Box Office: Can Disney’s Pricey ‘Prince’ Make a Stand in the Sand?

Bruckheimer film opens to lukewarm tracking and long odds, while “Sex 2” struts to a $14.2M Thursday start

Last Updated: May 29, 2010 @ 9:07 AM

Friday afternoon update:

With the "Sex and the City 2" off to a solid $14.2 million start Thursday, reviews be damned, the holiday weekend’s other big release, Disney’s "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time," rides into a veritable desert of uncertainty.

Specifically, can a Jerry Bruckheimer-produced period adventure with an unproven action star (Jake Gyllenhaal) perform well enough to offset lofty production costs that some reports now say exceed $200 million?

Early returns suggest the odds may be long for "Persia." The videogame-based epic is tracking to gross around $40 million over the four-day Memorial Day period.

That’s in line with the $36 million domestic opening for Universal’s similary pricey "Robin Hood" two weeks ago.

"Robin Hood," however, was able to offset softness in the U.S./Canadian market by a strong overseas performance, which has exceeded $125 million so far.

For its part, the Mike Newell-directed "Persia" opened internationally last weekend to a soft $18 million in 19 territories.

The film is expected to finish third this weekend at the domestic box office, trailing not only "Sex and the City 2," but DreamWorks’ "Shrek Forever After." That animated 3D family film is projected to experience minimal declines from its disappointing $70.6 million start based on solid moviegoer word-of-mouth scores.

Stay tuned.

Friday update:

Warner Bros.’ "Sex and the City" got off to a strong start Thursday, opening to $14.2 million on a weekday at 3,445 locations.

The one-day tally also includes several thousand midnight engagements which generated $3 million — the original did $2.5 million worth of midnight business in May 2008.

With that first installment grossing $26.7 million on its premiere Friday, Warner officials decided to open the film a day early to better capitalize on the initial rush of hardcore "Sex and the City" fans.

The second "Sex" installment is expected to gross more than $60 million through Monday Memorial Day.

Also opening wide on Friday is Disney’s Jerry Bruckheimer-produced "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time."

ALSO READ: "’Sex 2': The Definition of Review-Proof."

Thursday update:

The second time was hotter than the first as far as Warner’s "Sex and the City" franchise is concerned.

The HBO-inspired film grossed $3 million playing at approximatly 2,000 midnight shows, according to studio estimates, which represents a 20 percent uptick over the midnight opening of the first "Sex and the City" in 2008.

This bodes well for the second installment, which fully unfurls at 3,445 domestic locations Friday and is expected to gross as much as $80 million this weekend in the U.S. and Canada.

Opening at 12 a.m. on the Friday after Memorial Day two years ago, the original "Sex" went on to gross $26.7 million on its first day and $57 million for its opening weekend.

Wednesday preview:

The summer blockbuster season is off to a lukewarm start, with high-profile sequels “Iron Man 2” and “Shrek Forever After” both failing to meet up to their huge opening box-office expectations.

Enter Warner’s “Sex and the City 2” and Disney’s “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” which their respective studios hope, will break that trend over the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

For his part, one box-office tracker isn’t getting his hopes up.

“I think (‘Sex and the City 2’) comes in on the low end,” he noted. “I also see ‘Prince’ coming in below expectations.”

Debuting at midnight Thursday in about 2,000 theaters – and in 3,445 locations starting Friday – the second “Sex” movie installment is expected to gross between $60 million-$80 million through the Monday holiday.

An exact prediction is difficult for the Michael Patrick King-directed sequel, box office trackers say, because many of the franchise’s core fans are women who aren’t habitual moviegoers.

The unorthodox Thursday release, meanwhile, also makes prognosticating tough.

According to Warner distribution president Dan Fellman, the original “Sex” – which debuted to $57 million the weekend after Memorial Day two years ago – was “unique” in that it grossed a huge chunk of its premiere total (about $26 million) on its opening Friday.

Opening the film a day early, Fellman hopes, will  make it even more available to Carrie Bradshaw-hungry fans.

Produced on a budget of around $80 million and re-uniting the core cast of Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristen Davis, Cynthia Nixon and Chris Noth, “Sex 2” is currently yielding a Rotten Tomatoes score of only around 12 percent.

The Jerry Bruckheimer-produced “Prince of Persia,” meanwhile, is tracking to gross between $40 million-$45 million while starting out domestically in more than 3,500 locations; this, after debuting to $18 million internationally last weekend.

Casting Jake Gyllenhaal in an action-hero role alongside Gemma Arterton, the PG-13-rated “Prince” carries a hefty production price tag of what some now say exceeds $200 million. Its reviews are aggregating at 55 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Both films are arriving in a somewhat competitive market that includes, holdover-wise, not only “Iron Man 2” and “Shrek 4,” but also Universal’s “Robin Hood.”

For his part, Disney theatrical distribution chief Chuck Viane said “the delineation of audiences is good for everybody” — meaning “Persia” (targeting primarily men), “Sex” (aimed mostly at women) and “Shrek” (kids and families) all are going after a different demographic.

With its disappointing debut last weekend sending DreamWorks stock tumbling 11 percent on Monday, the 3D “Shrek” enters weekend two with an "A" CinemaScore.

Like the fourth “Shrek,” DreamWorks’ last 3D film, “How to Train Your Dragon,” also endured a less-than-hoped-for opening in late March, but rode its solid A-grade CinemaScore to eight straight weeks of minimal declines.

Given that fact, a negligible 25 percent week-to-week drop for “Shrek” – not unheard of if its playability is similar to DreamWorks’ successful “How to Train Your Dragon’s” – might give “Shrek” the upset victory this weekend, should “Sex” falter.

While the bulk of “Shrek’s” foreign grosses are pending, the movie opened to a record $20 million in Russia last weekend.

“I don’t think anyone should underestimate the holding power of ‘Shrek,’” Viane noted.

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