There are five new wide releases this weekend along with an important expansion, but this three-day is certain to “go to the dogs.” Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Disney), starring Piper Perabo and Jamie Lee Curtis and featuring the voice talent of everyone from Drew Barrymore to George Lopez to Placido Domingo, is tracking through the roof, and it is a surefire box office winner.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua is the first of four likely blockbusters from Disney set for release in the fourth quarter. The distributor will be scoring big with High School Musical 3 on October 24 followed by the animated 3D Bolt, arriving on the Friday before Thanksgiving, and the Adam Sandler family adventure film Bedtime Stories coming Christmas Day. It would not be surprising for this to become a quartet of $100M grossing pictures.
My sources tell me that Beverly Hills Chihuahua is scoring big in industry tracking with Females, both Under 25’s and Moms, and that the movie will ride a family audience wave through Saturday and Sunday matinees. The film will also hit big with Latinos thanks to the Mexican setting and the voices of not just Lopez and Domingo, but also Andy Garcia, Cheech Marin, Paul Rodriguez, Edward James Olmos and popular Spanish-language radio deejay Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo. It all adds up to a possible $30.5M opening weekend.
Last week’s winner Eagle Eye (Dreamworks/Paramount) may dip as little as 40 percent-45 percent from opening weekend to something in the $17M range. That will keep the high-tech Shia LaBeouf thriller on track for a final domestic haul of $95M-$100M.
Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (Sony), from director Peter Sollett (Raising Victor Vargas), has gained real traction among the Under 25 set according to the latest tracking. It seems that 20-year-old Michael Cera is the key to the movie’s appeal. The Canadian-born actor, who first made a splash in the cult TV hit Arrested Development, is the nerdy heartthrob for a generation of girls who loved him in Superbad ($121.5M) and Juno ($143.5M). Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist will likely open at No. 3 with the possibility of a very solid $15.3M.
The new movie from Oscar nominee Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener) is the tough-to-market Blindness (Miramax). Reviews are verging on awful for this adaptation of Jose Saramago’s novel with a score of just 41 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes as of Wednesday night, and now the picture will be fighting a national protest as well. This thriller, starring Oscar nominee Julianne Moore, tells the story of a terrifying plague of blindness, and Dr. Marc Mauer, President of the National Federation of the Blind says that his group “Condemns and deplores this movie, which will do substantial harm to the blind of America and the world.” With 1,700 playdates, a sign that Miramax is trying to grab what it can before bad word-of-mouth sets in, it could still manage $2,600 or so per location for a possible $4.5M.
Universal’s Flash of Genius, the real-life story of Robert Kearns, who invented the intermittent windshield wiper, had the invention stolen by Ford and then sued the auto giant, will open on a more limited 1,000 or so screens. Reviews are very good (80 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes as of Wednesday night), and, with a cast including Oscar nominee Greg Kinnear (As Good As It Gets, Little Miss Sunshine), Golden Globe nominee Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls) and Oscar nominee Alan Alda, Flash could score a $4,100 PTA for a $4.1M opening and a No. 6 finish.
Two other new releases look very soft in tracking research. David Zucker’s conservative comedy rant An American Carol (Vivendi) seems headed for $3M and may miss the top 10 altogether. Things could be even tougher for MGM’s How To Lose Friends and Alienate People, which, despite the presence of rising British star Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), will probably manage no better than $2.5M.
Finally, the Ed Harris-directed western Appaloosa (Warner Bros) will expand to 800 or so screens, and $1.8M could be the ceiling despite strong reviews and a cast that includes Viggo Mortensen and Academy Award winners Renee Zellweger and Jeremy Irons.
FINAL PREDICTIONS FOR THE WEEKEND
1. NEW - Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Disney) - $30.5M
2. Eagle Eye (Dreamworks/Paramount) - $17.5M
3. NEW - Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (Sony) - $15.3M
4. Nights in Rodanthe (Warner Bros) - $7.4M
5. NEW - Blindness (Miramax) - $4.5M
6. NEW - Flash of Genius (Universal) - $4.1M
7. Igor (MGM) - $3.55M
8. Lakeview Terrace (Sony) - $3.5M
9. Fireproof (IDP Films/Samuel Goldwyn) - $3.3M
10. Burn After Reading (Focus) - $3.25M
*NEW – An American Carol (Vivendi) - $3M
*NEW – How To Lose Friends and Alienate People (MGM) - $2.5M
*Appaloosa (Warner Bros) - $1.8M