Anatomy Of A Car Crash: Speed Racer Still Struggling; Paramount Sees "Blood In The Water"

What is wrong with Speed Racer (Warner Bros)? A studio exec just filled me in on the latest industry tracking for the Wachowski Brothers' update of the late 1960's anime cartoon classic, and this picture has real problems in the marketplace.

The tracking has improved a bit, especially since Iron Man moved from Opening This Week to Currently in Release in audience surveys. Un-Aided Awareness has popped to 11% and the Total Aware is at a solid 83%. Definite Interest, however, is a concern at just 26%, trailing Fox's What Happens in Vegas also set for Friday.

Warner Bros execs have to be relieved that the First Choice for this candy-colored Emile Hirsch thrill-ride is at 13%, an identical number to the Ashton Kutcher/Cameron Diaz comedy also at 13%. A decent 14% of Males Under 25 and the same number of Males 25 Plus say Speed Racer is their First Choice this weekend, and Moms seem open to bringing the kids with 17% of Females 25 Plus saying it is their top choice.

There is a nostalgia factor with Speed Racer, but for it to succeed, it needs to play as an all-out family film. December's Alvin & the Chipmunks (Fox) might be a good benchmark. It went off with 36% Definite Interest and a 24% First Choice, much stronger numbers than Speed, en route to a $44.3M opening.

Complicating things for both new releases is the fact that, according to one studio exec without a dog in the fight this weekend, "Paramount knows that there's blood in the water here. They have been watching Speed Racer tracking, and they see an opportunity. They have been ramping up media buys for Iron Man." Look for Paramount to remind people that this Robert Downey, Jr. mega-hit is rated PG-13 and appropriate for the whole family.

I will not go online with my final weekend prediction for Speed Racer until Thursday, but as of Tuesday morning, it is hard to imagine it getting past $35M in its first 3 days. What Happens in Vegas looks like it is headed for $18M-$22M. I am expecting Iron Man to win a 2nd consecutive weekend, not unlike 2007's Spider-Man 3 and 2006's, which both started the lucrative summer blockbuster season and held strong for 2 weekend wins.

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