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Will Paramount's "Super 8" Have a Monster Opening?

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Box office predictions for the weekend of June 10-12, 2011.

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This weekend filmgoers will finally learn the secret behind J.J. Abrams throwback to the 80's sci-fi film Super 8 from Paramount (VIA). The marketing campaign started for this film more than a year ago with a teaser trailer that was shot before the film was made and the creature (monster or alien or something) has been kept out of view for the entire marketing campaign. The question is whether the secrecy behind the film will translate into a big opening weekend or will it cause audiences to feel ambivalent about the film? Also opening this weekend is family friendly Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer from Relativity Media which will likely experience a small opening weekend. Based on my estimates for the Top 10, the overall box office will be down a slight 2.1% for the weekend in comparison to last year when Sony's (SNE) The Karate Kid opened with an impressive $55.7 million.

As a huge fan of both J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg, I'm extremely hopeful that Super 8 is going to be an amazing film. The early reviews have been quite good and have certainly increased my anticipation for the film. Written and directed by Abrams and produced by Spielberg, Super 8 is the only summer event movie that is not based on an existing property and for that alone, I want this film to succeed at the box office. If films like this one and last summer's Inception from Warner Bros. (TWX) continue to do well, perhaps we (the audience) won't have to continue to sit through endless sequels and pointless remakes. Don't get me wrong; I love sequels and remakes when they are justified, but lately things have gotten out of control. Did we really need an Arthur remake?

A teaser trailer for the film depicting a train derailment with a mysterious (unseen) creature emerging from the wreckage premiered a year ago and had many (including myself) guessing that Super 8 was just a retread of the Abrams produced Cloverfield. Once the full trailer premiered however, any fears that the film was going to a Cloverfield clone quickly vanished. Instead, Super 8 is a film that has the tone of vintage Spielberg films like E.T. or Close Encounters of the Third Kind and I couldn't be more excited. The trailer while giving a good feel for the type of film Super 8 is, also doesn't reveal that much about the story but the veil of secrecy surrounding the film may actually hurt it at the box office this weekend.

The cast is virtually untested on the big screen, consisting of television stars and unknowns and this is a good thing for this type of film, creatively speaking. Sometimes having a huge movie star in a film like this makes it difficult to become fully emerged in the story. The cast of unknowns is also refreshing in this day and age when most films are built around a big movie star. This approach worked very well in the late 70's and early 80's and created stars like Harrison Ford and Richard Dreyfuss and Super 8 may very well create a new movie star in Kyle Chandler. As much as this approach is a breath of fresh air, it could mean disaster at the box office. Without a big name actor or actress to draw people in, Super 8 could very well get lost in the pack of big summer movies currently occupying theaters. Of course the names J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg may stop the lack of a well-known star from being an issue.

Although reviews have been solid and the film has been marketed for more than a year, early tracking for the PG-13 film has been surprisingly soft, suggesting a small opening of about $30 million. Paramount has decided to counteract this by releasing the film in approximately 300 theaters (mostly IMAX screens) a day early on Thursday. They have been using social network site Twitter to promote the early opening and are hoping that positive tweets will follow the early launch and boost the opening weekend potential of the film. It's a smart move as Super 8 is the type of film that will be a hit based on good old fashioned word of mouth and it has the potential to become the sleeper hit of the summer. As I said earlier, the fact that Super 8 is an original property with not all of its plot points divulged gives the film the potential to be this summer's Inception, albeit on a smaller scale. I don't expect the film to have quite the strong legs (or opening) that Christopher Nolan's opus had; competition is much fiercer this summer in comparison to 2010's lackluster summer slate and Inception also had the benefit of a huge movie star in Leonardo DiCaprio. Nonetheless, I expect the word of mouth for Super 8 to be terrific, allowing it to perform well into late July.
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