Forecast: Efron, Harvey Should Finally Defeat 'Hunger Games'

by Ray Subers
The Lucky One

April 19, 2012

After ruling for four weeks, it's a foregone conclusion that The Hunger Games will finally give up its place atop the box office—the big question, though, is whether The Lucky One or Think Like a Man winds up replacing it. Nicholas Sparks romance The Lucky One, opening in 3,155 locations this weekend, has seemed like the safe bet for a while now. However, Think Like a Man appears to be receiving a surge of interest, and Sony/Screen Gems has managed to get the movie in to 2,015 theaters (up from an estimate of 1,800). Also opening this weekend is Disneynature's fourth documentary, Chimpanzee, though it's only reaching 1,563 theaters and could end up outside of the Top Five.

The Lucky One is the seventh movie adapted from a Nicholas Sparks novel, and for the most part the movies have been at least mildly successful. The most recent adaptations both arrived in the first quarter of 2010—Dear John took the top spot from Avatar at the beginning of February with $30.5 million, and The Last Song scored $25.4 million in its five-day opening. With its military connection, The Lucky One is closest thematically to Dear John, though the two leads aren't nearly as strong. Dear John had Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried, while The Lucky One has Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling.

Schilling's biggest theatrical credit to date is from Atlas Shrugged: Part I, which bombed last year with just $4.6 million. With High School Musical 3: Senior Year and 17 Again, Zac Efron has obviously had a lot more success, though his last foray in to drama—Charlie St. Cloud—disappointed with just $31.2 million total. Just because the Efron/Schilling pairing isn't as strong as Tatum/Seyfried doesn't mean that The Lucky One can't succeed on its own terms, though—ads have highlighted the steamy romance while establishing some conflict, and the movie will certainly be a strong choice for young women this weekend.

Though The Lucky One has the Sparks/Efron pedigree, Think Like a Man could wind up playing spoiler this weekend. Based on Steve Harvey's popular book of the same name, Think Like a Man is a comedy that appears to play out a battle of the sexes when women start doing what the title says, much to the chagrin of the men involved. If that premise wasn't enough to get date night audiences invested, the movie has a strong ensemble cast made up of (mostly) African-American actors like Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy and Romany Malco on the men's side and Regina Hall, Taraji P. Henson and Gabrielle Union on the women's side. Sony's Screen Gems division has been generally successful when targeting African American audiences—virtually all of these movies open over $15 million, and Obsessed debuted to $28.6 million around this time in 2009.

A more modest, but also more accurate comparison is April 2010 comedy Death at a Funeral, which opened to $16.2 million on its way to $42.7 million. Think Like a Man's cast isn't quite as well-known (Death at a Funeral had Chris Rock and Tracy Morgan, among many others), but its premise is far more appealing. Sony is expecting at least $17 million for the weekend, though with a massive 42 percent of Thursday's ticket sales on Fandango, the movie could wind up significantly higher than that.

Chimpanzee is Disneynature's fourth movie released in conjunction with Earth Day following Earth ($32 million), Oceans ($19.4 million) and most recently African Cats ($15.4 million). The movies have had steadily-declining grosses, though that's at least in part due to a consistent narrowing of scope. Considering Chimpanzee is only slightly more specific than African Cats, and considering that it's opening in significantly more locations (1,563 vs. 1,224), it's definitely possible that Chimpanzee turns things around a bit for this franchise.

Weekend Forecast (April 20-22)
1. Think Like a Man - $25.8 million
2. The Lucky One - $21.2 million
3. The Hunger Games - $12.2 million (-42%)
4. The Three Stooges - $10.4 million (-39%)
5. The Cabin in the Woods - $7.5 million (-49%)
6. Chimpanzee - $7.3 million

Bar for Success
Adjusting relevant Nicholas Sparks movies for inflation, The Lucky One really ought to be opening over $20 million. Think Like a Man is in good shape if it winds up at the same level as Death at a Funeral ($16.2 million), while Chimpanzee just needs to hold even with African Cats ($6 million).

Related Stories:
Last Weekend's Forecast: 'Stooges,' 'Cabin' Try to Knock Out Katniss
Last Weekend Report: Four-in-a-Row for 'The Hunger Games'
April Preview (Part 2): 'The Lucky One,' 'The Five-Year Engagement,' 'The Pirates!' & More

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