Debut of 3D concert film starring the world's hottest boy band has teen girls (and Sony) squealing
"One Direction: This Is Us,” the 3D concert movie from the red-hot British boy band that opens nationwide Friday, is the clear favorite to close out summer with a win at the Labor Day weekend box office.
With analysts projecting a four-day total of around $20 million, returns for "One Direction" aren't likely to match the box-office haul of previous concert films from Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus. Still, it should make enough to easily top the other two wide openers, the Selena Gomez-Ethan Hawke thriller "Getaway” and the Eric Bana spy drama "Closed Circuit."
Neither is expected to crack $10 million, so the young pop stars' biggest competition is likely to come from "Lee Daniels' 'The Butler,'" the civil-rights saga that has won the last two weekends.
Back before there was "twerking,” "Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds” posted the biggest domestic opening for a concert movie — $31 million in February of 2008 – and went on to take in $65 million for Disney.
That ushered in a wave of teen-targeting concert movies including "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never,” which holds the record for the highest-grossing concert movie ever in the U.S. It brought in $73 million for Paramount, after opening to $29 million in February 2011 according to Box Office Mojo.
But they don't all hit the high notes. Last year, "Katy Perry: Part of Me" opened with an off-key $7 million in July and topped out at $25 million for Paramount. "The Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience” debuted to $12.5 million in February 2009, and finished with $19 million for Disney.
The timing looks right for One Direction, however. Between the MTV VMAs, the New York premiere and several TV guest shots, the band has been front and center over this past week. The boys' mainly teen fangirls frequently scream — even when the boys keep their shirts on — so it could get loud in the roughly 2,500 theaters nationwide in which distributor Sony has the 3D film. And as of Thursday morning, it accounted for 68 percent of the sales on online ticket broker Fandango.
The movie is produced by Simon Cowell and Morgan Spurlock, and directed by Spurlock ("Super Size Me”). Cowell put the band together after they came up short as solo acts on the U.K.'s "X Factor."
The movie follows the lads from their youth to their most recent world tour, and includes plenty of life-on-the-road and backstage moments along with the music footage. The movie is utterly devoid of sex, drugs and rock and roll raunch — so "This Is Us" is rated PG.
Sony has experience with concert films, having also handled "Michael Jackson: This Is It.” That 2009 docu on the late King of Pop ranks No. 2 on the domestic list with $72 million, but is the runaway leader in terms of worldwide grosses, with more than $261 million.
The studio is rolling out "One Direction” in most of Europe and Latin America this weekend and expecting solid returns. Domestically, however, the studio is less bullish than the analysts.
"We'd be happy to land in the mid-teen millions, so $20 million would be great,” Sony distribution chief Rory Bruer said, "but we'll see. It's been building momentum week to week."
He acknowledged it's tougher to project performances on concert movies, and said digital marketing would be critical given the film's target demographic: teen girls.
The social media signs are positive. "One Direction” has been trending upward on Twitter this week and had 26,547 mentions three days out from its debut, compared with 28,614 for Bieber's movie, according to BoxOffice.com. One Direction's Facebook page is essentially serving as the movie's as well, and it has more than 19 million likes.
Though it features a teen star of its own in Selena Gomez, Warner Bros.' "The Getaway” is looking at a modest $6 million for the weekend, analysts say.
In it, former race car driver Brent Magna (Hawke) must get behind the wheel of a Shelby Mustang Super Snake and follow the orders of a mysterious man (Jon Voight) to save his kidnapped wife. He gets some help from an anonymous, computer-savvy girl known as The Kid (Gomez).
Hawke has had a good year, appearing in the well-reviewed indie film "Before Midnight” and the surprise horror hit "The Purge” earlier this summer. But it's the presence of Gomez, who voiced Mavis in last year's "Hotel Transylvania” and appeared in this year's "Spring Breakers,” that provides an X factor at the box office.
Courtney Solomon directs and is a producer on the PG-13-rated "Getaway,” which has an $18 million production budget. It will be in about 2,000 theaters.
Focus Features opened its low-budget spy thriller "Closed Circuit” on Wednesday in 862 theaters, and analysts believe it will have a tough time hitting $4 million for the six days.
Its plot – about two former lover lawyers (Bana and Rebecca Hall) caught up in a terrorism case involving government surveillance — became more relevant with the recent controversies involving Wikileaks and Edward Snowden.
The critics have been cool to "Closed Circuit,” which has 41 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It's social media footprint is considerably smaller than the 2011 spy thriller from Focus, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.”