Little bit of history to start us off today, box office fans. Back in 1984, the Motion Picture Association of America, under pressure from folks who felt that movies like Poltergeist, Gremlins, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom deserved more than the PG ratings they got but less than an R, adopted a new category: PG-13. It was an almost instant success.
In the years since, not only has the rating been an appropriate label for movies whose content falls in the too-scary-for-little-kids but too-mild-for-big-kids range, it has also been very good for business. (The algebra is simple: Kids think the rating is cooler than a PG and, because it’s still not an R, parents don’t really mind.) On the all-time domestic box office rankings, 14 out of the top 25 films and 52 out of the top 100 films are rated PG-13 — specifically, I’m talking about some of the biggest movies in recent memory, blockbusters like the Spider-Man series, the The Lord of the Rings films, and the top earner ever, Titanic.
Why do I bring all of this up? It’s educational! Okay, that, and because this is the first weekend since I got into this whole box-office prediction game on which we’re likely to have a top five comprised exclusively of movies rated PG-13. And if you combine that point with the fact that this weekend also coincides with the Martin Luther King holiday (another money magnet for Hollywood in recent years), grosses could be high. The heavily anticipated monster movie Cloverfield will lead the way, with fellow PG-13-rated newcomers 27 Dresses and Mad Money also hoping that kids and their parents will show up.
THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE
Paramount · PG-13 · 3,411 theaters · NEW
Produced, in case you haven’t heard, by uber-director/producer/sci-fi-second-coming J.J. Abrams, this star-free film that has been kept under wraps for ages is supposedly a collection of home movies of a monster terrorizing New York. Hmm, that all sounds eerily familiar. It sounds like Godzilla or King Kong meets… gosh, what is it that I’m thinking of? Oh yeah: The Blair Witch Project! Now, I’m not sure that (gulp) nine-year-old landmark of independent cinema still resonates with youngsters today. But the filmmakers have to anticipate that this heavily Internet-hyped movie becomes a blockbuster smash like its heavily Internet-hyped predecessor (which earned $29.2 mil on its first weekend of wide release back in 1999). I hear its tracking numbers are very good and reviews have been generally favorable, so, hey, it’s got a good chance.
Weekend prediction: $38 million
Fox · PG-13 · 3,057 theaters · NEW
A friend once got really drunk and admitted to me that she was massively in debt and saw no way out. It was devastating. Her problem? She had been a bridesmaid in so many weddings — and had to pay for separate dresses and related paraphernalia each time around — that her MasterCard exploded. (Or something like that.) To make matters worse, she never could seem to find the right guy. Well, now it seems as if they made a romantic comedy out of my friend’s pathetic existence! Fun! And It Girl Katherine Heigl is playing her. And Aline Brosh McKenna, who previously penned the movie version of The Devil Wears Prada, wrote the screenplay. Sounds like a big winner, right? Maybe. Strong competition will prevent 27 Dresses from hitting an Enchanted-size opening ($34.4 mil). But the final tally should demonstrate whether Heigl can hold onto the heat generated by her popular parts in Grey’s Anatomy and Knocked Up.
Weekend prediction: $21 million
The Bucket List
Warner Bros. · PG-13 · 2,915 theaters · 4th weekend
Toldja it was going to do well last weekend! Ha! And you know what? The treacly Rob Reiner movie is gonna do well again this time around: It has been playing quite well during the week (earning well over a million bucks per day), and is on pace to drop a perfectly reasonable 40 percent.
Weekend prediction: $12 million
Fox Searchlight · PG-13 · 2,534 theaters ·7th weekend
If you think the indie comedy has done well so far, earning nearly $75 mil domestically, just wait until the Oscar nominations are announced on Tuesday.
Weekend prediction: $10 million
Screen Gems · PG-13 · 2,213 theaters · 2nd weekend
Ice Cube’s church-heist farce premiered really well last week — although, for the record, it appears as if someone stole $1.3 mil from First Sunday’s coffer, since its final tally of $17.7 mil was well off from its original $19 mil estimate. No matter, though: The movie will make up that lost dough this weekend.
Weekend prediction: $10 million
THE OTHER NEW RELEASE
Overture · PG-13 · 2,470 theaters · NEW
No, this is not a film version of the popular Jim Cramer show on CNBC (It's time for the Lightning Round!!!!!!!!!!). But maybe it should be. I mean, talk about mad money, the folks at upstart studio Overture Films have been strenuously marketing their inaugural release, which features the head-spinningly motley crew of Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah, and Katie Holmes as would-be robbers in Kansas City. Oof. Not a proposition I’d expect many people to invest in.
Weekend prediction: $7 million