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Box Office Analysis, May 18: 'Prince Caspian' Falls Short of Expectations

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May 18, 2008 | 5:41pm EDT

SATURDAY 11PM: As I first reported late Friday afternoon, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (Disney) is off to a softer-than-expected start. Instead of a huge Friday-to-Saturday increase, the film received a more modest 6 percent boost for a $20.45M Saturday. That will translate to no better than a $55M three-day, representing a 16 percent dip from the $65M opening generated by 2005’s The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe.

The industry was looking for an $80M plus opening, and my forecast was for $74M-$77M. Prince Caspian seemed like a safe bet to open bigger than the original The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe. First sequels in major franchises usually deliver better opening weekends than franchise-starters.

The Mummy

1999 - Original: $43.3M opening

2001 - 1st Sequel: $68.1M opening

The Matrix

1999 - Original: $27.7M opening

2003 - 1st Sequel: $48.4M opening

X-Men

2000 - Original: $54.4M opening

2003 - 1st Sequel: $85.5M opening

Lord of the Rings

2001 - Original: $47.2M opening

2002 - 1st Sequel: $62M opening

Shrek

2001 - Original: $42.3M opening

2004 - 1st Sequel: $108M opening

Bourne Series

2002 - Original: $27.1M opening

2004 - 1st Sequel: $52.5M opening

Ice Age

2002 - Original: $46.3M opening

2006 - 1st Sequel: $68M opening

Pirates of the Caribbean

2003 Original: $46.6M opening

2006 - 1st Sequel: $135.6M opening

Fantastic Four

2005 - Original: $56M opening

2007 - 1st Sequel: $58M opening

There are, however, two notable exceptions. In 2001, Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone grabbed $90.2M opening with its follow-up, The Chamber of Secrets, off slightly at $88.3M in its first frame. Then 2002’s Spider-Man seized $114.8M, while its 2004 sequel settled for $88.1M.

My sources have suggested a number of possible reasons for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian’s disappointing start. Although reviews have been generally positive, many critics mentioned that the film is darker than the original and has some extended battle sequences. Also, the faith-based marketing that drove The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe to its huge opening number seemed to get less traction this time around. Some churches have backed-off on participation in movie marketing because their congregations have become resentful of being overtly ‘used’ to drive ticket sales.

By no means will this film be a commercial flop. In fact, most of the studio types I have spoken to this weekend still believe that The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian has a real chance to reach $175M-$200M domestic. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is set for May 7, 2010, and Walden and Disney still have tentative plans for four more C.S. Lewis-based films with the finale, The Last Battle, potentially arriving in the summer of 2018.

Marvel's Iron Man (Paramount) soared to another $13.24M Saturday, and it will finish the frame with an estimated $31.11M. That's an excellent hold, down only 40 percent from last weekend. With a new cume of $222.4M, it is beginning to look like Tony Stark and his alter ego will make a strong run at $300M domestic. 

What Happens in Vegas (Fox) is holding solidly with a $5.56M 2nd Saturday. That will mean a three-day of just under $14M and a new cume just over $40M. Speed Racer (Warner Bros) got a Saturday family bounce for $3.7M, but it will still manage only $8.1M or so for the weekend. The Waschowskis' anime-inspired, candy-colored epic will have banked only an estimated $30M by Monday morning. Sony's Made of Honor rounds out the top 5 with $2M Saturday and a $4.82M weekend.

Joachim Trier’s Reprise (Miramax) is the top per theater performer of the weekend. The Norwegian art house offering, already a winner of three Amanda Awards including Best Picture, should finish the weekend with a $15,333 per theater average (PTA) on three screens, holding off The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, which will likely average just under $14,000 at each of its 3,929 locations.

REVISED THREE-DAY ESTIMATES

1. NEW! The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (Disney): $56.5M ($13,998 PTA); $56.5M cume

2. Iron Man (Paramount): $31.2M ($7,490 PTA); $222.4M cume

3. What Happens in Vegas (Fox): $13.8M ($4,286 PTA); $40.4M cume

4. Speed Racer (Warner Bros): $7.6M ($2,248 PTA); $29.8M cume

5. Baby Mama (Universal): $4.59M ($1,867 PTA); $47.2M cume

6. Made of Honor (Sony): $4.5M ($1,713 PTA); $33.7M cume

7. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Universal): $2.51M ($1,568 PTA); $55M cume

8. Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (Warner Bros): $1.8M ($1,246 PTA); $33.84M cume

9. The Forbidden Kingdom (Lionsgate): $1M ($983 PTA); $50.3M cume

10. The Visitor (Overture Films): $687,000 ($3,013 PTA); $3.4M cume

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