Fall’s first big box office throwdown is here, folks! Yep, it’s what we’ve all been waiting for: the long-anticipated dual release of two of the most polar-opposite movies in history, the G-rated High School Musical 3 and the hard-R-rated Saw V. I mean, what’ll Hollywood do next — release sequels to Bambi and Deep Throat at the same time? Gotta love this box office stuff.
So props in advance to all the distribution folks out there for making this weekend race so much fun to watch. I’m making my prediction below, and you can go have even more fun by playing EW.com’s Fall Box Office Challenge.
THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE
High School Musical 3: Senior Year
Walt Disney · G · 3,623 theaters · NEW
I have to come clean. I was talking to my esteemed colleague Michael Ausiello a few weeks ago, telling him that while I figured HSM3 would be big, I wasn’t sure that it would boast a blockbuster bow. After all, I told him, TV stars/properties rarely crossover to become major movie box office draws, and it’s hard to know how much iPhone-toting kids feel the need to see things on the big screen anymore. And besides, the competition this week is fierce. Well, I’m here to say that even though that’s all true, I was being too cautious. (Sorry, Ausiello!) This movie is going to be big, and its first-weekend number should be larger — much larger — than I initially expected. Why? Advance ticket sales, for one. As we saw with Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert earlier this year, people everywhere have been securing admission to this long-awaited film well before its debut. And given how well the Miley movie did when it opened in 683 theaters ($31.1 mil), you’ve gotta assume this one will do even better in five times as many venues. Oh, and also, as I’ve always said, and as the Chihuahua probably convinced you: Kids rule.
Weekend prediction: $45 million
Lionsgate · R · 3,060 theaters · NEW
In any other year, this would have been the weekend’s No. 1 film by far. In fact, the three most recent Saw movies all premiered in this pre-Halloween frame, and they were all winners, each earning a sum in the low-$30 mil range. Of course, none of those fright flicks had any competition at the box office…but this one doesn’t either, really: It’s not like the tween girls who have been dying to see HSM3 are in any way the same folks who have been longing to watch Jigsaw terrorize more poor souls. Certainly, there are a few moms and dads out there who will be taking the kids to HSM3 and thus won’t have time to check out the latest installment in the Saw oeuvre. But that’s not a major concern. No, the only reason that Saw V is going to finish second is because its large built-in audience happens to be smaller than HSM3‘s even larger fan base. Any way you, um, slice it, however, don’t count this movie out.
Weekend prediction: $30 million
Pride and Glory
Warner Bros./New Line · R · 2,585 theaters · NEW
There was a time when an urban cop drama like this would have been a major contender at the box office. But not anymore. For starters, it’s not 1975. Also, the film’s cast of Colin Farrell, Edward Norton, and Jon Voight (told you, it’s not 1975!) isn’t as hot as perhaps it once was. (Sorry, but The Incredible Hulk didn’t necessarily boost Norton’s box office cred.) And let’s not forget how Pride and Glory has been in a limbo of sorts ever since New Line delayed its initial release last spring and then the studio itself got swallowed up by Warner Bros. The very similar We Own the Night debuted a year ago with $10.8 mil, and the financial performance of that film is a good model here — except that it wasn’t competing against HSM3 and Saw V.
Weekend prediction: $9 million
Fox · PG-13 · 3,381 theaters · 2nd weekend
The latest from We Own the Night star Mark Wahlberg was a solid champion last weekend, banking $17.6 mil. Now, look for it to drop mightily in a crowded marketplace.
Weekend prediction: $7 million
Beverly Hills Chihuahua
Walt Disney · PG · 3,190 theaters · 4th weekend
America’s new favorite pooch has been hanging on strong for three weeks, grossing more than $70 mil along the way. But it’ll finally be sent to the doghouse this weekend as it faces its first big family-film competition. Arf, indeed.
Weekend prediction: $6 million