Weekend Outlook: 'Hulk' vs 'Happening'
The Incredible Hulk poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published June 11, 2008
The Incredible Hulk is reminding me of The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, which had opened to $52.5 and $69.3 million. Hulk could be closer to Supremacy given that Edward Norton is new to the franchise.
The Hulk was not received well in 2003. That was first evident with the second day box office drop (and I heard the movie was booed at various theaters on Friday night in LA), and on the next Friday its sales were down an alarming 77% from opening day, indicating terrible word of mouth. The Hulk clocked out at $132 million after a $62.1 million opening weekend, a weak figure even though the budget was $137 million. This new entry in the franchise, The Incredible Hulk, is supposedly pretty good according to reviews, if expectations are that of a fast-paced action flick. The film is reminding me of The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, which had opened to $52.5 million and $69.3 million respectively. Hulk's box office results could be closer to Supremacy given that Edward Norton is new to the franchise, and considering the first Hulk left a bad taste for many people. Norton's last big film as the main star was Red Dragon, another franchise, which opened to $36.5 million. This should be a good step up for the actor in terms of exposure.

However, The Bourne Supremacy had Matt Damon in a built-in action role by that point, considering The Bourne Identity was a crowd pleaser with good legs at the box office. Could The Incredible Hulk come in with just under $50 million this weekend? My bet is in the $55 - 60 million range, but it could be under or over that mark by a little bit. If the film is good, word of mouth should help it outdo the original’s total and potentially reach over $150 million.

M. Night Shyamalan lost a lot of respect after The Village in 2004. In 1999, he hit it huge with The Sixth Sense, which grossed $293 million domestically after a $26.5 million opening weekend. He then did Unbreakable with Bruce Willis again, an artsy comic book thriller that opened to $30 million in 3-days and $46 million in 5-days, but the film received mixed word of mouth and cashed out at $95 million. Then Shyamalan came back for a killing with an alien invasion plot with Signs which grossed $228 million, a crowd pleaser, and Shyamalan was on top again. Then there was The Village. Advertised as a big summer horror/thriller, sort of a follow-up companion piece to Signs set in the woods, the film was instead more of an art-house period piece romance, which outraged many of his fans who wanted to be thrilled. I overheard that The Village was booed at some theaters on its opening night in LA. The film had a debut of $50 million and ticket sales crumbled as a result of widespread disappointment and it earned $114 million domestically.

Lady in the Water, designed as a bedtime story for his kids, opened in 2006 and bombed financially and critically with $42 million. Commercially, the casting of Paul Giamatti and Bryce Dallas Howard was too offbeat to sell, and the story about mythical creatures around a motel pool was too bizarre. Shyamalan’s fans didn't really know what the movie was trying to be judging from the ads, and he had already lost a lot of people because of The Village.

With The Happening, Shyamalan is in familiar thriller territory, which could help him bounce up from Lady in the Water. The ads have his suspenseful trademarks. But The Happening doesn't have a big star like Mel Gibson, and The Village had Joaquin Phoenix coming off the success of Signs. Mark Wahlberg's star-power as a lead is still to be determined. Even though he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in The Departed, Nicholson, DiCaprio, and Damon were top-billing stars. This will be Wahlberg’s first big test.

The Happening is opening on Friday the 13th, a similar marketing tactic as the remake of The Omen, also from Fox, which specifically debuted on the superstitious Tuesday, 6 / 6 / 06, and turned in $12.6 million on that opening day. With the 13th on Friday for The Happening, first day sales could be big and frontloaded considering Shyamalan’s horror fan-boys could rush out, and it could have a bigger opening day than The Sixth Sense but still reach a similar three-day weekend. The Happening could gross upwards of $10 - 12 million on Friday and finish the weekend in the mid to high $20 millions (and it would be quite the shameless move if Fox forges Friday to $13). $25 - 28 million would be a decent bounce up from Lady in the Water's $18 million debut, and the film could reach a total sum of around $75 million.
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