Releasing in 4,104 theatres on over 7,000 screens, Monsters vs. Aliens will saturate the market this weekend. The credit crunch, however, will prevent the 3D rollout Paramount had hoped for: Only 2 out of 7 screens will show the movie in 3D.
Theatres and studios only recently agreed on the virtual print fee (a way for theatres and studios to share the costs of conversion to digital and 3D), but the financial crisis has cut off lending, leaving theatres unable to secure financing, and American moviegoers with limited places to see Reese Witherspoon as a 3D Ginormica/Susan Murphy.
Whatever the film's take this weekend (likely: high), much of it will be coming from 3D venues, which charge a roughly 25% premium. Add in the extra $1 to see it in IMAX 3D, and you're looking at 3D ticket prices ranging from $12.50 in Indiana to a monster-sized $18.50 in the Big Apple. Still, audiences have shown that they are more than willing to pay extra for 3D, and the novelty factor makes 3D screens profitable weeks after a film's release. This year's 3D pictures Coraline, My Bloody Valentine, and Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience earned a disproportionate percentage of their gross from 3D venues, which only increased as the weeks wore on. Presumably, this can be explained by theatres scaling back the 2D screens, as well as audiences specifically seeking out the 3D experience (I assume many 3D venues sell out opening weekend). Billed as the first movie "fully authored" in 3D, and certainly the one with the widest release, many eyes will be looking to see if Monsters vs. Aliens will pop.
Competing with the family crowds, The Haunting in Connecticut will roll out to 2,732 theatres. A typical teen-oriented horror picture that's tracking well with teen girls (the "new" audience for horror movies). According to our critic John DeFore, the pictures mines "cancer, an abandoned mortuary and necromancy" for its screams.
Finally, 12 Rounds will open at 2,331 locations. The B-actioner, filmed in New Orleans to take advantage of a tax credit, has that Saw/psycho mastermind element to it: an escaped criminal seeking revenge puts a police officer through 12 rounds of challenges in order to rescue his kidnapped wife. The World Wrestling Federation (WWE) produced the flick, so take that as an endorsement, or a warning.
Next week our Executive Editor Kevin Lally will be reporting from Las Vegas on ShoWest, so look for his posts.