News

Box Office Forecast

by Brandon Gray
June 18, 1999

It's swinger vs. swinger this weekend as Tarzan takes on Austin Powers. If Austin put the "grrr" in swinger, did Tarzan make a contribution? Did he put the "win" in swinger? I don't think so, because it looks like Austin has just enough mojo left in him to hold on to that #1 spot.

Tarzan should be the next step towards Disney pulling itself out of its animation slump. Playing at 3,005 theaters, it's the widest a Disney cartoon has ever gone. Actually, 3,000 has suddenly become the standard "event" picture release, and the buzz has made Disney bullish. Last year, the similarly buzzed Mulan improved upon Hercules's take by more than 20%. Tarzan with its broader appeal and apparent slight deviance from the tired Disney formula could see an opening in the Pocahontas range ($29 million). The Lion King will not be matched for a long time if ever, then again I have no idea what the buzz on the playground is.

Austin Powers should fair slightly better than its niche origins would suggest. It's become a zeitgeist and should likely see a 40% drop. That would put it in the low 30's and give it just enough to remain king of the swingers.

The Phantom Menace has some demographic overlapping with Tarzan and therefore should see a slightly bigger drop than last weekend. Apparently, there's something called "Fan Day" when the fans are supposedly going to flood the theaters on Saturday (one month after the opening) in an attempt to put Star Wars back on top and on its way to sink the Titanic. First of all, this sounds way too obsessive. I mean who cares if The Phantom Menace is never #1 again or doesn't beat Titanic? Will it be a worse picture? The fact of the matter is that box office and popularity have nothing to do with a picture's quality, and this fan day presupposes that they do. At any rate, there doesn't seem to be much of a ground swell, and it should have little effect on the box office. Now, to all the fans whose self worth is tied to The Phantom Menace's performance, relax. It's one of the most successful pictures of all time, and its profit margin will likely be much higher than Titanic's. As I've stated before, it should end up making about as much as Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi did if you adjust for inflation.

Meanwhile, The General's Daughter is John Travolta's second lawyer potboiler in six months, only there wasn't much boiling going on in his last one, A Civil Action. Still, Travolta was able to open that inactive Action to over $15 million and in the middle of January. He has considerably more competition now, though the most direct is only that 10 lb. Gorilla, Instinct. I see this picture performing similarly to last June's A Perfect Murder. Hopefully, director Simon West did not bring the whole Jerry Bruckheimer/Michael Bay aesthetic with him from his last picture Con Air. Though I think I saw a hint of that trademark orange filter in the commercial.

Anyway, I'll be going to see The Third Man again.

Editor's Note: Articles published before 2001 were assigned and reported as box office briefings, not a full evaluation or analysis.



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