I Am Legend

It has been a dismal fall at America’s multiplexes. Aside from November releases American Gangster (Universal) with $126.2M domestic and Bee Movie (Dreamworks/Paramount) with $121.4M, most everything else has met with responses ranging from lukewarm to indifferent.

There have been a few upside surprises like This Christmas (Sony), which has a $43.5M take, and even Fred Claus (Warner Bros) has slowly crawled its way to $66.3M domestic, but, for the most part, high-end projects have crashed and burned. The Iraq War-inspired Lions For Lambs ($14.8M) and In the Valley of Ellah ($6.7M) were bombs, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium ($29.3M), Hitman ($25.9M), August Rush ($25.9M), Awake ($11.6M) and The Mist ($24.1M) were, at best, misfires, and even the big budget entry Beowulf ($77.4M) has been underwhelming.

The latest and most notable disaster is New Line’s The Golden Compass, which, despite a reported $200M budget, managed only a $25.7M opening weekend. It will be very difficult for the studio to make back its budget here, and the result could be the outer of New Line head Bob Shaye.

Finally, there’s a movie that America is clearly excited to see. I Am Legend (Warner Bros), based on the classic 50’s novel of the same name and later remade as The Omega Man will debut at 3,606 locations Friday, and industry tracking is pointed toward a monstrous opening.

It’s hard to overstate the box office muscle of Will Smith. His last 6 major releases have reached $100M+.

2006 – The Pursuit of Happyness – $26.5M opening – $163.5M cume
2005 – Hitch – $43.1M opening – $179.4M cume
2004 – Shark Tale – $47.6M opening -$160.8M cume
2004 – I, Robot – $52.1M opening – $144.8M cume
2003 – Bad Boys II – $46.5M opening – $138.6M cume
2002 – Men in Black II – $52.1M opening – $190.4M cume

Smith may be the most reliable and durable movie star working today.

The industry tracking for I Am Legend is through the roof. I am using this summer’s Bourne Ultimatum as a comparable, and Legend looks much stronger at this point in its marketing campaign.

Bourne went off with 9% Un-Aided Awareness compared to a stellar 19% for I Am Legend. The Will Smith vehicle also tops Bourne in Definite Interest 58%-55%, and look at these demographic breakouts.

Definite Interest – Males Under 25
I Am Legend – 71%
Bourne Ultimatum – 58%

Definite Interest – Males 25 Plus
Bourne Ultimatum – 63%
I Am Legend – 62%

Definite Interest – Females Under 25
I Am Legend – 50%
Bourne Ultimatum – 45%

Definite Interest – Females 25 Plus
Bourne Ultimatum – 51%
I Am Legend – 45%

So, the Under 25 crowd is excited about Legend, and, on a busy shopping weekend for 25 Pluses, that younger demo is more likely to show up on opening 3-day.

In the all-important Overall First Choice column, Will Smith trounces Jason Bourne 38%-28%, and the breakdown of demographics is just as impressive.

First Choice – Males Under 25
I Am Legend – 58%
Bourne Ultimatum – 29%

First Choice – Males 25 Plus
I Am Legend – 47%
Bourne Ultimatum – 41%

First Choice – Females Under 25
I Am Legend – 26%
Bourne Ultimatum – 13%

First Choice – Females 25 Plus
Bourne Ultimatum – 31%
I Am Legend – 23%

Bourne Ultimatum opened to $69.2M on its opening weekend back in August, but it had the advantage of kids being out of school on Friday and less of a Sunday drop-off than December movies typically suffer. Given that, I’m calling for $58M-$61M, which would be the biggest opening weekend of Will’s meteoric career.

Fox’s Alvin in the Chipmuks will hit 3,475 locations this weekend, and the studio is hoping for today’s kids to show up along with parents looking for some nostalgia. Industry tracking is decent though not spectacular. I’m using 3 comparables for comparison’s sake – Bee Movie, the Dreamworks animated film, with a $38 opening, the nostalgia-tinged Underdog ($11.5M opening) and the tween and teen geared Surf’s Up. ($17.7M opening) Alvin actually compares quite favorably, even to Bee Movie.

Overall Un-Aided Awareness
Bee Movie – 11%
Alvin & the Chipmunks – 8%
Underdog – 3%
Surf’s Up – 3%

Overall Total Aware
Alvin & the Chipmunks – 84%
Bee Movie – 80%
Underdog – 80%
Surf’s Up – 58%

Overall Definite Interest
Bee Movie – 36%
Alvin & the Chipmunks – 34%
Surf’s Up – 26%
Underdog – 16%

Overall First Choice Alvin & the Chipmunks – 15%
Bee Movie – 14%
Underdog – 3%
Surf’s Up – 4%

Based on those comparables, I’m calling for an upside surprise here, something in the $18M-$21M range, and don’t be surprise if it goes a bit higher.

The final new wide release is Perfect Holiday (Yari Film Group), another Christmas movie with a predominantly black cast including Terrence Howard, Queen Latifah and Gabriel Union. The film actually opened on Wednesday with an estimated gross of $385,000, and it has added another $266,000 Thursday. Based on those numbers, I’m projecting a 3-day in the $3M-$3.5M range and a 5-day of $4M-$4.5M.

Here are my final predictions for this weekend, 12/14-16:
1. I Am Legend – $60M
2 Alvin & the Chipmunks – $19.75M
3.The Golden Compass – $13.25M
4. Emchanted – $7M
5. This Christmas – $3.3M
6. Perfect Holiday – $3.25M
7. Fred Claus – $3.2M
8. No Country For Old Men – $2.75M
9. Beowulf – $2.7M
10. August Rush – $2.5M

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