Buckle your seatbelts, old-school video game fans, because Disney (NYSE:DIS) and DreamWorks Studios are about to bring one your favorite racing titles to life on the big screen.
Starring Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul, Need for Speed will look to capitalize on its status as the only new wide release hitting more than 3,000 theaters this weekend. Early sales currently have it tracking somewhere in the $25 million range over the next three days.
Will that be enough to oust Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) reigning champion in 300: Rise of an Empire? I think so, at least barring any unexpected outperformance from the quasi-historical sequel/prequel. If Rise of an Empire experiences a similar 53.6% second-weekend drop as its 2007 predecessor, it should end this weekend in the $21 million range.
Don't expect too much
But make no mistake: Need for Speed is no Fast & Furious.
While a $25 million opening wouldn't be too shabby given Disney/DreamWorks' $66 million budget, it's also only marginally better than 2006's The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, which opened to a franchise-low $24 million en route to a mediocre $158.5 million worldwide gross. A similar result would likely be enough for Need for Speed to prove profitable for Disney and DreamWorks, but it's still a far cry from the $444 million average global gross enjoyed by the other five Fast & Furious movies.
However, that's also not to say Need for Speed couldn't pick up the pace and command any number of sequels, especially if movie-goers respond with positive word of mouth for the first installment. As a result, I'm curious to see what exiting audiences will tell the folks at CinemaScore this weekend. If Need for Speed can earn an A- or better, there's a good chance it could have plenty of room to run up its totals over the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, don't forget about DreamWorks Animation's (NASDAQ:DWA) $145 million effort with Mr. Peabody & Sherman. The family-friendly film earned a solid 'A' CinemaScore last week, but drew the ire of Wall Street after it grossed a modest $32.2 million during its debut. One analyst even predicted as much as $84 million in resulting writedowns for the studio.
But that pessimism hinged on the assumption Mr. Peabody & Sherman would only muster a total gross of $310 million at the global box office -- something with which I've already respectfully disagreed. In any case, if Mr. Peabody & Sherman holds up as well as DreamWorks' The Croods did last March, it could mean a close battle for second place this weekend with around $20 million.
The end of an era
Finally, don't underestimate Lions Gate Entertainment's (NYSE:LGF-A) Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club, which is set to enter roughly 1,900 theaters. Keeping in mind Perry's films typically require comparatively low production budgets of around $20 million, The Single Moms Club should prove yet another winner with a projected opening around $15 million to $20 million.
The Single Moms Club is also notable because it marks Perry's 15th and final film under his long-standing partnership with Lions Gate. That said, you can rest assured we haven't seen the last of Tyler Perry. Going forward, the much-loved writer/director/producer/actor will focus his time on developing several television series under his multi-year production deal with Oprah Winfrey's namesake network.
In any case, I'll be sure to touch base as the weekend progresses to see how each movie is faring, but I'd love to hear your thoughts in the meantime. Will Need for Speed disappoint as The Single Moms Club outperforms? Can Mr. Peabody & Sherman prove analysts wrong? Sound off in the comments section below.
Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends DreamWorks Animation and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.