Movie Projector: 'Sex and the City' ladies to rule over 'Prince of Persia'
Walt Disney Studios' big-screen video-game adaptation "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time," starring Jake Gyllenhaal, is unlikely to open in first or even second place over the lucrative Memorial Day holiday weekend, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys. It comes two weeks after a soft launch for Universal Pictures' costly epic "Robin Hood" and one week after a much-lower-than-expected start for DreamWorks Animation's' "Shrek Forever After."
Expected to follow in the footsteps of its 2008 surprise hit predecessor, "Sex and the City 2" should rule the box office roost, the people said, while "Shrek" is poised to land as runner-up on its second weekend.
The three films are expected to divide up the moviegoing audience with women most interested in "Sex and the City," men in "Prince of Persia," and families in "Shrek."
It appears that "Persia" won't draw enough men, however, to make good on its hefty production budget of about $200 million. Several Hollywood executives said the movie was likely to sell $35 million to $40 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada over the four-day holiday weekend from Friday through Monday.
That's right in line with the soft $36-million domestic opening for "Robin Hood," which had a similarly large production cost.
Disney expects "Persia," which was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, to rake in more money overseas, though early foreign prospects aren't particularly bright. Last weekend the film brought in a soft $18 million in 19 foreign countries where it opened early. This weekend it will debut in another 19 international territories, putting it in most major foreign markets.
"Sex and the City 2," meanwhile, appears to be on much stronger footing, though it remains to be seen whether overwhelmingly negative reviews will have an effect. Based on polling conducted before most reviews came out, the second movie inspired by the long-running HBO series starring Sarah Jessica Parker is expected to do at least as well as the first, which opened to $57 million on a three-day weekend in 2008.
Hoping to get a jump on this holiday weekend, distributor Warner Bros. opened the sequel Thursday. By Memorial Day on Monday, it probably will have taken in about $70 million. In its first screenings at midnight, the film sold $3 million worth of tickets, up from $2.5 million for the original.
Like the first movie, "Sex and the City 2" has generated significant advance interest among females, making it almost a "fanboy" movie for women. Through Wednesday it had sold out more than 600 shows via ticketing websites.
The romantic comedy also opens in 19 foreign markets this weekend, including Britain, Germany and Brazil. The first "Sex and the City" grossed a total of $262.6 internationally, compared with $152.6 million in the U.S. and Canada.
Warner's New Line Cinema unit co-financed "Sex and the City 2" with partner Village Roadshow Pictures for about $95 million.
DreamWorks Animation and distributor Paramount Pictures are hopeful that "Shrek Forever After" will ride positive reviews and strong buzz from its opening to a very solid second weekend. Despite playing in 3-D, which means significantly higher ticket prices, the fourth "Shrek" movie grossed only $70.8 million on its first weekend, a 42% drop from the opening of "Shrek the Third" on the same weekend in 2007.
Those who saw the movie last weekend gave it an average grade of A, however, indicating very strong word of mouth. It appears set to take in $50 million to $60 million from Friday through Monday.
-- Ben Fritz
Top photo: Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton in "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time." Credit: Andrew Cooper / Walt Disney Studios
Bottom photo: Cynthia Nixon and Sarah Jessica Parker in "Sex and the City 2." Credit: Craig Blankenhorn / New Line Cinema