Forecast: 'LEGO' Set to Crush 'Pompeii' This Weekend

by Ray Subers

February 20, 2014

Pompeii and 3 Days to Kill open nationwide this weekend, though neither seems poised to break out at the domestic box office. As a result, animated hit The LEGO Movie should easily take the top spot for the third-straight week.

When Mount Vesuvius unexpectedly erupted in 79 A.D., it decimated the ancient Roman city of Pompeii. Director Paul W.S. Anderson, best known for his work on the Resident Evil franchise, brings this disaster to life in Pompeii, which is opening at 2,658 locations this weekend.

Marketing for the movie has primarily focused on the disaster, which does look fairly impressive. Unfortunately, the human element is lacking. While there have been hints at the central romance, it has for the most part been overshadowed by the volcano (the poster is a good example of this). This may be to disguise the fact that the movie is lacking any real star power: Kit Harington has made a name for himself on HBO's Game of Thrones, but being part of an ensemble on TV doesn't automatically translate to leading man status on the big screen.

The campaign has also put an emphasis on 3D, with the trailer going so far as to add "in 3D" to the title card. That could boost grosses a bit, though the premium-priced tickets didn't do much to help recent CGI-heavy movies The Legend of Hercules or I, Frankenstein.

Sony is handling domestic distribution through their TriStar label, though they have fairly low exposure: Pompeii was financed by Constantin Film, and FilmDistrict covered the marketing costs. Based on pre-release tracking, Sony is expecting $12 to $15 million for the weekend.

At 2,872 locations, 3 Days to Kill is the latest from French producer Luc Besson and his EuropaCorp banner, which has made a consistent business out of producing mid-budget action movies (3 Days cost $28 million). Excluding the two Taken movies, though, none of Besson's productions have opened over $17 million at the U.S. box office.

More so than other Besson movies, 3 Days to Kill does seem cut from the same cloth as Taken. This time around, Kevin Costner fills in for Liam Neeson as an over-the-hill assassin-type who is attempting to reconnect with his daughter. While Taken had a clear, unique hook, though, it's unclear what's special about 3 Days to Kill. Instead of focusing on story, the marketing material has relied on generic action movie tropes. All of this suggests that 3 Days won't outperform the average Besson movie; distributor Relativity is expecting between $11 and $13 million.

Roadside Attractions is releasing In Secret at 266 theaters this weekend. With a light marketing push and poor reviews, this should open well below $1 million.

Hayao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises opens at 21 locations on Friday ahead of a moderate expansion (450 theaters) the following week. The Wind Rises has received an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature, and is expected to be Miyazaki's final movie. All of this is to say that it should do strong business in arthouse theaters, though it's unclear how it will play in its expansion.

Forecast (February 21-23)

1. LEGO Movie - $32.4 million (-35%)
2. Pompeii - $11.6 million
3. Robocop - $11.2 million (-48%)
4. About Last Night - $10.6 million (-59%)
5. Monuments Men - $9.9 million (-36%)
6. 3 Days to Kill - $9 million

Bar for Success

Pompeii is going to make the vast majority of its money overseas. Still, with a budget of around $100 million, it needs to earn at least $15 million this weekend to avoid being labeled a bomb. Meanwhile, 3 Days to Kill is in good shape if it can match Relativity/EuropaCorp's last collaboration, The Family, which opened to $14 million in September.

Discuss this story with fellow Box Office Mojo fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @boxofficemojo, and follow author Ray Subers at @raysubers.

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