Weekend Predictions (Jan. 23 to Jan. 25, 2009): 'Underworld: Rise of the Lycans' and 'Inkheart'

Featured Stories - on January 22, 2009 by Phil Contrino

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans and Inkheart will face off against Oscar nominees this weekend.

Two new films debut in wide release this weekend, and Oscar contenders will try to turn the momentum of the recently announced nominations into strong box office returns.

The vampire-themed Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is landing at 2,942 locations, and after the recent success of Twilight vampires are definitely a hot commodity.

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Lycans is the third film in a well-established franchise. The first flick boasted an opening weekend of $21.7 million in 2003 (which equals around $26 million when adjusted for inflation), and the sequel improved upon that by bringing in nearly $27 during its opening frame in 2006.

Sony has wisely chosen not to play up the fact that series star Kate Beckinsale has been replaced by Rhona Mitra ( Doomsday ). Fans of the series should be able to catch on to that fact rather quickly, and they could be turned off by it. Even with that in mind, the R-rated action flick should bring in a healthy $19 million during its opening frame.

After a moderately successful year in 2008 thanks to Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emporer, mainstream audiences will get another taste of Brendan Fraser in Inkheart. The fantasy film is opening at 2,655 locations, and unfortunately its marketing push has been stunted slightly due to the fact that it is a New Line production.

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While Earth opened to $21 million and Dragon Emprorer made $40 million during its debut frame both were familiar properties, so its unreasonable to expect that Inkheart will be able to reach those numbers. However, the film will appeal to family audiences who have already seen Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Hotel for Dogs, which means that a solid opening should occur. Look for Inkheart to debut with $16 million.

Slumdog Millionaire is expanding to over 1,400 locations, and it will benefit greatly from the 10 Oscar nominations it just received. Last weekend, its 10th, Slumdog brought in $5.8 million from 582 theatres. Its well within reason to expect that the Fox Searchlight release could nearly double that figure during its 11th frame, so expect it to tack on another $9.5 to $10.5 million to its total haul.

Revolutionary Road and Frost/Nixon will also try to use Oscar attention to their advantage this week. Road expands to 800 locations, and it could bring in a solid $6.5 million, which would bring its cume to a mediocre $14 million after five weeks of release. Meanwhile, Frost/Nixon will boost its reach to 1,097 locations. The play-cum-film has struggled to reach an audience since opening during the first weekend of December, and it has grossed only around $9 million. Thanks to key nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor, the film should see a modest bump this weekend that will lead to around $5 million more in the bank.

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