than the similar, sub-$1-million-grossing Venom from Sept. 2005.

In Box Office Mojo's reader polling, Contagion ran rampant, scoring 27.5 percent for opening weekend, which was stronger than The Adjustment Bureau (23.5 percent) but weaker than The Happening (32.5 percent) among past titles. Warrior sported just under 11 percent for opening weekend, trailing The Fighter's 16.1 percent. Bucky Larson logged a pathetic 2.1 percent for opening weekend, which was worse than such lows as The Virginity Hit, The Brothers Solomon and Let's Go to Prison. Creature wasn't polled.

The Forecast, Sept. 9-11

1. Contagion - $24 million

2. The Help - $10 million

3. Warrior - $8.5 million

4. The Debt - $5.5 million

5. Rise of the Planet of the Apes - $4.7 million

  • Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star - $1.6 million

  • Creature - $0.4 million

Bar for Success

Taking into account that it's a high-profile, all-star thriller but without the glamor, Contagion needs to break into the $20 million range. Warrior needs to get close to $10 million to firmly establish itself. Same goes for Bucky Larson. Creature has no shot at justifying its nationwide release.

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