A Good Day to Die Hard—which is the fifth entry in the decades-old franchise—should have no problem claiming the top spot, though Nicholas Sparks adaptation Safe Haven and fantasy adaptation Beautiful Creatures are also poised to do well. Animated feature Escape From Planet Earth also lands in theaters this weekend, though it's unclear if family audiences even know it's coming out.
The Die Hard franchise has been a consistent box office performer since its inception nearly 25 years ago. The first movie—which is widely considered one of the best action movies ever—earned $83 million, which made it the seventh-highest-grossing movie of 1988.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder and Die Hard: With A Vengeance weren't as widely liked, but they both finished in the Top 10 in their respective years with $117.5 million and $100 million ($224 million and $185 million adjusted). After a 12-year hiatus, Bruce Willis was back in John McClane's iconic shoes for 2007's Live Free or Die Hard, which is the highest-grossing entry in the franchise at $134.5 million (though it was least-attended).
Opening at 3,553 locations—the fifth-biggest release ever for an R-rated movie—A Good Day to Die Hard should continue the franchise's winning track record (it's already earned $850,000 from 10 p.m. and midnight shows). The ubiquitous marketing has promised the outrageous, superhuman action that fans have come to expect from the series, while also showcasing the movie's unique new location (as corny as it is, "Yippee Ki-Yay Mother Russia" is also kind-of brilliant). The Valentine's Day release date has also been a cornerstone of the campaign, which has created an "event movie" feeling that's unusual for this time of year.
Through Thursday afternoon, A Good Day to Die Hard had an atrocious 12 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While that can affect some movies, it's likely that the fifth Die Hard is about as "critic-proof" as 20th Century Fox's Taken 2, which opened to an awesome $49.5 million last October despite its 21 percent rating. For Die Hard's five-day opening, Fox is expecting around $40 million.
While domestic earnings are nice, A Good Day to Die Hard is really designed to tap in to the expanding foreign market (which has been Fox's bread-and-butter in recent years). The last movie did $250 million in 2007; with its overseas setting and six years of foreign growth, it's reasonable to expect that A Good Day to Die Hard will ultimately earn at least $300 million overseas. After grossing over $10 million from a handful of Asian markets last weekend, the movie expands in to 47 other foreign territories this weekend including Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Spain and the U.K.
While Die Hard will easily win the weekend, Nicholas Sparks adaptation Safe Haven is the most overtly-romantic movie opening this weekend, which could make for a competitive Valentine's Day. Sparks' romances are fairly consistent box office performers: his last two movies, The Lucky One and The Last Song wound up with $63 million and $60.5 million, respectively. Its weaker cast will keep it from matching Dear John's $30.5 million three-day start in February 2010, though Safe Haven could reasonable earn at least $25 million through its first five days (distributor Relativity Media is expecting $20 to $22 million for the five-day opening).
Opening at 2,950 locations, Beautiful Creatures is the first blatant attempt to get in on some of that Twilight dough since that franchise wrapped up its run last November. While its supernatural teen romance seems to hit the right angles, the source material itself just isn't as popular as Twilight was circa November 2008. Still, plenty of mid-range young adult adaptations have opened decently over Presidents Day weekend: Bridge to Terabithia, The Spiderwick Chronicles and I Am Number Four all had four-day starts north of $20 million, which is a reasonable expectation for Beautiful Creatures.
Animated movie Escape from Planet Earth opens at 3,288 locations on Friday. It's a second-tier animation effort that's barely received any marketing push, though it could still wind up performing decently this weekend considering it's the first movie of 2013 targeted at family audiences. As a result, a four-day start over $10 million is almost guaranteed.
Forecast (Feb. 15-Feb. 18)
1. Die Hard 5 - $44.9 million ($56.5 million 5-day)
2. Identity Thief - $25 million (-30%)
3. Safe Haven - $21.7 million ($29.2 million 5-day)
4. Beautiful Creatures - $19 million ($25.2 million 5-day)
5. Escape from Planet Earth - $11.3 million
Bar for Success
Adjusted for inflation, Live Free or Die Hard's 3-day opening is $39 million; A Good Day to Die Hard needs to at least match that level over its first five days. The last three Nicholas Sparks movies have all opened to at least $25 million in their first five days, so Safe Haven is in good shape at over $20 million. Comparable titles for Beautiful Creatures also suggest it should do at least $20 million, while Escape from Planet Earth would be in great shape if it could get to $15 million through four days