'This Is It' headed for $10 million to $12 million opening day
According to executives at several studios who have been tracking the returns, the new Michael Jackson documentary is likely to sell $10 million to $12 million worth of tickets domestically today.
Though that number could vary a bit depending on how later screenings perform, executives experienced in tracking box office said the movie had virtually no chance of collecting more than $15 million or less than $9 million.
"This Is It" sold $2.2 million worth of tickets last night; most of that probably occurred after midnight and can be counted in today's grosses.
Comparisons with other movies are difficult, given that the only major releases studios have put out on a Wednesday outside of summer or the holidays are "The Passion of the Christ," a phenomenon that benefited from group purchases by churches, and "The Matrix Revolutions," the third movie in a blockbuster trilogy. Those pictures collected $26.6 million and $24.3 million, respectively, on their opening days.
The movie's big test will come Friday. Ticket sales Thursday are expected to be slow as most hard-core Michael Jackson fans will have come out last night or today. Saturday will also be slow because it's Halloween, historically a dismal day at the box office even though Sony is trying to generate publicity connected to Jackson's album "Thriller."
If word of mouth is strong and moviegoers beyond the most devoted Jackson fans are interested, that is likely to be evident in healthy ticket sales Friday. If it's a slow day, Sony may be looking at a five-day gross as low as $30 million and a soft two-week run relative to its investment of $60 million in rights to make the movie and tens of millions more in marketing.
Ultimately, however, domestic ticket sales may not be that important. "This Is It" is expected to perform substantially better overseas, where it could be a major hit regardless of how the film does in the U.S. and Canada. Box-office receipts from the 95 foreign countries where "This Is It" opened simultaneously are not yet available.
-- Ben Fritz
Photo: Jermaine Jackson arrives at the premiere of "This Is It" at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles last night. Credit: Jason Merritt / Getty Images