America celebrates two holidays this weekend: Memorial Day…and the opening of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull! Yep, the long-awaited fourth installment of the fedora franchise is finally in theaters (it opened yesterday, as a matter of fact), and, of course, it’s going to be No. 1.
Just how much treasure will the latest from Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and, er, Shia LaBeouf unearth at the multiplex? You can read on for my prediction. In the meantime, a point about box office mischief: The smarties behind Indiana Jones 4 cunningly released the film on a Thursday before a holiday weekend, thus giving it a rare five-day opening (so as to make the headlines look even more impressive come Monday, naturally). Well, I don’t play that game. In order to keep all movies equal, I’m going to estimate how much each of the following flicks will earn over the four-day holiday weekend, Friday through Monday. And if you don’t like that, well, you probably work for Lucasfilm.
Either way, once you’re finished with this column, go on and play EW.com’s Summer Box Office Challenge. Just do it, people. Don’t make me crack the whip!
THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Paramount · PG-13 · 4,260 theaters · NEW
Sure, it has been a while since the last Indiana Jones movie opened; Shia LaBeouf wasn’t yet 3 years old when Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade came out in 1989. Still, many people think that this sequel will be the top flick at the 2008 summer box office, with grosses well in excess of $300 million. That’s certainly possible (even with Iron Man off to a huge head start), but in order to achieve such a feat, Indy is going to have to move faster than he did when that giant boulder was chasing him. Fortunately, all the pieces seem to be in place: a big-name franchise; a charismatic old star matched with a charismatic young star; no direct competition; a gigantic theater count; off-the-charts anticipation; fun for the whole family. Even the reviews have been favorable enough. And early reports say that advance tickets have been selling like bootleg DVDs on a Chinatown street corner. So what are we talking about here? $100 mil? $110 mil? More? Yeah, more. But how much more will depend on whether this film really does hit all ”four quadrants” — drawing as many young people and women as older men. If it can do that, we’re looking at a debut akin to that of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End ($139.8 mil on Memorial Day weekend last year). If it can’t, something like X-Men: The Last Stand‘s premiere ($122.9 mil on Memorial Day weekend 2006) might be more like it. Anyway, enough of all that. What I really want to know is: What’s the deal with the man purse that Indy always carries with him? Just askin’.
Four-day weekend prediction: $127 million
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Walt Disney · PG · 3,929 theaters · 2nd weekend
Was I too hard on the second Narnia movie when I called it a ”disappointment” in my Box Office Report last Sunday? Perhaps. I suppose I neglected to stress that Prince Caspian should hold on strong, considering the fact that families only have so many options at the ticket kiosk these days. What’s more, it’ll definitely bank big bucks overseas (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe earned a whopping $453.1 mil elsewhere), thus offsetting any domestic underperformance. So, okay, ”disappointment” is a relative term here: The film should be doing better, but it’s still going to make a mint. And The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is still slated for May 7, 2010, never you fear.
Four-day weekend prediction: $42 million
Paramount/Marvel · PG-13 · 3,915 theaters · 4th weekend
Three weeks and $230 mil into the summer, and Tony Stark is the man to beat. Will Indy catch up with him? (And does Paramount even care which film does better, since it released both?) We’ll know better on Monday.
Four-day weekend prediction: $25 million
What Happens in Vegas
Fox · PG-13 · 3,187 theaters · 3rd weekend
”Gosh, there’s no way we can get into Indiana Jones. And Narnia and Iron Man only have empty seats in the front row. Maybe we should go see this Ashton Kutcher thing, huh, sweetie?”
Four-day weekend prediction: $13 million
Warner Bros. · PG · 3,112 theaters · 3rd weekend
”Gosh, there’s no way we can get into Indiana Jones. Narnia and Iron Man only have empty seats in the front row. And, ick, there are these two people totally making out in the What Happens in Vegas auditorium. I guess we’ll have to settle on Speed Racer.”
Four-day weekend prediction: $5 million