Forecast: 'Need for Speed' in Three-Way Race for First This Weekend

by Ray Subers
Need for Speed

March 13, 2014

Video game adaptation Need for Speed starts its engines this weekend, though it faces tough competition from holdovers 300: Rise of An Empire and Mr. Peabody & Sherman. Don't count out Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club, which could also factor in.

Meanwhile, the Veronica Mars movie opens in nearly 300 theaters, and Jason Bateman's Bad Words debuts in six locations ahead of its nationwide release on March 28th.

Need for Speed
is the latest in a long line of video game adaptations, most of which have disappointed at the box office. Only one—2001's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider—has earned over $100 million domestically, and movies like Max Payne ($40.7 million), Hitman ($39.7 million) and Doom ($28.2 million) all failed to connect outside of the gamer audience.

In what could be an acknowledgement of the limitations of the genre, Disney's marketing department has avoided making the video game connection with Need for Speed. Instead, the movie has been positioned as a high-octane racing thriller that's grounded in some version of the real world (or at least the same world that the Fast & Furious series exists in). As part of that push, recent marketing material has emphasized that the movie is from the director of Act of Valor, which was a surprise hit in 2012 ($70 million).

Along with an aggressive TV campaign—which included a strong Super Bowl spot—Need for Speed's marketing has also had a robust grassroots effort. This includes hundreds of advanced screenings and a massive publicity tour for star Aaron Paul, who is coming off the final season of Breaking Bad. While there is a long history of TV stars flopping on the big screen (recent example: Kit Harrington in Pompeii), Paul seems dynamic enough to make a solid (if not spectacular) transition.

There is some cynicism surrounding Need for Speed due to its transparent similarities to the Fast & Furious series and its awful reviews (23 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). Also, the marketing has failed to show much in the way of story, which has consistently taken a back seat (get it?) to the fast cars. This is enough to keep Need for Speed from truly breaking out this weekend: according to Fandango, the movie is currently selling slightly fewer advanced tickets than holdover 300: Rise of an Empire.

Opening at 1,896 theaters, A Single Moms Club is writer/director Tyler Perry's 15th movie since 2006. Nine of those movies have opened to at least $20 million: the only other directors who can claim the same are Steven Spielberg (11) and Robert Zemeckis (9), both of whom have been making movies since the 1970s.

Perry's most successful movies tend to either feature his Madea character or open over Easter weekend, and The Single Moms Club doesn't fit either of those boxes. Still, the movie should do solid business anyway. Aside from reaching out to women and African-Americans—a standard strategy for a Perry movie—Single Moms Club aims to broaden Perry's audience by marketing toward Hispanic audiences as well. Lionsgate is expecting mid-to-high teens, which seems reasonable given Perry's track record.

Coinciding with its VOD release, Veronica Mars is opening at 291 locations. The movie is a continuation of the cult TV show, which has a fanbase passionate enough to contribute over $5 million to the movie's production via Kickstarter. If that same group turns out en masse at theaters this weekend, Veronica Mars could crack the Top 10 with over $2 million.

Jason Bateman's directorial debut Bad Words opens at six locations this weekend. The movie has solid reviews—75 percent on Rotten Tomatoes—and the redband trailer is very funny, but it's also not the kind of movie that typically draws huge arthouse audiences in New York and Los Angeles. The big play here is on March 28th, when Focus Features expands the movie nationwide.

After averaging over $200,000 at four theaters last weekend, Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel expands to 66 locations on Friday. It should crack the Top 10 with at least $2 million.

Forecast (March 14-16)

1. Need for Speed - $22 million
2. Mr. Peabody - $20.3 million (-37%)
3. 300 - $19.8 million (-56%)
4. Single Moms Club - $17.4 million
5. Non-Stop - $9.5 million (-40%)

Bar for Success

Need for Speed needs at least $20 million this weekend. Meanwhile, Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club is in good shape if it opens north of $15 million.

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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