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Box Office Analysis, July 13: 'Hellboy II' Burns Up Competition

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Jul 13, 2008 | 9:58am EDT

Hellboy II: The Golden Army will be Guillermo del Toro’s best-ever opening, and the film’s strong opening dramatically improves the odds that Universal will put together another impressive summer streak of four consecutive $100M grossing movies, and five in a row is a real possibility. The sequel to 2004’s Hellboy scared up about $12M on Friday and that will likely translate to a $35M opening weekend.

Critics have swooned for the second chapter of this franchise with a fantastic 87 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but Hellboy is hardly the best-known comic book character with a movie this summer, and the big red guy from hell is not the traditional superhero. Technically, he is a demon who sands down his horns, chomps on Cuban cigars, has a giant paw nicknamed “the right hand of doom” and likes to play with cats. All of this meant that the Universal marketing folks had their work cut out for them.

What Hellboy II has, that Marvel’s The Incredible Hulk could have used more of, is fun. As played by Ron Perlman, in heavy prosthetics, Hellboy is funny, and del Toro has crafted a wise-cracking, clever, snarky screenplay with a lot of laughs. One of my regular studio sources described the film this week as “a little out there,” but my opinion all along has been that it is way out there, and that’s a good thing.

The original Hellboy opened with only $23.17M en route to about $60M domestic, but the movie has gained traction on cable and DVD. Del Toro’s stunning visuals, including some staggeringly bizarre creatures, sold this movie in trailers and commercials, and there was some cleverness in the marketing (like this wry faux appearance of Hellboy on Inside the Actor’s Studio).

Hellboy II will not only be del Toro’s biggest opening ever, it will also likely become the overall top grossing movie on his resume.

GUILLERMO DEL TORO RESUME

1994: Cronos - $17,500 opening - $625,000 cume

1997: Mimic - $7.81M opening - $25.48M cume

2001: The Devil's Backbone - $35,000 opening - $755,000 cume

2002: Blade II - $32.52M opening - $82.34M cume

2004: Hellboy - $23.17M opening - $59.62M cume

2006: Pan's Labyrinth - $570,000 opening - $37.63M cume

2008: Hellboy II: The Golden Army - $35M opening – tbd cume

Hellboy II’s excellent opening is good news for Universal as it follows the back-to-back $100M successes of The Incredible Hulk and Wanted (which will likely finish No. 5 this weekend with an estimated $11.5M). If Hellboy II can top $100M, Mamma Mia! will likely make it four blockbusters in a row. You can certainly argue that the new Hulk, at less than $130M domestic, is a disappointment, but back-to-back-to-back-to-back $100M grossers is no small feat. For Universal, it would be the second consecutive summer with four $100M hits in a row.

06/01/07 release – Knocked Up - $148.76M cume

06/22/07 release – Evan Almighty - $100.46M cume

07/20/07 release – I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry - $120M cume

08/03/07 release – The Bourne Ultimatum - $227.47M cume

But Universal has a chance to go the summer of 2007 one better when The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor debuts August 1. Since the first two Mummy movies topped $100M, it is fair to expect that Universal will have its fifth consecutive movie with $100M+. I cannot find another instance where any Hollywood studio has pulled off that trick.

Sony’s Hancock was a strong No. 2 for the day with $13M, and it should soar to a strong $33.3M second weekend for a new cume of $165M. That represents about a 47 percent drop from its opening weekend, and that is a very good hold (especially when you consider that it played strongly for two and a half days leading into the frame). As I reported earlier this week, despite negative reviews from critics, rank-and-file moviegoers seem to like Hancock, and it will easily cruise past $200M domestic.

Meanwhile, Journey to the Center of the Earth (Warner Bros), which is spectacular in 3D, has been hurt by the relatively lazy pace at which exhibitors have been investing in Digital 3D technology. The Brendan Fraser family adventure is showing at an estimated 800 theatres with 3D technology compared to 2,000 or so traditional 2D locations. Reports are that the film is performing dramatically better where 3D is available. All in, Journey  managed $8M on its opening day, which should result in $21M for the three-day. That will mark Fraser ’s all-time third-best opening.

ALL-TIME TOP FIVE BRENDAN FRASER OPENINGS

1. The Mummy Returns - $68.13M opening

2. The Mummy - $43.36M opening

3. Journey to the Center of the Earth - $21M opening (estimate)

4George of the Jungle - $16.54M opening

5. Bedazzled - $13.1M opening

Disney’s WALL-E, the latest from Pixar, scooped up $8M on Saturday, and it is headed for a very steady $18.9M or so and a new cume of $163M. Based on the way this film is playing, Andrew Stanton’s instant classic has a real chance at $250M+ domestic.

I generally try to avoid words like disaster and bomb in my box office analysis, but Eddie Murphy’s Meet Dave (Fox) is under-performing its already shockingly low industry expectations. Directed by Brian Robbins, who successfully teamed with Murphy on last year’s Dreamworks hit Norbit, it was fair to expect that Meet Dave would rally from its poor industry tracking to deliver something respectable on opening weekend. There will be no rally.

It appears that Meet Dave has scrounged up only $2M in Friday ticket sales, and I am projecting an embarrassing $5.65M opening weekend. That makes it Murphy’s second-worst wide opening ever (1,000+ screens), finishing better than only The Adventures of Pluto Nash ($2.18M). 

REVISED THREE-DAY ESTIMATES

1. NEW! Hellboy II (Universal) - $35M, $10,924 PTA, $35M cume

2. Hancock (Sony) - $33.31M, $8,402 PTA, $165.34M cume

3. NEW! Journey To the Center of the Earth - $21M, $7,471 PTA, $21M cume 

4. WALL-E (Disney) - $18.9M, $4,910 PTA, $163.16M cume

5. Wanted (Universal) - $11.55M, $3,656 PTA, $112M cume

6. Get Smart (Warner Bros) - $7.8M, $2,528 PTA, $112.16M cume

7. NEW! Meet Dave (Fox) - $5.65M, $1,876 PTA, $5.65M cume

8. Kung Fu Panda (Dreamworks/Paramount) - $4.6M, $1,702 PTA, $202.34M cume

9. Kit Kittredge: An American Girl (Picturehouse) - $2.47M, $1,339 PTA, $11.16M cume

10. Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Paramount) - $2.04M, $1,226 PTA, $310.26M cume

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