Studios are catering not only to more female filmgoers than usual over the Thanksgiving five-day stretch, but to all audiences.
At first glance, Wednesday’s offerings—Sony/Screen Gems’ musical Burlesque, Disney’s animated toon Tangled, Fox’s R-rated romantic comedy Love & Other Drugs and CBS Films’ automobile actioner Faster—appear to be frontloaded with three chick pics and a beefcake movie. True, The Twilight Saga scored with women over the past two Thanksgiving holidays. But the studios are hungry to gobble up a bigger slice of the b.o. pie.
“It’s one of those holidays where you reach a much broader audience. Everyone is available,” says Disney domestic distribution president Chuck Viane. “(Black) Friday is the single biggest day of the year. When you go to the theater, you won’t see a kid with one parent, rather with mom and dad as well as the grandparents.”
Disney is aiming its Thanksgiving offering, the animated 3-D Rapunzel adaptation Tangled, toward entire families. That’s why they changed the title: to them it’s not just a princess flick. The studio made efforts to target boys in its promos by positioning the toon’s swashbuckling male lead Flynn Rider alongside Rapunzel. Tangled should rope up from $29 to $31 million over three days and another $38 to $42 million over five at 3,603 theaters – a far better start than its previous frilly-dressed fairy tale The Princess and the Frog, which earned $24.2 million in its wide bow and finaled at $104.4 million. Princesses have always been a key asset for the studio’s animation unit, but with Frog barely making back its $105 million cost, the genre is out of gas and Disney is seeking other creative muses.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 is clearly expected to continue to lead the pack over the five days. Pundits peg the film to generate anywhere from $62.5 to $70 million from Friday-Sunday. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the last installment in the franchise to play in the fall, generated $81 million-plus over the Wednesday-Friday block and took a 47% decline with $54.7 million over three.
“There’s really a good mix for everyone,” observes Sony worldwide distribution president Rory Bruer, who has one entry in the Turkey fight, Burlesque, which has met mixed critical response so far. Burlesque is set to croon up $20 million-plus in five days. Should Burlesque keep the customers coming into December, it will prove to be a much-needed perk for Christina Aguilera’s image, whose pop thunder has been stolen by Lady Gaga; recently evident in the weak sales for her latest album Bionic. Working in Aguilera’s favor: Screen Gems’ focus on her R&B, jazzy vocals in their Chicago-like marketing. If there’s one talent where the pop star outstrips her competition it’s in her solid gold vibrato (read her cover of “Lady Marmalade” from Moulin Rouge). While Aguilera vies for the 20 to 30-somethings, Oscar-winner Cher looks to draw the older crowd with her first leading role since 1999’s Tea With Mussolini.
Fox believes its Anne Hathaway-Jake Gyllenhaal vehicle Love & Other Drugs is prime for couples, the target of posters which show the duo in a candid bedroom pose. Lovebirds are expected to spend in the mid teens at 2,451 theaters to see the relationship comedy set against a ‘90s Viagra-crazed backdrop. “Sure, the primary audience is women, but men are reluctant to say that they’re in as is the nature of the male beast,” observes Fox distribution senior vp Chris Aronson. Fox is pushing Love & Other Drugs out at a crowded time due to awards: the film reps Academy fave Edward Zwick’s return to the relationship comedies that established his directing career, i.e. 1986’s About Last Night… and TV’s ‘80s series thirtysomething.
Faster hopes to speed past Love & Drugs, but might actually tail with $14-$15 million at 2,400 locations. Of late, ex-wrestler Dwayne Johnson has been busy with family fare which peaked with Disney’s The Game Plane in 2007 ($90.6 million) and ebbed into mid-grossing range with January’s The Tooth Fairy ($60 million). Faster puts the actor back into his action comfort zone. The $24-million Faster looks to profit with half of its budget financed by Sony, which has international.
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