The early word on United 93 is almost universally positive. So how much money is it going to make? It's not unreasonable to speculate that United 93's box office performance will be analyzed as a cultural indicator of one sort or another.
Let's start, as always, with the marketplace. HSX has United 93 pegged at $48, which translates to a $16.5M opening weekend.
Our next stop is the performance of the April 28 weekend over the last few years:
* In 2005 The Interpreter opened to $22.8M.
* In 2004 Man on Fire opened to $22.7M and 13 Going on 30 opened to $21M.
* In 2003, Identity opened to $16.2M.
* In 2002, Jason X opened to $6.6M and Life, or Something Like It, opened to $6.2M.
* In 2001, Driven opened to $12.1M.
* In 2000, The Flintstones Viva Rock Vegas, Frequency, and Where the Heart Is opened to $10.5M, $9M, and $8.2M, respectively.
What we see here (excepting 2000, when this weekend followed the strong release of The Scorpian King) is a trend of increasingly large openings for the fourth weekend in April.
Because of this, it looks as though the floor for United 93 is probably $22M. None of the other April openers are in the same genre as United 93--really, nothing is, except maybe Passion of the Christ. Passion opened to $83M. Could United 93 wind up in that neighborhood? I think it's possible. But I'd be surprised.
Only two movies have ever opened above $40M in April. It's more likely that United 93 will fall somewhere between that $22M floor and $42M. If it's within that range then I'm not sure the audience reaction will really symbolize anything--that's basically business as usual for the month of April.
But if it's significantly outside that range, then it could really say something about American attitudes.
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