Ordinarily, I’d use this opening sentence to write something like, ”It’ll be a battle for No. 2 at the box office this weekend,” because Spider-Man 3 will obviously repeat as champ. But the fact is, the dude in red (and, I guess, black) spandex is going to out-distance all four major newcomers by so much money that second place will feel more like 22nd.
By now you’ve heard about all the records that Spidey broke in his $151.1 million opening last week, but here’s one you may not have considered: Spider-Man 3 beat Disturbia by an astonishing $145.3 mil, annihilating the old mark set last year when Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest outearned Superman Returns by $113.8 mil. Crazy! With the webslinger still slinging strong and another weak group of movies going up against him, the gap should be huge once again. And, for the second straight week, not picking Spider-Man 3 to be No. 1 in the poll below would make you as foolish as Flint Marko jumping into that sandpit atomizer thing (so we won’t even ask about No. 1 — instead, cast your vote at the end of this column for the film you think will be No. 2 this weekend). Actually, it’d be even more foolish, because you wouldn’t even get superhuman skillz out of it.
THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE
Columbia · PG-13 · 4,252 theaters · 2nd weekend
Remember last week, when I wrote about The Lost World: Jurassic Park, which set a record when it premiered with $72.1 mil a decade ago? Well, here’s how far we’ve come since then: This weekend, Spidey’s business will do the obligatory decline and he’ll still come close to beating that $72.1 mil figure. But can he do it? Just how big will his box-office drop be, anyway? Interesting questions. Usually, behemoth blockbusters like this fall between 45 and 55 percent in their second frames, because their releases are designed to optimize first-weekend ticket sales. Often, then, the next weekend is boosted by whatever stragglers remain, as well as repeat viewership. But looking at its mixed critical reaction and lukewarm B+ audience CinemaScore, I’m not sure how many people are willing to sit through this two-and-a-half-hour film a second time. What’s more, Spider-Man 3‘s low-eight-figure mid-week numbers, while certainly big, perhaps aren’t as huge as they should be. My spidey sense tells me it all adds up to a 55 percent drop.
Weekend prediction: $68 million
28 Weeks Later
Fox Atomic · R · 2,303 theaters · NEW
The great Danny Boyle’s zombie flick, 28 Days Later, was one of the best movies of 2003, hands down. So I’m particularly psyched for this sequel, directed by the Spanish filmmaker Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, who’s famous for the eerie 2001 thriller Intacto. And I’m not alone. Buzz on the film — starring a new cast, including Robert Carlyle, Harold Perrineau, and the lovely Rose Byrne — has been high, and early reviews have been strong (28 Weeks Later was scoring a healthy 74 out of 100 on Metacritic.com as of Thursday). That R rating will dampen grosses a bit, but opening in nearly double the number of venues as 28 Days Later did, look for this installment to easily surpass its predecessor’s $10.1 mil bow.
Weekend prediction: $16 million
Universal · R · 2,523 theaters · NEW
Lindsay Lohan — who turns 21 in July but somehow has managed to spend more time in nightclubs than Steve Rubell ever did — has let her off-screen life get so wacky that it’s virtually impossible to recall how, as recently as 2004, when Mean Girls made $86.1 mil, she was commonly regarded as the next Julia Roberts. That goal may still be attainable, but first she needs some serious redemption at the box office. In the past few years Lohan’s bankability has declined (2005’s Herbie: Fully Loaded grossed just $66 mil; 2006’s Just My Luck brought in a pathetic $17.3 mil), and it’ll take some effort for her to win back the faith of filmgoers. This family dramedy, directed by Garry Marshall (speaking of Pretty Woman!), in which Lohan plays a little hellion caught between her dysfunctional mother (Felicity Huffman) and grandmother (Jane Fonda), won’t draw Lohan’s core fan base because of that R rating. But it could help her gain traction with an older crowd. Assuming they don’t pay attention to those poor reviews.
Weekend prediction: $11 million
Lionsgate · PG-13 · 1,931 theaters · NEW
Here we have Larry the Cable Guy, starring in a send-up of war movies, just when this country could use a good laugh. The comedian brings with him a devoted legion of fans, so even if Delta Farce doesn’t cross over to those unfamiliar with the ways of Mr. Git-R-Done, a tidy (but small) sum — somewhere along the lines of Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector‘s $6.9 mil debut — should be a welcome reward for this inexpensive flick.
Weekend prediction: $6 million
Paramount · PG-13 · 3,106 theaters · 5th weekend
Shia LaBeouf’s thriller worked so hard to bring in $60 mil in four weeks. And then Spider-Man 3 came along and earned that much IN ONE DAY. So it goes these days in box-office land.
Weekend prediction: $4 million
THE OTHER NEW RELEASE
MGM · PG-13 · 1,009 theaters · NEW
TV stars Zach Braff, Amanda Peet, and Jason Bateman headline this love triangle comedy, which MGM and the Weinstein Company had originally slated for a wide release earlier this year. But it’s opening only now. With no advance critics screenings. In a moderate number of theaters. Against one of the biggest movies ever. You do the math.
Weekend prediction: $2 million