Hello and welcome back to Box Office Beat, the column in which I predict the upcoming weekend’s box office grosses. After last weekend’s mammoth load of six new wide releases, which resulted in a lot of work for me, I’m incredibly glad that there are only two this time around. One is fairly easy to predict and the other is anyone’s guess. Let’s crunch some numbers.
The one that’s easy to predict is “Paranormal Activity 4,” the latest annual installment in the R-rated found footage horror series. It’s directed by the same duo that made the well-liked third film–Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman of “Catfish” fame–but directors hardly matter with the “Paranormal Activity” audience, which is largely built-in. However, there is one variable each year that affects the films’ respective performances: competition. “Paranormal Activity 3” opened virtually unopposed; there were only two other films that directly appealed to 17-30-year-olds in the top 12 (“Footloose” and “The Thing”) and they only grossed a combined $13.4m that weekend. The result was a series-high opening of $52.6m. “Paranormal Activity 2,” on the other hand, opened with far more competition for the young audience–“Jackass 3-D” ($21.3m) and even “Red” ($15m)–and as a result made less: $40.6m.
That brings us to “Paranormal Activity 4.” This film’s competition for young audiences may not gross as much as the second film’s did, but it’s more direct — another horror release. “Sinister,” which opened last Friday to great numbers, is likely to make another $9m this weekend — $9m that almost certainly would have gone to “Paranormal Activity 4” had it not existed. $9m less than #3’s $52.6m is $43.6m. But we also have to factor in the loss of those who are experiencing “Paranormal”-fatigue. A good way to do this is to look at the drop in a similarly unending horror franchise: “Saw IV” fell 5.6 percent from “Saw III.” Chop that off of the competition-adjusted “Paranormal Activity 4” figure and you get a final opening weekend prediction of $41.2 million.
Secondly, there’s “Alex Cross,” a terribly reviewed ‘90s-ish thriller starring Tyler Perry as a James Patterson-adapted detective, in what’s intended to be his crossover into “serious” acting. While I initially figured that this film could do reasonably well, earning the Patterson audience and the Perry audience, I now think it will be lucky to have either. Patterson’s audience, no matter how cheap their taste in literature, skew largely older and whiter — meaning they pay attention to reviews. With just 11 percent of critics approving of “Alex Cross,” according to Rotten Tomatoes, that’s not a good sign for the film’s potential with this crowd. As for Perry’s usual audience, I’m sure that many will be interested to see him here. But keep in mind that younger African-Americans disproportionately attend horror films, so “Paranormal Activity 4” may steal a good number of the star’s fan-base. “Alex Cross” is unlikely to do as poorly as Summit’s other serial-killer-on-the-loose movie this year (“Gone,” starring Amanda Seyfried), but it’s unlikely to do well. Even though the marketing has been hipper and edgier, I sense that “Alex Cross” will play similarly to a mediocre Ashley Judd thriller like 2004’s “Twisted,” but with a slight bump from the added inclusiveness of its PG-13 rating (conducive to teens buying tickets for it, then sneaking into “Paranormal Activity”). My final call is $11.1 million.
My prediction of what the full top 10 will look like:
- “Paranormal Activity 4” … $41.2m
- “Argo” … $12.6m -35.2%
- “Hotel Transylvania” … $12.1m -29.8%
- “Alex Cross” … $11.1m
- “Taken 2” … $10.9m -60.9%
- “Sinister” … $9.0m -50.0%
- “Here Comes the Boom” … $7.4m -37.4%
- “Pitch Perfect” … $6.5m -29.9%
- “Frankenweenie” … $4.7m -33.4%
- “Looper” … $3.7m -40.3%